On HBO Max, the options for content to click and watch can feel insurmountable. To ease the dilemma, when the streaming service isn’t deleting their own stuff, here are keywords to narrow on: Murray Bartlett, gay, and dramedy. On the same app, The White Lotus and The Last of Us have tossed Bartlett into a resort for rich dirtbags, and let him find love in a dystopia. Back in 2014, Looking offered another side to the actor.

This slice-of-life, more laid-back series follows three gay friends as they navigate life in San Francisco. Open relationships, late-night clubbing, gay culture, and friendships have a part to play. Patrick (Jonathan Groff) can be fussy and over-talkative to the point where he says the wrong thing. Agustín (Frankie J. Alvarez) claims to want to be an artist, hardly putting the right energy into realizing it. Dom (Bartlett), the oldest of the trio, decides to relaunch old dreams. But first, he deals with an earth-shattering, unfathomable plight as Season 1 opens: his 40th birthday.

RELATED: ‘Looking: The Movie' Was Exactly the Finale That Fans Needed

Murray Bartlett's Character Dom Is Looking for Support

Image via HBO

“The Lord says a bachelor party is between one man and one stripper.” Wise words from Dom, unable to comprehend what’s occurring before his eyes. Two gay men are getting married, celebrating the upcoming ceremony by having a joint bachelor party. One of them is Patrick’s ex, and he seeks solace in Dom’s joke; so begins common territory. Should any of the friends feel out of sorts, they often turn to Dom to feel better. Patrick’s neurotic side is always reaching the surface, eager to enjoy sex, but just as quick to suffer irrational fears from it. After a workplace affair with his boss — a whole other issue — Patrick’s convinced the little red bumps on his stomach are a sign of bed bugs or AIDS. Dom’s reassurance that neither is the case, does little to bring down Patrick.

At another point, Agustín dates Eddie (Daniel Franzese, Mean Girls), an HIV-positive youth counselor. When they finally have sex, Agustín’s relaxed stance as a mixed-status couple hits a bump. Knowing Eddie is undetectable, Agustín still freaks out, turning to (no surprise) Dom to clear his head. “Why am I the go-to on having an AIDS meltdown friend?” Dom wonders. Agustín, having no filter, says, “Because you're old.” Once Dom glares over, he’s quick to add, “and wise.” The younger friends never really make it a big deal Dom is ten years older, but in small ways, they do treat the added years he has on them like he has access to special wisdom. The beauty of Murray Bartlett’s performance is that he isn’t any different from them.

Turning 40 wakes him up big time. He’s been a waiter at the same place for years, feeling too comfortable to leave, and in doing so, delaying dreams of opening a restaurant. Meeting Lynn (Scott Bakula) pushes Dom fully into this new journey. An older man, Lynn owns a florist business in the Castro District, a neighborhood blossoming in the city’s gay history and the shop’s flower petals. It’s no wonder Lynn takes a liking to him, you can’t miss Dom in a crowd. He’s tall, with a perfect pornstache on his face. Frequently, he’s referred to as a Clone, gay slang for the kind of macho guy the Village People turned into personas. Lynn and Dom do get off on the wrong foot, however. They have lunch, which Lynn thinks is a date, whereas Dom hopes to learn some business advice. Looking goes all in on the awkward, cringe moments that can happen in daily life. After Lynn graciously invites him to dinner to meet two business friends, Dom’s attempt at course correcting from the lunch blunder fails again. In saying thanks afterward, Dom kisses Lynn, again complicating what they want from each other.

“You know at 40, Grindr emails you a death certificate.”


The two decide to engage in an open relationship, although that comes with its complications. Lynn holds Dom at arm’s length, avoiding anything too serious. “Can you even call a 59-year-old your boyfriend?” Dom asks Patrick, half-joking, half-serious. Lynn, for all extents and purposes, seems to be a steady romantic partner. But a painful past holds in a trauma he can’t let go of. He lost a boyfriend during the AIDS epidemic, and he can’t give the commitment or intimacy Dom desires, all of it given to his lost lover.

Bartlett, in an interview with The Backlot, praised the complexities of the show, saying, “What I loved about the way that relationship developed in season two is, at the end of season one, he’s such a charming, grounded, wonderful character. This older gay man who sort of feels like he’s got his s*** together. But I love how in the second season, it became more complicated-- as it does when you get to know somebody. It’s not as simple as you might think it is.” This factors into one of the series' main themes, how people of a certain age are continuing to work things out in life. Younger gay characters often steal the spotlight in shows or movies where they grow frustrated with an inadequate life or love life. After a certain benchmark birthday, shouldn’t life become easier? Dom feels “old,” but the storylines say otherwise, he’s got a lot more to do and give.

Patrick and Agustín are good friends to Dom, but it’s Doris (Lauren Weedman) who's been his bestie since they met as teens. She’s brutally honest, incredibly sarcastic, and crass, which can be plus or a negative given the day. In “Looking For a Plot,” Doris’ father dies, and Dom helps her through the funeral process. After the burial, they head into the cemetery to locate Dom’s late father’s spot, but the cemetery is like a damn maze. He never got to “come out,” so as the friends drive off, Dom sticks his head out the window, screaming, “I’m gay!” to all the headstones. The sweet moment ends abruptly when their car gets sideswiped by another vehicle. Bruises are the worst of the injuries, and it’s while the friends recover, Doris tells Dom she wants to invest in his restaurant dreams, by using money her father left behind.

In the same TheBacklot interview, Bartlett talked about this bond. “Dom is figuring out who he is as a man in his 40s and having to let go of a lot of old versions of himself and old habits. And part of that is reexamining the relationships in his life. And in a lot of ways, the relationship with Dom and Doris.” This friendship is a special one, with an intimacy that could rival what Dom and Lynn had or Doris and her new boyfriend Malik (Bashir Salahuddin). Despite the best of intentions, the money makes a mess of it all.

Dom’s Chicken has a name, a location, a neon sign, and has maxed out Dom’s credit cards due to his impatience for the money to come through. So when Doris finds out a relative is challenging her father’s will, the incoming money stalls. Dom and Doris end up furious at each other, with deeper issues surfacing. Doris feels incapable of balancing the time between Malik and Dom. The future for the adult friends isn’t aligning like they think it was going to. Doris, tensed up and flustered, is honest in admitting, “This has been like going through the worst fucking break-up that I’ve ever been through.” Dom agrees, pushing it further for the best by replying, “But we do kind of need to break up, Dor.” The healing begins new maturity to both underneath the scabbing.

After 'Looking,' Barlett's Roles Involved Resort Chaos and Love After Doomsday

Image via HBO

The show got canceled after two seasons and in a surprise, the queer cosmic entities looking over the junkyard of canceled-too-soon LGBTQ shows paid attention. Looking: The Movie (2016) brings closure to the characters and their stories. For Dom, the future is bright, his chicken restaurant is popular, and it’s even got a parklet. After all this time since that last visit to San Francisco, Dom remains a low-key role for Murray Bartlett, without the intensity of recent characters; on HBO Max alone, Bartlett gets placed in darker worlds. Dom isn’t like the chaotic, forlorn, Armond in The White Lotus. This manager’s long-time, people-pleasing work at the resort crashes down within days, and the man unravels, not having any strong relationships to keep him steady, such as what Dom has.

On The Last of Us, Bartlett's Frank is giddy, happily accepting a special connection to someone when he finds it. The love story between Frank and the prickly, sentimental Bill (Nick Offerman) creates hope within a bleak, bleak fallen society. Seeing this older gay couple persevere against the odds, is nothing short of unique, especially with the show’s included horror and action elements — Frank and Bill are rare protagonists for either genre. Dom and his story are not, in any way, as intense as these others, but he’s in every way as unique as them. If you’re out of tissues from hearing the episode’s use of Linda Ronstadt’s “Long Long Time,” it’s time to watch Dom, high on molly, dancing to the euphoric ‘80s remix of Sister Sledge’s “Lost in Music.”

In Looking: The Movie, one of the final lines best sums up the characters, especially Dom. “Well, if it doesn’t work out, it doesn’t work out. But at least we tried.” Age is just a number, the proof is Dom as he doesn’t break when he realizes where he stands in life upon his 40th birthday, he re-evaluates and begins a new, fulfilling chapter. The close friend relationships he has, while it comes with their ups and downs, are just as important to his growth. It keeps Dom looking forward.