Telling a story across two timelines can be a recipe for success or disaster, but Fellow Travelers Season 1 Episode 1 flawlessly immerses us in both timelines thanks to the enduring bond between Hawkins and Tim.
In the 1950s, we’re seeing the origins of a love story, and in the 1980s, we’re seeing just how wrong this relationship went as Tim is handed a likely death sentence in the form of an HIV diagnosis.
What led to their relationship being so fraught? I have some theories that don’t reflect very well on Hawkins. We’ll get to that in a little.
Fellow Travelers benefits off the bat from the chemistry of its leads, Jonathan Bailey and Matt Bomer.
Whoever thought of casting these two hotties as lovers deserves a promotion and a bonus.
I was sold on their bond from the get-go because the actors have chemistry for days.
The roles are also light years away from what they’ve played in the past, and you can tell they were having a blast with the material.
It’s disheartening when two people who are supposed to be in love are clearly not, but the chemistry was practically oozing out of their pores throughout their scenes in the 1950s.
From their first encounter to their intense phone call over 20 years later, Bomer and Bailey deliver striking performances that should be recognized for awards season.
Hawkins gave me Don Draper vibes, and that wasn’t a bad thing, but there’s far more to this man than meets the eye, which I’m sure Fellow Travelers Season 1 will peel away at as the episodes progress.
His career means he’s very much in the public eye and attending parties that include powerful people, so he understands that he has to keep up this appearance that he’s a heterosexual man with aspirations of getting married and settling down with kids.
Seeing the disgust on his face as Lucy’s father commented on gay men in the corridor was heartbreaking because, although it killed him, he had to agree with that viewpoint to conceal his own sexual orientation.
Sadly, the 1950s weren’t good for gay men, with many struggling to exist without fear of persecution.
The world has changed and is more accepting nowadays, but it’s heartbreaking watching these things play out and knowing how different things were for people who just wanted to exist as their authentic selves back then.
Hawkins marrying Lucy and having children raises many questions, but they are only exacerbated by her revelation that she heard the phone call.
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We know he was in Lucy’s life for years before he met Tim, but it’s almost like her father curated this career for Hawkins because he envisioned them as this power couple.
If that truly is the case, it’s probably put these expectations on both Hawkins and Lucy.
I’m interested in finding out how long Lucy knew about her husband’s sexuality because if she was so aware of Tim, there’s a good chance there’s far more to their current relationship status than meets the eye.
It’s hard to tell Lucy’s motivations in keeping up this ruse with Hawkins in the 1980s timeline. Does she love him or believe his sexuality shouldn’t define his career?
She was livid that he would visit Tim after hearing of his diagnosis, but there’s so much about this arrangement that we don’t know about.
I’m intrigued to learn how Hawkins and Tim went from getting hot and heavy to acting like strangers. My best theory is that their relationship became public knowledge, and Hawkins publically denounced it.
You could tell Marcus didn’t want to be in the same room as Hawkins, never mind telling him about Tim’s condition, but the standoffish vibe from Marcus leads me to believe that Tim believes Hawkins chose Lucy and his career over him.
Knowing there are over 20 years between the two timelines, though, anything can change in 20 years.
Hawkins: This is the real world, Skippy.
Tim: I’m your boy, right? And your boy wants to go to the party.
Tim wanted to hang up the phone when he heard Hawkins’s voice because it brought back the pain of whatever happened between them, but there was also this inner conflict, as evidenced by his trying to release the call.
It’s easy to understand Tim’s apprehension because, look at it this way: At this point in the narrative, the gay community was ravaged by the HIV epidemic.
Tim had likely lost many friends and loved ones by that point, and knowing that a similar fate awaited him, he had a very different outlook on life than he had several years before.
Whatever Hawkins did to him wasn’t pretty, and there’s a good chance he’ll be unable to forgive him for it.
Hawkins was well aware of his actions and their ramifications, which is why he hot-footed it to San Francisco and called, as opposed to calling before hopping on the plane.
He knew there was that chance that Tim wouldn’t want to speak to him, never mind being in the same room as him.
Tim was very aware that there was something different about Hawkins all those years ago, and you could tell that it frightened him.
Is there a chance Hawkins harbors resentment towards Tim for the note in the book because it’s very likely his assistant will use that to her advantage at some point?
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Knowing how difficult Hawkins is to read, it wasn’t much of a surprise that he threw Eddie to the wolves without a second thought.
In his eyes, Eddie was a liability who could cause problems for him if he approached him in the building again.
The thought of walking into his workplace worried that he would bump into Eddie, was difficult, but he could have approached the situation better.
Hearing him hand over Eddie’s name and then hearing that Eddie tried to kill himself illustrated the heartbreaking reality of trying to live as a gay man in those times very well.
When I committed this sin, I felt pure. More pure than I ever have in my life. How can I be sorry for it?
Eddie was a kind soul looking for a connection, and he was upset that Hawkins A) acted like he was going to rob his lighter and B) acted like he didn’t exist.
That must have hurt, but to understand Hawkins more, we must understand the ins and outs of his political career and what happens next.
There’s an element of ambiguity with Hawkins, and while Eddie couldn’t break through that, Tim could. The chemistry between Hawkins and Eddie was non-existent, but with Tim, it’s on a whole other level.
There are so many directions for this storyline to go, but “You’re Wonderful” is one of my favorite series premieres because it set up the conflicts to come with ease.
Over to you, Fellow Travelers Fanatics!
What are your thoughts on the meeting between Hawkins and Skippy?
What are your theories about why they’re so distant 20 years later?
What’s your take on Hawkins?
Hit the comments.
Catch new episodes of Fellow Travelers on Fridays on Showtime.
Paul Dailly is the Associate Editor for TV Fanatic. Follow him on X.