Sunday, November 5, 2023

REVIEW: 'Fellow Travelers' - Hawk Shows Contempt for Those Not Careful With Their Secrets and Lives in 'Bulletproof'

Showtime's Fellow Travelers - Episode 1.02 "Bulletproof"

When the State Department begins investigations into suspected homosexuals, Hawk distances himself from Tim, who questions his faith. Hawk's colleague Mary comes under suspicion. Journalist Marcus loses his job after a dispute with Roy Cohn but is comforted by drag performer Frankie. Needing cover, Hawk draws closer to Lucy Smith. In 1980s San Francisco, Hawk observes gay life in the AIDS crisis when Tim's sister forbids him to see Tim.

"Bulletproof" was written by Dee Johnson and directed by Daniel Minahan

When Hawk wakes up with Tim beside him, he doesn't panic. For a few moments, he's at peace with love and acceptance. This is truly who he is and what he wants. Panic eventually arrives. He freaks out over Tim spending the night. A neighbor sees the two of them when Tim leaves. It's heightened anxiety and fear. Hawk projects confidence at work. Everyone believes he's protected because he's a war hero. That uncertainty still radiates within him. All it takes is the right scandal. A mere accusation is enough to destroy a person's entire career. It's a secret they must carry. They have to be careful in order to continue being together. They weren't in this moment. That's how Hawk perceives things. As such, it's better to pull away. He has to put distance between him and Tim. That will ensure the feelings don't grow any deeper. It doesn't work. He still pines for Tim. He sees him as someone special he can build more of a life with. That's just not feasible right now.

Tim basks in the glow of being around an accepting group of friends. Mary invites Tim over to her home to see what it means to truly be open and loved. The complexities of the world still creep in. Luis believes he must maintain celibacy to remain in good standing with the church. Tim misses his relationship with God. That offered him comfort. He's confused. He's welcomed by these new friends. He's in awe of the life Mary and Caroline have built together. They live together without fearing what other people will think. That's the goal. It's a happy sight. And yet, this is set at a time when being gay is the worst moral sin in the eyes of the government. It's exemplified through Senator McCarthy's hearings seeking to expose and remove communism. Being gay doesn't impede Hawk, Tim and Mary from doing their jobs. It's seen as scandalous and a secret worth betraying their country in order to maintain. That pressure is immense especially once the investigations begin. All it takes is one person filing a complaint to completely uproot everything.

Tim believes Hawk must have the kind of influence to help Mary and Caroline. Instead, he has complete contempt for their actions. They invited this pain onto themselves. They were tempting fate. And now, they must suffer the consequences. It's cruel and dismissive. He judges others so harshly. That stunts his own emotional growth. He can never live an open and accepting life because of this pressure to conform. He's constantly looking over his shoulder trying to protect himself from the worst. That overpowers any love he can possibly form for anyone. Hawk remains haunted by his past. His relationship with Kenny was transformational in so many ways. He was kicked out of his home because his father learned what they were doing. Hawk was eventually accepted by Senator Smith and his family. He built a successful career in Washington, D.C. People still pressure him to conform to the world of influence and privilege. It should be easy to apology to his father to get back into the will. It should be easy to get married so the Senator no longer has to lie. That's embarrassment felt by others because of their inability to advocate for someone they love. They only offer fleeting support. And so, that's all Hawk believes he deserves.

It would be wonderful to imagine a larger life. The community can gather and celebrate beyond a modest club. The future remains grim. Hawk may beam with pride over seeing others live openly on the streets of San Francisco in 1986. Yet he still has contempt for those believing they're bulletproof instead of living in the reality of the world. He never had that luxury. He caused pain for a lot of people. Tim doesn't want to see him. Hawk shows up anyway. Once again, he's making the decisions. That always informs their dynamic. Tim is dying. Hawk stays for dinner. It's all just simple pleasantries. It doesn't dig deeper into their relationship and the regrets they still have. They don't have much time left. They made their choices. They could never move on from one another. The emotions they felt together were more powerful. Everything else paled in comparison. Hawk accepts a life with Lucy because it's the convenient way to avoid suspicion. Tim doesn't want that secret. He felt pure while with Hawk sexually. And now, he's willing to confess that action away believing it can wipe away the magnitude of their bond. It's intoxicating while still ultimately being destructive.

Hawk always asks people to be sensible with their final actions. He dictates a letter that Tim should write to Mary. That's the only way the two of them can actually help her. They have to choose one to save. They create a story that helps Mary prove her heteronormative lifestyle to the authorities. It works. She's still wrecked with pain and guilt over betraying Caroline. She wasn't the person accused. As such, she receives a slight benefit of the doubt. Her life is still invaded and questioned. She's asked to prove her loyalty. It never should have been questioned in the first place. Hawk believes she was careless. They don't have the luxury to act that way. They are at least able to blend into their surroundings. Many don't have that possibility. Marcus is kept out of a hearing room simply because he had the audacity to ask a tough question while being a person of color. He understands the power machinations of this world. He moves within this space hoping to influence events. He feels the call to hold powerful people accountable for their hypocrisy. He doesn't have the reach to make that happen. People judge him for the color of his skin. He still passes off as straight. Frankie can't do that. He's an effeminate man who found a calling as a drag queen. That was a place for him to belong. He too forms an immediate connection with Marcus. Love is possible for those willing to fight for it. It's just frequently presented as a choice between what's possible instead of as freedom of allowing people to explore everything they want.