Sunday, November 12, 2023

REVIEW: 'Fellow Travelers' - Hawk and Tim Journey Outside Washington, D.C. But Still Have Different Aspirations in 'Hit Me'

Showtime's Fellow Travelers - Episode 1.03 "Hit Me"

Hawk and Tim go on a road trip that turns sour when Tim realizes Hawk is using the trip to dig up dirt on Senator Smith's enemies. Marcus and Frankie's encounter with a racist bouncer nearly tears them apart. Roy is desperate to keep David from being drafted and Jean Kerr questions McCarthy's masculinity. In 1980s San Francisco, Tim withholds forgiveness until a medical emergency gives Hawk a chance to prove he's worthy of it.

"Hit Me" was written by Brandon K. Hines & Jack Solomon and directed by Destiny Ekaragha

Hawk wants complete personal freedom. Tim wants a full life with the person he loves. For moments, their interests align. They have a fiery and passionate connection. It allows them to be more vulnerable together than with anyone else throughout their entire lives. It's a combustive relationship too. One where they can never trust that the other is willing to offer what they need. Tim isn't comforted by Hawk's vision of the future. He just sees it as the latest example of Hawk not wanting any emotional connections. The man he loves can never give him the life he needs. It's not strange for two men to go to a restaurant together. Sure, they play up a story. It doesn't immediately come across as suspicious. That's the intimacy Tim wants. He wants to be in public with the person he loves. They can share a life together. It doesn't need to be full of secrets. They are offered the freedom of escape for a weekend. Even then, it remains tense because Hawk has ulterior motives. He always does. That too is destined to always be the pattern that repeats between the two.

Tim has the opportunity to build a relationship with someone else. He doesn't need to remain committed to Hawk. That was the fear when he made his confession. He renounced his sin by conflating his anger towards Hawk and his sexual orientation. This bond is more than just sex. It's love. Tim recognizes that. As a result, he wants more from the relationship. Meanwhile, Hawk always views their dynamic through sex. It's hot and passionate. Tim enjoys being submissive during sex. He likes it when Hawk takes control. That's still toxic as it pertains to other aspects of their lives - both together and apart. Sure, Hawk is more willing to be vulnerable and honest now about his past. He shares the story of his scars from the war. That can clearly be seen as part of the reason why he refuses to get close to people. His friends died on the battlefield. They were all wounded. Only some survived. Hawk was one of the lucky ones. He views himself as such. He's careful. He builds a life that from the outside looks perfect. It isn't honest though. The sheer mention of Lucy is enough for him to grow enraged with Tim.

Tim is more honest with his feelings when he's drunk. Hawk doesn't like that because it's risky behavior. Tim becomes sloppy and noticeable. Hawk can't afford that. He must avoid embarrassment no matter what. Tim enjoys the moment of singing in celebration. He performs for Hawk. When he looks away, the illusion is shattered. He sees the error of his ways and immediately shrinks. He's conditioned into believing this behavior isn't acceptable. He's told the only way to love Hawk is to abide by his rules. He must become something he's not. Again, these are toxic traits. Tim wants to be more than the guy Hawk shows an interest in from time to time. He wants to matter. Hawk only knows about Tim's birthday because Marcus mentions it. Tim doesn't know that. In fact, he sees that as evidence that Hawk cares about him despite him being so absent recently. Hawk only allows himself to have short bursts of time with Tim. That's all he expects from this dynamic. He leaves Tim behind. The job is more important because he must protect Senator Smith. That's his true loyalty. He must repay the man who was so kind to him. That simply comes at the expense of so much.

Internalized homophobia is rampant and weaponized constantly at this time. In fact, it can be argued that was the entire reason behind the Lavender Scare. People in positions of power hated themselves because they couldn't uphold the Christian ideals they revered so much. They succumbed to temptation. The accusations were lobbied no matter what they did. And so, they had to be louder and more extreme with their accusations. Senator McCarthy used the threat of communism to turn the queer community against one another. They needed to be routed out because they deviated from the heteronormative world. It was seen as a grave moral sin beyond any redemption. Tim's faith tells him to love everyone. He has compassion for people. He doesn't see them as enemies because of who they love. Roy Cohn will fight anyone to ensure David Schine remains by his side during this investigation. He tries to dictate the terms of this operation where he has been given an absurd amount of power. He wields it however he sees fit. He comes from a life of privilege. He and his friends deserve special treatment. They aren't like the lowly people drafted into military service because they didn't have the connections to lie for them. They believe in the genuine good of their actions. It's fueled entirely by hatred. That's it.

That hate amounts to psychological trauma for everyone. People are constantly looking over their shoulders fearing how others will perceive them. They want love but are afraid of showing it. Marcus knows what it's like to face discrimination as a Black man. He knows writing about that will get published. The story flows out of him. Throughout the process though, he's self-editing. He wasn't only discriminated against as a Black man. He was also punished as a gay man as well. He refuses to share that side of his experience. He doesn't know how to talk about it. Frankie endured it too. He notices its absence in the story. He expects to be seen and valued by the person he's with. It's only by making that acknowledgement that the two grow intimate once more. Marcus struggles with his attraction towards a more effeminate man. Masculinity has defined his sense of sexual attraction previously. But again, these loving and intimate stories are more than just sex. That act affords a certain level of intimacy. It's not the full extent of love and desire. These concepts are being explored. They are at the forefront of the story instead of the fear, panic and hatred society levies against the community. That is present as well. Everything is a careful balance. Hawk has the potential to step up for Tim. He just always messes it up at some point because it interferes with the carefully calibrated life he believes he has created to perfection. It's all a lie. That's just as true in the 1980s as it was three decades prior when the relationship began.