Sunday, November 26, 2023

REVIEW: 'Fellow Travelers' - Tim Finally Sees the Truth of Hawk and McCarthy's Cynicism in 'Promise You Won't Write'

Showtime's Fellow Travelers - Episode 1.05 "Promise You Won't Write"

Roy Cohn's obsession with David Schine leads to the televised Army-McCarthy hearings and national scandal as McCarthy's allies attack Senator Smith, threatening to expose family secrets. Hawk tries to protect Smith while hiding his secret life from Lucy, although a tragedy brings them closer. Marcus must decide between his love for Frankie and his new job at the Post. Exposed to McCarthys - and Hawk's - true natures, Tim makes a life-changing decision about his future.

"Promise You Won't Write" was written by Katie Rose Rogers & Robbie Rogers and directed by James Kent

In his first visit, Tim was explained the rules of The Cozy Corner. The bar served as a space for people in the queer community to live openly. And yet, they would only have a few seconds to create a convincing lie of being straight when the red light turns on. Of course, the police don't respond based on what they witness upon entry to the bar. They move in with violence no matter what. As a result, the light is nothing more than a signal to run. It's simply random as to who is free enough to escape and who is trapped in a compromising position. Marcus holds Frankie close. They share a private dance in the club. Outside, Frankie races to protect his friend. Marcus abandons them because he can't risk getting arrested. He still carries internal shame. He can't bear the weight of how this arrest would be perceived by the people he cares about. He abandons Frankie when he needs him the most. It becomes every man for himself. Similarly, Lenny has an ally in Hawk who is willing to make the arrest disappear. Hawk can't erase it entirely. And so, shame infects the lives of an entire family and leaves them all devastated.

Lucy understands clearly that no one would choose to subject themselves to a lifetime of shame. She sees the pain of constantly hiding who you are. She saw a different perspective during her time abroad. The shame still traveled. She related that back to the pain within her brother. She recognized that look. She has never seen it within Hawk though. She trusts him completely. He has always reliably been a support system for her. He joined this family. He was abandoned by his own for who he was. He wasn't welcomed by Senator Smith out of compassion for his situation. The Senator simply found the son he always wanted. As such, he discarded the son he already had. Hawk earned all the praise. Hawk always felt indebted to the Senator. He had to protect him no matter what. It still ends in suicide. That brings great tragedy onto this family. Senator Smith wanted to spare his wife the embarrassment of their son's arrest. He believed Lenny was capable of being cured. He wanted to protect the people he cared about. In the end, he gave too much of himself to Hawk as the son he wanted to embrace. He did so because of how convincing Hawk's lies were.

Conversion therapy doesn't work. It's a brutal form of torture. Too many lives have been ruined by its practice. Hawk subjects Lenny to it. It's his latest way of crafting a convincing story both to endear himself to the family and to protect them from the threats elsewhere. Lenny was reckless with his actions. That means he deserves to be punished. He's forced to endure this psychological trauma of believing there's something wrong with him and that it can be cured. That's nothing but false hope. It offers an easy solution that people can falsely believe. It's not them seeing and accepting their loved ones for who they are. Hawk makes it all happen. It's how he views the world. Everything is transactional. Everyone ultimately has a price to be paid at some point. Lenny resented Hawk because he got to live the life he wanted despite them essentially being the same. And now, Lenny receives that shame and hate. Hawk feels it within himself too. He also accepts his own sense of powerlessness. This is the only thing that can be done. That isn't true. Hawk could support this family as they navigate through a new normal despite the pain they cause. That would simply require him to acknowledge his own role in that struggle. He's incapable of doing that.

Shame is the unifying factor amongst all of this. Senator Smith dies from suicide because he's ashamed of how people will view his family if they knew their secrets. Frankie makes decisions on his appearance based on how comfortable Marcus will feel being seen with him in public. A complete lack of shame fuels everything that McCarthy and Roy accomplish with their investigations. They make wild accusations without any evidence to back it up. Tim was inspired to join the team because he earnestly believed in the mission. Hawk planted him there to be kept in the loop of what was going on. It implodes entirely based on what Tim does. Hawk remains cynical. He doesn't share any genuine beliefs. That doesn't improve the lives of anyone. He serves the government. He's committed to the job. It's just not relevant or transformative. Tim ensures the Army is aware of the doctored evidence Roy and McCarthy produced. They are meant to deal with massive legal consequences. They don't. They aren't held accountable. This time of history produced so much hate and shame. It also inspired so many others to take up the cause. People continue to live without shame.

Hawk wasn't there when Tim had a seizure. He couldn't acknowledge the truth of his identity and his feelings. He knows he needs to be with Tim right now. He just doesn't know how to do that. When Hawk arrives at the hospital, the seizure is still ongoing. It's an absolutely brutal sight. Hawk knew Tim's days were numbered. Tim hasn't given up the fight. He still fights for better treatment for his community. He never lost his sense of patriotism despite witnessing the cynicism of how his idols operate in Washington, D.C. He made a choice. He believed in fighting for something greater. He was selfless in that way. Everything is very heroic. He wants Hawk to comfort him. Marcus is capable of providing Frankie what he needs. They are able to envision a future together. The narrative delivers on that promise. It's because of the genuine hard work they did in the decades prior. Hawk and Tim were never capable of moving on from each other. They remained stuck in this emotion believing this was the best they could ever hope for. It's beautiful in a way. It's tragic too. They spent a lifetime apart. Hawk still can't accept all that his feelings entail. He's only destined to hurt Lucy further despite her knowing the truth. Lives were destroyed because this community was attacked and degraded. Their stories deserve to be seen and championed for all their complexity. Not everyone made the same choices. They contained themselves to whatever they could handle within what the world would allow. They also had to fight for more acceptance. Both stories are valid despite the constant clashes they've produced over the years.