Showtime’s romantic drama series Fellow Travelers draws to an emotional end with the season finale episode released this week. The romantic story of Hawkins Fuller and Tim Laughlin, riddled with numerous obstacles of political and personal drama, had kept us engrossed for the past seven weeks, and it now comes to a full circle, tying down all the time periods shown. By its end, Fellow Travelers remains an extremely impactful and moving piece of work, with brilliant acting performances and a creative style of storytelling. It is undoubtedly one of the best shows to have come out this year, and one that is easy to recommend to any serious viewer.
What events led to the emotional finale episode?
To put it briefly, Fellow Travelers has been about the troubled romance of Hawkins Fuller and Tim Laughlin through the decades, during a time when the world was not accepting of homosexuality at all. The two men got acquainted first in the 1950s, when the Lavender Scare was holding a tight blanket over American society, helmed by the anti-communist and religious Senator Joseph McCarthy. As Hawk already had some influence as a worker for Senator Smith, he pulled some strings to land his new friend a job in McCarthy’s office. Using Tim as a sort of pawn, without even telling him about what he was about to do, Hawk had ensured a rift between the political opposition and brought to public light the allegations of homosexuality against McCarthy himself.
Despite the changing political climate, Hawk and Tim’s love never materialized into a stable relationship, simply because Hawk wanted to keep his homosexuality a secret from the world. The man was loved by Senator Smith almost as a son, and after the Senator’s suicide, Hawk decided to marry Lucy Smith and settle down with her. Hawk pushed Tim away from his life during this time, perhaps believing that this would also reduce his attraction to men. But this obviously did not happen, and the man started having flings and hookups with other men whenever he found the chance. Over time, as the political and social climate changed to some extent, Hawk kept approaching Tim for romantic favors, all while being married to Lucy and keeping his family in the dark about his identity.
On the other side, the show also presents another couple, Marcus Hooks and Frankie Hines, who decided to give their love a chance throughout the span of thirty or so years. Marcus already faced ostracization for being a Black man, and he initially did not want to take on the pressure of coming out as gay. However, the harsh times of the ‘70s, which opened up some rights for homosexuals while also housing majorly negative sentiments against the queer community, made Marcus finally come to terms with his identity and open up publicly about it. Fellow Travelers also features the present timeline of 1986, when Tim falls gravely ill, developing AIDS, and Hawk finally comes down to San Francisco to look after him for a few days. It is in this present timeline that most of the season finale episode plays out.
What happens when Lucy comes to meet Tim?
Lucy Smith had known about Tim’s presence in her husband’s life ever since the man had first sent the letter professing his love for Hawk at his house, and Lucy had incidentally read it. Tim and Lucy had met in person as well, and there was understandably a lot of bitterness and tension between them. Lucy had figured out that her husband loved Tim and that he would spend time with him often while being away from work. In episode 7, too, Lucy was shown receiving a call from Tim back in the ‘70s, and her daughter Kimberley now told her about how Tim had been living in the cabin for a few days while the family was vacationing. Therefore, in the present timeline of 1986, Lucy Smith knew very well where her husband was going off to when he first mentioned some work in San Francisco.
The woman had figured out that Hawk wanted to go meet a seriously ill Tim, and she even understood and respected his wish, but she did not keep any false beliefs about her matrimony. Rather than any healthy marriage, Lucy and Hawk were in an arrangement of sorts, which ensured that they were together but hardly knew about each other’s lives. Even though Lucy was aware of her husband’s lovers, she never confronted him, and neither did he ever open up to her. At the end of episode 7, it had seemed like Hawk would not only return to his family but also open up about his homosexuality to them, but this had indeed not happened. Perhaps Hawk did not even know that his wife had figured out about Tim and his other flings, or even if he did, the man never spoke about it with her.
When Hawk stays back in San Francisco to look after Tim after he has to be hospitalized, Lucy grows concerned about her husband since he does not make any contact with her. Before Hawk had left, she had already made it clear that she knew about his real motive, and so the identity of Tim had now been unveiled between the couple, meaning that they acknowledged his presence. Therefore, Lucy comes to San Francisco herself, and when she is able to establish contact with Hawk, she asks to meet Tim at the hospital.
A meeting between the two takes place once again, but this time, both are much more restrained and understanding towards each other. For the first time, Lucy talks about her difficulties at essentially being stuck between the two lovers, as she hardly ever got Hawk’s love and attention. Even though Tim’s presence was not very regular in Hawk’s life, as the man now tells Lucy, the thought of him kept Hawk away from his marital life for almost the entire time. In this manner, Fellow Travelers is also a reminder of the supremely complicated mess that can be created when someone like Hawk refuses to accept his sexuality. Even though Lucy feels Hawk to have been the bane of her life, the truth is that she too could never come out of the comfort of such an established life, and she realizes this at present. She admits that having a family and kids with Hawk and then also having him, even though partially, beside her when they lost Jackson, had also been comforting for her. Although, by the end of this short meeting, Tim and Lucy still remain rivals for the love of Hawk, they do not have any feelings of animosity between them.
What was Hawk’s biggest act of betrayal against Tim?
Despite his claims of pure and unadulterated love for Tim, Hawk had always been a manipulative individual who often made sure that he got his intentions through Tim. While we had been made witnesses to numerous instances of this, one incident from around 1956–57 had been kept away for the very last episode. This was seemingly because of the brevity of this incident, as it comes off as the biggest act of betrayal by Hawk.
Tim had recently joined the army and had begun his duties when he grew concerned about the state of Hungarian citizens, just like most other Americans at the time. A revolution against the Communist government in Hungary had just failed, and so participants in the revolt were being targeted with threats against their lives and livelihoods. A long-drawn plan to help these refugees had already started in the United States and Tim wanted to be a part of it. The man had always been willing to be on the frontlines of any assistance efforts, and he wrote to Hawk at the time, trying to convince him to take some action. Hawk was already a recognized Senate worker by then, and so the letter by Tim made sense.
It can be argued that Hawk saw this as a chance to get back close to his old lover, and the man immediately set out to get Tim back in Washington. A department office was being set up to process the files of Hungarian refugees, and Hawk referred Tim’s name to be a member of the relief effort. When informed about this job offer, Tim was ecstatic, not only because he always wanted to be part of the Senate office but also because he could be close to Hawk once again. As talks of this employment progressed, Hawk took Tim to one of the many empty apartments that the Smith family owned, and this place was currently being used by Hawk as his own private getaway. Although he claims that he had not brought any other lover there before Tim, this is most probably untrue, as it is also suggested that the man was already having affairs with other men by now.
Tim and Hawk’s romance finally took off once again at this very apartment, and the latter even gave Tim the keys to the place to keep. But the arrangement fell apart when Tim suddenly received a letter from the authorities stating that he was found to be unfit for the job and was also barred from any other jobs under the federal government. The man struggles to find any reason for this sudden turn of events until he learns that it was Hawk who had reported him to the M unit, leading to this rejection. The reason behind Hawk’s betrayal was also equally selfish, as he possibly had the realization that Lucy was getting suspicious of his actions. His passionate sessions of intimacy with Tim had left a visible mark on Hawk’s neck, and Lucy had spotted this, too. Although she did not confront her husband about it, she did make it felt that she was suspecting some infidelity going on. The couple were pregnant with their first child at the time, and Hawk suddenly decided to pull his attention back to his wife and family, sacrificing Tim’s life and career without any hesitation.
The man had possibly again felt that pushing Tim away would end his homosexual urges, which was untrue again as he continued with his affairs. But in the process, Hawk had unknowingly started to push both his lovers, Tim and Lucy, away from his life. The entire matter culminates in the moment in 1986, when Hawk visits Lucy in her San Francisco hotel room, and she informs him of her decision to leave him. The woman leaves Hawk’s house and life after refusing to accompany him to Italy, and she refuses to keep any more contact with him. When Hawk returns home at the very end of Fellow Travelers, his house is truly empty, greatly reflecting his personal life, with neither Tim nor Lucy now beside him.
What happens at the fundraiser gala in the end?
In the 1986 timeline, when innumerable gay men were struggling with AIDS and further complications from HIV, Tim had asked Hawk to pull his connections and arrange for a meeting with the governor of the state, or even his political associate, Howard Lonigan. Tim and his group of activists, which also included Marcus and Frankie, wanted to meet anyone from the governor’s staff to request the implementation of AIDS funding, making the lives of those suffering from the disease easier. There was still extreme prejudice against AIDS victims, and most hospitals even refused to treat these patients. The Governor of California was also about to veto the bill passing the funding, and so Tim and his friends wanted to convince him to change his opinion.
After having earlier refused, Hawk now finally understands the need for this meeting, after both realizing that Tim is on his deathbed and also learning that Marcus and Frankie’s adopted son, Jerome, had also become a victim of the disease. He meets with his friend, Dave, who has connections with the governor’s office, and even threatens the man to either push for a meeting or face the consequences of being called out as a serial cheater. Dave is unable to establish any such meeting, but he does let Hawk attend a fundraiser gala program in the end. The program is attended by Howard Lonigan, and so Hawk reaches the place with Tim, attending any public occasion with the man for the very first time. All inhibitions of Hawk are finally lost, and he even tells Dave about Tim’s AIDS, giving the pathetic man an appropriate scare for his life.
During Fellow Travelers‘ ending, Tim finally reveals that he and his friends had guessed that they would not be able to reach Lonigan for any meeting. All they wanted was a chance to be in the same room, or building, with him, and they had prepared a demonstration of their own. Using Hawk’s pass, Marcus enters the place and then lets in dozens of other queer activists. All of them stormed the stage at the program and called for rights for AIDS victims and a government fund for them. Although it is not shown, Tim must have passed shortly after this time, and this was indeed the last time that he and Hawk had met. The final moments of the episode skip forward to 1987, when the first display of the AIDS Memorial Quilt was made, and Hawk is seen visiting the place with his daughter, Kimberley. Finding Tim’s corner on the quilt, Hawk breaks down before finally accepting to his daughter that Tim was not just his friend but his one true love.