*This review contains spoilers. Please be aware of that before reading and proceed with caution.
While historical dramas are a dime a dozen, Fellow Travelers Season 1 Episode 1, “You’re Wonderful,” somehow seems fresh and new. By using non-linear storytelling, the show gives us a peek into where this story is going and where it begins.
The duel timelines give us just enough of a glimpse into 1986 to intrigue us about these two men just learning about each other in 1952. It also paints the picture that this series might be a romance, but it’s bound to have its fair share of heartbreak.
After all, in 1952, McCarthy’s witch hunts for communists and queers ripped so many people’s lives apart, and Tim, a closeted gay man, is working directly for him.
The Chemistry Between Bomer and Bailey is Palpable
Before we even dive into the intricacies of what makes the storytelling so nuanced and beautiful, we have to talk about the acting chemistry between the leads — Matt Bomer and Jonathan Bailey.
For romantic roles, it’s a requirement that the two people have some kind of chemistry between them. Often it translates well for the stories being told, sometimes, it doesn’t.
In the case of Bomer and Bailey the chemistry is just oozing out of them from the first scene where they barely say ten words to each other let alone show any further interest. Thus, by the time their characters do meet up sexually the moment is very charged.
There is a sexual component to their chemistry that is unexpected at first and then adds to the believability of their prolonged love story by the end of the episode. Because Fellow Travelers doesn’t shy away from showing sex scenes, viewers can easily see the difference between Hawk partaking in sex with Eddie and when he finally does it with Tim.
This connection between the actors carries throughout the show and gives us a reason to anticipate what comes next. Every scene they are in together we are asking ourselves, “How far will they go this time? Will it be just a kiss or something more?”
The Cinematography Takes Us To the 50s and Beyond
Another strong point of the episode is how the lighting and cinematography transport us away to the 1950s and the 1980s with expert ease.
The majority of “You’re Wonderful” takes place in 1952 and for that, the lighting department chose darker sets and softer lighting to really set the mood that it was a very dark time. It also gives off the vibe that darkness and distress are around every corner.
It really adds to the fear and urgency that lives in everything Hawk and Tim do, together and apart. The shadows in every scene are longer to give these characters the option to slip back into them should they need to.
In all actuality, it’s insanely poetic and beautiful. Viewers are left feeling like the 1950s were a sometimes joyful time, while also being gripped with fear due to McCarthy’s politics.
Whenever the scene turns to 1986 the world is suddenly brighter, and there’s a freer feeling in the air. We see Hawk surrounded by love and family, celebration and laughter.
The only time this brightness doesn’t come through is when Hawk is talking to Marcus and then again when he speaks to Mary both times discussing the disease that has now affected Tim — the disease that is never said by name but everyone knows is AIDS.
During those moments the sun is still shining through, but there are hints of shadow and darkness. These shadows show just how much secrecy Hawk still holds in his life as well as the sadness that purveys the topic of Tim and his condition, possibly even their love.
History Winds Its Way Through
The attention to detail when it comes to historically accurate figures and events is another strength Fellow Travelers is already exhibiting.
It isn’t easy to stick completely fictionalized characters into events that are so heavily documented and talked about in American history. However, the show manages to make us believe that Hawk and Tim really did rub elbows with the Kennedys, Joe McCarthy, and Roy Cohn.
It’s not easy to make fictional characters fit in so seamlessly with such big political figureheads as those, but we don’t even question it here. That is a testament to the show’s writing.
We are given an alternative look at important historical events in the hopes that we will find ourselves connecting to them on a deeper level. It’s wonderful that we are getting a similarly volatile time in history retold from a queer lens.
Maybe, just maybe, by viewing Hawk and Tim’s love story we can walk away with more compassion for our fellow human beings.
- I have a bad feeling that the one woman working in Fuller’s office is going to turn him over to McCarthy.
- The way Hawk looks at all his fellow queer people when sitting at the diner in San Francisco, it’s apparent that he regrets never being courageous enough to be as openly himself as they are.
- Love stories where one person starts off claiming they don’t do emotional entanglements only to become ridiculously entangled in an emotional relationship are my favorites.
- Knowing where Hawk and Tim end up in 1986 has my heart aching for them in 1952 when their love seemed to be the only thing giving them purpose.
What did you think of this episode of Fellow Travelers? Share your thoughts in the comments below!
Fellow Travelers airs Fridays at 9/8c on Showtime.
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