After the last episode of Fellow Travelers startled viewers with a completely unforeseen character death, it’s natural that the limited series had to spend some of its sixth installment catching its breath. The passing of Hawk’s trusty boss Senator Smith was the shock that the show needed to punctuate the 1950s timeline and finally move its narrative forward. We viewers still need to make our way through the decades, up to when Hawk and Tim reconnect in San Francisco in the ’80s. Without enough time spent wading through the years between, the remainder of Fellow Travelers could feel disappointingly rushed.
Happily, Episode 6 slows the pace down, and trades the intensity of ’50s McCarthyism for a glimpse into the mild atmosphere of Hawk’s family life in 1968. All of the show’s politics aren’t given up, however; the Vietnam War broils in the background of this episode, and instigates a new push-and-pull dynamic for Hawk and Tim. But the overall tempered narrative pace is a welcome change, one that allows us to sink deeper into the characters after the first half of the series threatened to make them into caricatures of hardened political animals, without the proper space to develop. As time passes, we see the effects of long-held secrets and the ache of restraint start to burn through Hawk’s manufactured new life, and watching Fellow Travelers play out like an adult drama rather than a political thriller is just as compelling.
It should come as no surprise that Hawk—never one to get his hands dirty—hasn’t taken much of a stance on Vietnam by 1968. He prefers to keep a low profile, hosting parties with Lucy (Allison Williams) and their children, Jackson (Etienne Kellici) and Kimberly (Teagan Rayne Sellers). Tim, on the other hand, isn’t content with sitting on his hands; he and a group of religious, anti-war activists break into a draft office and plunder all of the draft cards for soldiers that have yet to be processed, burning them in a public trash can before the group is beaten and taken into custody.
Hawk, who has been keeping tabs on his ex-lover since they parted over a decade prior when Tim joined the army to get away from Hawk, bails Tim out by wiring their old friend Marcus the money to take care of logistics without a trail leading back to Hawk. Now that Tim is once again indebted to him, Hawk takes advantage of the circumstances by scooping Tim up from a nearby bus stop and bringing him to Hawk’s hunting cabin. Tim can hide out there while his lawyers negotiate plea deals (and while Hawk pulls some strings of his own). To my surprise, Hawk introducing the space to Tim by telling him, “This is Daddy’s hunting cabin,” only resulted in some parallel play masturbation later in the episode, and not the kind of ultra-raunchy Fellow Travelers sex we’re used to. But that’s okay—again, we’re working with a softer touch this week.
But that touch is a bit too gentle when it comes to the editing between not-so-long-ago flashbacks and the present events in 1968. There are several cuts in this episode that are intended to show us how Lucy got Hawk to give up his apartment in Washington D.C. and move to their country house with the additional cabin nearby. This is done to imply that Hawk had an affair with the cabin’s contractor, which becomes completely clear to Lucy with a discovery she makes at the end of the episode. But this dance between the slightly more blue hues of the early ’60s and the more orange coloring of 1968 is hard to follow, especially when the only thing we viewers have to track the year is the length and style of Allison Williams’ hair.
In one of those flashback scenes, Lucy’s mother tells her not to worry about Hawk’s cabin. “Take comfort in the fact that you’re the one he loves and comes home to,” she says to her daughter. “The rest is just about the meeting of needs.” Lucy plays coy to what her mother is suggesting, but it never even enters her mind that any affair her mother is speaking of could be with another man.
Years later, Hawk’s cabin is his well-established retreat—a place where Lucy knows not to bother him, and therefore, a place he can stash Tim. Hawk brings him news of what authorities want to try to prosecute him with, but Tim refutes all of the favors that Hawk has been able to accrue from all of his old contacts, before refusing any affection from Hawk as well. Tim is in seminary, studying to become a priest, and has taken a vow of celibacy. “I keep going back to something Father Lawrence says all the time,” Tim tells Hawk. “‘There is no god higher than truth.’” In the past, I held two truths: my love for you, and my love for God. One was real, and one was a fantasy.”
This love triangle between Hawk, Tim, and God is intriguing, but not quite interesting enough for the show to keep referencing without burrowing deeper. In Episode 6, I’m much more fascinated by the dynamic between Hawk and his family, particularly the different types of strain he feels with Lucy and his son Jackson, who is spinning out of control and rebelling against his father. One night, Jackson runs away to the hunting cabin while Tim is out, and when he returns, Jackson is pointing a rifle at him. The two calm the situation down quickly and become friendly, but that doesn’t stop Jackson from telling his mother that Hawk has someone staying at the cabin.
But Lucy has no time to confront her husband before a big party that the couple is throwing at their house. It’ll have to wait until after, when she’s had even more time to stew on her feelings. Jackson steals away from the party, drops acid, and goes back to the cabin to find Tim, who comforts him until he falls asleep. Meanwhile, Lucy tries her hand at some flirtations of her own, kissing one of the partygoers in the kitchen. When the celebration dies down, a drunk Lucy brings Hawk upstairs to their bedroom. Hawk tells her that he doesn’t want to have sex with her while she’s drunk, and she responds by putting his hand on her breast.
“Am I that unattractive to you?” Lucy asks her husband, who is barely keeping it together among a suspicious wife, a catatonic son, and a lover just a few yards away. “Don’t be ridiculous, you’re a beautiful woman,” Hawk responds. But Lucy chides him. “That’s the problem, isn’t it?” she asks facetiously, putting the last word of Hawk’s sentence into invisible italics that hang in the air. Hawk, in an effort to prove himself—and maybe even a bit aroused by Lucy’s more typically masculine candor—makes love to his wife before running off to the cabin to retrieve Jackson.
In the morning, a hungover Lucy awakens to Tim at her front door, pretending to be a stranger and asking to use the phone. “I know who you are,” she says, stone-faced. “Hawk isn’t here.” Williams does her best work in this series so far, dancing between concerned mother, anxious wife, and an undersexed woman in her prime with total ease. Lucy then tells Tim that she found the paperweight that he gave Hawk while she was cleaning out his office in D.C., which was also when Tim slipped a final goodbye under Hawk’s office door.
“Dear Hawk,” the letter read, “I went into the army to get away from you. I thought time and distance would help, but it hasn’t. Hawk, I still love you, but I’m hoping to find something else, maybe a deeper faith someday.” Lucy tells Tim that she burned the letter and that Hawk never saw it. Tim looks upset, but knows that he has no right to vocalize any disappointment when Hawk’s wife is experiencing exactly what Tim once did—only Lucy’s pain of being strung along is magnified tenfold because she isn’t a secret. It’s a mortifying place that she finds herself in, and she’s stuck in it because of her family.
That familial drama looks to be coming to a head as we reach the final two episodes in the next couple of weeks. The episode ends with a spat between Hawk and Lucy, where she tells her husband that she knows he was stowing Tim away in the cabin. At long last, Lucy asks Hawk the rhetorical question that both she and Tim have been waiting years to ask: “Are you the only one who matters?”
Moved by Lucy to start giving their family the love and respect it deserves, Hawk tries to make things right with Jackson, telling his son that he’s sorry for all the strife that Hawk’s actions have put him through in the past few days. “Do you know that I love you?” Hawk asks him. “I do. I love you beyond measure.” It’s entirely sincere, but it’s a loaded sentiment given how Jackson responds. “Dad, I think there’s something wrong with me,” he says.
Like any good father would do, Hawk assures Jackson that there is nothing wrong with him. “We’re all going to be fine, son. We’re all going to be fine.” But given that this is the chilly note the episode ends on, I’m not so sure I believe that, and I don’t think Hawk or his family do either.
Post source: TDB