Showtime’s Fellow Travelers is a tragic love story between two men, one a young and naive social worker in the making, and another a man trapped in his search for power. In this article, we’re going to be discussing the latter. As much as I’d like to put Hawkins ‘Hawk’ Fuller in the category of “flawed, gray anti-hero,” I’d be doing the show a disservice if I did. There’s something terrifying about a main character who is pretty much evil and yet you’re meant to root for. Don’t get me wrong, Hawk has everything that makes for an impeccable leader, and yet he’s absolutely horrible. I suppose you can blame it all on his simple fear of judgment, something he’s lived with all of his life, but how does that make him any different from the man he’s meant to be fighting? Hawk’s entire persona is a lie in many ways; he hides behind the facade of a dominant man because, on the inside, he’s fragile and terrified.
I suppose there is an improvement as time progresses in the show. It’s not an upward journey, for sure. In fact, it’s got too many downs to call it anything but problematic, yet you’re left wishing for his happiness in those last heartbreaking moments of the show. I guess there are some things to like about Hawk, for one, his fantastic looks. Just kidding (or not), he’s reliable, and he’s got some tricks up his sleeves, but that’s about it. Throughout Fellow Travelers, we’re reminded many times that Hawk is in fact never going to change his ways; he’s always going to choose himself over anybody else, even if that “anybody” is the love of his life. Although there’s a lot to hate about Hawk, I mean, he is quite the groomer if you think about it, it’s the manipulation that is the worst of it all. He isn’t just manipulating the characters; as an audience, you’re never certain of what he’s thinking. He’s the main guy; why would he do anything wrong? WRONG. Maybe I’m as innocent as Tim and have always believed that Hawk would turn around before it’s too late.
The dynamic between Hawk and Senator Smith is an interesting one. In many ways, Smith is exactly like Hawk’s father, who abandoned him after learning about his sexuality. Smith, who doesn’t know the truth, takes Hawk in like a son of his own and makes him his “fixer,” if you will. Between Hawk and Leonard, Smith’s biological son, one has created a protective covering for himself, and the other has given up because he has no support. They’re not actually that different; it’s only because of the Senator that Hawk has someone to look out for him. He’s basically stolen Leonard’s rights, too, by lying. The worst part is that he feels no remorse for this, as he calls Leonard “nature’s mistake” and sends him off to shock therapy to “fix him” (told you he was a fixer). It’s wanting to protect yourself and then hurting everyone in your vicinity to do so that’s the real problem.
Hawk’s relationship with his son shows us how lost he truly is. There’s a moment in Fellow Travelers when Jackson, who has just met Tim, tells him that he hates his father. I suppose the innocence of childhood allows you to see the good in people quite easily. At the back of his mind, it seems Jackson might know who Tim really is, but instead of pushing him away, he warms up to him immediately. It’s never made clear if Jackson was struggling with his identity because he was queer or if he was simply a lost adolescent, but one can imagine Hawk seeing too much of himself in his son, so he pushes him away further rather than embracing him like he does his daughter. Tim is the person who opens Hawk’s eyes to the wonder that is his son. It’s always Tim who brings out the best in Hawk, never the other way around. So when he goes away for good, the mirage of a decent Hawk disappears too.
I suppose Fellow Travelers doesn’t really glorify Hawk and Tim’s relationship. As much as we’re meant to root for them, their tragic end is a testament to Hawk’s failure as a human being. It’s a clear statement—if Hawk hadn’t been evil, he may have had a much better life. There is a very clear dichotomy between Hawk and Tim, which is probably what draws them to each other. Unfortunately, Tim never truly sees Hawk’s Machiavellian nature. It’s probably his unconditional love for him that keeps him coming back to him. Their love is a ruinous one.
When Jackson dies and Hawk brings Tim out to “Fire Island,” he projects his pent-up feelings on Tim. Hawk, who has always been sleeping around, compares Tim to his new lover, saying he doesn’t “judge” him, while Tim is a picture of judgment. Wouldn’t it be shocking if he realized that Tim would be the last to judge him? Hawk compares Tim to a saint because he wants to be a good religious man, taking a vow of celibacy and being loyal to his partner. Everything that Hawk could never do (suppose he’s not really human, huh). Tim still stays back and forgives Hawk because he’s suffered a grave tragedy—losing his child—something no parent could ever dream of suffering through. This is when you know for certain that, deep down, Hawk is simply a coward. Instead of protecting his family, he runs away when he is needed the most, something that Tim has to remind him of again.
When Hawk finally surrenders to Tim in episode 8, there’s a moment when you’re meant to think he’s changing, but it’s just as selfish as any other version of Hawk. He wants both his family and Tim to be close to him. But he shows his true colors by reporting Tim himself when he realizes that he wouldn’t be able to maintain this secret. I think there’s not a single moment when Hawk really apologizes to Lucy for lying to her their whole lives together. Even in that dynamic, Lucy is the bigger person, as much as she wants to hate both of these men who basically ruined her entire life (suppose it’s the woman in her?). No, it’s almost clear then that he’s only holding onto her to protect his reputation, never mind the 30 years of marriage, family, and grandbabies he talks about. It’s only too obvious at this point.
I can only imagine that, at the end of the series, Hawk really changes. When he tells his daughter that Tim was the man he loved, he’s finally liberating himself from the fear that has bound him to evil his whole life. Maybe that’s when he takes on the role of anti-hero.