Warning: The following contains spoilers for the Fellow Travelers finale. Proceed at your own risk!
As Fellow Travelers came to a close this week, the Showtime limited series shed another revealing layer in its finale. You may be wondering how it’s possible that the drama, which definitely didn’t shy away from sex scenes, got even more naked.
Let’s briefly recap: Back in the 1950s, Tim (played by Jonathan Bailey) returned from war a changed man, and his former lover Hawk (Matt Bomer) took notice, setting him up with a potential job at the Refugee Relief office. Then Hawk took Tim to the D.C. apartment that he and Lucy inherited from her uncle and which Hawk now uses as a hideaway. When Hawk instructed Tim to drink his milk, Tim grabbed the bottle and let the liquid spill down his chin as he guzzled.
“The Army made a man out of my Skippy,” Hawk remarked between kisses. The pair then had sex, but this time, the power dynamics were flipped, with Tim on top.
In the afterglow, Tim assured Hawk that he doesn’t have any expectations, even as the two agreed to keep secretly meeting up at the apartment. During one such tryst, they shared a surprisingly tender slow dance while fully nude, their hands softly grazing and lingering on each other.
Even though the moment didn’t involve any actual lovemaking, “I think that was probably the most profoundly intimate love scene that there was because it was what it was,” star Matt Bomer tells TVLine in the above video. “It was naked and face-to-face and connected and intimate and sweet, and there was a comfortability that you can’t fake between the characters. It’s earned at that point in their relationship.”
Bomer’s co-star Jonathan Bailey likens Hawk and Tim’s embrace in that scene to that of a surprising animal: “They’re like
Reaching that more vulnerable stage in their relationship was no easy feat, and the softness of the scene stands out even more when you consider that it “comes off the back of an extraordinary exploration of power,” Bailey notes.
“These gay men have to fight through the brutalities and the nuances and complexities of power to be able to reach those moments where they can be completely authentic together,” Bailey explains, adding that “in that moment, I do remember going, ‘God, me and Matt have come so far to be able to do this,’ and for it to feel as relaxed and as kind [as it does]. It felt like a kind, joyful moment.”
But Hawk and Tim’s joyfulness was short-lived: Fearing that Tim’s proximity if he got the job would cause problems, Hawk reported him to the M Unit and, thus, got him banned from ever working in federal government. When Tim found out the truth, he rushed to the hospital, where Lucy had just given birth to Jackson, to confront Hawk. Instead, Tim stood in the hallway and stared at a newborn Jackson, his eyes tearing up with realization.
Tim is “understanding the new life that has come from Hawk, the commitment that Hawk has made to his life, and Tim realizes in that moment [that] he absolutely has no place in [Hawk’s] life,” Bailey describes. “But also, Hawk has done something to him that, well, we think he will never be able to move on from.”
“The innocence of new life, to me, feels so important because it’s a study of how oppressive structures corrupt people and push them further away from their joy and their happiness and identity. So the welcoming of Jackson at that moment is just, I think, amazing storytelling,” Bailey continues.
Just as they did in the ’50s, Hawk and Tim also part ways in 1986, with Tim insisting that he has to let everything go, Hawk included, if he’s going to fight to survive and fight for AIDS rights. But first, Tim tells Hawk that he was the all-consuming love of his life and that he has no regrets about anything that happened between them. Harkening back to their very first goodbye, Hawk asks Tim to promise he won’t write.
A year later, Hawk visits the AIDS memorial quilt, and over Tim’s “Beyond Measure” patch of the quilt, he tearfully confesses to his daughter, “He wasn’t my friend. He was the man I loved.”
“That scene, getting to be amongst real pieces of the quilt, getting to look down at Roy Cohn’s real square… that’s one of the most profoundly transportive things I’ve ever experienced in my life,” Bomer shares, describing Fellow Travelers as “so much bigger than any one person involved or even the sum of the people” who contributed to the series. “That was one of those moments where I thought, I just have to get out of my own way here and be a part of this story.”
After losing Tim and the dissolution of his marriage — Lucy left Hawk a year earlier — the finale’s heartbreaking ending “is the culmination of so many things for him,” Bomer says. “You see what all the compartmentalization and what all the bifurcation cost him in his life all in that one scene — his one true, all-consuming love beyond measure — and you see what’s left for him: He doesn’t have a marriage. He has his daughter, thank God, she’s hung onto him and stood by his side. But his love is gone and here he is a man just realizing who he is. He’s a baby in some ways in his mid-sixties…and he’s only just beginning.”
Press PLAY above to hear more from Bomer and Bailey about the challenges of shooting across multiple decades, then grade the finale!