Phenomenal, as is Jonathan Bailey

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Bailey and Matt Bomer co-star in this heady, tension-filled, spectacular take on The Lavender Scare.

Ben Mark Holzberg/Showtime

By Valerie Ettenhofer Published November 10, 2023

Welcome to Up Next, a recurring column looking at what’s new in TV. This week, TV critic Valerie Ettenhofer reviews Showtime’s Fellow Travelers,

fellow passengers He introduces himself to the group of bodies. The new Showtime series, one of the best of the year, features an archival footage-heavy opening credits sequence filled with gay men in various states of sexuality, pleasure and revolution. As Paul Leonard-Morgan’s evocative score plays, the audience sees kisses with mustaches, playful poses in the grass, twisted nipples and more, all with a clear message: This is a landmark story about men who Love Men, and no, that’s not what’s going on. This is one of those saccharine respectability politics dramas that shows how queer people and straight people aren’t that different after all. This one? It is unmistakably gay from its first moment to its last.

The show’s lively introduction – punctuated, admittedly, with imagery that calls to mind a Cold War spy movie – stands in stark contrast to its painfully repressed premise. fellow passengers Zooming in on America’s Lavender Scare, the story of McCarthy-era politics and their far-reaching consequences is told through the lens of undercover government employees for whom sexual identity was treated not as a personal matter but a matter of national security. Has been prepared as. During the real-life Lavender Scare, thousands of LGBTQ+ civil servants were dismissed from their jobs. At the same time, many more people (straight and gay alike, because moral panics are irrational) were disturbed by the intrusive, widespread scrutiny of their personal lives. The stakes were high: like fellow passengers Turns out, outed men can lose not only careers, but also families and, if they are forced to commit suicide or become victims of hate crimes, they may even lose their lives.

Against the backdrop of this constant drumbeat of terror, viewers meet Huck (Matt Bomer) and Tim (Jonathan Bailey), a fictional couple (the miniseries is based on Thomas Malone’s 2007 novel) who share an erotic bond despite working close. Have sexual relations. Joseph McCarthy himself. This pair couldn’t be more different; Religious Tim’s clingy idealism and longing for a moral center are countered by Hawke’s prevailing coldness, a deep and borderline sociopathic tendency that aligns Bomer’s performance with Jon Hamm’s. Mad Man, Like Don Draper, Hawke is effortlessly sexy and casually imperious; From the beginning, her relationship with Tim is as strange as it is complex.

The series cuts back and forth between several periods, revisiting both parties in their lives and American history before its story is rooted in the 1950s. most notably, fellow passengers Part of its action moves to ’80s San Francisco, where the AIDS epidemic is raging, and the government that was once obsessed with rooting out gay men can no longer be bothered to admit it. That they exist. The series wisely diverts Tim and Huck’s attention to tell a second story about his friend Marcus (Jelani Alladin) – a Black DC journalist – and the drag queen (Noah Ricketts) he falls for. During this, girls Star Allison Williams plays Hawke’s childhood friend and eventual wife, while Chris Bauer and Will Brill both donned prosthetics to embody McCarthy and his lawyer Roy Cohn’s Bulldog, respectively.

The cast isn’t particularly weak, but Bailey’s performance is particularly revelatory. Historical miniseries are a dime a dozen, but they don’t always feel as lively fellow passengers, Often there is a certain dogmatism in the presentation of information or historical or cultural complexities are reduced to mass (direct) audiences. There is nothing like that in this show. Part of this comes from the fact that philadelphia And Homeland Writer Ron Nieswaner created the series (it’s full of sharp editing and political thriller energy). Homeland Or American), but most of it comes from the belly. The actor has already proved his impressive presence on screen with projects like bridgertonAnd his theater credentials are well established, but his turn came fellow passengers Still feels like a career-maker. His Tim is innocent but never naïve, idealistic but never stupid, and flexible and vulnerable at the same time. While the easily straight-laced Hawk is determined to conquer the DC political world – and his own life – with his spirit of manly bravery, Tim can’t help but reveal himself again and again through his love. Can do. Bailey wears it all on her face, and it’s a performance that is unforgettable.

fellow passengers It’s a potent cocktail of cutting drama and heady romance. The stifling environment its main characters must face to survive is countered by the moments when they are together well and truly free. The show’s sex scenes are frequent and varied – sometimes dirty, sometimes tender, sometimes playful or sad – and often do more to characterize the central pair than their interactions. However, when Hawk and Tim speak their minds, there is a sense of emotional honesty in the show’s script that will level you up. This may be the best way to describe the cumulative effect fellow passengersAn impressive and rewarding show that beautifully highlights decades of its characters’ lives: it will level you up in the best possible way.

Related Topics: Fellow Travelers, Next

Valerie Ettenhofer is a Los Angeles-based freelance writer, TV-lover, and mac and cheese enthusiast. As a senior contributor to Film School Rejects, she covers television through regular reviews and her recurring column, Episodes. She is also a voting member of the television and documentary branches of the Critics’ Choice Association. Twitter: @andeandval (she/her)

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