Fellow Travelers reviews praise Jonathan Bailey and Matt Bomer’s ‘fiercely horny’ gay drama

Jonathan Bailey as Tim (L) and Matt Bomer as Hawkins (R) in Fellow Travelers.

The first reviews for gay period drama, Fellow Travelers, starring Jonathan Bailey and Matt Bomer, have arrived ahead of the show’s premiere on Showtime this Friday (27 October).

Based on the novel by Thomas Mallon and adapted by Ron Nyswaner, the limited series follows the forbidden romance between Catholic college graduate Tim Laughlin (Bailey) and cutthroat State Department worker Hawkins Fuller (Bomer) in McCarthy-era Washington and beyond.

Spanning from the 1950s (defined by President Eisenhower’s public crusade against communism and homosexuality) to the AIDS crisis in the 1980s – the plot covers one of the darkest periods to exist as a queer person in 20th century America.

As Tim and Hawkins fall in love (and have lots and lots of sex), their relationship is put under strain by underhanded government scheming, the real threat of social ostracisation and differing political ambitions.

The historical drama features a variety of LGBTQ+ experiences, including a heartfelt romance between a drag queen Frankie (Noah Ricketts) and political journalist Marcus (Jelani Alladin), who must navigate society as gay Black men.

Viewers will also get an insight into the struggles faced by queer women during the period via troubled lesbian secretary Mary (Erin Neufer) – but does the ambitious high-stakes drama deliver as a series as well shedding light on the horrible injustices faced by the LGBTQ+ community in the past?

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One review from Paste magazine‘s Lacy Baugher Milas reads: “Fellow Travelers is unflinching in its portrayal of these uncomfortable and often horrific moments that, quite frankly, our modern-day society would clearly like to forget happened in the first place.”

TV Guide notes that using Tim and Hawkins’ love story as a political vessel worked well on screen. “Fellow Travelers doesn’t rest on easy moral righteousness. Hawk and Tim are themselves flawed.

Jonathan Bailey and Matt Bailey chase each other on a beach in a still from Fellow Travelers.
Jonathan Bailey and Matt Bomer’s chemistry was so good in Fellow Travelers, it made on producer “cry”. (Showtime)

“Love that lives in the shadows can’t truly shine, and as the series waltzes back and forth across a 30-year span, the men’s devotion to each other and to their political principles recedes in fascinatingly complex ways,” writes critic Kelly Connolly.

Bailey and Bomer’s romantic and sexual chemistry appears to shine through, with critics universally praising their erotic tension and romantic chemistry.

Fellow Travelers is the kind of fiercely horny television that used to be a tentpole of pay-per-view network programming,” Daily Beast’s Coleman Spilde writes. “But it’s not just the sex that makes Fellow Travelers so great. It’s also the show’s ability to use wildly erotic fornication as a tool to increase its emotional resonance.”

They praise Bailey and Bomer for delivering the “best lead performances of the year”.

“Nested within a case study of gay political life in the second half of the 20th century are eight episodes of gorgeous romantic drama in a medium that rarely seems suited to the genre,” TIME’s Judy Berman echoes.

Matt Bomer and Jonathan Bailey star in Fellow Travelers.
Matt Bomer and Jonathan Bailey star in Fellow Travelers. (Paramount)

While writing in the Evening Standard, critic Paul Flynn adds: “Fellow Travelers is possibly the glossiest gay series we’ve yet been given… casting known gay actors to steer a story of this nature, told by a gay writer, brings a crucial fragile vanity to the characterisation.”

Some crticis have noted that multiple plot-lines and attempts to address all the major historical moments such as the Vietnam War mean that at times the plot becomes “stodgy” and held back by its own complexity.

“A love story, a rudimentary history lesson and, yes, an ample dose of trauma porn, Fellow Travelers is by turns vital and stodgy, with passionate, emotional elements,” declares The Hollywood Reporter‘s Daniel Fienberg.

TV Guide shares the sentiment, noting: “The rub of Fellow Travelers is that it very much overstays its welcome. The time-hopping structure leads to late revelations about the ways Tim and Hawk have helped and hurt each other over the years.”

The trailer for Fellow Travelers has already caused a stir among fans, and with the queer star power behind the eight-episode series we have no doubt many will be won over by the daring yet tender plot.

Fellow Travelers premieres on Friday, 27 October on Paramount+ with Showtime. The next episode airs on Sunday, 29 October and subsequent episodes will release weekly.