The first season of “The Time Traveler’s Wife,” starring Theo James and Rose Leslie, just wrapped up last week on HBO streaming services. The series was adapted from Audrey Niffenegger’s novel “The Time Traveler’s Wife,” which was also previously made into a film in 2009.
HBO’s adaptation of “The Time Traveler’s Wife” was written by Steven Moffat, who worked alongside director and executive producer David Nutter to bring this distinctive story to life. Through the vision and the direction of these two men, the powerful romance between Henry DeTamble and Clare Abshire is unraveled.
The TV series explores a complex and unique love story tested by the trials of fate and time travel. The story follows Henry DeTamble, portrayed by Theo James, a librarian with a genetic disorder that unknowingly causes him to time travel. Clare Abshire, played by Rose Leslie, is an artist whose role — as set by fate — is to be Henry’s wife in the future.
In the opening line of the series, Clare poses the question, “Why is love intensified by absence?” This line guides the audience through the intense themes of love, caring and relationships that are touched on throughout. Due to Henry’s involuntary time travel, Clare experiences his absence during crucial moments of the life they share together. In these scenes, Clare’s initial question is explored and revisited. As a result, the series follows the development of the characters’ relationship as well as their individual character development in a nonlinear manner, contributing to the feel of a disordered love story.
Viewers see Henry and Clare at several, significant stages of their lives, lending a better understanding of their actions, decisions and future. Henry’s character is seen as young Henry, teen Henry and other older versions as the story progresses. Clare is visualized as young Clare, pre-teen Clare, adult Clare and the older versions of herself as she herself develops.
In different stages of Henry’s life, he is quite literally zapped through the past and future. The catch is, each time he time travels, he arrives completely naked. It makes for a whole lot of nudity throughout the six episodes.
The first two episodes of the show follow Henry through different stages of his life, some of which include an older version of himself guiding a younger version of himself. An older Henry visits young Clare and also relives his childhood trauma, in which he witnesses the precise moment of his mother’s gory death. He suffers from the eternal sadness of losing his mother, which prevents him from being a happy, caring individual because he fears triggering his time travel and having to go through that pain again.
The second episode also prompted a widespread reaction from viewers; one particular sex scene shows a version of time-traveling Henry performing oral sex on himself. In fact, some people called it the most baffling blowjob scene in TV history. The scene did not contribute much to the plot and it was definitely odd.
In the third episode, Clare and Henry’s interactions are seen from her perspective, adding another layer of nuance to the characters’ intentions and conversations. From both viewpoints, the dichotomy of old and young Henry is meant to symbolize the vast changes one goes through in life. Moffat does an excellent job of writing each of the characters (especially the contrast between who they are as young people and old people) so that viewers can understand how their personality changes as they grow into their future selves.
As the show moves forward, additional characters, such as Clare’s best friends Charisse and Gomez, are introduced to further build the level of friendship between the four characters. Briefly, the series touches on a love triangle between the three friends, in which Clare shares relations with both Gomez and Charisse on separate occasions. Really, the basis of Gomez’s character is the friendship that he builds with Henry, despite the two initially disliking one another. The mutual love they share for Clare is eventually what brings them to relate to and appreciate one another.
The series explores unconventional themes that some viewers have identified as grooming. Without giving away too many spoilers, future Henry clearly knows the outcome of his life, which leads him to time travel to Clare throughout her pre-teen and teen years. Though technically the two should meet when she is 20 and he is 28, future Henry (typically 41) visits her during her adolescence, thus “molding” her. The two spend time talking to one another and playing checkers, in the same grassy area known as “the clearing.” While some may interpret this as grooming, it could be better explained by the cosmic answer, which is fate. Even if Henry could not time travel to young Clare, they still would have been brought together. Of course, this idea is exactly what the series embodies: The decisions you make inevitably lead to a certain outcome, and you cannot stop what is destined to happen no matter how hard you try.
Technically, young Clare does fall in love with the clean-cut, older version of Henry. As a result, when she turns 20, she is not fully convinced she clicks with the shaggy-haired, 28-year-old version of Henry. This conflict leads to the biggest climax of the show. After a fight with her parents, Clare runs off to the clearing, leaving younger Henry to find a sketch of the 41-year-old Henry she once met. In that moment, he decides to cut his shaggy hair, which is a significant step forward. The haircut is symbolic of him growing up and being there for Clare — in other words, being the version of himself that she needs and is familiar with. He then says to her, “I’m here now, I can be someone else.” The episode wraps up with a long, passionate kiss.
In the final episode, Clare and Henry get married. During the weeks leading up to the date, Henry experiences a lot of anxiety, which causes more time travel than usual. During one of these time travel experiences, 28-year-old Henry discovers that future Henry and Clare are unable to bear children. Since Henry got a secret vasectomy, Clare is left disappointed and “out of time.“ Though this part of the story is saddening, the wedding scene ends the series on a happier note, which was the intention of the show’s writer.
In its entirety, “The Time Traveler’s Wife” is definitely a unique love story. The sequence of events is purposely inconsistent but it makes for an interesting plot. After working on the show, Steven Moffat summarized the rarity that this love story embodies in one sentence: “It’s poetic in some ways, ‘cause if you marry a time traveler it should all happen in the wrong order, shouldn’t it?”