“Why is love intensified by absence?” Clare asks in the Time Traveler’s Wife series premiere, and she knows a thing or two about waiting for her MIA soulmate.
Adapted by Steven Moffat (Doctor Who, Sherlock) from Audrey Niffenegger’s book, the drama begins with Clare (played by Game of Thrones‘ Rose Leslie) posing that question to the camera, while a much older Henry (Sanditon‘s Theo James) separately says that time travel is “not a super power. It’s a disability. It’s what’s wrong with me.”
Presumably, someone behind the camera then asks when Clare and Henry first met. “I married a time traveler. It’s complicated,” Clare replies with a smile.
If you ask Henry, this is how the pair’s first meeting goes down: A 20-year-old Clare goes to the library one day, where she runs into 28-year-old librarian Henry. She’s stunned to see him, especially so young and with such long hair. But Henry doesn’t recognize her. She mentions a birthmark on his foot and a scar on his forehead, then explains that she’s known him for 14 years and is well aware of his time travel problem. They agree to meet for dinner, and Clare practically leaps in excitement as she leaves the library. Henry, meanwhile, frantically cleans his apartment and hides the products that clearly belong to his girlfriend, when he temporarily sees a giant pool of blood on the bathroom floor. (All of Henry travels with him, including his baby teeth, nail clippings and, in this worrisome example, his blood.)
For their date, Henry arrives sweaty and with a cut, holding a bouquet of flowers. Clare shows him the journal of 152 dates that he dictated to her; that’s how many times he came to her. Henry wonders why he went back in time to visit her so frequently. Clare eventually blurts out, “I’m your future wife.”
From her perspective, they meet when she’s six (and played by Good Girls‘ Everleigh McDonell) and a 36-year-old Henry appears in the clearing behind her house. She lends him her dad’s clothes since he can’t bring anything with him when he travels and thus shows up buck naked. Clare asks him a bunch of questions. No, he hasn’t seen dinosaurs. No, he doesn’t have kids. Yes, he’s married, to someone who’s also named Clare. When young Clare asks if it was love at first sight, Henry replies, “God, I hope not.” (Clare’s mention that she’s grooming her toy horse’s hair also makes Henry visibly uncomfortable.)
Then Clare wonders who taught Henry all these rules of time travel, and we see that the first time he traveled at age seven, he met another time traveler: himself at 28. Older Henry keeps his identity secret as he teaches his younger self (General Hospital‘s Jason David) how to survive when he’s dropped into the timeline without clothes, resources or food. (“There’s three things I got good at: running, fighting and stealing,” Much Older Henry says to the camera.)
When 7-year-old Henry pings back to his time, 28-year-old Henry goes to just before his first date with Clare. He lands in an alley, where he steals some jerk’s clothes and asks the jerk’s girlfriend if he can have her flowers. Following their dinner, Henry takes Clare back to his apartment, and she pretty much jumps him. She’s never seen him this young and hot, and it’s been 14 years, she emphasizes like she’s Rose in that “It’s been 84 years…” Titanic meme.
When Clare gets up from bed to use the bathroom, she finds Henry’s girlfriend’s bra and lashes out at him for failing to mention Ingrid. “Well, I’m here now,” Clare exclaims, and Henry calls her crazy.
Meanwhile, 36-year-old Henry disappears from the clearing and travels to the night of Clare and Henry’s fight as she’s storming away. While Clare is nursing a drink at a nearby bar, 36-year-old Henry sits down across from her. He tries to defend his younger self’s behavior, explaining that time travel has never done one nice thing for 28-year-old Henry — until today. For that Henry, the future is the scariest thing of all, because “anyone can stand any kind of torture except hope.”
“Older me gets you, and I get younger you, who’s a dick. It’s not fair… How does he get to be you?” Clare wonders in disbelief. The short answer is her. While she formed herself around the idea of Henry, he formed himself around her.
Outside, the two Henrys have a not-so-friendly chat, during which 36-year-old Henry gives himself some advice, courtesy of their old man: find the love of your life and die as slowly as possibly. “You’ve seen the blood. You know something’s coming. No more time to waste,” he warns, before traveling back to 28-year-old Clare in their home.
As for 28-year-old Henry, he hears some commotion in a nearby alley. When he investigates, he finds his severed feet. “Not today,” he tells himself. Then we see that the much older Henry who’s been talking to the camera is wheelchair-bound.
What did you think of HBO’s series adaptation of The Time Traveler’s Wife? Grade it below, then hit the comments!