The Time Traveler’s Wife Episode 5 Introduces Henry to the Family

Clare sits on a chair looking comfortable
Photograph by Macall Polay

The following contains spoilers from Episode 5 of The Time Traveler’s Wife (adapted by Steven Moffat and directed by David Nutter)

The Time Traveler’s Wife Episode 5 begins with Gomez (Desmin Borges) and Henry (Theo James) in the aftermath of last episode’s disastrous dinner party. They butted heads from the get-go, but Future Henry said that Gomez will become one of Henry’s closest friends. They are at a bar to see if there’s truth to what Future Henry had said, but things go south fairly quickly. Henry says the only thing they have in common is that they both want to have sex with Clare (Rose Leslie), and Gomez is enraged. Before storming out of the bar, he says that he’s met Henry before and that’s why he treats Henry rudely.

The Time Traveler’s Wife is so uninterested in making Clare the focus of the series that seeing Young Clare with a sketchpad in a flashback was jarring. Her interest in art should be one of the main things that’s tied to her, but it’s so infrequently mentioned and has been entirely forgotten in most of the episodes. Until now.

Supposedly, Young Clare drew a picture of Henry that she carried with her through the years. Something about this drawing made it obvious that Clare was in love with Henry, but it looks like an ordinary sketch. Multiple characters point to it as a fundamental part of Clare’s life, but this is the first time the audience is hearing about the drawing. It also highlights how little is really known about Clare. It’s a critique that’s been mentioned on this site previously, but as the episodes continue to focus on the same themes week after week, the critique only gains validity. 

Photograph by Macall Polay

The bulk of the episode takes place when 20-year-old Clare and 28-year old Henry are visiting Clare’s parents, Lucille (Jaime Ray Newman) and Philip (Michael Park), her younger sister Alicia (Taylor Richardson), and her brother Mark (Peter Graham) for the first time. It should come as no surprise that Henry is his usual standoffish self when meeting the Abshire family. He complains on the drive there, makes jokes to her parents that come across as insults, and only thinks about how he can sneak away to have sex with Clare. He’s not creating a good impression and it’s entirely his own doing. No, her parents and her brother are not stand-up citizens themselves, but if Henry cares about Clare as he says he does, the least he can do is try.

Henry at this age has not been to the clearing behind Clare’s house where Future Henry and Young Clare spent all their time together. Present-day Henry is curious to see it, but Clare is squirrely about taking him there because it was “their” spot. “Their” meaning Young Clare and Future Henry. It’s a strange distinction that she continues to make and always reminds the Present-day Henry that she much prefers him in the future. With only one episode left in the limited series, the show has done an awful job of showing how this self-centered, antagonistic, manipulative, narcissist turns into someone who’s kind.

But maybe that’s just it. Maybe Future Henry isn’t the kind gentleman Clare thinks he is. Henry is simply that good at manipulation and the kindness Clare interpreted as a child was just another form of narcissism. A way of manipulating time and space to his will. Perhaps, had Clare grown up without knowing she would be married to Henry, she wouldn’t have given him the time of day when they met. Why would she? The show has given Henry no redeeming attributes. Quite frankly, the only reason she puts up with him is because she has built her life upon the idea of an inevitability that was handed down to her by a creepy, time-traveling man in the woods. It’s certainly not how the show or the novel intended it to be, but without knowing Henry as anything more than mean-spirited, it’s impossible to see the romantic angle the show is desperately grasping at.

Present-day Henry complains to Clare that she’s holding on to the past too much and, specifically, to Future Henry. He even goes so far as to generalize that nostalgia is a problem all non-time travelers have. It’s quite ironic coming from the man who keeps returning to the same moment in time because it had a profound impact on his life.

Older Henry walking through the woods
Photograph by Macall Polay

While visiting Clare’s parents, Henry time travels to the future, where he inadvertently gets into a fight with a group of bikers. Gomez comes to his rescue and the two share a drink with much better results than the opening scene. However, it comes up that Gomez is still in love with Clare. It’s an odd decision for the show to make for these characters, because it’s clear that Gomez is married to someone else at this time. The fact that he’s still pining for Clare undermines his relationship and begs the question, how and why would Gomez and Henry be friends if they’re in love with the same person?

This scene between Henry and Gomez also highlights the same issue Clare’s sketchbook brought up: Clare’s characterization is paper-thin. The only attribute Gomez and Henry compliment Clare on is her looks. The audience doesn’t know what other attributes she might be complimented on because they know nothing about her. The only thing we do know is that she’s an artist and we were only reminded of that 45 minutes ago. What music does she like, what’s her favorite movie, does she like crunchy or smooth peanut butter, is she happy living in Chicago, etc. Anything would be better than the paltry information the script has given about her.

With one episode to go, the story feels very incomplete. The final minutes of Episode 5 show Henry getting a haircut that matches the cut of Future Henry that Clare loves so much. This decision is supposed to be indicative of Present-day Henry becoming the man Clare grew up loving, but no actual character development occurs. There’s also the matter of Henry’s impending death that was alluded to often in the beginning, but has since been forgotten (a recurring theme).

Lastly, there’s the question of who is filming Future Clare and Future Henry in what looks to be their home. Most of the episodes have started with a visibly older Clare and Henry talking directly into the camera, as though someone is making a documentary about them. A few episodes have even had them seemingly address the camera operator.

With the final episode, there’s also a futile hope that the show really looks at the relationship between Henry and Clare and the reason Henry molded it to be what it is. Judging by how the rest of the series has played out, it seems that is wishful thinking.

Written by Tina Kakadelis

Movie and pop culture writer. Seen a lot of movies, got a lot of opinions. Let's get Amy Adams her Oscar.


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  1. I’m taking a moment before watching the finale to catch up on your reviews, and I feel like we’ve been watching two different shows. The show I’m watching is an extremely good adaptation of the most amazing time travel story ever written. Each episode has been a vignette on a different aspect of Henry and Clare’s lives together. There have been moments that I believe went beyond the source material (it’s been too long since I’ve read it), like Clare “meeting” Henry’s mother, that had the hair standing up on my arms.

    Is their relationship problematic in that it begins when Clare is six? Of course. Can Henry do anything about that? No, he can’t. This is a tragedy, ultimately. Henry is a total asshole at 28 because he has had a life filled with tragedy. Tragedies he should be able to avoid as a time traveler. That’s the wish of all of us, that we could go back and impart knowledge of our younger self that would enable us to avoid all the pain of our life. But it doesn’t work out that way. Suffering is part of the human condition, and Henry’s “gift” does not change that.

    Does Henry “groom” Clare? Yes. He grooms her to be the one who grooms him, so that he can groom her, and so on. Their intertwined lives are a mobius strip. I don’t think you’re giving older Henry enough credit for trying to keep it non-sexual with Clare. We see how he starts out as her imaginary friend, her tutor, her sounding board.

    They each try to preserve the illusion of free will for each other by lying. Lying through omission mostly. Henry tries to lie about them being married in the future. Clare doesn’t tell Henry about their first time when she turns 18. Older Henry keeps Clare completely unknown to younger Henry. He even doesn’t tell his younger self who he is while teaching him the darker side of being a time traveler (grooming himself to be the asshole he becomes, to some degree).

    You pointed out in your first article how different this time travel story was from the usual fair. There are no paradoxes. Younger Henry can interact with older Henry with no fear of consequence. Clare has always been part of that. They know each other more intimately than any other couple could possibly achieve. His love for her stretches into her past, as her love for him strtches into his future.

    And, of course, the finale will maybe help you see past the conventions of a normal, time-bound relationship, as another player steps onto the stage and you find out who is on the other side of the camera with the documentary style openers to each episode.

    Maybe I’m wrong. Maybe my love of the time travel genre is blurring my ability to see this clearly. Not as a beautiful romantic tragedy on par with Romeo and Juliet, but rather as a creepy tale of abusive power dynamics and the downplaying of the titular female lead. Time will tell..

    • You are so right, this is a phenomenal show. I had never seen the movie or read the book. From the very first episode my husband and I both feel in love with the story. We had no trouble following along to their story. It needs to be continued!

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