Normally I have my reviews written days before an episode airs, but this episode of The Time Traveler’s Wife I had to sit with. I had to take a moment, take a step back and rewatch it.
And as I did, I stopped and though about what we learned about Clare and how strong she really was. But also took a second to think about how things come full circle and how time, no matter what timeline, there are some things that are inevitable. It’s not always things that are inevitable, but lessons and learning and growth are inevitable.
And that’s a beautiful thing about life.
We get to meet Old Clare, who has such beautiful insight into life that you stop and think about how right she is. From the magical time of childhood, which is a time of waiting to what this story is about. This story isn’t about a time traveler, it’s the story of The Time Traveler’s Wife.
When you are young, life is supposed to be magical and filled with wonder. But if you look back on life and think about it, I think we can all agree that childhood is a time of waiting. Clare reminds us of that.
It’s not that childhood isn’t a time of wonder, but most of the world around you is busy. There are so many things going on and you have to wait for people to have time for you. So life tends to be a lot of finding ways to entertain yourself.
Clare had wanted the attention of everyone, but her father was too busy with his paper, her brother wouldn’t play with her because of her personality, and her Mom, well she needed a nap. So Clare finding her sense of wonder was in the clearing where she met Henry.
And we’re seeing everything from her point of view. The little girl that was curious and had a million questions. The little girl that was curious about Henry and why he came to visit her.
The little girl that trusted Henry and played a lot of rounds of checkers and chess and grew to know how strong she was.
Say what you will, but part of me feels like Henry taught her about how torturous waiting could be. Sure, she found out about time and seeing her learn about the calendar was cute, but when he gave her the list of dates, her at such a young age, had to learn that time can be such a blessing and a curse.
But Clare got to meet a lot of Henry’s. She got to learn about him at every age, which can be a beautiful thing. Learning all sides of someone and knowing that a person is complex, is an experience few would ever get. Yet, Henry, was always dry and very blunt, even with a young inquisitive Clare.
Sad Henry, meeting him made an impression. She wanted to know about how time travel works and why Henry doesn’t know the date. He picks up a deck of cards, and asks her what the card is. Seven of diamonds. He then puts the card back in the deck, and shuffles the cards and asks what the next card is. She doesn’t know. And that, well, is time travel.
Everything is jumbled.
And that was Henry. She could ask a million questions and want to know a million things – but it didn’t matter what Henry it was. Like the deck of cards, they were all the same. Just shuffled.
13 YEAR OLD CLARE
As we get older, more and more questions come. We have a lot of things that we notice even more than we did before.
Clare is getting older and one thing that the show is doing well is really showing that transition in all characters as they grow older. I never imagined that they would take us through so much character growth, so many defining moments in one episode of television. But they do.
And they make no apologies for it.
At 13, Clare was used to waiting for Henry. It didn’t mean that she liked it, but she was used to it. The two were connected in a way that a lot of us could never and would never be able to understand.
She hears him screaming her name one morning, and runs out searching for him, almost getting herself shot by her brother. Her Dad and brother are hunting and she’s insistent that they shot someone. She heard someone calling her name.
Of course the two of them are scolding her for running out and almost getting herself shot, but this doesn’t stop Clare. She knows she heard her name. She knows that something is up. And as she searches for Henry and finds blood, her father asks what is wrong.
Clare is confused and angry. It’s a moment that we see that Clare is going through a lot, but we also see that she really cares and worries about Henry.
At 13, Clare understands a lot more than most of us do. She is living a life that I have to admit, I wouldn’t want to. The worry and the pain. Hard pass.
When she sees Henry again, she’s quizzing him on it. She is worried that there is a version of him out there that is dying. He says everyones dying, that all futures end in a brick wall. It’s why you don’t want to know what’s coming, because all futures are a brick wall. She’s frustrated. She asks if his wife worries about him. He says she does and she asks like I do. She says your wife who is also called Clare who you marry in the future and you know my family. She says she has stupid ideas sometimes. She says she thinks he’s married to her in the future.
We’re seeing Clares attachment to Henry and how much he means to her. But how is he supposed to answer that? What does a man say? She didn’t pity him then but Old Clare does. What does he tell her? He tells her they aren’t married in the future. She says ok, but you can tell that she’s in pain. He tells her he can’t tell her anything else. She snaps that she said its ok.
Old Clare says that there are very few things worse than the lies of decent men. I think that there are very few things that are worse than feeling and hurting over those feelings. There are very few things worse than expecting something to be true and knowing that the truth isn’t something that you will get.
I’ve never understood the term sweet sixteen, because there is nothing sweet about it. Sixteen was a horrid experience.
It’s the time of your life when you are coming into your own and your hormones. Everything feels intensified. Everything feels like too much.
For Clare, she is this headstrong person that really just wants things her way. She also wants to be noticed. She wants Henry to notice her. So she hides his clothes and she tries to manipulate him into finding his clothes. They end up playing checkers for him to win pieces of clothing. He’s actually really good at checkers and has been going easy on her.
Clare tries to kiss Henry and feels her first tinge of rejection when he says they will go for ice cream instead. Feeling that first tinge of rejection sucks. I think we all can remember being sixteen and feeling like we’re coming into our bodies and really just wanting to be noticed.
Clare has built her life around Henry, waiting for him at every single moment. She’s spent her life waiting, wanting understanding, and as she’s gotten older, she’s wanted him. But which version was it she fell for is what I want to know?
When we’re kids we don’t know how to deal with rejection. We don’t know how to deal with pain. And Clare, like all of us, rejection is embarrassing and we will want to avoid people that we feel embarrassed around.
There are things that make us spin out of control, things that we don’t want to talk about and things that we do. Clare skips seeing Henry and goes to a party. He still appears, sits there waiting, and when she finally shows up she’s screaming his name.
He runs to her, and she trips and falls. Before he can get to her, time takes him away.
Clare needed someone at that point, and time taking him away made her more angry. It made her feel disappointed. It made her resentful. And it compounded her pain.
When we are in pain in our lives, we react. And reactions are not something positive all of the time. Sometimes they are amplified by the anger that we feel. The way that we want more from people and the way that we react when we don’t get that from people.
Clare is angry over what happened to her the night of the party, and she’s angry that time took Henry away. She looses her shit and the next time she sees Henry, she takes him on the car ride from hell. Like seriously, girl put everyone in danger – including Henry and herself.
Clare doesn’t realize that at this point in her life, she’s still making decisions that shape her future. I think we’re always making decisions that shape our future and the scary thing is that everything we do can change anything. As I sit here and write this, I have to admit that I am always wondering about choices. Are the ones that we make the right ones?
When finally out of the car, Henry looses his shit on Clare and she breaks. She also wants to know if he’s ever gotten arrested? Basically she wants to know if he can get away with anything because of time travel.
Clare doesn’t want to tell Henry what Jason, a boy at the party, did to her. But he asks and knows that her behavior isn’t like who she normally is. Clare won’t tell Henry what Jason did, she asks him just to accept that he deserves it. Henry says that he can do that.
Part of what is beautiful about Henry and Clare is that even in their worst and best moments, they can accept that they don’t always need to know, but they are going to be there for each other. I often wonder, if I could go back, would I be there for the people that I love, blindly?
Henry shows up at Jasons door, with a gun, and tells him that he’s going to get in the trunk. Jason pisses himself when Henry puts the gun to him, but follows directions and gets in the trunk.
Henry tries to tell Clare that she can’t come, that she needs to go home and needs an alibi. But Clare wants to go. She wants to see Henry hurt him.
Part of me thinks that Clare took Henry’s words to heart, that she’s still making choices for her future, that it’s not set on a track. The other part of me knows that you can’t change what is meant to be. Because when Clare hears Jason wheezing she returns to his house for his inhaler.
She also makes the choice that they aren’t going to kill Jason. She just wants him hurt. And in a vulnerable moment, where we see just how much pain Clare is in, she answers what Jason did to her.
She gets out of the car, headlights shining on her, and takes off her shirt. Seeing what happened to Clare, I felt sick. Her body was covered in bruises and her breast burnt with a cigarette. Henry, is pissed.
Clare says that he only hurt her, but he didn’t rape her. Henry is so mad, he’s making it about his anger, but Clare tells him that it can’t be about his anger. It’s about her pain, we all see that.
She reiterates that he didn’t rape her, that he got mad when she refused to have sex. Clare didn’t understand why, because she had never promised to have sex. She hadn’t even said she would. So why was he so mad?
The truth, we learn from Old Clare, is that Jason did rape her. But she never told Henry that truth. If she told him, it would have made it real. If she said the words out loud, it would have made it real and Clare didn’t want it to be real. She didn’t want Henry to know the truth, because him knowing would make it real and when she was with Henry she didn’t want for it to be real.
I broke down in tears, because I understood that. I understood it so much. As a survivor of sexual assault, I have seen it change the way people look at me and change the way that men are when they are with me when they know. I’ve felt vulnerable and trusted people enough to tell the truth, but I also know that in those moments the way that they looked at me and loved me, has changed. And that’s something I hate and don’t want to ever live with again.
I’ve read a few comments online about how wrong it was for Clare to not tell Henry the truth, but I get it.
I understand it.
Henry wants to kill Jason. We know that he’s pissed, we know that he has an anger inside him most of us don’t. We also know what 16 year old Clare and Jason don’t know.
Henry is her husband in the future and to him, he’s seeing his wife. He’s seeing his wife broken and bruised and he’s determined to protect her. Jason, being taped to a tree, doesn’t know when to shut up. He tells Henry that he needs to see her texts, because she told him thanks for a good time last night.
Henry doesn’t want to hear anything from Jason, and he shouldn’t want to hear it. Why? Because Jason is in the wrong. And Clare said and did things out of fear. She texted him because she was trying to make what happened not true. She was trying to make it less painful.
And he gets that. I get that. I feel as though we’re seeing the type of man that Henry is here, the man that knows how to keep secrets and hold stuff in. Henry seems as though he can and will survive anything, but when he sees the woman that he loves broken down, he’s not going to be able to be so strong. He will break his own rules because he can’t and won’t hear anyone say anything about Clare.
When Jason continues on and says that Clare likes it rough, Henry explodes. He keeps yelling at Jason and saying no she doesn’t. But when Jason says, how would you know, we see that anger that Henry’s been holding in.
He screams that she doesn’t and she never had and that Clare is his wife.
The look on her face is telling. She’s confused and hurt and a part of her happy that she is going to be that person to him. She loves Henry. He loves her. He starts to be taken by time and she says not now.
But time doesn’t listen.
We know they’ll have that conversation eventually. Henry and Clare. But seeing this moment, seeing Henry say that he loves her, I saw the love that he’s held in his entire time with Clare, shine.
When Henry leaves, he leaves Clare with a marker. She called every girl that she knew and told them what happened. She told them where she was. And they all showed up.
And each one of them wrote their story with what Jason had done to them on him. Clare never told Henry what they had done, but that was her first sculpture she says.
And you know how at that moment, Henry time brought Henry back? We walks through his house and sees the pen on Clares desk. She’s standing there and asks why she kept the pen.
Clare tells him because he gave it to her.
Henry may never have learned the truth, but that’s okay. Somethings don’t need to be told.
Or do they?
The Time Traveler’s Wife is streaming now on HBO.