The Time Traveler’s Wife ending explained

The Time Traveler’s Wife spoilers follow.

It’s the moment Clare has been waiting for since she was six years old … the finale of The Time Traveler’s Wife saw her become, well, the title of the show.

The star-crossed lovers have finally become man and wife but, and this is the big thing, it seems their romanticized version of marriage is giving way to something much darker.

Moreover, the seeming twist at the end seems to suggest Clare’s desperation for a child apparently overrides Henry’s desire to spare her harm.

But we’ll get to that, and whether or not it’s problematic or not, in due course. First, we’ve got a wedding to discuss.

time traveler's wife, theo james as henry detamble and rose leslie as clare abshire

HBO

Of course, the wedding doesn’t go off without a hitch. Do you think a groom with cold feet is hard to track down? Try a groom with cold feet whose anxiety over a no-expense-spared wedding shoots him out into his past or future without warning.

As you can imagine, total flipping nightmare.

Throughout the episode, we see Henry (played by Theo James) at multiple times in his life. The age of 28 … the age of 42 (but looking older and without feet) … each coming with its own catch.

In one fleeting future visit, he finds a teary-eyed Clare (Rose Leslie) on their living room sofa, weeping as she watches their wedding video and his wheelchair sits unused in a cupboard … which is not the ideal future he saw for himself.

But Henry is determined to get to the altar and say ‘I Do’ to Clare by any means necessary. And he knows just the person to help him out: himself.

time traveler's wife, rose leslie as clare and theo james as henry

HBO

Hence the creation of “Shoe Polish Day,” something Clare has known of, but not about, pretty much her entire life. Trying to hide elements of her future from Clare so she can experience them herself, their wedding was overridden with a waft of shoe polish as an older, future version of Henry shoved it in his gray hair to appear like the age-appropriate version of himself who was supposed to be getting married that day.

A very cute story for a very cute couple. But happy ever after is definitely something for a fairytale.

During the run-up to the wedding, Henry also bears witness in his travels to Clare crying over a mysterious wooden box on her nightstand. It looks like a jewelery box, and to begin with it seems like it’s where she keeps her rings. As it turns out, it’s something far more heartbreaking – it’s where she keeps her positive pregnancy tests.

Something that neither of them were prepared for was the sheer difficulty it would take for them to get pregnant. With Henry’s time-traveling a genetic disorder, it appears it’s an ability that formulates in the womb. So whenever Clare gets pregnant, she soon loses the baby, with the unborn child zapping out of her tummy and unable to return as it’s not fully gestated.

This has already happened at least five times to the older versions of Clare and Henry, and soon, after seeing Clare in so much pain every time, a 36-year-old Henry decides to have a vasectomy against her wishes. She is furious with Henry for taking her ability to be a mother away.

time traveler's wife, rose leslie as clare abshire

HBO

On the day of the wedding, 28-year-old Henry zaps into his 36-year-old life, and watches his 42-year-old self Marry Clare in his wedding video. She notes that she misses the younger version of him for the first time, after years of saying she preferred his more gentle, older self when he visited.

She makes him promise to visit, and then, in the mid-credits scene, makes one major note – this The 28-year-old version of Henry hasn’t had a vasectomy yet.

The confusion around consent has been brought up more than once during this series, seeing as the lines are so blurred around what they were groomed into believing and what their instinctual thoughts were that it all looks like a magic-eye picture. But did Clare just … basically plan to make a 36-year-old Henry a father without his permission?

* Book spoilers follow *

time traveler's wife, theo james as henry detamble and rose leslie as clare abshire

HBO

Now, fans of The Time Traveler’s Wife book know that Henry and Clare do eventually have a child. This will happen in the series, as we have already seen very brief flashes of a little girl who we instinctively know to be their daughter.

But that still doesn’t change the fact that things just seem a little weird and problematic here. On the one hand, future Henry may know he’s a dad already, but then why wouldn’t he mention that, or even give the heads up to Clare?

Which suggests Clare is getting pregnant behind his back … even if we were to argue it’s not cheating as it is technically the same guy, surely there’s some level of accountability there that the older version of Henry just doesn’t have and she’s taken from him?

If the genders were reversed this seems like a massive ick waiting to happen and it shouldn’t be OK just because Henry and Clare are who they are.

While they may have had a vasectomy against her wishes, ultimately it’s a two-way street for them to have kids at all, you don’t just beat someone to the punch.

theo james, the time traveler's wife, season 1

HBO

How this plays out and how it will be different to the book remains to be seen. Currently, the show has not been given a second season and we’re waiting on the news. But Steven Moffat has clearly got a long-term face in mind.

Let’s just hope that he makes at least enough of a change that this stops an increasingly problematic and toxic situation from getting worse.

The Time Traveler’s Wife is available on HBO Max in the US and Sky and NOW in the UK.

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