HBO’s latest series, “The Time Traveler’s Wife,” has a decent start, but is messy in its execution

Courtesy of Warner Bros Television Pictures

“The Time Traveler’s Wife” was a 2003 novel written by Audrey Niffenegger and gained a lot of success during its time. Since then a movie adaptation of the book was released in 2009 featuring Rachel McAdams and Eric Bana. The movie was a success, but received mixed reviews with audiences praising the actors’ performances and criticizing the premise. The television series adaptation of the book on HBO came out on May 15.

The plot is a love story between Henry DeTamble (Theo James) and his wife, Clare Abshire (Rose Leslie). Henry has a genetic disorder that makes him travel through time at random moments for an unknown amount of time. Clare is an artist, struggling to deal with his unpredictable absences. The show follows both characters’ perspectives and travels throughout time during their relationship. 

A major issue that audiences have with the novel and adaptations involves the beginning of Clare and Henry’s relationship. Henry can often travel to the same place at different points of time. After marrying Clare, Henry starts to travel to her childhood starting when she is six years old. As Clare grows up, Henry visits her at various ages and they begin to form a close bond. Audiences have questioned this aspect of the romance. While some fans argue against the controversy, others cannot fathom the plotline of Henry visiting Clare in her childhood. Although this aspect may have worked back when the novel was written, it is difficult for it to pass in today’s society. This major downfall of the story is what holds the show from keeping audiences engaged. 

Another downfall of the show is its messy storytelling. Due to Henry’s time travels and the various moments between Clare and Henry in their lives, the show jumps around frequently. Although there is a screen tag showing audiences the age of Clare and/or Henry at that point of time, it can still get confusing to follow. The show also includes scenes where Henry and Clare are speaking to the camera in a documentary style. It is not yet explained why the show involves these scenes, and for the audience it is unclear what is going on when they are randomly inserted into the show.

An aspect of the film adaptation that was highly praised was the actors’ performance and their chemistry with each other. For James and Leslie, the chemistry between them is lacking in the premiere, especially as the “present” forms of their characters are not on the same page in their relationship. However, the show has just started and their chemistry could possibly develop as the series continues.

Despite the many pitfalls of the show, there were a few highlights in the premiere. The dialogue involved some witty lines that gave a comedic aspect to the show. The individual performances of James and Leslie were interesting for audiences to see, especially when it comes to learning more about their characters. The heartfelt romance has a complex story that can captivate the audience. However, its weaknesses unfortunately do not outweigh the show’s strengths.

It is difficult to convey a story where a grown man travels to the past and visits a child whom he will marry later in life. As a result, audiences today may find that aspect creepy and thus cannot continue to watch the rest of the series. The original plotline went over people’s heads when it was a book and it barely passed as a movie. Therefore, a rendition of the story today is a tough gamble to make. 

Verdict: “The Time Traveler’s Wife,” cannot get past its controversies, which holds the show back from keeping the audience engaged. The show may have some highlights, but it fails to outweigh any strong points. 


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