[Warning: The below contains MAJOR spoilers for Season 1, Episode 5 of The Time Traveler’s Wife.]
But, what does Clare bringing this “new” younger version of Henry to the place she first met him feel like? Pretty scary it would seem because she can’t even reconcile the concept of him inhabiting a space once occupied by the Henry of her childhood.
Throughout the series so far, she’s struggled to accept that this 28-year-old Henry is the same person from her past, the older and more grounded version of Henry. She’s said things like, “you’re not him,” and several variations of the thought aloud to Henry.
After Henry disappears in time and returns for lunch with Clare’s parents bruised and battered from a biker gang beat down, he asks Clare to go easy on him. Despite their miscommunication regarding an explanation for his sudden bruises, Clare defends Henry and her sister for that matter against her judgemental parents before storming off to her clearing that was so cherished in her youth.
The space was not as magical as she once believed though as she took in the litter and graffiti that now marred the views. It isn’t until Henry follows her, after asking Clare’s sister Alicia (Taylor Richardson) for a transformative haircut, that she realizes he is the person she’s been waiting for as he better resembles the Henry she once knew.
The haircut is a gesture that resonates with Leslie who says, “the realization that Henry, whom she fell in love with and whom she has put on this pedestal as a representative of love and hope for her, really transforms into this person when he takes that leap of faith.”
Her costar agrees as James adds, “in a way, that’s the point where he is finally not selfish.” Up until this point, Henry had been going along with what Clare told him about their future relationship, but there’s always been a doubtfulness there until now. “Before that, he’s a lone wolf and he’s always been thinking about his impending death really,” James says, “there’s a nihilist quality to him.”
“There’s also an acceptance from Henry as well of ‘I know that you need me to be this particular person for you to feel happy and safe,’ and so, there’s an acknowledgment on Clare’s part,” Leslie says. In Henry’s action to do something selfless for Clare, she’s seen “real commitment from Henry,” notes Leslie.
James agrees that it’s one of Henry’s nicest gestures yet, stating, “he does something only for Clare and that is part of his growing up as a man taught by her. She’s molding him into the man, the better version of himself, that he eventually becomes and that’s the perfect example of it.”
It’s with this leap of faith that Leslie says Clare is “seeing that love reflected back to her and is really when the penny drops that she realizes that I’m wholeheartedly committed.” That commitment will manifest in a special occasion in the finale as Clare accepted Henry’s marriage proposal from their last encounter in the clearing a couple of years prior. Don’t miss the special event when The Time Traveler’s Wife finale airs on HBO.
The Time Traveler’s Wife, Sundays, 9/8c, HBO and HBO Max