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How HBO’s ‘The Time Traveler’s Wife’ is different from the book

Huge spoilers forward, in addition to triggering content material.

Audrey Niffenegger’s 2003 novel The Time Traveler’s Spouse has been tailored to the display screen twice: as a movie in 2009, and now as a TV collection on HBO.

The story of The Time Traveler’s Spouse — a science-fiction romance spanning a long time — is extraordinarily difficult to adapt. Clare Abshire (Rose Leslie) meets her future husband Henry DeTamble (Theo James) when he has involuntarily traveled again in time, at which level she is 6 and he is 36. The novel tells the story of their relationship out of chronological order, together with their first assembly within the “current” and their marriage.

As with every adaptation, screenwriter Steven Moffat’s new model of The Time Traveler’s Spouse has to make some changes. However which of them work, and which of them fall flat? Listed here are all the most important modifications from the novel. Beware: the checklist contains spoilers for the present and the books.

A brand new framing machine

Proper off the bat, the primary episode of The Time Traveler’s Spouse hits us with a structural change. The collection opens with Henry and Clare recording movies of themselves talking on to digicam about their relationship to time journey. This framing machine is not within the novel, however Moffat makes use of this direct deal with so as to elevate some prose instantly from Niffenegger’s novel, particularly from the prologue. Why are they making movies? Who’re they chatting with? Solely time will inform.

We’re updating this entire story

The TV model of The Time Traveler’s Spouse takes place from the Nineties to the current day, whereas the novel takes place from the Sixties to the early 2000s. This choice is more likely to make the story really feel extra related, however will probably be attention-grabbing to see how (and if) extra fashionable expertise impacts the story.

The struggle about Ingrid

A man and a woman sitting at a table in a restaurant.

This primary date finally ends up very in a different way within the guide.
Credit score: Macall Polay

Undoubtedly the most important change between the guide and the present within the first episode is Clare’s response to discovering out Henry has a girlfriend, named Ingrid (Chelsea Frei). Clare finds Ingrid’s toiletries in Henry’s toilet and fights with him, calling him an asshole and storming out of his condominium. Solely an intervention from Henry’s older self makes Clare contemplate seeing Henry once more.

Within the guide, Clare’s response to seeing Ingrid’s stuff is lots milder. She thinks, “Whoever you might be, I am right here now. You could be Henry’s previous, however I am his future.” Henry explains the scenario with Ingrid and apologizes to Clare, and that is that. Present Clare’s response is likely to be a bit extra life like than guide Clare’s, however the struggle additionally places Henry and Clare’s relationship on a much more antagonistic path.

Henry’s child enamel can time journey?

Moffat provides some new time journey lore to The Time Traveler’s Spouse. Within the present, components of Henry’s physique, resembling his child enamel, are in a position to time journey individually. The primary episode additionally explores this concept with the double whammy of a time-traveling pool of blood and a time-traveling pair of indifferent ft. These moments, all show-only creations, foreshadow the darkest moments of Henry’s future. Then again, they increase some questions on what different bodily… fluids of Henry’s are simply time touring willy-nilly internationally.

Henry and Clare preserve combating

Episode 2 of The Time Traveler’s Spouse options 20-year-old Clare and 28-year-old Henry nonetheless arguing about Henry being a jerk and dishonest on Ingrid. They preserve combating, and Clare even tries to alter the longer term and get away from their date. Nevertheless, for the reason that future’s already set in stone, the date goes on anyway.

Whereas Clare and Henry start to make up this episode — with Clare even admitting she’s been horrible to Henry, too — the selection to make them so antagonistic from the beginning actually sours their relationship. The place’s the take care of one another? The place’s the tenderness? Henry and Clare’s love story is already embroiled in discomfort provided that they met when she was 6 and he was absolutely grown. Why make it even more durable to root for them by making them each so relentlessly imply? This entire sequence simply appears like Moffat mistook an argument for frolicsome romantic banter. Sorry, it would not work.

A message from the previous

A woman in a glittering silver gown stands onstage under a spotlight.

Annette delivers a message to Clare within the present.
Credit score: Macall Polay / HBO

The primary focus of The Time Traveler’s Spouse‘s second episode is displaying simply how a lot the loss of life of Henry’s mom Annette (Kate Siegel) impacted him. We see the fateful Christmas automotive accident play out just a few too many instances should you ask me. Later, Henry watches his youthful self (Jason David) attempt to warn his mom concerning the accident in a show-only scene that emphasizes how Henry is unable to alter the trail.

Henry and Clare’s second date culminates in a visit to the Newberry Library, the place Henry performs Clare a recording of one among his mom’s performances. He asks Clare if she has something she’d have preferred to ask his mom whereas she was nonetheless alive, at which level Henry reveals that Annette solutions Clare’s query — “How does any couple get collectively?” — within the outdated recording. Annette tells future-Clare that {couples} do not get collectively. They get collectively for a brief period of time, however relationships at all times finish. And that is okay as a result of it is higher to have been completely satisfied for a short while than under no circumstances. Candy, I assume?

Whereas this speech is new to the present, it units up the tragic finish of Henry and Clare’s relationship and continues to play with the mechanics of time journey. It additionally permits two crucial folks in Henry’s life to work together in a means they usually could not have.

The Time Traveler’s Spouse makes the worst doable book-to-TV present change in Episode 3

With regards to Episode 3 of The Time Traveler’s Spouse, there are a variety of small book-to-show modifications I might discuss. However I solely wish to give attention to one change, which is the incomprehensible choice so as to add a rape to the present that is not within the guide.

In Niffenegger’s novel, 16-year-old Clare goes on a date with a jock named Jason. When she chooses to not have intercourse with him, he beats her and burns her with a cigarette. Clare enlists Henry to beat him up for her, telling him what occurred, together with the truth that Jason did not rape her. Within the present, Clare tells Henry the very same factor. Nevertheless, the scene then cuts to future Clare, speaking straight to digicam as a part of the present’s new framing machine, saying, “After all he raped me.” From that time on, the remainder of the episode barely registers.


‘Anatomy of a Scandal’s gratuitous rape scenes present we by no means have to see it onscreen once more

To place it mildly, it is a wildly irresponsible and disgusting adaptation choice. Jason’s assault of Clare within the books is already vile, but the present traumatizes her additional for no good cause. Depictions of rape and assault onscreen should be dealt with with care. The Time Traveler’s Spouse doesn’t try this. If something, it frames Clare’s rape as a stunning revelation after which has the audacity to make her assault about Henry, with Henry’s response to Clare’s accidents resulting in him revealing he is her husband sooner or later. The remainder of the episode treats the rape, and the truth that Clare by no means tells Henry about it, extra as background noise. Nevertheless, it is inconceivable to overlook it, regardless of how a lot The Time Traveler’s Spouse tries to maneuver on with enterprise as common.

Steven Moffat, I wish to know what prompted you to make this selection. What concerning the supply materials made you assume, “I ought to add rape to this”? Did you assume it could make for extra impactful tv?

I can guarantee you, it doesn’t. It is jarring, it is a slap within the face to folks conversant in the novel, and it needlessly places a personality — who has already gone via plenty of ache — via much more. Of all of the modifications you can have made when adapting Niffenegger’s novel to the display screen, this one should not have even been in your radar. It is ridiculous that it crossed your thoughts, and it is ridiculous that it made it to air.

A timey-wimey feast

How do you observe up an episode that begins with how deeply tousled it’s to fulfill your a lot older soulmate if you’re 6 years outdated and ends with a point out of rape that is not even within the supply materials? With a cocktail party caper, after all! Episode 4 of The Time Traveler’s Spouse focuses on two timelines: the previous, when Clare and Henry have intercourse for the primary time; and the current, the place two variations of Henry reveal themselves to Clare’s pals.

The feast sequence is new, as Gomez (Desmin Borges) and Charisse (Natasha Lopez) discover out about Henry’s time touring in a means that differs from their conversations in Niffenegger’s novel. Having two Henrys clarify time journey is extra enjoyable for TV since it is a visible medium, plus it continues to mess around with the concept that Clare is extra in love with older Henry than present-day Henry, which is fascinating.

A lot of the dinner performs like a comedy of errors, particularly with Gomez and Charisse’s shocked reactions and the arrival of Henry’s ex, Ingrid. Nevertheless, it is onerous to giggle if you do not forget that this identical present made a grave misstep in its portrayal of sexual assault simply final episode — it even reveals a flash of it onscreen this episode, as if we might overlook! It additionally will get onerous to giggle when Henry successfully tells Ingrid she dies by suicide sooner or later. The tonal shift is abrupt, following jokes about inventory suggestions for the longer term, and the remainder of the episode falters together with it.

Wait, Clare and Charisse? Clare-isse?

A woman with curly hair and wearing a green long-sleeved shirt stands by a kitchen counter.

Let’s discuss Clare and Charisse’s relationship.
Credit score: Barbara Nitke / HBO

Whereas this episode follows the guide’s plotline of Clare and Gomez having intercourse earlier than she meets Henry within the current, the present provides a brand new sexual encounter between Clare and Charisse. Does The Time Traveler’s Spouse discover that additional, prefer it does with Gomez’s clear attraction in direction of Clare? No, no it doesn’t.

I do assume briefly pairing Charisse and Clare is an attention-grabbing selection. For nearly all her life, Clare has recognized she would develop as much as marry a person. As a result of her future is seemingly set in stone, she finds that she has little to no cause thus far, or, for that matter, to discover her sexuality. The Clare-Charisse scene might have been a good time to delve into how she’s been locked right into a heteronormative relationship since she was a baby. Plus, it is an attention-grabbing juxtaposition to Henry’s assertion that he is not homosexual after the really wild scene when he gives his past self a blowjob. Sadly, The Time Traveler’s Spouse does none of that, solely having Clare dramatically whisper, “Henry” after sleeping with Charisse. Positive, wonderful.

A go to to Meadowlark Home

Henry lastly meets Clare’s household in The Time Traveler’s Spouse‘s fifth episode, and, like many issues on this collection, it is fully totally different from the guide. For starters, Henry and Clare arrive at Meadowlark in the summertime as a substitute of on Christmas Eve, as they do within the novel. A change in season might not look like the most important distinction, however Christmas is at all times such a fraught time for Henry as a result of it reminds him of his mom’s loss of life. That provides one other layer of complication to the go to, as Henry is consistently attempting to mitigate the stress and unhappiness of this time of 12 months.

Being in winter within the guide means the go to is the primary time Henry sees the clearing the place he and Clare meet. It is barren and snowed-in, creating an additional divide between his current self and his future self. Moffat’s adaptation continually performs up Clare’s choice for older Henry, so a wintry introduction to the clearing would have been proper at dwelling right here. As an alternative, the collection focuses on the return to the meadow via grownup Clare’s eyes, the place she sees indicators of industrialism and decay that tarnish her idealized model of assembly Henry when she was youthful. This transformation could also be a bit on the nostril, but it surely’s among the many simpler adaptation decisions this collection has made, giving Clare time to mirror on her childhood in a brand new means.

The Abshires themselves are additionally pretty totally different within the present. Gone is all the subplot involving Clare’s brother Mark (Peter Graham) getting married to a girl he acquired pregnant. It is changed as a substitute by Mark cross-examining Henry and Clare about why Henry got here to dinner late coated in bruises. (The reply: He acquired overwhelmed up throughout a fast spherical of time journey.) The entire scene is extremely uncomfortable and rife with implications of home abuse, but it surely goes nowhere past “Mark is a smug asshole.”

A pivotal haircut

A man with long hair reads a book in a chair while resting his feet on a nearby bed. The surrounding bedroom is quite messy/

Say goodbye to those locks.
Credit score: Barbara Nitke/HBO

Let’s discuss Clare’s youthful sister Alicia (Taylor Richardson). When she first meets Henry within the present, she pretends to be Clare, feeling him up, speaking about time journey, and swooning over him being her future husband. To begin with, bizarre. Second of all, why? In a change from the guide, the present’s Clare instructed Alicia about Henry in order that she would cease freaking out about Clare hiding a unadorned man of their basement. I can settle for that. What I can not settle for is Alicia’s bizarrely attractive means of “teasing” Henry, which she thinks is a part of her obligation as Clare’s sister. This scene is performed for laughs, which is a wild selection in a present that is already made wild decisions involving intercourse.

In different, much less sexually charged information, Alicia desires to be a hairdresser now. This shock addition to her character signifies that she offers Henry the haircut that transforms him from “younger Henry” to “outdated Henry.” The guide sees Henry do that the day earlier than his marriage ceremony so he can “grow to be the me of my future.” Right here, it occurs proper earlier than the “proposal” to Clare, the place he commits to changing into “another person” — primarily, his future self.

Within the grand scheme of issues, this alteration would not matter that a lot, however Alicia’s flimsy characterization and outburst of “I am a hairdresser” makes the upcoming haircut second so predictable it is humorous. No matter, something to free Theo James from that horrendous wig.

It is foreshadowing o’clock

Within the finale of The Time Traveler’s Spouse, Henry tries to mitigate his time journey with medication, with disastrous outcomes. Nevertheless, as a substitute of being despatched into the previous, he is catapulted ahead into the longer term. There, he is handled to a Sparknotes model of the second half of Niffenegger’s novel, together with Clare’s many miscarriages and what’s presumably Henry’s funeral. It is not all doom and gloom although: Henry additionally sees his future daughter, and the day he and Clare discover their excellent dwelling.

Though Niffenegger’s novel hints at fated tragedy all through, this complete nightmare journey into the longer term is a show-only sequence. I do assume this addition, together with Henry’s struggle along with his future self, is an attention-grabbing take a look at what’s nonetheless to return in Henry and Clare’s lives.

Nevertheless, Henry’s journey takes up a lot of the episode that we find yourself dropping Clare, each as she prepares for her marriage ceremony day and as she experiences ache sooner or later. We see her unhappiness solely via Henry’s eyes, as he watches her older self mourn one thing he is not fairly conscious of but. Maybe Moffat is saving Clare’s perspective for Season 2, but it surely’s baffling to me that the present would pull focus away from the time traveler’s spouse in its finale. It is the titular position!

A really indignant marriage ceremony

You understand what else is baffling to me? How combative Henry and Clare are all through this complete collection, and particularly within the Season 1 finale. They argue about every thing, from having a marriage video to what sort of silverware to purchase. Then, when current Henry inevitably time travels on the massive day and future Henry marries Clare as a substitute, Clare is pissed. So is current Henry, who finally ends up watching the marriage video with future Clare. Seemingly everybody and their mom calls Henry an asshole.

Evaluate this to the guide. Clare’s preliminary response to Henry time touring is one among fear, not rage. Then, when she sees that future Henry is there as a substitute of current Henry, she thinks, “He appears about forty. However he is right here.” Current Henry returns, then he and Clare get married at Metropolis Corridor just a few days later. General, the guide’s marriage ceremony is a joyful event, whereas the present’s is extraordinarily bitter. Once more, it makes us query why we should always even care about Henry and Clare when it looks as if they’ll barely stand one another. Not even a very cutesy marriage ceremony flash mob will repair that.

The place will we go from right here?

A man and a woman embrace in a forest clearing.

What does the longer term maintain?
Credit score: Macall B. Polay/HBO

If The Time Traveler’s Spouse will get a second season, the Season 1 finale offers us a reasonably good thought of what is coming subsequent. We’ll see Clare and Henry’s marriage, their makes an attempt to have kids, and the incident that results in Henry changing into a wheelchair consumer. We’ll additionally hopefully get the payoff for the present’s framing machine of getting Henry and Clare talking on to digicam. I can perceive Henry making movies for his youngster to recollect him, however I am nonetheless unclear as to why Clare can be making movies as a substitute of simply speaking on to her youngster.

Closing verdict

The truth that The Time Traveler’s Spouse diverges from its supply materials just isn’t an issue in itself, because it’s fully doable to make an adaptation that differs from the guide however nonetheless captures the unique’s spirit. It is the best way wherein The Time Traveler’s Spouse diverges from Niffenegger’s novel that causes a difficulty.

Frankly, lots of the book-to-show modifications make no sense. They vary from mildly complicated to fully unforgivable. Why make Clare and Henry so argumentative? Why set up new guidelines about Henry’s ft and child enamel time touring? Why present us Annette’s loss of life a whole lot of instances? Why make the marriage such a depressing expertise? And why add rape to an already upsetting storyline involving assault?

In adapting The Time Traveler’s Spouse for TV, Moffat might have simply given Niffenegger’s story extra room to breathe than the movie adaptation did. As an alternative, the present expands on issues that did not should be expanded, rushes via key moments, and botches its central relationship in its quest to be witty.

It is exhausting. If I might journey again in time to make the inventive group re-read the guide and re-think their strategy to the present, I’d. However alas, that is the TV adaptation we’re caught with.

The Time Traveler’s Spouse(opens in a brand new tab) is now streaming on HBO Max.(opens in a brand new tab)

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