HBO’s The Time Traveler’s Wife has been met with mixed reviews, although “mixed” hardly does it justice: Some critics love it. Many really hate it. I fall on both sides: I love parts of it, but I hate other parts, too. It’s a big, gloppy love story, and that’s the part I love. It’s also a messy, problematic time travel story that essentially navigates around its time-travel logic by insisting that free will does not exist, which bypasses the Back to the Future problem because you can’t change the future if every moment in the future is already preordained.
In other words, it’s the perfect show for Steven Moffat, whose expertise is in papering over plot holes with big emotional beats.
Granted, the grooming issue — which also existed in Audrey Niffenegger’s novel — is hard to move past. It’s like Drew Barrymore’s Never Been Kissed: Internally, I can briefly convince myself to overlook the obvious issues of ickiness and just enjoy the love story, but the second you try to explain to someone else that there’s nothing weird about a platonic relationship between a 31-year-old man and a 6-year-old girl blossoming into a sexual relationship 14 years later, you lose all credibility, even if the 31-year-old doesn’t actually meet the 6-year-old for the first time until he’s 28 and she’s 20. Henry didn’t fall in love with a little girl! He fell in love with a 20-year-old, and then he met the 6-year-old version of that woman, who fell in love with him. The series has tried to address the issue by occasionally making wry jokes about it, but then Clare will literally say something like, “I can’t help [wanting to have sex with you]. My libido formed around you. I grew up fantasizing about you. You are literally a younger, hotter version of the man of my dreams,” who — again — is a 31-year-old man she met when she was 6.
The show does not make it easy.
Still, there’s something compelling and heartbreaking about a woman and a younger version of a man who continues to visit the love of his life even after he’s died, and watching a man-out-of-time experience the most devastating moments in his life over and over again, which is what made Niffenegger’s novel so successful. That’s what made New Line Cinema want to adapt it into a movie in 2009 and what made HBO want to turn it into a television show in 2022. I like that the series gets more time to tell the love story, to flesh out the characters, and really wallow in those moments of devastation, but I don’t like that it also means it has to spend more time dancing around the mechanics of time travel.
Also, there’s this, the point of this post:
That’s Henry, getting caught by his father, going down on himself. I genuinely do not know what to think of the scene. Is this what any 16-year-old with the ability to hang out with himself would do? Or is this too dumb to comprehend? Sexy, or squicky?
Twitter, likewise, had mixed feelings:
okay this dude just time traveled so that he could blow himself. I just want everyone to be aware that that is the official point of this show that I am bowing out. I don't know who the fuck wrote this but I would have done a better job for free. #TheTimeTravelersWife— 💚Ms. Moxy💚 (@JessFortunato) May 23, 2022
If I was a time traveller, I too would go back and blow Theo James#TheTimeTravelersWife— Tay Alex 🤪 (@TayHaynes90) May 24, 2022
NOT TWO HENRYS GIVING HIMSELF A-#thetimetravelerswife— 𝔪𝔞𝔡𝔦𝔰𝔬𝔫 (@sasscatalog) May 23, 2022
i’m sorry that scene of Henry sucking his own dick is absolutely insane. i’m crying! #TheTimeTravelersWife— MONORACIAL. (@Zenaibuu) May 23, 2022
Sixteen-year-old Henry really blew it. 🤣😂🤣 #TheTimeTravelersWife— ᑕᕼᖇIᔕ ᔕOYᗩᑎGᑕO (@csoy13) May 23, 2022
Using time travel to suck your own dick … no that’s not weird at all . Who the hell decided to add that mess in this show ??!! #TheTimeTravelersWife— ✨Queen of Zamunda✨👑 Main Page (@JoyyUnSpeakable) May 23, 2022
Since they are the same age, at least there’s no suggestion that Henry is grooming himself.