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The Time Traveler’s Wife Season 1 Ending Explained (In Detail)

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This article contains spoilers for The Time Traveler’s Wife episode 6.

The Time Traveler’s Wife season 1 came to a dramatic conclusion, revealing Henry and Clare’s marriage won’t be a happy one – but seeing them get married all the same. Based on the best-selling debut novel by Audrey Niffenegger, HBO’s The Time Traveler’s Wife – written and produced by former Doctor Who showrunner Steven Moffat – is perhaps not a love story at all. The Time Traveler’s Wife‘s model of time travel essentially means neither of its two stars, Henry DeTamble (Theo James) or Clare Abshire (Rose Leslie), ever really chose one another at all.

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Clare first met Henry when she was just six years old, and her entire character formed itself around him – meaning he is her very definition of the ideal man. She’s long known she was destined to marry him, and has even done her best to save herself for Henry. But Henry, for his part, had no idea Clare was waiting for him until he was 28 years old, when Clare bumped into him when he was working at his job in the library. She exploded into his life, declaring herself the woman he was destined to marry. History can’t be changed in Time Traveler’s Wife – or so its protagonists believe – meaning both decided to make it work. Clare, for her part, is confident Henry will change over the years, becoming the man she met so many times throughout her life.


Related: The Time Traveler’s Wife Cast, Character, & Changes Guide

Viewers had believed The Time Traveler’s Wife to be a limited series, but it’s now clear Moffat is working on a multi-season story. The first season moves at a leisurely pace, focusing on its main characters for the first three episodes and only beginning to introduce the supporting cast in episode 4. The Time Traveler’s Wife is best seen as the midway point of the story, with Clare and Henry finally getting married. Here’s The Time Traveler’s Wife season 1 ending explained.

Henry’s Drug-Induced Time Travel Explained


The Time Traveler's Wife Drug Dealer

Henry can’t control his time travel, but he’s lived with it long enough to know stress is bad for him. Unfortunately, planning a wedding is naturally stressful, especially when Henry fears he could vanish into the past or future in the middle of the ceremony. Henry’s mind is focused on the future, and consequently, he’s begun jumping into that future, experiencing moments of it, and he’s finding the whole thing confusing and disturbing. Time travel episodes are happening with increasing frequency, and Henry concludes that he needs a relaxant to fix him in the present on his wedding day. That proves to be a bad idea; instead, Henry winds up jumping through time with impunity.


Henry’s time travel appears to have similar triggers to epilepsy; flashing lights, television, stress, and alcohol have all caused him to jump through time. Some narcotics can indeed trigger epileptic seizures, and it’s no therefore no surprise to see a bad trip do the same. This idea is adapted straight from Niffenegger’s The Time Traveler’s Wife book, although the precise sequence of events during the trip is changed for dramatic purposes.

Does Henry See A Child During His Trip?


The Time Travelers Wife Alba

The Time Traveler’s Wife episode 6 reveals Henry and Clare’s marriage won’t be a happy one, with Henry struggling to give Clare the child she longs for. It turns out time travel is a dominant gene, meaning Henry passes on the condition – and tragically, any fetus in Clare’s womb tends to time travel straight out of it, leaving Clare bereft and grieving. Henry gave up on the idea of ever having a child, but he was wrong to do so – because he forgot a vision of hope he saw during his drug-induced time jumps. This is Henry and Clare’s daughter, Alba, who inherits her father’s condition – but Alba’s time travel is different in The Time Traveler’s Wife show, for she can control it. Appropriately enough, Alba is presented as an almost angelic being stepping out of the light – for she is the “Happily Ever After” who will make all this worthwhile. Henry, however, struggles to interpret his experiences during these chaotic jumps and doesn’t realize the girl’s significance.


Related: Time Traveler’s Wife Episode 3 Finally Justifies Its Adaptation

Who Is Henry On The Phone With In The Future?


Henry Time Traveler's Wife 36 Years Old

Henry discovers the 36-year-old version of himself will feel unable to keep putting Clare through such pain, and will choose to have a vasectomy. He walks in on his future self during a phone conversation with a man he calls “David” – presumably referring to Dr. David Kendrick, a scientist who tries to help Henry. Dr. Kendrick has already been name-dropped in The Time Traveler’s Wife season 1, because one future version of Henry told Clare about him. In Niffenegger’s novel, Dr. Kendrick is unable to give Henry control of his powers but is nevertheless able to sequence Alba’s DNA while she is in the womb and he’s the reason she has the control her father lacks.


Why Gomez & Charisse’s In-Joke Is So Clever


The Time Traveler's Wife Charisse

The Time Traveler’s Wife introduced Clare’s siblings and her friends Gomez and Charisse, with Henry destined to become good friends with Gomez, in particular. Gomez and Charisse play a key role in organizing the wedding, including a “surprise” song – “Get Me To The Church On Time,” which serves as the theme running through episode 6. It’s a smart in-joke, one that can only be fully understood by those who know Henry is a time traveler; there is a sense in which both Clare and Henry’s entire lives have been building up to this wedding day as a result of Henry’s time travel. The joke becomes doubly ironic given the 28-year-old Henry “fails to stick the landing,” stranded in the future, and it is his 36-year-old self who actually says the vows.

What Henry’s Conversation With His Dad Means


The Time Travelers Wife Dad

Henry’s family is no stranger to tragedy; Henry’s mother, Annette, died when he was just a child, after all. Sadly, the 36-year-old Henry appears to hint his father will also die in the near future. This is a major departure from Audrey Niffenegger’s book, where Richard DeTamble outlived his own son. In the novel, Alba is a musical prodigy, and Richard gives her violin lessons, and in so doing gets a new lease on life. It’s possible The Time Traveler’s Wife season 2 will simply write Richard out, just as season 1 appears to have done with Ingrid, which would be a shame given Josh Stamberg is perfectly cast.


What Clare & Henry’s Post-Credits Conversation Means For Season 2

The Time Traveler’s Wife episode 6 ends with a mid-credits scene, in which the future Clare realizes the 28-year-old Henry she’s with has yet to have a vasectomy – and it is technically their wedding night for him, after all. This is much more intentional than the book, where Clare slept with a time-stranded Henry who had no idea what she was doing because he predated the vasectomy. It is, however, the explanation for how Alba is conceived – meaning The Time Traveler’s Wife ends on a rather strange note of hope.

More: Time Traveler’s Wife Season 2 Seems Inevitable Now

All episodes of The Time Traveler’s Wife are now available on HBO Max.


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