Welcome to the Future, Comrade: The Time Traveler’s Wife, “Episode Five”

Forget the girl who waited—the Henry/Gomez bromance is its own predestined relationship and just as much of the emotional groundwork of this week’s “meeting the parents” episode. At least poor Henry makes someone like him for himself.


Dates and Times

As we’re solidly into the hijinks half of the season, Clare brings Henry to meet her judgmental parents and (alternately awesome and awful) siblings. Returning to her childhood home stirs up a few more memories of the meadow—including a certain portrait session—but also makes her realize that she idealized a lot of their past together: “The trouble with revisiting your childhood is, nothing is quite where you left it.” Also, Henry jumps away from his utter failure to be the kind of boy you take home to your parents for a glimpse of his future, only to be saved by his future best friend despite present Gomez hating his guts.


Love Lines

This week’s best love lines are all for the bromance:

Henry to Gomez about wanting to fuck (wanting to? oh, buddy) Clare: “Do anything about it and I’ll tie a knot in your windpipe, but short of that, I graciously accept a tribute of your debilitating envy.”

Henry to Gomez: “You should sit back down on your ass before it starts talking again.”

Gomez: “Listen, if you think that I’m giving you funny looks the whole time, maybe there’s a reason you don’t know about.”
Henry: “If you’re gonna put your hand on my knee, maybe you should buy it dinner first.”

OK, I guess some for our time-crossed lovers, too:

Henry: “It’s me, Clare—I’m Henry, the same Henry.”
Clare: “Someday.”

Clare: “Don’t you ever think how amazing it must be to fall in love in the right order?”

The Time Traveler's Wife TV review Episode 5 older Gomez Dezmin Borges

Screenshot: HBO

But wait:

Older Gomez: “I have a problem with you being ‘out of the picture,’ which is complicated and sort of exhausting.”
Henry: “Oh, what’s that?”
Older Gomez: “It’ll break my heart.”

Older Gomez: “We’re best friends, Henry. You’ll learn to live with it.”


Clare: “I’m sorry.”
Henry: “For what?”
Clare: “I loved you from the start. From the moment I met you in that stupid library, I was completely in love with you. I was just expecting somebody else.”
Henry: “Well, that’s OK. I can do that. I can be somebody else.”

Oof. But good for the show for not shying away from the more fucked-up aspects of their dynamic.


Paradox of the Week

I appreciate the parallelism of how all of Henry’s future relationships are predetermined. Ingrid was right; this poor kid must constantly feel like he’s trying on someone’s dad’s clothes in the metaphorical sense, trying to fit into dynamics that are already long established.

You don’t need to be from the future to know that Henry and Gomez’s first attempt at a bro-date would end disastrously. But it does leave us on a little mystery: When did Gomez see a(n older, presumably) Henry? He already told Ingrid that he’d seen them fight the year before, so unless he’s just fucking with Henry, there’s something else going on here.

Dezmin Borges fits the role a lot more as Older Gomez—that is, a late-forties lawyer with the confidence to bluff to a whole biker gang. Rolling up blaring Pink’s “So What”? ::chefkiss:: Interesting how Older Gomez will acknowledge being in love with Clare, when the younger one won’t; time brings perspective but also self-acceptance, it would seem. But poor Charisse! She really gets short shrift in this series.

The Time Traveler's Wife TV review Episode 5 older Gomez

Screenshot: HBO

The first time I watched this episode a month ago, it was disconcerting to see Henry and Older Gomez hanging out on September 21, 2022 in a bar where there seemed to be no acknowledgment of covid, especially following last week’s surgical masks joke. When writing these scripts, was Moffat really going to posit that people would be cramming into a bar without masks this September? Rewatching it in the middle of yet another surge, when a bunch of my friends have since caught it… I’m unfortunately not surprised.

I liked where the episode was going, about Clare realizing her memories were imperfect, but the examples chosen were a bit odd: the fireplace being fake, Nell being a pragmatic employee as opposed to some tender caretaker. Of course, these little moments build up to the big shock and disappointment of realizing that the clearing either has changed irreversibly from how she remembers, or was always overgrown and the opposite of picturesque.

Poor Henry keeps trying to explain his ethos about past and future to loved ones who will just never get it:

“You don’t get it, do you? You non-time-travel people, you never, ever get it. You hang on to things from the past like the past matters anymore; you worry about the future and it’s not even here yet, when the only time is now. That’s the only time there ever is. Now. The past is what didn’t kill you; the future is what definitely will; and in between is the only thing that matters. You. You and me. Right now.”


O Henrys

It’s somehow even more awful to see present Henry deal with coming up short compared to his idealized future self without the guy been being there. What starts as a joke to Clare on their mini road trip (“Would you stop preferring me to my face?”) gets way too real too fast (“He’s you, but awesome! How could I not prefer him?”). I know the guy is an asshole, but way harsh, Clare.

But also, the boy is hilariously bad at impressing parents. To be fair, Clare’s folks seem like real drips, but it’s not as if Henry even had practice on Ingrid’s parents. He should take comfort in the fact that most people would probably crack an awkward joke about having family lawyers to help bail you out of bad situations—which I just realized is exactly what Gomez does, awww.

The Time Traveler's Wife TV review Episode 5

Screenshot: HBO

The biker fight prompts the question: Did Henry learn to fight during his jumps, or did he beat himself up to teach himself?

What’s unexpectedly lovely about the 2022 portion is that it’s Older Gomez who makes Henry feel more comfortable in the future, moreso than Clare’s sky-high expectations for him. Henry has gone his entire life failing to measure up to his potential realized in his Clooney-esque doppelgänger, so it wouldn’t be an encounter with future him that would make him feel better. Instead, it’s getting a drink with a middle-aged Gomez who, despite looking like he wants to cry and/or punch him in 2008, has somehow come around to regard Henry with the tenderest of affection. It’s not Older Henry who did that; it’s our Henry who will.

The Time Traveler's Wife TV review Episode 5 Clare hand door

Screenshot: HBO

But that future drink makes him realize that, even if “there’s nothing special about old” (buddyyy), Clare needs him to grow up just a little. And so he gets Alicia’s help… and maybe raids their dad’s closet again?… to bring a little new memory to the old clearing. Which, again, is heartbreaking when you reread their big love line, which hinges on Henry accepting that Clare doesn’t want him, that he is the one who has to change in order to keep her.


The Time Traveler’s Scribe

The Henry/Gomez conversations continued the Coupling feel; their awkward attempts at “observational humor” felt like they could have come out of the mouths of Steve and Patrick. And the glimpse of their future adventure in 2022 was a very Jeff flavor of shenanigans.

The Time Traveler's Wife TV review Episode 5 Henry hand door

Screenshot: HBO

The hands on either side of the door is sweet, but I can’t help but think about how it’s never gonna be as devastating as Rose and the Doctor, so why even risk channeling that?

Doctor Who Rose door

Screenshot: YouTube


By the Book

The way this show talks about sex is very early-2000s sitcom: name-dropping it more than actually showing it. Yes, we had Henry’s first time with Clare in the pilot… and Clare’s first time with Henry in “Episode Four”… but the way they go on about it being the best expression of their chemistry, you’d think we’d get some sort of bangin’ montage. Especially since book Henry talks about how sex is so grounding for him; once he and Clare are regularly knocking boots in the present, he tells her that he feels even more connected to her than two people in the grip of new-love hormones. “I think that it holds me here, in the present,” he says. “Being physically connected the way that we are, it’s kind of rewiring my brain.” I would’ve preferred to see them delve more into that than the ongoing (wait for next week) jokes about horny 16-year-old Henry.

The Time Traveler's Wife TV review Episode 5 portrait

Screenshot: HBO

The Henry portrait is a cute little MacGuffin for the episode, another detail from the past to tease present Henry about (when he doesn’t get to see it for most of the time) and the key to Gomez realizing that he’ll never have a chance with Clare (“face like yours, drawing like that—I figured she had to be in love”). But since there’s so much going on in this episode, they omit the original paradoxical purpose, in which Younger Clare wanted to put the date on the drawing but ultimately got too spooked that doing so would mess up their future meeting somehow.


Other Notes

The Time Traveler's Wife TV review Episode 5 Alicia

Screenshot: HBO

  • I forgot that Alicia existed, and she is a goddamn delight.
  • To be fair, Henry is pretty used to having to share Clare with other men.
  • Clare is a woman after my own heart; a green smoothie and potato chips are a clutch road trip snack.
  • The specificity of Clare’s Daisy the Cow Beanie Baby is just… interesting choice, set designers.
  • The JFK time travel joke hits better now that I’m watching The Umbrella Academy season 2.


Natalie Zutter just wants Charisse to find someone who will appreciate her. Talk Time Traveler’s Wife with her here and on Twitter!


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