How Much Of Time Traveler’s Wife Episode 3 Is From The Book?

The Time Traveler’s Wife episode 3 is surprisingly different from the film – but it’s actually much more faithful to Audrey Niffenegger’s book.


Warning: Spoilers for The Time Traveler’s Wife episode 3 & brief discussion of sexual assault.

The Time Traveler’s Wife Episode 3 will surprise viewers who are only familiar with the story from the 2009 film adaptation – but the plot is actually lifted straight from the book. Inspired by the bestselling debut novel by Audrey Niffenegger, Steven Moffat’s adaptation of The Time Traveler’s Wife follows Henry and Clare, who have a love story with a twist, given Henry has an unpredictable, uncontrollable ability to travel in time. Most viewers will be familiar with the story from the 2009 movie starring Eric Bana and Rachel McAdams, but the TV show’s version is surprisingly different.


That became abundantly clear in The Time Traveler’s Wife episode 3, which featured a dark subplot. In episode 3, one scene sees the 16-year-old Clare reveal one of her classmates, Jason, assaulted her; though she did not tell Henry at the time, he actually raped her. An outraged Henry helps Clare seek retribution; He’s initially willing to kill Jason on Clare’s behalf – even warning his past self to be sure to arrange an alibi – but Clare stops him. Instead, she has Henry tape Jason to a tree, and calls all her female friends who’ve been hurt by guys to come round and scrawl words of revenge on Jason’s body. It’s an intense scene, with The Time Traveler’s Wife using time travel to obtain something of a revenge fantasy.

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Viewers who have only watched the movie will be more than a little surprised at this scene, which was entirely absent in the 2009 film adaptation of The Time Traveler’s Wife. It is, however, lifted straight from the book, where it plays out almost exactly the same way. There’s just one minor change: although the book implies Clare was raped by Jason, it avoids explicitly stating it. Clare knows Henry will be unable to stop himself from killing Jason if he believes Jason has raped his future wife, and thus keeps the precise details a secret. In the HBO TV adaptation, a video recorded long after Henry’s eventual death in Time Traveler’s Wife contains an elderly Clare’s confession.

Time Traveler's Wife Elderly Clare

Niffenegger was no fan of the movie – she claims she never even watched it – but has stood behind HBO’s The Time Traveler’s Wife TV adaptation. In part, this seems to be because she felt the film version leaned too heavily into the romance genre, whereas The Time Traveler’s Wife was actually meant to be something much more uncomfortable. As she explained in an interview with ForbesThere are people who say it’s not sci-fi enough, and people who say ‘this isn’t a romance!’ and I’m like, ‘yeah, it’s a book.’ I didn’t want to peg it to anything so specific.Moffat’s HBO TV series embraces the more uncomfortable and dark subplots the film ditched.

It’s easy to see why Moffat was drawn to The Time Traveler’s Wife, which allows him to explore some of the more disturbing aspects of time travel through the lens of two unique characters. In this case, the scene essentially points out that a time traveler can literally get away with a murder, precisely because he has an alibi in the present day. The revenge fantasy that follows is supposed to be troubling, and it certainly is in The Time Traveler’s Wife episode 3.

More: HBO’s Time Traveler’s Wife Admits The Worst Thing About The Book & Movie

New episodes of The Time Traveler’s Wife air Sundays on HBO & HBO Max.

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