"Paul Levinson's It's Real Life is a page-turning exploration into that multiverse known as rock and roll. But it is much more than a marvelous adventure narrated by a master storyteller...it is also an exquisite meditation on the very nature of alternate history." -- Jack Dann, The Fiction Writer's Guide to Alternate History

Sunday, May 22, 2022

The Time Traveler's Wife 1.2: Fate

A powerful episode 1.2 of The Time Traveler's Wife just on HBO tonight, because--

[Spoilers ahead ... though, actually, a lot of the story of The Time Traveler's Wife is Henry telling his younger selves, as well as Clare at various ages, spoilers of one kind or another about what's going to happen, and/or what can't happen, regardless of what Henry or anyone at any age may want or not want to happen.  So maybe, if I'm being true to this story, I shouldn't warn you about spoilers.  Though, come to think of it, you and I live in a world in which there is no such thing as time travel, as far as we know, so what goes on in a time travel story doesn't really apply.  Anyway ... ]

We learn in an hour of details that cut like a thousand knives about a pivotal life-changing event in Henry's life.  It wasn't starting to time travel and having his older self coach him about it.  It wasn't about Clare in his life.  Both of those of course are crucial to Henry, to say the least,  But the pivotal event explored from a myriad of intersecting angles tonight was the death of Henry's mother, who died in an automobile accident, with young Henry, already time traveling, in the back seat.

Obviously, Henry survived.  Also obviously, any time traveler would devote the rest of his or her time traveling life to saving their mother.  But as an older Henry demonstrates to Henry as a boy, he can't change what will happen in history.  This excruciating plot point puts Henry in a class of distinct minorities in time travel stories, who travel to the past and indeed change history (though a nice twist on this which I sometimes myself have employed as a writer is the time traveler goes to the past to stop something from happening, and learns too late that this very trip to the past made the unwanted event happen in the first place ...)

So we and Clare and Henry's younger learn tonight that events that happen are immutable.  There is no free will.  What will happen will happen.   This is a trenchant philosophic proposition, which can't in our reality be proven or disproven.  And that's one big reason why I think time travel, as much fun as it is in fiction, can't happen in the real world.  If you travel to the future tomorrow and see me wearing a light blue shirt, well, good for you, but I like to think and in fact I do think that I can put on dark blue shirt tomorrow, or maybe a shirt of a different color altogether, if that's what I want to do.

These, I think, are both profound and fun to think about.  And I credit The Time Traveler's Wife for raising them so effectively.  I'll see you here next week with my review of the next episode.  Unless I don't want to write it.  But I think I will.

See also The Time Traveler's Wife 1.1: Off to a Fine, Funny, Complex Start


Sm said...

Thanks for your review. Loved this book, read it twice over the years. Wasn't going to watch this series as it didn't have a great IMBD rating. After reading your take, I'm going to give it a try. Thanks again.

Paul Levinson said...

Glad you enjoyed the review. I'll be watching the show along with you.