Why Was The Time Traveler's Wife Canceled After One Season?

HBO's series "The Time Traveler's Wife" has been canceled after one season, according to Variety. The six-episode show starred "Game of Thrones" actor Rose Leslie and "Divergent" actor Theo James as a pair of star-crossed lovers who are kept apart by the same thing that bonds them — James' character's medical inability to stop time travelling.

The series was based on the 2003 novel by Audrey Niffenegger, and largely followed the same plot: librarian Henry (James) suffers from a rare genetic condition that forces him to involuntarily move through time, which both complicates and informs his emotional and romantic relationship with artist Clare (Leslie). The story brings up complex questions about the nature of time travel and free will when Henry meets Clare for the first time as an adult, then reintroduces himself to her as a child after moving back in time.

The series didn't exactly end on a conclusive note, but instead went out with a sixth episode that ended during Henry and Clare's wedding, with versions of the couple across multiple timelines clapping and singing along to a cover of "Get Me To the Church on Time." It's a much more upbeat ending than the book's, and clearly wasn't meant to be the last word from the series. Showrunner Moffat told TVLine he "had a plan" for a set number of seasons, saying that "There is enough juice in the book for more than just one [season]."

Alas, if you subscribe to the story's ideas of predeterminism, it seems a second season just wasn't meant to be. Though no official reason was given for the series' cancellation, an HBO spokesperson shared a statement on the show's premature end with Variety:

"Though HBO will not be moving forward with a second season of 'The Time Traveler's Wife,' it was our privilege to partner with master storytellers Steven Moffat and David Nutter. We are so grateful for their passion, hard work and care for adapting this beloved book. We also thank Theo and Rose, and the rest of our brilliant cast for their heartfelt performances, which completely captivated audiences."

The show had some shortcomings

The team behind "The Time Traveler's Wife" hasn't spoken up about factors that may have contributed to the series' early demise, but we can think of a few. The series earned a damning 38% on Rotten Tomatoes, meaning only about a third of critics gave it their stamp of approval. This may have led to some viewers choosing to opt out of the show in favor of other viewing options amidst a crowded streaming landscape.

/Film's own Shania Russell reviewed the show, saying it "never [gave] its characters or concepts the depth they deserve" and pointing out the troubling power imbalance between the two leads. She wasn't the only person to point out how discomfiting it can be to watch an adult Henry make moon eyes at a kid version of Clare, and molding her from childhood into the person she will become. While plenty of viewers pointed out that this is a questionable foundation for a love story, Moffat shot down the accusations that Henry seemed to be grooming Clare: in an interview with /Film's Danielle Ryan, he declared that "every version of Clare is in charge of Henry."

There's also the fact that this story has been told several times before: fans of Niffenegger's book already got a 2009 film with Eric Bana and Rachel McAdams, and Moffat pulled from the story for a 2006 "Doctor Who" episode titled "The Girl in the Fireplace." If fans of the HBO series do want more of this story, apparently they could get their wish, albeit in a different form. Apparently, the author of the original book is working on a sequel to "The Time Traveler's Wife," titled "The Other Husband."