The Boy Who Lived needs no introduction… and we’re assuming his son doesn’t either. So, we’re just going to dive right into the analyzing of J.K. Rowling’s latest instalment of the Harry Potter series—the script of the play Harry Potter and the Cursed Child. Listen in as Geek Girl Riot’s resident Ravenclaw Sam Devotta gives you her in-depth take on the wizarding world’s current events, just in case you don’t subscribe to the Daily Prophet (and who does these days?).
But be warned, this post is dark and full of spoilers. Therefore, take out your wands and proceed with caution, because if you possess the knowledge of this play already (or you’re just that recklessly nosy), the geekiest analysis can be found, even in the darkest of times, if one only remembers to push the play button.
As we now presume Sam is on the run from the magical law enforcement for breaking the International Statute of Secrecy and spilling magical secrets to all of you potential muggles out there, we wish her good luck, and encourage you to follow in her footsteps and subvert the Ministry even further by giving us your thoughts on The Cursed Child on Twitter!
Hey, it’s Sam with another episode of The Samantha Reports For Geek Girl Riot on idobi radio! Today, I want to talk to you about a series that is very dear to me and the spin-off that recently came out and made me feel all sorts of things. That’s right, I’m nerding out over Harry Potter and the Cursed Child.
If there’s one thing you need to know about me, it’s that I’m a huge Harry Potter fan. I started reading the books shortly after the first one came out, so I’m truly a part of the HP generation. For nearly two decades, this bespectacled kid has been a big part of my life as well as the lives of millions of others. I’ve grown up alongside the Boy Who Lived – I was 17 when Deathly Hallows came out, so I was the same age as the trio during the Battle of Hogwarts – and you better believe I’ve sorted myself into a house (I’m a Ravenclaw and proud of it). I waited impatiently for each new book to come out, devouring the story within days of the release, and watched the movies, simultaneously swooning over Daniel Radcliffe and griping over all the details they left out of the adaptations. It took me years to meet other people who were just as big an HP fan as me, and now I occasionally spend my lunch hour debating the finer points of the universe – like how flawed was Albus Dumbledore and do I only like Snape because I adored Alan Rickman.
Needless to say, when I found out about Cursed Child, I was over the moon. To go on another adventure with Harry and Co nineteen years later? Count me the heck in. I was especially thrilled when I found out it was a time travel plot because I’m a sucker for a good time travelling story. So when I finally sat down and read the thing…let’s just say it left me feeling less than satisfied. At times, it felt obvious that this was written by someone other than J K Rowling, and, as a result, it felt less magical, compared to the first time I picked up the Philosopher’s Stone (which, I guess, is the Sorcerer’s Stone for you Americans).
Just so you know, there are going to be spoilers in this post so if you’re planning on reading Cursed Child at some point soon, you should probably stop listening…like now.
I won’t give you a synopsis because I’m assuming you’ve read it by now, so let’s dive right into how I felt.
While there were a lot of little details I didn’t agree with, there were two major plot points that bothered me. First of all, how absurd is it that the majority of the plot revolves around the death of Cedric Diggory? It’s funny, but in the past few weeks, a couple of people told me they loved Cedric as a character and were upset when he died. Personally, I was always indifferent to him in the books, and, as one of the few teens in 2005 who didn’t find Robert Pattinson attractive, his movie portrayal did nothing for me. Whether or not you liked him though, the question remains: why Cedric? Why, out of all the characters who lost their lives, was Cedric the one that screenwriter Jack Thorne thought most people would want to resurrect? If Albus decided to go back in time to save Fred Weasley, I would have been 5000% on board because Fred’s death is something I’ll never get over. You know what else would have been pure emotion? Bringing back Lupin and/or Tonks. After all, their son Teddy would have been like an older brother for Albus so wouldn’t it have been super sweet for him to want to do something for a person he cared about? Instead, we get a piecemeal plot that makes us want to believe Cedric was a bigger character than he really was. It’s almost insulting how much importance is placed on such a minor character when so many others sacrificed their lives for Harry’s sake. Yes, Cedric’s death sort of kicks off the killing spree that J.K. Rowling eventually went on, but in the long run, I think there were other more important characters who could have been brought back to life, if only for a couple of hours. Also, I don’t think we even see Cedric in the present timeline, so he exists solely as a plot device and not a major player which is just a waste of stage time.
My other big issue is also a massive spoiler so if you’ve made it this far but are still hesitant to find out more, I’ll give you a second to turn this off. Ready? I find it impossible to believe that Voldemort had a kid. As far as I’m concerned, he was asexual and probably wasn’t physically capable of procreation, nevermind have the smallest desire to get it on with Bellatrix. I’m not saying I wanted a new villain wreaking havoc in the wizarding world, but Delphine was unexpected at best, unwanted at worst. Also, now that I think about it, way to reduce Bellatrix to a simpering fanatic whose only purpose was to have the child of the Dark Lord. She might not have been the nicest lady, but you can’t deny how powerful she was in her own right, and this play turns her into Voldemort’s lover…which is such a disgusting phrase that I’m already regretting saying it. I’m no expert, but after a dozen years in Azkaban, would she even have been able to conceive? Especially since she would have been in her 40s? I feel like her pregnancy would have been super complicated, even if she was a witch.
But enough of the negativity. Let’s talk about some of the things I liked starting with our boy Scorpius Malfoy. Scorpius was hands-down the best part of this script. He’s so nerdy and weird and a complete sweetheart considering his father wasn’t the nicest kid at Hogwarts. He’s so precious and I think his presence saved the story from being a complete bust, even if we just barely got to know him. Not to mention his friendship with Harry’s Slytherin son Albus is the cutest thing. While Albus is all angst and carries the weight of the world on his shoulders—not unlike his father—Scorpius is more like the book version of Ron Weasley—he adds a touch of lightness despite dealing with his own darkness. In this case, Scorpius loses his mother at a young age, plus he has to contend with rumours that he’s Voldemort’s son due to a time traveling incident. Which is just stupid. I mean, if Draco couldn’t have a kid, do you think he’d have sent his wife back to get knocked up by Voldemort? Or is it more likely that he would he have kept it in the family and sent her back in time to a younger version of his father? Just sayin’, if Lucius Malfoy actually looked like Jason Isaacs, I wouldn’t have blamed Astoria Malfoy one bit.
Anyway, going back the plot, let’s talk about Albus himself. Harry’s middle child is just as broody as his father was in those middle books except, rather than being an orphan growing up in an abusive household, he’s a well loved child who feels out of place. I’d love to tell you that we see young Al interacting with his siblings, but apart from the first couple of scenes, they’re barely mentioned. As such, it’s hard to figure out why exactly Albus is so angsty—apart from the usual teenage hormones—if his childhood is fairly easy going. Maybe it’s because his father is famous and doesn’t always have time for his kids or the fact that his mother puts the whole family on a sugar free diet.
Speaking of, the adult characters are an absolute disappointment, and they felt so different from their adolescent selves. Ginny is flatter than she was in the movies (and that’s saying something), Ron is relegated to comic relief, Harry has the same temper he did as a fifteen year old, and Hermione…well, Hermione is still a boss, becoming the Minister of Magic at the tender age of 40 while also being a caring mother. I get that they’re older than they were the last time we all hung out at Hogwarts, and they have their own families and jobs to worry about, but you can really feel J K Rowling’s absence in their characterization. They’re not as fleshed out, and while I know the story revolves around the next generation, reading about this older version of the trio feels like finding out the band member you idolized quit the music industry and got an accounting job or something equally boring. Basically, they grew up and lost their personalities, and it’s sad to see them as shadows of their former glorious selves.
Since I’ve just been complaining for the past little while, you’re probably wondering if there’s any reason to read Cursed Child. I might not have loved it, but I think it’s worth a read, if only to spend another few hours in Harry’s world. There are lots of little moments that hardcore fans like me will appreciate – like an allusion to Neville Longbottom and how important he is that felt like pure J K Rowling, not to mention cameos by some beloved characters (although I’m still furious Luna didn’t show up at any point), and a tear-jerking scene with Hagrid near the end. And I have to admit straight-up that I ship Albus/Scorpius so hard. One of the last acts of the play sees Scorpius awkwardly ask out Al’s cousin Rose Granger-Weasley (who, by the way, could have been a great character but was basically a paper doll for all the substance she had), but since most of the script seemed to suggest that there was something more than friendship blooming between the boys, I personally like to believe they end up together. Wouldn’t that be the ultimate redemption for the Malfoy family if they become linked with the Potters? Actually, forget redemption – it would be plain adorable.
I’m sure that visually, the play is stunning even though it’s a million hours long. There are some stage directions that make me think it would be a truly immersive experience and I’m sure you’d feel a thrill just by being in the theatre. But it doesn’t translate as well on page, especially published as a script and not a full novel with expansive details and padding around the dialogue. As a script, it reads more like fan fiction than anything else..and not very good fan fiction either. The plot isn’t very strong to begin with, and the entire story feels like it was overly simplified – the beginning drags for a long time before the action even starts and then the actual sequence of events plods along methodically. When I first heard about the play, I lamented—not for the first time—that I don’t live in London, but now…I wouldn’t turn down tickets if someone offered them to me, but I’m not in a rush to make the journey just to see this live. I honestly think the story would have been better if J K Rowling had written the whole thing herself. While I’m sure she had some creative control over it, I like to think she would have treated her characters better if she had been at the helm of this endeavor, and would probably have come up with a stronger plot. Or she’d have at least added a couple of side plots that would have linked together to give us a stronger sense of the wizarding world post-Voldemort instead of throwing random nostalgia-drenched scenes at us and hoping we wouldn’t overthink them.
Still, I’m not going to be melodramatic and tell you that Cursed Child ruined my childhood or I can never be a Harry Potter fan after this or anything like that. Please. I just booked an appointment for the HP tattoo of my dreams, there’s no way I’m abandoning my favorite wizard just because I don’t agree with the direction this script went in. I think a lot of people are upset because the story, however far-fetched, is considered canon, even though it doesn’t feel like it really fits into the rest of Harry’s world. Personally, I’m going to think of it as supplementary material, not part of the main series; I love the way Deathly Hallows ended, so I’m okay with closing Harry’s story after only seven volumes. The Cursed Child isn’t the story I wanted…or even needed…to read, but if it gives me a chance to catch up with some of my favorite characters, no matter how disappointing they might be, I’m willing to accept it and move on.
I just hope the Fantastic Beasts movie wows me in November.