“Cursed Child”: The Good & The Painful

There is a lot of controversy among Potterheads over “Cursed Child” because this isn’t a story that everyone wanted. Nobody wants to leave the Wizarding World, but a large portion of fans wanted to leave Harry’s story alone and explore other parts of the world (Dumbledore’s past, Teddy Lupin’s life, the story of the Marauders, the founding of Hogwarts, etc). Those seven books were so integral to all of our childhoods, and the idea of somebody other than Jo having the power to mess with them is justifiably unsettling.

That being said, I was still incredibly excited when this arrived. Despite all the negative reviews I’d heard, the Potter-lover in me couldn’t help but tear up at holding the next story in my hand. I went against everyone’s advice and had high hopes for a solid JK Rowling-spirited story. After reading the script in one 2 hour sitting and spending a couple days thinking about it/reading other reviews, here are my thoughts on “Harry Potter and the Cursed Child”.

My review is based 100% on the screenplay. I didn’t know any spoilers, and I have not seen the stage production.

There were things I loved, things I hated, and things that didn’t make any sense at all. The majority of my issues with the play are the broad strokes, the overall plot choices. The character dynamics and little moments are what made me enjoy it and feel like I was really reading a “Harry Potter” story.

The driving force of the play Albus Severus Potter, the only Potter to be a Slytherin and the black sheep of the family. Albus rejects the Potter legacy, and the complicated relationship he has with his father is probably one of the best parts of the play. They really explore their father/son dynamic to demonstrate that Harry, not having had a father of his own, is struggling with parenthood. It was heartbreaking to see that Hogwarts, the place that Harry found friendship and love and a home, was such a miserable place for his son. The only saving grace for Albus at Hogwarts is his best friend, Scorpius Malfoy (the real VIP of “Cursed Child”). Their organically developed and loving friendship is another highlight, and proves these writers are capable of strong writing. 

After learning that the Minister for Magic (Hermione Granger?!) has a secret Time Turner and overhearing a conversation with a still-distraught-twenty-years-later Amos Diggory, Albus and Scorpius decide to go back in time to save Cedric by stopping him from winning the Triwizard Tournament (and therefore, never making it to the graveyard). It apparently doesn’t ever occur to them that resurrecting somebody from the dead could literally change the entire universe. Clearly they’ve never seen The Butterfly Effect. Also, what an odd (i.e. awful) choice it was to pivot the play around Cedric Diggory and his winning the Triwizard Tournament as the make-it-or-break-it factor in Voldemort’s defeat. For all the new characters we had to develop, possibilities of moving our older characters deeper into this world, facing a whole new foe… the play was essentially about making changes to the Triwizard Tournament. To put it as nicely as possible, this is not a decision I understand.

Right off the bat the audience is expected to take massive leap in logic by accepting Albus and Scorpius’s plan to save Cedric. I appreciated the sentiment that Albus related to Cedric, feeling like a “spare” in his family- I assume we all remember Kill the spare! It may be a bit on the nose, but hey so is this entire play. However the play is moved forward by this decision to NOT ONLY time travel, but to make very drastic changes to the past. Even the reasonably intelligent Scorpius fails to stop for a moment and say “hold on, what could be the consequences of Cedric returning from the dead and adding someone new to the timeline of events?” The notion that the boys would just assume that changing the past would have no effect beyond making Harry feel better was ludicrous. Furthermore this brings up issues that JK Rowling herself acknowledged, admitting that the very existence of Time Turners are a problem for the universe. That’s why she destroyed them all in the Battle of the Department of Mysteries in Order of the Phoenix, and of all the directions this story could have taken I don’t see why they had to use the Time Turner. It felt like a cheap maneuver (a phrase i never want to associate with JK Rowling’s world).  They used time travel as a way to spend way too much time rehashing old scenes and revisiting old characters (ex: Snape, Umbridge, Cedric). These are characters we were done with. The play felt more like a victory tour of old stories and characters rather than a new idea for a story to move our new characters forward in the Wizarding World. 

And we haven’t even begun to get into… *sighs* Voldemort’s daughter?!?!

No one respects Queen Jo and her magically genius and creative mind more than I do, folks. But, I’m sorry, never in a million years will ANYONE get me to accept that Voldemort would have sex. That just goes against everything we know about him!! I recall from the book’s canon that Bellatrix was in love with him, and recognize that she certainly would have been, uh… into it, so to speak. But Voldemort?! Someone planning to live forever would have absolutely no use for an heir, and he would never never never (never ever) bring himself down to what he’d see as a level of  vulnerability, humanity, and weakness. Even if Voldemort somehow would be willing to get down and dirty with Bellatrix (and assuming all of his, er, parts still work after losing so many Horcruxes) I just cannot believe that they went the route of making our antagonist the last bad guy’s kid. I hate to say it, but I was having horrible flashbacks of the Disney movie Halloweentown, whose villain was a wizard named Kalabar. And then the bad guy in the sequel was Kalabar’s secret son, Kal. I love Halloweentown as a kids movie, but it’s not something I want to compare to Harry Potter. My mind was slightly opened up when I came across a Reddit theory that was made MONTHS before anyone knew anything about the play. This theory helps me believe that at least in terms of plot and timeline, it’s possible they could’ve had a kid. Take a moment to check it out, it’s totally worth reading. But it’s hard to imagine that Jo sat on that massive secret for nearly a decade, and only released it because this chance opportunity at a play came up. And even if it is possible and canon compliant… JK Rowling is so much more creative than that. I realize she didn’t write this, but she signed off on it. I will never like or agree with that choice. 

Plus, Delphi’s entire plan was extremely bizarre. Her big plan was to use Amos Diggory to get the boys to go back in time and save her dad via… the Triwizard Tournament? I don’t see why she didn’t just take the Time Turner from Albus and Scorpius. It’s demonstrated that they aren’t great with magic, she would have been able get it without much force. She could have gone to so many different points in time that would have been way less complicated to see/save her father. It felt so round-about and awkward that she decided she needed the boys to do it, and that she felt the Triwizard Tournament tasks were the best way to save her Daddy Voldy. It was so obvious that her plan was an excuse to get an old story on stage. Bad writing/plot choices if you ask me. 

I’ve been thinking about it, and a much better direction would have been to keep the whole play in the present (or future?) timeline, and introduce Delphi as an insane villain who made up this prophecy and truly believes herself to be the heir of Voldemort (but isn’t). She can wreak destruction and havoc, and maybe even have other Death Eaters convinced that she is his daughter and join her side. Maybe she has a different way to eradicate Mudbloods/blood traitors that is worse than her “father” ever tried, and that could be the conflict. She can be a threat that all the new and old characters deal with together. This way we could have a new foe, somewhat harkening back to Voldemort (but not completely), and new characters to defeat her. Something along those lines would have been far less ridiculous.

But let me stop being so negative here and talk about stuff I did like: as I said, Scorpius was the best part of this play. In one particular scene, he goes off on Albus for always complaining about being Harry Potter’s son and basically says “Imagine people thinking you are Voldemort’s son!” Before it was revealed that Voldemort actually did have a child and it all became too real, I thought that was a very creative rumor to have spreading. I felt a strong bond between Albus and Scorpius that gave me delightful flashbacks to the relationship  between the main trio. By the end of Act 1 I thought they were going to grow into a romantic relationship (#Scorbus). I actually wish they had. People always get annoyed when it seems like a gay or lesbian relationship was forced just for the sake of representation, but this one would have felt honest and well-developed. I also really enjoyed that they explored the idea of Harry not really knowing how to be a father because he had no constant father figures to emulate. It’s not an issue I had ever thought about, but it rings completely true. In a fantastic conversation between him and Draco (one of my favorite scenes), the two lament that they only gave their children what they wish they had growing up, rather than what their sons actually needed. It was a great message about imagining people as you wish to see them, and seeing them as they really are. Moments like this are where the writing was strong. There were also some scenes that pulled at the old heartstrings in all the ways you were hoping it would: Harry teaching his son to run at the platform between 9 and 10 exactly as Molly taught him in Book 1, Harry and Dumbledore’s painting admitting that they did really love each other, and Pentunia actually holding onto Harry’s baby blanket and Dudley being kind enough to return it to Harry after her death – these were all  genuinely well-written scenes. And even though this scene came about due the problematic storytelling, it was pretty overwhelming that Harry actually watched his parents die. Honestly, I would fly to London and watch the play just for that scene. I can’t imagine what it looked like on stage, but I’d bet there wasn’t a dry eye in the house. 

Overall I am disappointed with the story this play chose to tell, especially considering JK Rowling has officially confirmed it’s the last story with Harry Potter there will ever be. What frustrated me is that I look at “Cursed Child” as confirmation that JK Rowling truly has no more stories to tell about Harry Potter. The recycled plot essentially left the characters in the exact same play, as so much of our time was spent living in the past or in alternate timelines. A new villain, actually exploring the time Albus, Scorpius, and Rose spent at Hogwarts, and advancing or transforming our future Wizarding World in some way would have been far more relevant. That being said, if this story is all I could have than it was worth it for some of the silently strong aspects (or maybe I’m just saying that because I have no other choice). 

Questions I was left with:

  • How did Albus and Severus automatically know precisely how to use the Time Turner to end up at the exact perfect time in the past?
  • Why did Harry’s scar start hurting??? I know Delphi came back and was Voldemort’s daughter, but he never had part of Delphi in him. 
  • Where did Delphi’s prophecy come from?
  • Who actually was the Cursed Child? I’m thinking it has to be Delphi or Albus, but I’m leaning towards it being Delphi… I’d love to get your thoughts on this!

If you love Harry Potter, you have to read this. But despite Queen Jo declaring this to be 100% canon, I am taking the firm stance that if JK Rowling didn’t write it, it is not canon. It is fan-fiction. So if you look at this as a massive piece of fan-fiction, you can choose to accept the parts of it that you enjoyed in your personal canon and reject the parts you didn’t. 

How did you feel about “Harry Potter and the Cursed Child”???

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