Harry Potter and the Cursed Child has arrived. The story that follows up with these characters that we’ve known like family for nearly 20 years is available to be read by everyone. It’s Harry Potter’s (and J.K. Rowling’s) birthday. You’ve read your copy, probably twice already. There were midnight release HP parties for the first time since 2007.
Group hug, Potter fans.
Couple things before we start: This is the spoiler review. Meaning that there will be a summary and everything will be talked about, so… don’t read this if you haven’t read anything else.
Also, I was able to see Harry Potter and the Cursed Child in London about a month back, so there might be words about how the stage experience is different from reading a play.
Albus Potter is quite nervous getting on the train for his first year at Hogwarts. Once he gets there, he makes instant friends with Scorpius Malfoy. (Scorpius has had a rough time of it because there’ve been rumors his whole life that he’s secretly the son of Voldemort.) The two are Sorted into Slytherin, but neither lives up to the mantle expected of them. Albus gets more and more disillusioned with the school his father called home. Scorpius’s mother, Astoria, dies from a long-standing ailment.
Right before they begin fourth year, Harry (who is now Head of Magical Law Enforcement) informs Hermione (now Minister of Magic) that he has found a Time-Turner, first one since the Department of Mysteries collection got smashed. Amos Diggory comes to Harry’s home about it, asking him to save his son. Harry, of course, refuses, but Albus overhears the conversation, then meets Amos’ niece Delphini Diggory. Later, Harry tries to bridge the gap between he and Albus by giving him his old baby blanket, but the conversation goes wrong and they fight—a joke love potion from Ron gets spilled on the blanket and flares up. That night, Harry’s scar hurts for the first time in 22 years.
Albus hears that the Time-Turner is real from Rose and tells Scorpius that he thinks they should use it to save Cedric as his father asked. The escape the Hogwarts Express after a run-in with the Trolley Witch, then they head to St. Oswald’s Home for Old Witches and Wizards to visit Amos and Delphi (who Albus seems to have a crush on). They agree to break into the Ministry disguised with Polyjuice Potion to take the Time-Turner. After quite the adventure (disguised as Harry, Ron, and Hermione), they steal the Time-Turner. Harry has a dream and thinks he knows where Albus is. He heads into the Forbidden Forest after his son, with Draco and Ginny in tow. Albus and Scorpius go back in time before they arrive, and try to undo Cedric’s death by getting him out of the Tri-Wizard Tournament, mucking up his First Task by disarming him. The Time-Turner turns out to have a time limit in the past, and they are thrown back to the present.
When they arrive, they discover that certain things have changed. Albus is in Gryffindor, and Harry—frightened by something that Bane said in the forest—warns him to stay away from Scorpius or else. Ron is married to Padma Patil and Hermione is DADA teacher, both of them miserable. To make sure Albus and Scorpius stay away from each other, Harry tells McGonagall to use the Marauder’s Map and keep an eye on them. She’s furious but complies, and both boys are miserable. Delphi encourage Scorpius to keep his friendship with Albus intact at all costs. He goes to talk to Albus and explains how they messed up the timeline, pointing out the Cedric still ended up finishing the tournament. They decide to go back again and get Cedric out of the running for sure by changing the Second Task. They head to Moaning Myrtle’s bathroom to seek her advice, then head back in time again. Harry and Co finally realize what the boys are up to, and that they have the Time-Turner.
Albus and Scorpius ruin Cedric’s chances by casting an Engorgement Charm on him during the Second Task and sending him up out of the water. Only Scorpius makes it back through to the present–Albus has been erased. Umbridge is headmistress, the timeline changed again. Harry Potter is dead.
And it’s Voldemort Day.
Scorpius is incredibly popular and entirely cruel in this timeline—people call him “The Scorpion King.” He’s been working with Umbridge to punish Muggleborn students, to his horror. He visits Draco, who is head of Magical Law Enforcement but seems to be going through the motions that his power offers him more than anything. Scorpius finds out that Snape is alive and still teaching so he goes to him, telling the Potions Master everything to try and convince him of where he comes from. He finally manages when he mentions that Snape loved Lily. Snape takes him to the Order HQ, only members left being himself, and Ron, and Hermione. (They are also not married in this timeline, having spent all their time fighting Voldemort’s agents. Scorpius tells them about the other timeline too, and they’re shocked.) They all agree to help him, to take him back to the parts of the Tournament that he and Albus disrupted for the sake of righting the world. They fix the First Task, but when they get back, dementors descend on them. Ron and Hermione suffer the dementor’s kiss after confessing their love for one another, side by side.
Snape and Scorpius are cornered as well, and Snape encourages Scorpius to remember what he’s fighting for so he can better fend off the dementors. He sacrifices himself as well after telling Scorpius that he’s proud Albus bears his name. Scorpius fixes the Second Task and gets the timeline back to normal. He and Albus are confronted by McGonagall and their parents as things revert back to the way they were. They are given all the detention, and Harry tries again to patch things up with Albus, but neither of them know how to repair their relationship. Harry has another dream, and knows they’re all still in danger. It turns out that Scorpius lied about the Time-Turner being missing when he came back—he wants to destroy it with Albus to make sure no one can abuse it. When they try to do so, Delphi appears and stops them, snapping both their wands in two.
Ron is talking to Hermione about renewing their vows (being disturbed by all the other timelines where they weren’t together) when Harry, Ginny and Draco come in about their missing sons. Ron mentions Delphi in passing because Neville mentioned her hanging about the boys, so all five head to St. Oswald’s. It’s there, after talking to Amos, that they realize Delphi isn’t who she said she was; Amos was an only child and has no nieces. Delphi kills a classmate of Scorpius and Albus’s, and tells them they’re going back in time to rewrite history—she is the child of Voldemort and Bellatrix Lestrange, raised out of sight until she could fulfill a prophecy to bring him back by getting Albus to kill his father. She takes them back to the Third Task, but Scorpius and Albus refuse to help her. Before she can kill them, Cedric stops her, assuming she’s part of the maze. Delphi tries to leave them behind by using the Time-Turner, so they grab ahold. They don’t know where they end up in time, but she destroys the Time-Turner and leaves them.
In the present, Harry, Ginny, Hermione, Ron, and Draco try to figure out what happened to the boys and where Delphi is. Draco comes to Harry’s office and reveals that the Time-Turner found was a prototype, and the real one was owned by his father. He gives it to Harry, but Harry insists that they can’t use it—it’s up to their sons to let them know where they are. Scorpius and Albus realize that Delphi’s brought them to 1981, right before the death of James and Lily Potter. Albus reckons that she’s going to kill his infant father to prevent harm from coming to Voldemort. They head to Godric’s Hollow and wait for her to show. While trying to figure out how to get word to their parents, Albus remembers the baby blanket reacting with the love potion at home. He asks Scorpius what would react with that, and writes a message to his father on it. Harry and Ginny notice the blanket at home now bears a note, asking for help and giving them a date. They gather everyone to head back in time.
The whole group reunites, and they decide to wait for Delphi at St. Jerome’s Church. As they wait, Ginny realizes that what Delphi wants isn’t to kill Harry—it’s to stop Voldemort from trying to kill Harry at all, altering a prophecy so that he never creates the means of his own demise. They decide that someone should be Transfigured into Voldemort to distract Delphi, and after much arguing, they decide Harry is the logical choice. Once it’s done, they lure Delphi to the church, but she eventually realizes that Harry is not truly Voldemort. She tries to fight him, but Albus unlocks the doors to get everyone back at Harry’s side and they trap her. Voldemort finally arrives, and Harry realizes that he’s going to be present for the death of his parents. Everyone gathers to him, to be there for him while it happens. After it is done, they all head home.
Back in the present, Scorpius has asked Rose Granger-Weasley out, as she seems to be warming up to him. Albus goes for a walk with Harry to Cedric’s grave. Harry admits that he’s not fearless the way Albus thinks, that being a father is pretty terrifying, and that he believes that Albus is going to grow into good man and some wizard.
I’m gonna break my commentary down into sections, as there is so much to talk about. Here goes:
What Cursed Child Accomplishes
Bottom line: this was likely not the story that a good portion of Harry Potter fandom wanted. Many fans have always been concerned with how the future of the wizarding world would be shaped by the next generation, since there’s lots that needs fixing (and indeed, plenty that still needs fixing by the end of this show). But the play pointedly does not negate any of those possibilities–it’s a focused drama that’s far more concerned with interpersonal relationships between familial generations when said families have a lot of grief in their pasts. I’d argue that from that perspective, Cursed Child does it’s job, and does it beautifully. It’s not a perfect tale, but it’s a compelling one. And being a play, this was the smarter route to go because the stage is designed for one-on-one interplay. Making a stage show about some epic wizarding world occurrence would have been a waste of the format.
It’s also a show that deals heavily with the trauma that Harry’s generation suffered following the war against Voldemort, which is something of a surprise, given that the synopsis made it sound far more like Albus’s story. (Suppose the clue should have been that it was still titled “Harry Potter and the Blankity Blank.”) While Albus and Scorpius are the focal point of a good half of the narrative, equal time is given to Harry, Hermione, Ron, Ginny, and Draco. It gives the story a real weight, and has the added bonus of showcasing a beloved set of characters when they’re full-blown adults with mortgages and jobs stress and gray hairs. From that perspective, it makes all these characters feel more real, giving readers of the series a chance to empathize with them at a very different point in their lives.
The show itself does an interesting job of melding what fans know of the books and the films into a jumbly stew. It makes a considerable effort to tie into the films visually, from the wardrobe stylings to visual cues for magic. Draco looks very much like the son of Jason Isaacs’s Lucius Malfoy, and McGonagall is clearly meant to invoke Maggie Smith’s stamp on the role, with her rolling Scottish brogue and emerald green robes. Moaning Myrtle is portrayed precisely the way she was in the movies, same small shrill voice and all. The show doesn’t always take those steps—the school house crests are designed quite differently, for example—but there’s a vested interest in at least making all of these art forms seem like cousins to one another, just a half step away spiritually.
When viewed as a personal story with a very large scope, Cursed Child is a meaningful addition to the Potter universe. Perhaps its most sound decision was the choice to get grittier with family dynamics; because the first seven books took place in war time when things were far more dire, those families we saw were binding together and supporting one another through difficult times. The Cursed Child has the less glamorous job of showing how complicated the legacy of family is, how hurtful we can sometimes be to the people we love, how hard we have to work to strengthen these relationships when it sometimes feels as though we live with strangers.
The Use of Time Travel
Full disclosure: while it may be a little cheap, I love how the story uses time travel. The purpose of destroying all the Time-Turners during the Battle of the Department of Mysteries in Order of the Phoenix was clearly a move to make certain that time travel couldn’t be used during the final battle against Voldemort, but knowing that they were wizard-made devices, there was no way that they’d be gone forever. While the play has to fudge the rules in order to make its conceit viable (‘oh no, this one can totally go farther back in time than its predecessors because… innovation?’), it provides genuine tension throughout the first half of the show, and offers some fascinating glimpses into alternate futures.
Unfortunately, the play has a much harder time supporting a time travel narrative when it comes to adherence to rules, or even setting up those rules in the first place. Perhaps the muddiest aspect of the play is when we’re observing “the present” as a result of a changed past—the story doesn’t seem to know how to accommodate all the changes made, and it gets unclear as to where events unfolded differently and where they stayed the same.
But there is one place where the use of time travel does wrong by a past character: Cedric Diggory.
In effort to save the young man’s life, Albus and Scorpius humiliate him out of the Tri-Wizard Tournament—which ends up having the undesired effect of embarrassing the boy enough that he eventually becomes a Death Eater, killing Neville Longbottom, resulting in the loss of the war and Harry’s death. On the one hand, this goes far in proving my personal theory that Neville is truly the most important person in the Potter series. On the other hand, this destroys the legacy of an important character for the sake of moving the plot forward. Cedric Diggory was meant to be the Hogwarts champion in the Tournament for a reason, and suggesting that a sizable humiliating experience was all that it took to turn him from a “good, and kind, and brave” boy to a fanatical member of one of the worst hate groups that the wizarding world has ever seen seems like a leap too far.
This is one area where the format of the story works against it. It’s not that Cedric becoming a Death Eater is the most unbelievable idea the Potterverse has ever come up with. It’s that we don’t see the steps taken to get there, and so the reveal doesn’t make sense emotionally. It just seems like a horrific and awkward decision to make certain that the timeline goes horribly wrong.
Still, the end result of all this mucking about culminates in the play’s final climatic emotional sequence, which takes one of the most well-known parts of the series and transforms it into a point of connection between every character on stage and the audience as well. Fans know the death of James and Lily Potter like an old familiar fairy tale, having witnessed it through various dream-like flashbacks throughout the entirely of the series. What Cursed Child does is offer Harry the only point in his life when that horrible moment isn’t his alone to bear; his family is there to support him, and the audience is as well by admission. (One can’t help but wonder if this registers better on stage that it can through reading, the participatory nature of it.) The formative events of the entire Potter series now are transformed by this witnessing. Suddenly, they belong to everyone.
On the one hand, I get it: The epilogue of the Potter series ends by making the point that Harry’s scar hasn’t bugged him in nineteen years and everything’s fine. Those words, while a nice note to end on, practically SCREAM ‘yeah, okay, but that scar is definitely going to hurt again at some point.’ And that’s not necessarily a bad thing.
But… Voldemort’s daughter? Really?
To my mind, it’s the weakest part of the narrative. While it makes for interesting material to consider after the fact (like oh god, noooooo, Bellatrix had Voldemort’s kid, and that goes a long way in explaining why she’s so panicked and furious over the trio potentially stealing the Horcrux from her vault because she’s been through some serious sh*t lately and ended up on the Dark Lord’s bad side anyway), within the story it functions as the easiest way to bring back the biggest possible threat, even if only by proxy. It doesn’t help that the Augurey doesn’t have much of a character—the person she projects to Albus and Scorpius is clearly a front, and she’s dead boring once she shows her true colors. Potter villains usually have a bit more substance.
Ultimately, her character is a means to an end. She kicks open the door to bring Voldemort into the story so that the mere idea of him can be the primary antagonist. Because we get so little background on her, it’s hard to feel anything for her at all. Even her grief is irrelevant, merely a mirror to Harry’s; his words to her at the end, that “you’ll always be an orphan,” are gutting because those words are a summation of Harry’s life, and he has to be the one to explain how it works to the orphan of a man who orphaned him.
The most potent use of Voldemort in the story are the points where we see the least of him. Getting a glimpse of what the future would have been like under his reign is a far more effecting move, offering a harrowing glimpse into the world he wanted to create.
The relationship between Albus and Harry is one of the most fascinating that the play offers us because it shows us precisely where Harry is a set up to fail as a parent. While Harry Potter loves his family—and while having a family was truly the only thing he desired following his part in the war—his middle child is troubling because he can’t understand what precisely makes Albus so different.
And don’t most parents go through this problem at one point or another?
The issue within the story is twofold—for starters, Cursed Child addresses the idea that Hogwarts is not a Perfect Castle of Friends and Belonging to everyone, the way it was for Harry. (And this is an important myth status to debunk because you have to assume that this is often untrue for Slytherins, and also that Hogwarts is just as bad as any school for handling kids who would be pegged as “odd.” See: Luna Lovegood.) For Albus, the school is precisely the opposite of what it meant for his father; it’s a place where he feels outcast, awkward, and pathetic. He’s not the most academically inclined, which is clearly more a matter of aptitude and confidence than laziness. He has only one good friend in the entire place, and no amount of pep talks are going to make his time there easier. Harry simply cannot understand this, and their disconnect is severe as a result. After all, Harry roughly defines himself as Hogwarts’s protector by his final showdown with Voldemort. The idea of not loving the place is alien to him in every sense.
The second issue is that Harry has made a very understandable but very hefty parental error as “The Boy Who Lived”—in an effort to keep his traumas away from his children, he doesn’t open up to them about his past at all. It’s a typical move for parents who want to protect their kids from any and all suffering that they endured (which is pretty instinctive when all’s said and done), but his lack of trying results in a complete misunderstanding of his character. Because of the stern, controlled front he’s always trying to put on, Albus believes his father to be cold and uncaring toward the pain of others. It’s what makes the kid think that it might be a good idea to use the Time-Turner to rescue Cedric Diggory in the first place.
The truth of the matter is, Harry’s PTSD is acute as a result of the war, and the show does an excellent job at dealing with that in a manner true to his character, even 22 years on. Harry Potter still can’t sit still, considering action to be the only appropriate course, and paperwork and research to be a waste of time. Harry Potter tries to pass off the pain in his scar as nothing, even when it’s been absent from his life for two decades, because he’s accustomed to keeping these things to himself. Harry Potter doesn’t have a therapist, but he talks to Dumbledore’s portrait in the place of one–something that McGonagall scolds him for because she knows that’s not a healthy move. Harry Potter gives his son a baby blanket as an an attempt to reach out to him… and fails utterly.
The point at the end where he admits to Albus that he’s afraid of small spaces and the dark–ugh. Just rip out my heart, why don’t you. Just acknowledge that living in a cupboard under the stairs was more than just a funny thing to put on an envelope, that it had a real lasting impact on him. Just go ahead, destroy me completely with that one. Thanks.
Ginny and Harry clearly have a loving and stable relationship, aided primarily by Ginny knowing precisely what Harry’s been through and how to talk to him when things go wonky. Their share as parents seems evenly split, though Ginny has that Weasley know-how when it comes to juggling a larger family. Perhaps my favorite line in the entire show comes from Draco apologizing for messing up her kitchen, and her reply that Harry is the family’s primary cook anyhow. (Because 1. Huzzah for division of labor! 2. Harry has known how to cook since he was a small child due to the Dursleys, so it makes sense that he would want to put those skills to use for people he cares about. 3. Nothing is funnier than Ginny being like ‘pssh, I had to help my mom prepare meals for nine when I was a kid, this is not my problem anymore.’)
HERMIONE GRANGER IS THE MINSTER OF MAGIC AND NOTHING ELSE MATTERS.
I mean, lots of other things matter, but this is the best thing that matters because she’s Hermione and she deserves it and nothing could possibly be more happy-making than this particular revelation. (The audience burst into wild applause when it was made clear during the show.)
This makes even more sense of Ron’s job switch from Auror to helping George run the joke shop—one of them needs a less stressful, time-consuming occupation while they raise two kids. This relegates Ron comfortably to the role of “weird goofy uncle who provides infinite moral support and awful jokes to family.” In fact, Ron has very little to do in this show compared to Hermione and Harry, and that seems right; he’s basically taken a back seat to the two more Type-A people in his life, and offers his unflinching love to them while hanging around in comfy sweaters.
The show actually seems to go out of its way to put a stop to the anti-Hermione/Ron sentiment (that Rowling herself accidentally fanned the fire for when she offhandedly commented that the couple might need some therapy later on) that’s always cropping up somewhere in the fandom. When the alternate timelines come into play as a result of Albus and Scorpius’s meddling, we ultimately find the same pattern over and over—that Ron and Hermione are miserable without one another. That they are far from their best and happiest selves apart. They have their quirky squabbles, and their sarcastic back-and-forths, but they patently adore one another and the family they have built together.
Still, it is rough to see that Hermione’s job as Minister is so centered around calming the masses and continuing to assure people that (hopefully) Voldemort isn’t back. It’s not surprising, given that their generation will likely always be fending off questions about the war and how well they did their parts in it, but Hermione Granger has more important things to do. She’s actually working with other groups of magical beings, and holding meetings to talk things out, and getting stuff done. Everyone sit down and let Hermione do her job.
Also, I may have died a little when Hermione admitted to Harry that her way of rebelling against dentist parents was to constantly carry toffees around in her pockets. A++, perfect Minister of Magic, would vote for again.
Now someone write me a spin-off that is just Hermione doing magic politics. Like The West Wing, only better. She will walk and talk down every hall of the Ministry.
When I walked into the theatre, I did not expect to walk out saying, “Wow, I think Draco Malfoy is my favorite character now?”
Rowling released some information on Pottermore about a year back, talking about Draco’s future following the Battle of Hogwarts, and it seems clear that this was background given out to help with building Draco’s character for the purpose of this show. And while the transformation of the character is astounding on multiple levels, I think his development as a human being can be best summed up as: Draco Malfoy has an awkward, nerdy child whose best friend is Harry Potter’s son, and none of this bothers him. All that matters to Draco Malfoy is that people treat Scorpius with care and respect.
One of the smartest, most affecting scenes in the show comes when Harry and Draco realize that they have the same failings as fathers—
HARRY: Love blinds. We have both tried to give our sons, not what they needed, but what we needed. We’ve been so busy trying to rewrite out own pasts, we’ve blighted their present.
And while this is moving to see on both sides, that failing means something different for Draco than it does for Harry—because Draco’s family comes out of the war as a former enemy rather than a heralded savior. Draco’s desire to protect his son clearly comes from a deep disappointment that his own father did not protect him, and it seems to have rewritten the Malfoy family dynamic. Where Draco once hero-worshipped his father, he now sees the man’s failings and recognizes that Lucius’s beliefs of superiority and his cowardice irrevocably hurt them all. With the help of his wife Astoria, they managed to raise Scorpius free from any of the notions that poisoned Draco in his youth, but the boy is so sheltered that it only leads to a different set of problems.
Scorpius is a darling despite the legacy (and extra rumors) heaped on his back, but he has the same problem Albus does—this lack of communication from Draco leaves Scorpius wondering what sort of man his father truly is. As the story unfolds, Draco gains an emotional openness that not only repairs his relationship with his son, but allows him to cautiously befriend people he once considered to be enemies. (Perhaps the greatest moment in this regard is when he admits to Harry that he envied the Chosen One’s perfect friendships with Ron and Hermione—only to hear Ginny agree, that she also felt left out when faced with the bonds between the golden trio. Idk, I apparently have lots of undiscovered emotions about Draco and Ginny relating to one another due to feelings of isolation during childhood.)
(I also may have lots of feeling about Draco telling his son that “We can hug too if you like.” Don’t look at me.)
It means a very different future for the Malfoy family, and one that it’s hard not to be excited over.
The Redemptive Reappearance of Severus Snape
Another thing I did not expect walking into the theatre was that the show would do a better job of giving Severus Snape a redemption arc than the books ever did. I’ve stated repeatedly that I do not feel bad for Snape’s despair at being Friendzoned by Lily Evans, but his work in the alternate timeline does a better job at showing the character’s true colors in a way that is not tied to upsetting romantic feelings for a dead woman. Seeing Snape still fighting in Dumbledore and Lily’s names when the Order is all but extinct means far more, as does his relationships with Ron and Hermione in this timeline; he’s antagonistic as ever, but he does seem to care for them at some level.
And then there’s the fact that he states, flat out, that he’s proud that one of Harry’s sons bears his name. It allows Snape to make the one gesture he never truly manages in the books—seeing Harry as an individual, untainted by bearing the Potter name. And even if it happens in a timeline that is ultimately erased, that moment still matters. It proves that Snape has that in him, somewhere, the ability to look past his own pain and hurt, and do good for the sake of doing it.
The Legacy of Albus Dumbledore
Man, this show hit every emotional note that I needed in terms of Dumbledore and Harry’s relationship. I mean, I joked about his portrait being Harry’s therapist, but the conversations between them are legitimately some of the best in the show. It’s so impressive to have the story treat Dumbledore like a person rather than this uber-special near-godly figure, to allow him to recount his failings as a human being and apologize for them when Harry is an adult and can better take him to task for it. His hurt and pain doesn’t negate Harry’s either—every single count he brings against Dumbledore is valid and needs to be spoken out loud; doing everything asked of him without question; fighting alone; being left to suffer at the hands of the Dursleys all through his childhood.
But even after all that, the only thing these two men have to offer each other is love. It cuts to the core of everything that is both moving and unsettling about Harry’s most influential father figure—that despite the manipulation and the lies, Harry Potter perhaps loved Albus Dumbledore better than anyone in the world, because he was one of the few who had the opportunity to understand and appreciate just how deeply flawed the man was.
Where Did All the Women Go?
Hermione and Ginny (and even McGonagall) are all well done by in this story. They are shown as important and multi-faceted people within the world, and their actions matter. So it’s strange to note that this doesn’t hold true for any other women in the narrative, regardless of how much influence they have over the story.
Of course, to a certain extent it’s not surprising at all—this is a show that focuses primarily on the relationships between fathers and sons, and it does so better than many similar narratives out there. And because Albus and Scorpius are supposed to be “losers,” it’s relevant that they only have each other to rely on as friends. But this doesn’t change the fact that practically all other women in the story are either fridged or irrelevant, except where they apply as love interests or villains.
As I said before, Delphini Diggory (later revealed to be the Augurey) is not a very interesting character on her own because she’s mainly a plot function that allows for Voldemort’s return. The only other thing we know about her is that Albus has a crush on her, and there’s very little to suggest why outside of the fact that she’s adventurous and encourages rule-breaking? She’s only a character as far as the plot needs her to be, and then she’s left on her own.
Astoria Malfoy (née Greengrass—I’m assuming that she takes Draco’s last name) is technically alive at the start of the show—in the books, she’s actually on the platform with Draco to see Scorpius off to school—but we never see her, and then she’s essentially fridged due to a nasty wizarding ailment. The problem is less that she dies, and more that her death is only ever important to give Draco and Scorpius emotions because they lost her. From what we know of her, Astoria is a fascinating person—a woman who (even in an alternate timeline) chose to marry Draco Malfoy and seemed capable of seeing past his bravado to a better person, who stood toe to toe against Lucius Malfoy and insisted that her son be raised without a sense of pureblood superiority or bigotry, who despite ill-health was clearly a incredible influence on the people in her life. She deserves more attention than this. She deserves to be more than a facilitator to grief.
Then there is Rose Granger-Weasley, who starts off seeming important, then abruptly disappears once Albus befriends Scorpius and gets Sorted into Slytherin. If Rose has a certain amount of prejudice toward the Malfoy family due to how Draco treated her mother at school, that’s fine. If there are still cross-House tensions that are preventing Rose from wanting to spend time with her cousin, that’s also fine. But all of these issues should be better addressed. Instead, Rose disappears from the majority of the story, unless she’s being mentioned because Scorpius has a crush on her. This is Hermione Granger’s daughter we’re talking about here—you cannot reduce this character to a love interest, no matter how sweetly-intended. Being a relative footnote to the action of the story makes her inclusion seem almost cruel. It’s fine that this tale doesn’t revert to the trio dynamics of Harry, Ron, and Hermione, but it’s upsetting to see the character underused.
Albus and Scorpius
The depictions of Albus Potter and Scorpius Malfoy are delightful for the fact that they are so much the antitheses of what their families “stand for” in the series. Albus is anything but an overachiever, he’s entirely unsure of himself, he’s against Hogwarts as an establishment and a pain-in-the-butt as a teenager in a decidedly normal way (apart from the trying to alter the past with a time turner thing). Scorpius is awkward and meek, a niche sort of geek with a penchant for silliness. They are nothing like their fathers at all, and that’s part of what makes them interesting.
Here’s my only really issue with the two as friends… they seem like way more than friends, and the script doesn’t appear to notice.
This might be the result of how it was played on stage, but it’s strange to see the Potterverse fall victim to a problem that so many stories have these days—queerbaiting, though it was likely unintentional in this case. Look, I’m all for depictions of strong friendships that define people, but Albus and Scorpius don’t read like Harry and Ron. And I’m not saying that because they’re more awkward, or because they hug a lot, or because they talk about their emotions way more than Harry and Ron were ever comfortable with. I’m saying it because at one point, Severus Snape points out that Scorpius is giving up an easier life in the Voldemort-run timeline for the sake of Albus and then compares that to his love for Lily. Snape says that Scorpius Malfoy is not going to let dementors defeat him because he cares too much for Albus, and Scorpius agrees and finds the strength to keep going.
Look, that sounds a lot like love to me, is all I’m saying.
As I mentioned previously, what happens at the end of the play doesn’t dictate the entire future of the wizarding world. If Scorpius Malfoy and Rose Weasley date when they’re fifteen, that doesn’t mean they have to end up married (though the Potterverse has something of a track record there). But when Rose has already been so unfairly ignored in this story, it only adds insult to injury when you can also view her budding relationship with Scorpius as a way of saying “no homo” to the audience.
That being said, a deep abiding (and super adorable) friendship between a Potter and a Malfoy still means the world in this story, and begs the question of what the landscape will become moving forward. Because this will continue to change everything, and one can only guess what these kids will become as they enter adulthood.
I’ve rambled on for paragraph after paragraph, and I still don’t feel like I’ve said anything at all. Fact is, flaws aside, the show was deeply affecting and I cried buckets and I hope reading it is an enjoyable ride for everyone.
Also, if you get the opportunity (I’m sure it will tour), go see it. It really deserves to be seen on stage.
I’m sure more thoughts will come (I already have lots of weird, deep thoughts about how Albus got Sorted into Slytherin and such), but now it’s your turn—did you love it? Hate it? Are you going to write some serious fanfic to fix your problems with it? Did your favorite characters change? Discuss!
Emmet Asher-Perrin is so pleased that she doesn’t have to #KeeptheSecrets anymore. You can bug her on Twitter and Tumblr, and read more of her work here and elsewhere.