I didn’t go to the midnight release. I didn’t bother with the hype. I didn’t even look up a review. When I heard that J.K. Rowling was putting together a Harry Potter play, and would be releasing the script that she and the playwrights, John Tiffany and Jack Thorne, had worked on as a book, I simply resigned myself to the fact that Harry Potter had passed me by. The Cursed Child would just be something for the next generation or the absolute devoted Harry Potter fans to obsess over. Then today I walked into Waterstones and saw it staring at me, with a bit ‘half price’ sticker slapped on the front just to push over the edge. Needless to say, I bought it. After reading the entire thing in one night I am happy to say this book is a complete mess but, just like most of us in our twenties, it is a lovable mess.
*Final spoiler warning!!!*
Act One: Albus Potter And The Trap Of Nepotism
The plot is dived into two plays and those plays are dived into two acts so I think the only fair way to cover the piece is to look at each act and to try to analyse it both as a written piece and a work for the stage. The first act introduces the characters of Albus Potter, Scorpius Malfoy and Rose Weasley as they start their first year at Hogwarts. Albus and Scorpius are thrown into Slytherin, and are immediately treated like scum because of the moral judgements of an enchanted hat, while Rose is sent off to Gryffindor and then pretty much forgotten about for the majority of the plot. The act then follows the characters through their first three years of Hogwarts while the old guard of Harry, Ron, Hermione, Ginny and Draco look into a rising concern around Voldemort’s recurrence, with some aspersions being cast over Scorpius Malfoy as the dark lord’s sire. This all culminates in a father-son argument between Harry and Albus that pushes Albus onto a quest to save the life of Cedric Diggory with the use of time turners, after a push from Cedric’s cousin. To be frank, while I admire the pacing this act offers I feel that the decision to use time turners to jump back into the story of the original books is a weak one. This creates the idea that it is impossible for any character to forge their own path without being drawn into the legend of Harry Potter, and while that is a key point to story, hanging a lampshade on the issue doesn’t make the issue go away.
Act Two: Albus Potter And The DeLorean Plot Device
This theme continues as Albus and Scorpius balls up the first attempt to fix the past at the first Tri-Wizard trial and so decide the best idea is to have another crack at the second tri-wizard event. In the meantime they have a bit of a ‘Back to the Future’ moment and essentially end up erasing Rose Weasley and the romance between Ron and Hermione from existence. The act ends as the boys decide to humiliate Cedric out of the Tri-Wizard cup and end up sending him on a darker path to become a death eater, resulting in a loss at the battle of Hogwarts for the Order Of The Phoenix and allies. Albus is then erased from existence as Harry Potter dies and Scorpius is stuck in a future ruled by Voldemort and the mysterious Augurey. I hated this section of the plot as it felt like a light blend of Days Of Future Past with a hint of that bloody Shrek film with Rumpelstiltskin. The alternative future arc just feels played out and a contrived way for Rowling to insert more ‘what if scenes for fans’. There is a scene where Ron and Hermione meet in the alternative reality where they aren’t together and, while touching, it feels like Rowling simply wanted to have her cake and eat it with an unrequited love subplot. That being said, there are some touching scenes here and the plot maintains a pace that suits it well to the stage, where the alternative future troupe may not be as played out. Also there is an encounter with the sweets lady on the Hogwarts express that reads like a scene from the terminator which is just pure awesome.
Act Three: Albus Potter And Babies First Multi-Dimensional Crisis
Jumping to the third act, Scorpius teams up with a living Severus Snape, a warrior Hermione and Ron to get back to present. This then revives the prime timeline and allows Albus to exist. Harry decides to go full dick-mode and enlisting Hogwarts Headmistress Minerva McGonagall to keep Albus and Scorpius apart after a short discussion with the portrait of Dumbledore. This pushes the boys apart for a while until another encounter with Cedric’s cousin serves to push them closer once more. Scorpius reveals that he still possesses a time turner and so Scorpius and Albus decide to destroy the device but only once Albus can talk to Cedric’s cousin. After an encounter at the Hogwarts Owlery, as well as a CSI Harry Potter scene with the old guard, it is revealed that Cedric had no cousin and that the woman masquerading as such is actually the Augurey, Voldemort’s daughter. There was a lot more going on in this act that I enjoyed. While I am convinced that Snape was only introduced for a combination of fan service and author service, I will not deny it was nice to see his dry sense of humour remerge. I was less enamoured with the Dumbledore scene as it seemed a little more contrived, Dumbledore could only be in his portrait at certain times and only when it serves the plot. The Voldemort’s daughter revelation continues to perpetuate the idea that nothing in this universe can happen for a character unless they are connected to one of the protagonists or antagonists from the previous books, frankly I’m surprised that we didn’t have Teddy Lupin or a child of Dumbledore and Snape turn up.
Act Four: Albus Potter And The Miraculous Finale
The entire book manages to redeem its self around the fourth act as Albus and Scorpius are dragged into the past by the Augurey and, via a stop at the final tri-wizard challenge, end up in 1983, the year when Voldemort attacked Harry and his parents in Godric’s Hollow. The Augurey traps them there and then bugger’s off to plan a reunion with her Dad. Albus and Scorpius send a message to the old guard for back up and the group get together for a final battle against the Augurey on the night of Harry’s parent’s death. Harry and Albus decide that together they can take her down and so do so. Then Harry, Albus and company decide to watch the death of Harry’s parents, because they might as well watch it since they have the chance. Finally Harry and Albus repair their relationship and things end on a heartfelt moment over the grave of Cedric Diggory who is still dead because he is the Gwen Stacy of this universe and has to die so that Harry can had a slightly more tragic backstory than anyone else. I really liked this climax, even though it takes the most pivotal moment of the entire Harry Potter series and drains it of every last drop of emotion possible. It feels like a satisfying pay of for the time traveling storyline and the coming together of the two generations is emotional without feeling cheesy or contrived. The final scene of the play has a lot of heart and really calls back to what made Harry Potter great in the first place.
Is It Worth Reading?
I did enjoy this book/script but I enjoyed it in the way I enjoy debating with my friends what happened after the end of Lord Of The Rings. I find it hard to take this seriously as a work in the Harry Potter cannon and see it more as a fan fiction from the original author, with guest appearances from everyone’s favourite characters. There was never a moment where I felt like the plot was going to work away from the already well known world of the first seven Harry Potter books and that means that the piece simply cannot stand on its own. It felt a little like a Disney sequel, like Jungle Book 2 or something, or even a Christmas special where the plot continues to be moving forward while re-treading old ground and any new issues are resolved by the end of the piece. Harry Potter fans are going to love this book because it will tickle all the old taste buds but I don’t recommend this to series newcomers. I will concede that Harry Potter And The Cursed Child has enough spectacle and heart that it likely makes for a fantastic stage show but I want to say right now if this ever hits cinema screens as a full live action movie I might have to give up once and for all on the Harry Potter franchise.
…That was this week’s BearSleuth Spontaneously Reviews (instead of a Comic History 101)!!! Check back on Saturday for a new BearSleuth Spoiler Free Comic Book Bundle!!!