Nearly two months after the release of the much-anticipated play transcript, “The Cursed Child,” the magic is all but gone from the world of Harry Potter.
Set more than 19 years after the end of “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows,” the play further introduces and develops the children of Harry Potter, Ginny Weasley, Ron Weasley, Hermione Granger and Draco Malfoy as they take center stage in a quest through time and history. All the while, familiar heroes explore the demons that continue to haunt them.
In a tweet from J.K. Rowling on June 29, 2015, the best-selling author said the story should be considered canon, adding that she, along with Jack Thorne and John Tiffany, the play’s writer and director, respectively, developed it together.
That this work now exists as fact in the beloved world of Hogwarts is not only disappointing, but also feels like an attempt to cash in on fan-fiction.
The foundation of Harry Potter was that, despite the wizardry, everything always seemed rooted in reality. It was an immersive and captivating world that blurred reality into a world of magic and fantasy. This was a world in which certain rules balanced out and contextualized Rowling’s vivid imagination.
Rowling, Thorne and Tiffany, in a single poorly written, poorly arced play, somehow managed to completely erode that foundation and upset the entire Harry Potter universe. The saddest component is the havoc this release has wrought upon the beloved wolrd of wizardry in which so many of us dreamed of growing up.
One source of havoc is the prominent role of the time tuner, a powerful time-travelling device. In an interview regarding the third book in the series, “Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban,” Rowling addressed her creation of the time turner and how she regretted developing it without a second thought as to the long-term potential consequences. She stated that she rectified these issues by having Hermione return her time turner coupled with Dumbledore’s monologue emphasizing the danger of time travel.
In contrast to Rowling’s lighthearted exploration of time travel in the original seven books, she fully immerses the reader in the concept in the “The Cursed Child,” staging the time turner as the focal point of the story.
Rowling makes a strange choice at the start concerning the relationship between the two main characters. Albus Severus Potter and Scorpius Malfoy, the two main characters in the play and children of Harry and Draco, respectively, experience three years of Hogwarts in the first few pages, placing them in their transformative fourth year for most of the story. Their friendship, one many have analyzed as being more than just a typical guys-being-guys relationship, is the crux of the story. Never one for the easy route or the safe play, Rowling could have made Albus and Scorpius dynamic characters. Instead, both characters are static as Albus has a chip on his shoulder and Scorpius serves as an ever-present voice of reason.
The reductionist stereotyping and archetyping hardly stop at the protagonists. The main villain of the story, Delphi, is so obviously the femme fatale that she might as well have been named Jezebel. Further, the twist that comes with her character shakes up the established canon so aggressively that it serves to undermine the preceding 19 years of careful characterization.
It is easy to pick on the new characters and compare them to the literary perfection that is Rowling’s original roster of wizards and witches. However, the contributions of familiar characters should, in theory, be enough to overlook the comically awful new characters. Unfortunately, the old characters are somehow even more poorly written than the new ones.
Harry flirts with the prospect of being an absentee father, while retaining the angst that typified his younger self. Hermione easily could have been replaced with an encyclopedia for the wizarding world without much effect, except for when she makes an uncharacteristic mistake that exacerbates the climax. While this twist adds excitement, it feels as though the writers had simply run out of other ideas.
The only redeeming quality to any character in the play is Ginny’s resemblance of a good parent, and her show of genuine concern for her son.
Unfortunately, Ginny’s care comes far too little and much too late. Emotion is not only absent in the characters, however, as the play lacks any emotional connection to the original seven novels. For a story that leaves its readers with more questions than answers, it is best for anyone who loves the Harry Potter series to leave this last page in the Harry Potter story unturned.
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