Harry Potter and the Cursed Child: A Review (or, Why Scorpius Malfoy saved the play and Holy Crap Voldemort’s a Daddy)

Hello friends! It’s been a while. I have to say, I’ve written about a few random topics here and there, and I’ve always felt like I needed to establish some kind of theme for my blog and write consistently about those topics. But then I figured, that’s an awful lot of planning and I’d rather just write more often, about whatever came to mind, and maybe a theme will arise organically. And so, I decided I’d pick this back up and give my take on Harry Potter and the Cursed Child.

**This review contains spoilers. Don’t say I didn’t warn you!

First impressions

It had been a while since I read the series from beginning to end, let alone the final book (or penultimate book now, I suppose), but I thought picking up right at the epilogue was a great way to open the play. The play is well-written, with catchy dialogue and a shapely plot. The story drew me in and kept me on my toes. But, the voices of the characters don’t quite reflect the characters we’d come to know and love in the original seven books, so it felt a little jarring reading their lines and trying to fit the characters into their new voices. I think the play could have better captured the personalities of the trio, especially with Ron. Ron’s character was reduced to “goofy dad whose sole purpose is to provide comic relief.” His characterization reads more like Movie Ron than Book Ron. While Ron is goofy and silly, he’s also loyal, kind, and selfless–it’s tough being the best friend of The Boy Who Lived, and yet Ron stands by Harry throughout their years at Hogwarts. I missed these aspects of Ron’s character in the play.

Pros

Scorpius Malfoy: He was easily the greatest character in the book. If there’s one reason I’ll accept Cursed Child as canon, it is because of Scorpius. Scorpius is a character who has had it tough his entire life–he has grown up under the shadow of his family legacy, he’s lost his mother, and he and his father are alienated from the wizarding community. Yet, Scorpius isn’t jaded or cynical or dark. Instead, he is kind, optimistic, forgiving, smart as a whip, and proudly geeky. He doesn’t resent his father for shielding him from the outside world; he understands why his father does it. He doesn’t feel vengeful towards his classmates who shun him and tease him; he grows a thick skin and brushes off their insults. And, he selflessly helps Albus with Albus’s own problems, even though Scorpius has struggles of his own. Scorpius shows that his past and his family don’t define him, and yet he also loves his family and doesn’t try to distance himself from them. In some respects, he represents the best parts of Harry’s and Malfoy’s characters.

The fallout from the Second Wizarding War: I really appreciated how life post-war was portrayed for the characters. Things didn’t just go back to normal, and the world didn’t suddenly just get fixed. The characters have emotional scars from the war, and it affects their families. While Albus can come across as surly and bitter, it’s not unreasonable for him to be this way. He has had a legacy thrust upon him that he never asked for and that he doesn’t quite know how to carry. He simultaneously feels pride and resentment towards his father, and, like his father, he doesn’t quite know how to work through these emotions. Albus’s characterization represents a very human reaction to his circumstances. Cursed Child carries on the trend of the original seven books, where although the characters are witches and wizards, at their core they are still human and face struggles that magic can’t fix.

Cons

Time-travel: I’m certainly not the first person to point this out. I just have to ask, Why???? Why didn’t JKR abide by the original time-travel portrayal from Book 3? In the original series, time-travel is a closed loop, meaning past events are fixed and cannot be changed. It’s why Harry and Hermione see themselves in the events that already happened (like punching Malfoy, or conjuring the Patronus). When they go back in time, it’s like they’re going back to a rerun of events that have already transpired, and they are separate from it. Yet, in Cursed Child, time-travel is portrayed as a ripple effect, (the alternate reality time-travel plot). One small change affects past and future events, thus creating alternate realities, like one in which Cedric becomes a Death Eater and Voldemort wins the war. It feels way too much like a ripoff of Back to the Future Part II, and the Harry Potter series deserves better. Color me disappointed.

Developing a strange, implausible plot to explore the central conflicts of the book, and Voldemort’s “daughter,” Delphi: The central conflict in Cursed Child isn’t an external danger, like Voldemort in the original seven (although the conflict with Voldemort does represent a variety of human struggles). Instead, the conflict is more internal and emotional. It’s between Harry and his son. It’s about their inability to understand each other. It’s about Albus’s struggle as he tries to make a name for himself under the shadow of his father. It’s between Draco and his son, and their struggle to escape the rumors surrounding them. These are the new challenges that the characters face after the war. I didn’t think it was necessary to explore these conflicts within some kind of time-travelling adventure, nor did I think it was necessary to introduce a new Voldemort-like enemy. What the characters deal with outside of Delphi is more than enough to craft a great story, and frankly, the whole explanation about Voldemort’s daughter doesn’t make sense and leaves a lot of questions. The Voldemort era is over, and that chapter is best left untouched. Why not explore other conflicts within the wizarding world that are not Voldemort? Why not make this story more centered on the lives of the characters, and less so on this weird adventure with an implausible enemy? I would have found that a much more compelling and believable story.

Overall Thoughts

I love the Harry Potter books, and I’ll read anything JKR publishes. Plus, I’m sure seeing the play is an entirely new, breathtaking experience. The script is meant for the stage, so that does take away from your experience reading it, but the story is interesting enough to keep you turning the page. The play has its pros and cons, and I think if JKR had written this as a book, it might have answered a lot more of my questions and would have felt like a smoother transition (and an actual eighth story). Personally, the story feels a little like fan fiction, and it’s hard to consider it canon. Still, I wouldn’t say I don’t recommend reading it. If you’re curious about the new book, it is still worth picking up and reading it for yourself. Read it, enjoy it, but perhaps consider it something separate from the original seven. For me, Harry’s story ends at these words: “All was well.”

 

 

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