Any person taking on the task of writing additional content for a beloved book series has to have nerves of steel, especially in the age of social media. For that, I applaud Jack Throne and John Tiffany for even daring to wade into the world of Harry Potter. If we can use a recent example, think of the backlash that came with the announcement and subsequent release of Go Set A Watchman, the sequel to Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird. For the purposes of full disclosure, I cannot fully remove myself from this wave of criticism, having made my hatred of the Goblet of Fire movie well known among my acquaintances. I was (and still am) nervous about the expansion beyond the original seven books. After reading (and peeking pre-publication) I have not yet decided if my nerves are much sated.
Like an over excited kid at Christmas, I couldn’t wait to read the play. Using my good friend Google, I was able to find on someone’s blog a pretty good synopsis of parts one and two of the plays. Having read that, I cannot now say whether I would have been happier or angrier at the play if I had come to it with innocence and ignorance. I think probably more of the latter because there are still parts that made me angry, even knowing that they were coming. I have a love/hate relationship with this play. Let me tell you why. Please consider this your spoiler warning. You read on at your own peril.
First off imagine a giant angry emoticon) time travel, really? Unending vistas of possible fantasy plots, and they have to use one that has become threadbare from overuse, even making an appearance in the Potterverse before now? At least, when we see it used in Azkaban, it was for consequences of life and death, not because some kid was mad at his dad. (Be quiet about the irresponsible use for school lessons, will you, I’m trying to make a point here!) Lazy is what I would call the time travel idea, amateurish would be the word for the three or more forays into the past. As a lifelong devil’s advocate, however, I would be remiss in my duties if I did not make a counterargument. The fan in me wants to rage and scream for the above stated reasons, but I know that in reality, J.K. Rowling may have wanted to be done with this story when she finished Deathly Hallows, but caved to pressure. By making this a time travel story, she allowed for it to be self-contained. Once Albus and Scorpius repaired the original timeline, the story is done, no wholly new villain to work out motivations for, no plot threads to dangle out and fray the nerves. She can move on, now.
Some have called Cursed Child sanctioned fan fiction. I therefore feel no compunction in berating Mr. Throne for thieving my idea! That he would lean heavily on Goblet of Fire makes sense because that was the midpoint of the series, where there was a huge twist in Voldemort’s return. Harry should have died by Voldemort’s calculations, Cedric should not have. That things turned out the way they did changed a lot, as we see in one of the many trips into the past. It was interesting, if not nice, to see Amos Diggory, haggard though he was. Harry lied, not unheard of for his character (“he invented wildly’ was somewhere in the books), but still feels sour. I did not like it in the reading, but after some time to reflect, I think it makes sense. He wanted to cut off any further discussion of this dangerous weapon. Harry is not Dumbledore, but he has his moments. He’s not a teenager or young adult anymore. He is a man of forty with even more years under his belt in which to acquire knowledge and wisdom. I don’t like the lie, but I understand it. And we must remember that the Potter books were very good at colouring actions by the point of view character and the conversation between Diggory and harry was heard by Albus while he was mad at his father.
Closer to the hate part on the love/hate continuum: I cannot stand the Voldemort part of the storyline, from Harry’s scar hurting again down to Delphini. For one thing, wasn’t Harry’s scar hurting a symptom of the Horcrux trying to free itself and reunite with Voldemort? If that was the case, shouldn’t the pain have stopped? Or was it phantom pain, only remembered in Harry’s dream? (A reread may be required). That the mother of a child by Voldemort was Bellatrix would make sense. That Voldemort had a child at all does not. Correct me if I am misremembering, but I am sure Rowling said that Voldemort had never been in a sexual relationship with anyone (kudos to the person who had the cajones to ask that, by the way). But, I hear you saying, she could have changed her mind. You are correct, and she is well within her rights to do so. One thing you cannot deny is the revulsion at the thought of Voldemort and Bellatrix doing the nasty is just . . . . well, nasty. Squick-o-meter has broken. Let’s assume we’ve showered the Squick away, and imagine that Delphini was the product of some sort of immaculate (satanic?) conception, it brings up the importance of the nature/nurture debate. Was she inherently evil because her parents were, or was she evil because of how she was raised? Conundrums of a philosophical turn do go out the window, when the expected and horrifying murder of a student issues from her hands.
The Malfoys: Scorpius was the best character in the play, hands down. Totally unlike his father, he was funny and a great partner in crime to Albus. He was basically the Ron of the play. It was refreshing to see that he was not an arrogant prat like his father. And in the turn back of time where Harry was dead, we see that perhaps Albus’s influence was a good thing. In writing this, I have reversed another opinion that I had about the Draco storyline and the silliness of Scorpius’s parentage. I would love to know where Lucius is – is he back in Azkaban? Probably. I’m sure he would hate the fact that his son was chumming around with Harry Potter, and that his grandson was best friends with Albus. I also think that Lucius would be torn, at least, to think that his son was not capable of producing an heir. We know how serious Mr. Lucius Malfoy took his family’s purity of blood. I did not like that they tried to wrap up the old feud between Harry and Draco by all of a sudden having them look at each other ‘as friends.’ To be friendly and civil, fine. Anything else is just eye rolling and frustrating.
I am channeling Back to the Future here, I’m sure, but a thought: instead of having all this back and forth nonsense with them weaving in and out of the past, have Delphini show up at the same time and work with the boys to get that time turner. Then she could steal it almost at once and drag them into the past where they would interact with James and Lily. They could share what happens in the future. But, I know you are asking, how would we solve the potential paradox (would Lily have been able to save Harry if she knows he survives?) by having Harry have to modify their memories or something, so they don’t know he was there. Then we could have had an awesome moment of real interaction with them. I want to write this now, but MUST NOT . . . must not . . .
For a Potter story, I give it a couple of wands up. It is fun and mostly lighthearted (at least until the Voldemort stuff comes in). A book would have been better, but it does give me another very good reason for trying to get to London. I must see the play before I can give a less biased opinion on the matter.