A spoiler-full review of Harry Potter and the Cursed Child. Please don’t read this if you don’t want to have the play spoiled for you.
For spoiler-free commentary on the story, you can listen to my interview on CBC Radio as part of a panel discussing the anticipation of the play, and the outpouring of racism that followed the casting of a black actress to play Hermione.
For other HP goodies, have a look at my Open Love Letter to Hermione Granger, or read about my obsession with the Harry Potter audiobooks.
If you do keep reading, please remember to #KeepTheSecrets
HARRY: I don’t like small spaces and – I’ve never told anyone this, but I don’t much like – (he hesitates before saying it) pigeons.
After returning from a trip to western and northern Canada, I finally picked up a much-needed copy of the play Harry Potter and the Cursed Child Parts One and Two by John Tiffany and Jack Thorne, based on a story by J.K. Rowling. I couldn’t wait to get my hands on a book eight that I thought for so long would never be.
Although of course this wasn’t the HP8 I had imagined. When I’ve dreamed about Rowling returning to the Harry Potter series, I’ve thought she would either write a series about James and Lily’s days or pick up right where she left off immediately after the Battle of Hogwarts and fill in everything between then and the epilogue.
What I wasn’t expecting was a sequel that actually starts with the epilogue. I often pretend the epilogue doesn’t exist when I read Deathly Hallows because, although I love the book, the ending always feels incomplete to me, and the epilogue does nothing to answer my questions (maybe I’ll write a rant-post on my burning HP questions some day).
The main theme of the story is time. And I must say the plot gets insane with the amount of time travel that takes place. Time travel is an extremely complicated literary technique, and all things considered I think the writers did a good job of making the story make sense given this bold approach.
Rowling made sure to destroy all of the Time-Turners in Order of the Phoenix after introducing the tool in Prisoner of Azkaban. This was an important and very deliberate decision because once the audience knew that time travel was possible in this universe, questions began to explode and possibilities became far too limitless.
In Cursed Child, Minister for Magic Hermione Granger is keeping one last Time-Turner in her office, which 14-year-old best friends Scorpius Malfoy (Draco Malfoy’s son) and Albus Severus Potter (Harry Potter’s son) manage to get their hands on, assisted by Amos Diggory’s supposed niece, Delphi. The main motivation for using the Time-Turner is to go back to 1995 and make sure that Cedric never gets killed by Voldemort. The idea comes to Albus after he overhears an elderly and grief-stricken Amos Diggory implore Harry to investigate the rumours that a Time-Turner might still be in existence, and if so use it to save Cedric. Albus and Scorpius decide to take these matters into their own hands, mostly out of Albus’ desire to impress his father after feeling like he’s disappointed him for years.
Albus and Scorpius learn the hard way the cost of messing with time. They go back to 1994 and 1995 several times in attempt to save Cedric and in doing so create alternate realities. When you go back that far, you can only stay for five minutes, before the Time-Turner takes you back to the present. But whatever present the Time-Turner takes you back to can be drastically altered by just a few actions. Also, every action that you perform in the past cannot be erased, it is irreversible. In order to change an action in the past you must go back to the point in which the change happened, and somehow block it.
Throughout their time travels, Albus and Scorpius create universes where Hermione and Ron are not married, erasing the existence of Albus’ cousins, and one much darker one in which Harry is dead, Albus doesn’t exist and Voldemort has prevailed. Scorpius heroically gets out of this one by finding Hermione, leader of the resistance, and convincing her to help him fix his errors in 1995 to ensure that they can put the present and future right. With the help and sacrifice of Snape and brilliance of Hermione, they are able to correct the boys’ mistakes.
Finally, things turn bleakest when Delphi takes Albus and Scorpius back to 1981, right before Harry’s parents’ murder, and destroys the Time-Turner, leaving them stuck there. Albus and Scorpius manage to ingeniously leave a message for Harry in the future, and Harry, Ginny, Ron, Hermione and Draco all end up together in 1981 with the boys, and with Delphi, thanks to a secret Time-Turner of Draco’s. We then learn that Delphi is the cursed child; a love-child between Bellatrix Lestrange and Voldemort, born before the Battle of Hogwarts in which both of her parents died. She had confunded Diggory to get her hands on a Time-Turner and go back in time to meet her father, hoping to prevent him from trying to kill Harry which would ultimately lead to Voldemort’s downfall.
Harry ends up defeating Delphi and shortly after witnesses his parents’ murder, knowing that they have to die in order for him to live to destroy Voldemort. The main message of the story then of course becomes that we must accept death and loss in the world and move forward to make a better future.
I found the story itself to be, for lack of a better word, cute. It was a nice send-up to fans of the books, though will never have the same pull for me as the original stories. It was interesting to see Harry struggle as a parent in his 30s and 40s, and so touching to see his relationship with Ginny and her support of him.
Rowling once again does an amazing job of tapping into headstrong adolescence; Albus doesn’t really care that is father is THE Harry Potter, nor that Draco Malfoy was his enemy, hence his friendship with Scorpius. He doesn’t fully appreciate the sacrifices that Harry has had to make, partly because Harry has protected him from some dark truths. Albus lives in a peaceful world, thanks to his parents and aunt and uncle, which means he doesn’t appreciate what the previous generation had to go through for him. It’s nice to see Harry and Albus connect toward the end of the story. Albus learns a lot of tough lessons in messing with time, but he comes to appreciate some of his father’s trauma and grief in doing so.