(Throwback Thursday) Harry Potter and the Cursed Child: A Spork Review (Part 4 of 4)

December 8, 2017

 

We’ve made it to the finish line, friends, and wow am I happy to get there. 


Let’s move through this as smoothly as we’re able. 

 

With everyone realizing that Voldemort and stupid time shenanigans are a legit threat now, an “Extraordinary General Meeting” is called at the Ministry, and I laugh because that doesn’t sound at all serious and ominous, it sounds like something from Kindergarten. “Class! Every day we have our normal meeting, but today there’s an EXTRAORDINARY meeting!” Bring out the milk and PB&Js.  

 

The meeting is entirely useless though because they determine that they can’t do anything to stop Delphi when she’s “out of their reach” in time. Things nevertheless get heated and there are some attacks on Harry. Hermoine stands by him. Ginny stands by him. As does Ron, though he gets to ineloquently stutter out that he a) doesn’t really know what’s going on (“I didn’t know about much of it”), b) he’s thus totally blameless  (“so I can’t take responsibility”), c) he reminds the audience that his kids are just not in this play (“I’m pretty sure my kids had nothing to do with it”), and d) reduces his loyalty to a ‘screw it’ moment (“but if this lot are standing up here then so am I”). 

 

I can’t stress how much this Ron is not my Ron. 

 

Then even Draco joins them, which is described as an “almost Spartacus moment. There are gasps.” 

 

The meeting ends with the note that if Delphi succeeds they’ll all just cease to exist. So lol good luck there.

 

We return to Albus and Scropius where Scropius gets multiple lines talking about how complicated Albus and Harry are. In case I need to remind anyone: muddled, inconsistent, and illogical characterization does not equal “complicated.” And “complicated” is not a catch-all for “interesting” or “deep.” This is basically the 50s’ high school girl swooning over the sexist jock going, ‘Oh, he’s so complicated!’ because he likes to stare broodily into the distance. 


That is Harry and Albus. Brooding. For no real, established reason. 

 

But let’s move on. 

 

The boys realize that Delphi must have taken them to this date (October 30th, 1981) to try and prevent the first prophecy. “The big one” as they refer to it. Scorpius has his own moment of angst saying, “It’s my fault. I told [Delphi] that prophecies can be broken – I told her the whole logic of prophecies is questionable.” 

 

Okay, kid. Not to blow up your confidence or anything, but I think the all-powerful, evil witch who’s nearly a decade your senior might know a little more about this than you. 

 

Also, this is another strange contradiction in the text. We’ve got two prophecies going on – this original one with Harry and the new one with Albus – but we keep going back and forth between which can be broken, which is set in stone, and not even a consideration as to what happens to the second prophecy if Delphi manages to mess with the first. 

 

Listen. I have written really shitty time travel stories. I have had readers go, “This was enjoyable I guess…but this part doesn’t make any sense at all…” and they’re right. The difference is I was writing fic while in school and long story short, the canonical stories that you’re being paid to produce for a theater should stand up better than my hastily written scribbles. 

 

And this doesn’t.  

 

Anyway… so Albus and Scropius run off to Harry’s childhood home which… makes absolutely no sense. Whatever happened to the Fidelius Charm?? Don’t give me, ‘Albus and Scorpius already know about the house so it works!’ because no, the entire point is that you can only reach the location if you’ve been given the info by the Secret Keeper. Otherwise it is, “invisible, intangible, unplottable, and soundproof” (HP Wiki). Seriously, think about how easy it would be to find these people if anyone could go, “Oh yeah. The Potter’s live in Godric’s Hollow” and you were just able to wander around until you spotted them. The Fidelius charm would be useless. Yet the boys not only see the house but also watch as a “young, attractive couple leave [it] with a baby in a pushchair.” 

 

Also – and this is admittedly my own interpretation – but I sort of assumed that the Potters would stay in their house. You know, the one protected by the charm. Like how Harry was supposed to stay at Privet Drive when things got bad. Or how Sirius was literally under house arrest. But no, they just wander out for a nice walk… The number of gaping plot holes here is mind-boggling. 

 

We head back to Harry where he has a conversation with Dumbledore’s portrait at the Ministry. That have an ‘emotional’ moment that I frankly didn’t care about because this whole play has been shit. Harry says that he’s “proved as bad a father to [Albus] as you were to me. Leaving him in places he felt unloved—” which presumably means Hogwarts?? Again, we’re given NO evidence that Albus is suffering at school, beyond the normal teenage angst and a few throw away lines about how being Harry Potter’s son is so hard. Yet everyone acts like Harry has abused him by sending him off to the best Wizarding school in the world. 

 

He continues yelling at Dumbledore for leaving him at Privet Drive and Dumbledore starts crying (again with giving us moments we already got from the books…). He says he loved Harry. Harry loved him too, even though Dumbledore claims he is “no fit person to love… I have never loved without causing harm.” 

 

Wow, uh… heavy handed much? That’s the sort of line I’d expect from an indulgent H/C fic, not coming from a supposedly in-character man who’s old enough to realize that things aren’t quite that black and white. 

Also, of course, we don’t actually deal with Dumbledore’s self-loathing. Instead we just get: 

 

“I loved you too, Dumbledore.” 

 

“I know.” 

 

 

 

(Please tell me I wasn’t the only one to think that.) 

 

Draco stops by to talk about how as a kid he just wanted to be happy and play Quidditch and blah blah blah but wait! Lol hey, Harry. Did I mention that the Time Turner Nott had was just a prototype? And I have the real one? It was made for my father who “liked owning things that no one else had” and it’s the PERFECT plot device because there’s no “five-minute problem” attached to this one. It even “gleams like gold, just the way Malfoys like it.” Isn’t that neat? 

 

(I need a drink after this recap.)

 

(Nah, scratch that. I personally need chocolate.) 

 

(But the rest of you: feel free to drink!) 

 

They can’t actually do anything with Malfoy’s perfect Time Turner though because they don’t know where the boys ended up. So instead they just talk about how Astoria died having Scorpius and Draco hid him away. They talk about how (AGAIN) “love blinds” without explaining wtf that means in this context. How Hermione kept the first time turner because she must have suspected that another one existed and—wait How does that make sense? If Time Turners are so dangerous that they need to be destroyed, then she should have just destroyed that one and kept looking for the other! How does keeping the first help you find the second??

 

Ugh. 

 

Back with the boys. They determine that they need to “talk to the future” and send Harry a message. Their brilliant plan? 

 

“Stand over the baby – and just repeatedly shout HELP. HELP. HELP” so that Harry will hopefully remember that later in life. They do decide that’s stupid though, especially since it might “traumatize the baby slightly.”  

 

They see Harry with his blanket though. “Look at the love with which [Lily] put it on him” has got to be the stupidest, most awkward line I’ve ever read. Yes, every mother is draping blankets over their child with movements just oozing with love, perfect for the random boys looking for convenient, sentimental objects. Or, you know, they’re just tossing the blankets down because they’ve got other shit to do. 

 

But the blanket gives them an actual idea. A stupidly complicated, plot-hole ridden idea: They’ll break into Bathilda Bagshot’s house (which just happens to be next door). They’ll steal Demiguise (presumably the hair or something rather than the whole beast?). They will write a message on Harry’s blanket with the Demiguise… whatever. He will then look at it on October 30th in his time because he’ll nedd to hold the blanket on that night of all nights (did Harry actually tell Albus this??). And he’ll see the message because the Demiguis will just CONVENIENTLY interact with the love potion Albus spilled on it earlier in the play.

 

Though the million-dollar question is: how the hell do Albus and Scropius get the blanket? Is this mentioned? (That’s a serious question – I honestly might have missed this). But as far as I’m aware we skip right to Harry finding the message and, you know… secret keeper house… blanket around baby Harry…baby Harry is with his parents… Scropius and Albus can’t be seen by them… yet they somehow accomplished all this… 

 

O__O 

 

Whatever. The point is Harry DOES find the message while crying to Ginny that he’s gotten everyone killed. It can’t just be a shocking moment though. We need more Ron bashing first. Harry yells at him because his love potion “burnt through [the blanket]” before he realizes that there are actual words written there. 

 

They realize where the boys are, so Ron, Hermione, Draco, Harry, and Ginny all head to Godric’s Hollow. 

Ron feels the need to insult Draco along the way. Because again, he is reduced to prejudice and bad comedic timing. Hermione yells at him. He compliments Draco’s hair instead. “Thank you, husband.”

 

(What am I reading?) 

 

They use Draco’s bad plot device I MEAN the time turner to reunite with the boys. There’s an Albus/Ginny hug and an awkward Scorpius/Draco hug. 

 

They then decide to hang out in the church and wait for Delphi to appear. These next few pages are filled with time related puns that… aren’t actually played off as puns in the narrative. Awkward. 

 

Ginny and Harry have another heart-to-heart about how Albus doesn’t feel Harry’s love (this is seriously getting old) and how Harry needs to show him specific, personal love because he’s HARRY POTTER and he’d apparently do anything for anyone.

 

This is blatantly untrue though? Harry saves the world and stuff, yeah, but throughout the books he’s very much geared towards saving/loving his close friends at the expense of everyone else around him. 

 

Maybe play!Harry remembers a little of what it was like to be book!Harry because he tells Ginny, “I do love him specifically.” But apparently Albus needs to SEE that. How exactly he’ll accomplish that isn’t said. Harry just needs to do MORE. Somehow. For reasons that are never explained. 

 

(Seriously, did no one point out that this kid is a teenager and he’s supposed to be moody towards his parents? It would have saved a lot of time.)

 

But we have to cut the bonding short. They realize that Delphi isn’t here to kill baby Harry, she’s here to stop Voldemort from trying to kill him at all, hence allowing him to keep his body, Harry never becomes part Horocrux, etc. etc. They decide that the ONLY WAY to stop her is to pretend to be Voldemort (really?) but they don’t have a piece of him to use in Polyjuice… that they don’t have on them…and sure as hell wouldn’t have time to brew…What they can do though is just transfigure someone to look like Voldemort! Because apparently that’s a viable option now! 

 

Ron thinks he should do it because he’s the “most chilled out of all of us” and it will “do less damage” to him. Yeah, maybe to you. Pretty sure book!Ron would have a hard time being Voldemort. Though again, why transfiguring to look like someone suddenly has these big, potentially devastating consequences isn’t explained. Even Polyjuce doesn’t make you INTO the person emotionally, morally, etc. This is just dress up, friends, chill out. 

 

OH WAIT it’s apparently because they might get stuck like him forever and SINCE WHEN IS THIS A THING? 

They decide Ron can’t do it though because this is a mission that requires “precision – no offense, Ron” (I take full offense) and Harry of course is the one to step forward, because he’s Harry and also because he might need to speak Parseltongue to Delphi. Because remember he can speak it again. Despite his connection to Voldemort being gone. It’s available For Reasons. 

 

So Albus tells Draco to trust Harry and Harry is “moved” by this. Draco is “mildly enjoying” being bossed around by Hermione. They all go off to hide while Voldemort!Harry waits for Delphi. 

 

She arrives, then explains how she’s the child of Voldemort and Bellatrix, born in Malfoy Manner. (What exactly is the timeline here because lol this seems kind of messy…) Harry tells her that speaking in Parseltongue isn’t enough proof of her parentage so Delphi FLIES again. Harry says, “you learnt – flight – from – me?” to which Delphi sort of agrees and again this makes NO SENSE, it’s not like Voldemort was alive to teach her? Even if non-broom flight was a thing? This whole plot point is ridiculous. She also says, “I am the Augurey to your Dark Lord” like this weird bird is still supposed to make sense to us— WHY am I still reading this play. 

 

Harry suddenly starts changing back to his original form. Again For Reasons. Delphi realizes he’s not Voldemort, but Draco and everyone can’t help because she seals the church doors shut. They fight. Albus squeezes through a grate (pretty sure they’re not that big…) and he lets everyone else out. Harry announces that, “I’ve never fought alone, you see. And I never will.” 

 

(So moving) 

 

Delphi is defeated and suddenly turns all meek and supposedly sympathetic—she just wanted to meet her father. I really can’t think of a less compelling villain than her. Honestly. 

 

Harry won’t kill her of course, they’ll just take her to Azkaban in their own time. Everything is great… until the real Voldemort arrives. 

 

Stage direction: “He brings death with him. And everyone knows it.” 

 

Lol except they’re staying out of sight to avoid messing with the time stream. Literally no one is in danger here. 

Oh, except for Lily and James of course. Harry decides that he HAS to witness their deaths, so everyone else does too. They look up at the Potter’s window: 

 

“I see my mother, she looks beautiful.” 

 

The fact that we’re talking about a woman’s physical desirability while she is literally being MURDERED makes me want to barf. How about she’s so brave? She’s so courageous? She’s so loving? Literally anything else??

Harry collapses after she’s killed. No shit. 

 

They head back to their time and we the audience get the scene of Hagrid finding baby Harry. Hagrid is probably the only character they didn’t mess up and that’s because he was on stage for all of thirty seconds. Still, him laying crumpled flowers from his coat pocket onto the debris is a very Hagrid thing to do. 

And the plot is complete. We get what amounts to the epilogue. 

 

Scorpius asks Rose out, only to be turned down. But it’s fine because he “planted the acorn. The acorn that will grow into our eventual marriage.” It’s a BIG step because she doesn’t hate him now, she just pities him. Scorpius is fine with the fact that she will take “years to persuade.” 

 

Newsflash: YOU DON’T ‘PERSUADE’ WOMEN TO LIKE YOU. WE’RE NOT ANIMALS YOU TRAIN UNTIL WE’LL HAVE SEX WITH YOU. 

 

But of course Rose saunters up then and says hello, reassuring the audience that yes, this creepy stalker boy will eventually get the girl who hates him to marry him instead. All is right when the plot ends on forced heterosexuality. 


Also a December/May heterosexuality! Scorpius teases Albus about how he likes the new “smoky-eyed potions professor.” Ew.  

 

Harry and Albus walk to Cedric’s grave where Harry says ridiculous stuff to him like how he had to “mentally be rid of [Voldemort]” (what exactly did you do to be rid of him?), he admits that what he said to Albus was “unforgivable” (truth), and how he doesn’t like pigeons?? The two of them bond because both their childhoods were “constant struggles.” 

 

How? HOW is Albus’ childhood a “constant struggle”? We have no evidence of anything being awful for this boy except for the drama he creates.

 

Albus says he wanted to murder Delphi and he wonders if that’s his Slytherin side talking. Harry reminds him that he has a good heart, but otherwise doesn’t correct the assumption that only a Slytherin would be a killer wow. 

 

Basically the narrative tells us that Harry and Albus can bond now because Albus has saved the world. You’re not anything, kids, unless you’re a very specific type of hero! 

 

We end with them thinking it’s going to be a nice day.

 

I have not had a nice day reading this. 

 

Favorite lines from the final Act:  

 

  • Describing the dead Craig with “He was a good boy” like some sort of vaguely loved mutt. 

  • “Your solidarity is admirable, but it doesn’t make your negligence negligible” (Negligence negligible…) 

  • “Oh my, that’s her. Wow. Squeak. My geekness is a-quivering.” (WHAT) 

  • “I couldn’t see that you needed to hear that this closed-off, tricky, dangerous old man… loved you.” (Dumbledore stop you sound like a pedophile who swallowed a thesaurus). 

  • “Still, if I had to choose a companion to be at the return of eternal darkness with, I’d choose you.” (Put this on a Birthday card). 

  • On Uncle Ron: “He’s a funny guy.” (STOP) 

  • “There is a big pause filled with pure unhappiness.” (Yeah, you mean HP fans reading this text). 

  • “Nasty, pecky, dirty things.” (Wtf did pigeons ever do to you, Harry?) 

  • “And the two of them – just slightly – melt together.” (This is the true curse of Albus Severus Potter. At the end of the play he is doomed to fuse with his father and can never truly be himself ever again…) 

 

Alright. That’s technically the whole thing. The only other point I’d like to mention – and this has been brought up in nearly every review I’ve seen, good or bad – is how Cursed Child is supposedly “like fanfiction.” 

 

Except it’s really not. 

 

Fanfiction, for all its flaws, is written by people who are not paid for their work. This is a huge consideration and one we often tend to forget, or even overlook. These writers put aside vast amounts of time to create something for free. And despite it being 2016, they still deal with the backlash of being a “fangirl” (buying into gender assumptions here). Of living in a “fantasy world.” Of “messing” with someone else’s creations. Even the WORST fics out there (and again, these are often written by young people, people who don’t use English as their first language, people just starting to write, etc.) beats out Cursed Child for the simple reason that it is fic, and Cursed Child is not. We expect more of Cursed Child given its context—and we should.

 

More than that though, fic is actually better! It’s SO much better! Listen, we as a fandom have been having conversations about Harry Potter for YEARS. Through fic and metas and vids we’ve worked through all of these tropes—time travel, Voldemort has a kid, Harry as a shitty father—and come to the conclusion that a lot of them just don’t work well. Because of who Harry is at his core. Because your lineage doesn’t make for a compelling, villainous arc. And because time travel, though often beloved, is just like any other narrative device: it’s only compelling if you follow the rules you’ve established for your world. That means time turners can’t suddenly have a new set of rules that contradicts Prisoner of Azkaban. There can’t be gaping questions left unanswered. That your story actually has to hold together. We as a fandom have discovered all this and allowed our writing to grow because of it. 

 

Perhaps the biggest issue though is that I get the sense that these authors wouldn’t be very open to the statement, ‘Hey. There are a lot of issues with this piece and though I know you’ve worked really hard on it, it needs to be rebuilt from the ground up,’ because that’s generally what happens to big, successful, often corporate authors: they get obstinate, and they lose track of the conversation. Those who don’t listen to their audience are eventually bound to lose it. The fact that this play is not only riddled with plot holes and bad characterization, but also fundamentally lacking in diversity is a HUGE flaw. It tells me that Rowling and her co-authors haven’t listened to anything we’ve said in the last decade. 

 

Which is where fic comes back in. We do listen to one another, provided that the criticism is constructive rather than flaming. That’s why when my readers tell me I used ableist language (no matter my intent) I try to avoid said language in the future, or at the very least give trigger warnings for it. Or why I always revise for grammar and language corrections left in the comments. And yes, when someone says, “This time travel thing really doesn’t work” I try to keep that in mind when I write my next time travel fic. I’m attempting to learn from my mistakes. I’m not even sure these authors would admit that there are mistakes to begin with.

 

Maybe I’m wrong. I certainly hope so. 

 

My point is that this was not a well-constructed story, and the people who craft amazing stories for free shouldn’t have their work compared to it. Especially as an insult.  

 

But that’s just me. 

 

Regardless, now that I’ve read and reviewed Cursed Child… I’m going to promptly forget I ever read and reviewed it. 

 

Play? What play?

 

Thanks for reading! <3 

 

 

 

 

Image Credit

 

Cursed Child Image:  http://www.playbill.com/article/harry-potter-and-the-cursed-child-confirms-broadway-opening-night-date-and-theatre

 

Star Wars GIF: https://jupiter2.tumblr.com/post/136426949883

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