Last month I finally decided to read Harry Potter & The Cursed Child. And I was… unsure of how to feel by the end. I felt conflicted while reading it, not knowing whether I was enjoying it or not, and still couldn’t make heads or tails of how I felt about it after I had finished reading it. Nothing is more annoying than being perplexed about how you feel towards something. Gah! Regardless, I will push forward and highlight what stood out to me as things I felt were at the very least, worth mentioning.
When I finished reading Harry Potter & The Deathly Hallows I was sorely disappointed at the lack of Harry & Ginny moments throughout the series. So, I did what any sane person would do and vented to myself about how Rowling was never going to make another book again and ended up making myself sad at the prospect of not being able to see their relationship progress after the Battle of Hogwarts in the process.
Of course, I was bitter at the time skip decades later, because it takes a massive leap over further character and relationship dynamics that would’ve been more interesting (at least for me). Though, I do understand and accept that as a good finality to the series as a whole. However, when I heard the announcement about new Harry Potter books, I became ecstatic at the possibility of more friendship and relationship moments between characters sometime shortly after defeating Voldemort. Unfortunately, this was not the case. I had a feeling this wouldn’t be a prequel, but I persuaded myself with the hope of all hopes my fan cries would be heard across time and space. Alas, we are left with Harry Potter & The Cursed Child.
While not downright terrible, it does feel out of place in the series. One of the main reasons for this being that it is a screenplay. Not to diminish the value of screenplays, but jumping off the long wait from the last book, this is a disappointment in some areas. I will, however say that as someone only getting back into reading, the format makes for quite a quick read. I managed to finish it in under two days. Plus, the chapters are relatively short as well, and I’m someone who tends to lose interest in books with long chapters, so I’ll give it a thumbs on that front.
Fair warning, spoiler territory up ahead, as I will be mentioning pivotal parts in the story.
Harry’s son as the main protagonist and Malfoy’s son as the superior deuteragonist is an idea I can get behind, because the series has that mythos of Harry and Malfoy being bitter rivals for the longest time. So, to have their sons be friends and that be one of the main drives in the story is refreshing. Albus Potter was never going to be a repeat Harry Potter, and honestly, I’m glad that’s the case. But I did not care for him as a character. I do however, like the idea behind his character. He’s the youngest son of Harry Potter, the Chosen One and the Hero of Hogwarts. Brother to James and Lily Potter, named after two of the greatest wizards in the wizarding world: Albus Dumbledore and Severus Snape.
Being put on such a grand pedestal would be overwhelming for just about anyone, and it comes as no shock that Albus doesn’t live up to the hype around his reputation. Everyone expects him to be put in House Gryffindor, but is placed in House Slytherin instead. He’s best friends with Scorpius Malfoy, who I think is a much better character, but I’ll get to him in a second. And… there’s really nothing else to him, because the majority of the story is spent showing how different he is from his father and how uninteresting of a character Albus really is. Angsty teen through and through. And while there’s nothing inherently wrong with angsty characters, there is something to be said about making them into a one note song.
What’s so frustrating about him as a main character is that he is more of a source of conflict for the story than the actual villain lurking in the shadows. And you might think I’d concede that it’s the workings of master manipulator Delphi on her quest to revive her father, but she hardly does anything until the end. Albus is trying to prove something, that he can right his father’s wrongs and somehow that will make him better or something. I’m not entirely sure it’s wise for me to try and follow the mentality of a bitter and moody teenage fuck-up, which is his temperament down to a tee. I can’t stand characters, especially MCs whose ineptitude and stubborn, reckless idiotic decisions are the sole reason for the antagonism in the plot. Why can’t they just make a formidable and engaging villain for once? Ugh…
You see, I do think there is potential in an idea like this, and if it had been written as a book (by Rowling, preferably) I can see them fleshing the story out much better. And while I love seeing main characters fail and lose, I don’t like the ones who give up and give in to their self-loathing and depressing view of everything. Not that that can’t be done well enough for me to like it, but that’s not the case here. Albus fails at Quidditch and a lot of the things that made Harry great, but too much emphasis is placed on him as a failure of a son and on a more meta layer, a failure as a successor to the series. Whereas, a more nuanced way of going about things would be to have him begin as an excited wizard (instead of a worrisome recluse) enter Hogwarts with high confidence and then have a series of failures until he’s down in the dumps.
Then have Scorpius and Rose help raise his spirits and help find his calling or improve his ability in certain areas. And to add more conflict, throw in James to mess with him every now and then and near the end circle back around and create a situation where James develops as a character and helps Albus in some way. I haven’t thought much on this, that’s why I’m not detailing any outline or giving any specifics. But, I just feel there was so much missed potential in an idea like this, and I’m probably going to have sleepless nights where I find my mind flooded with alternative plot threads and character growths far more appealing and interesting to me.
Yet, I do have some good things to say about it, but before I get to that, a quick run-through of what I didn’t like. Albus, Harry and their relationship, Malfoy at the beginning (felt like it undercut a lot of implied character development from the end of Deathly Hallows), the alternate world where Hermione is a bitchy teacher and her life went south because she didn’t end up with Ron, (incidentally) Ron and what’s-her-face and their kid, portrait cameo Dumbledore, submissive McGonagall (but redeems herself in the library and at the end, so mostly just a momentary thing and not the character as a whole) and everything to do with Cedric Diggory. Yes, I did not care for the motivation behind the plot at all. I’ve watched, read and played through enough time travel stories to know weak reasons for going back in time and changing things annoy me to no-end.
Diggory’s dad is (decades later, mind you) begging Harry to use a time-turner to save his son, and of course Harry declines, because it’s a fucking idiotic thing to want someone to do. Some might pull the “family” or “sentiment” card as a counter-argument, but I don’t care. The books never made me invested in either of those characters to begin with. So, of course Albus overhears this and Diggory’s “niece” (plot twist in the shadows) joins him. Then the story centres around Albus, Scorpius and Delphi going back in time to save Cedric. And to no one’s surprise this turns out to be a bad idea, because it ends up creating several alternate timelines that get worse and worse until Scorpius is all alone in gloomsville.
Now, we get to the stuff I actually enjoyed. Rose is hardly in the story, but I like what little time she has and cannot forgive Albus from erasing her from the timeline, even though Scorpius brought her back by undoing their hijinx. Which brings me to Scorpius, who gets the MVP award for being the sensible one (he tries to talk Albus out of time travel, but goes along because he’s a great friend), the sympathetic one for his family woes (without the sappy self-pity party), and the commendable one for enduring that time travel horror show (future trauma ensured). Scorpius is way more fleshed out as a character than Albus, and I’m really glad that this was a two-protagonist story, because I don’t think I could’ve handled only experiencing the story through Albus. Speaking of which, the downtime moments with Harry and Ginny are okay, but again I’m a fanatic when it comes to their relationship, so anytime they spend together is going to be adored by me. Hermione as Head Minister was a nice touch too. Happy to see her in a high-ranking position.
Scorpius meeting Snape, as well as everything Snape says and does. My inner fan sprung to life at that moment. Essentially, everything after this moment in the story was either enjoyable or appreciable in some way. Would’ve loved to seen more, but I’ll take what extra time with Snape I can get (that sounded better in my head). Another thing I liked that sort of carries its way throughout the whole play, is the father-son dynamic between Draco and Scorpius and I suppose the contrast between the Malfoys and the Potters in their upbringings and relationships. Draco’s tragic love, while unexplored, was touched upon enough for me to get a sense of where Draco’s character was. Without his wife, he makes it his goal to be a better father to Scorpius and I love the sincerity of it. Credit where credit is due.
Other than that, I suppose I don’t have much else to say. Reflecting upon it, I’m surprised at myself for being able to manage liking it as much as I did despite the numerous misgivings I had with it. Is it what I wanted? No. Does it serve as satisfying continuation to the series? Probably not. Though, I will say it is worth checking out if you are a Harry Potter fan.