Disclaimer: If you haven’t yet read the script:
(a) Lucky you
(b) Beware, this review contains spoilers.
“Harry, there is never a perfect answer in this messy, emotional world. Perfection is beyond the reach of humankind, beyond the reach of magic. In every shining moment of happiness is that drop of poison: the knowledge that pain will come again.” – Portrait Dumbledore, to Harry Potter.
Sigh. Kids, I’m here today to tell you that Professor Dumbledore is right. As always.
If you, like me, believed that Harry Potter 1-7 was perfection, let me introduce you to Harry Potter 8, aka drop of poison. Yes, it’s a play and not a novel, so it’s not really like the others at all. Yes, the words are Jack Thorne’s and not Rowling’s, so it’s not really like the others at all. Except that Rowling’s name is being used to sell it. Worse, Rowling wrote the original story, and signed off on the final product: proudly. Worst of all – gulp – Rowling confirmed that the story is to be considered canon. Meaning as much as we may love to dismiss it as misguided fan fiction, we can’t. Cursed Child is an official account of what happens to Harry and Friends after Deathly Hallows.
And what happens is a catastrophic and completely unnecessary sullying of a perfect story. Cursed Child centers on young Albus Severus Potter as he struggles with the weight of his three names. By itself, this is an interesting premise, but it quickly goes downhill as the story starts to develop. Amos Diggory appears out of nowhere to guilt Harry over Cedric’s death, twenty-five years after the fact. Hearing whispers that the Ministry has recently confiscated a Time Turner, Amos wants Harry to bring Cedric back. Meanwhile, Albus and Harry are having major problems getting along, in no small part due to Albus’ insecurities over not being as gifted as his father. Overhearing that the rumours may be true, Albus sets out to steal the Time Turner and fulfill Amos’ wishes. The way he sees it, he’ll be righting his father’s wrong – that ought to show everyone.
It’s an outlandish plot that’s made worse by innumerable loopholes, some of which destroy the sanctity of previous installments in the series. For example, the three-hour Time Turner rule used to such wonderful effect in Prisoner of Azkaban is completely ignored here, with characters travelling decades into the past. This time-travelling creates an ugly mess of alternate realities, and the whole storyline falls apart at the slightest scrutiny. Another example – Dumbledore freely converses with Harry through his portrait, somewhat nullifying the effect of his death. Though there is some dialogue about how portraits are only ‘paint and memory’, the portrait’s knowledge and wisdom seem on par with the live Dumbledore’s.
Some of the biggest disappointments of Cursed Child have to do with its characters, many of whom seem nothing like the people we came to love over seven books. Ron is an absurd caricature, reduced to being comic relief. (In one of those awful alternate realities, he marries Padma Patil, and they have a child named Panju. PANJU.) The Harry-Draco relationship, which ends on such a poignant, ambiguous note in Deathly Hallows, unrealistically thaws into a warm friendship. Damn it all, this script even committed the unforgivable sin of having alternate reality Severus Snape spout mushy lines about how Lily made him believe in things, and how proud he is that Albus Severus bears his name. Could anything be worse?
Oh yeah, Voldemort and Bellatrix had a secret lovechild just before the Battle of Hogwarts.
Three days after reading the book, I’m still desperately hoping for a retraction from Rowling. I don’t understand how such a goddess of storytelling could have had such a massive lapse of judgment. I refuse to believe it was about money. I’m telling myself that maybe it wasn’t really her, but Barty Crouch Jr. on Polyjuice Potion. Or perhaps it was an Imperius Curse, or a third crushed leech from the same red priestess who killed Terry Pratchet and gave GRRM writer’s block.
JKR, I still love you, and I always will. Please nick a Time Turner of your own, go back a few months, and it’ll be like all this never happened. Panju promise.