RSS

Monthly Archives: August 2016

hypocrisy, thy name is rowling

It may be a bit late to discuss this; Loten brought it to my attention a week or so ago.

The article is titled “JK Rowling Goes Off on Homophobic Haters and Shares Theories on Stopping Internet Trolls.” Here is what she is quoted as saying on Twitter:

“Can’t decide which is more offensive in this tweet, the stupidity or the spite.”

“It’s an arguable point, but I think this focus on how the bigot/troll/bully feels is odd, I’m afraid. Not all ‘trolls’ air their views purely for attention. They want to hurt. They want to intimidate. And the victims get driven out of what should be safe spaces by their venom. If we all challenged hate, social media might feel a much nicer place for minorities, and women and gay people.”

Part of me wants to applaud her for saying this. This is a genuinely nice sentiment, and a needed one, and I don’t actually think there’s much if anything I disagree with in there. I’ve been observing the phenomenon of hateful trolling and harassment on the internet for a while (it’s hard not to if you’re involved in atheism, for instance, or anything remotely to do with feminism and gender; I haven’t personally gotten a lot of it aimed at me, but that’s because I’m a small-time blogger and don’t write much), and this is more or less accurate. Even if not entirely conscious (because the people doing this aren’t generally paragons of self-awareness), that does seem to be the motivation and certainly is the effect; if you’re not aware of how bad things get, go read We Hunted the Mammoth or one of countless other blogs that documents the worst of the internet. Anyone who can push back against harassers and bullies should do so, because the alternative is ceding our spaces to them.

That said, Rowling is saying this?

The same Rowling whose gay characters are closeted until she decides to out them years later (outside the text) for attention? (And which, taken in context, seems to imply that “love” makes you evil unless it’s heterosexual or parental love, in which case it’s powerful deus-ex-machina magic?) Or endorses a play which baits a homosexual relationship between its leads and decides to force them into heterosexuality (via sexual harassment apologism, no less) at the last possible moment?

The same Rowling who claims to be feminist but struggles to depict women outside of the roles of love interests, wives and mothers? Who, again, endorses a play which uses sexual assault for laughs? [And who depicted rape and its aftermath in The Casual Vacancy in such a disgusting way I literally threw the book across the room and have never forgiven her for it?]

The same Rowling who has no problem with bullying as long as the bullies were placed in the proper arbitrary categories, and repeated this pattern so often that an acronym (IOIAGDI, “it’s okay if a Gryffindor does it”) needed to be coined?

The same Rowling who essentially says that unless bigotry looks like Voldemort, it isn’t bigotry? (I present for your consideration Arthur Weasley, who considers muggles curiosities to gawk at and appropriate material culture from, or Ronald Weasley, who doesn’t hesitate to renege on his word and try to cheat goblins, who considers himself above muggle law and uses magic to cheat a driving test, amongst other things. And the “Harry Potter Prequel“, in which the loathsome James Potter and Sirius Black are shown abusing muggle police for fun.). Paternalistic racism is still racism, unintentional racism is still racism; not all racism looks like the Klan or the Nazis. Rowling’s universe desperately needs a Muggle Lives Matter movement.

[The Cormoran Strike books are also full of racism. And sexism. And ableism. And… It’s also worth pointing out the lack of anyone who isn’t white in most of her work. HP has, to my recollection, one explicitly black character and three explicitly Asian characters, and a couple more were later revealed offscreen to also be people of colour. The Casual Vacancy had one family of Indian stereotypes. And the less said about the Strike books, the better, particularly since they’re set somewhere as diverse as London. Not to mention the extremely poor handling of Native cultures more recently with all the Ilvermornay nonsense.]

The same person who wrote all of those things, and many more besides, expects to be taken seriously when spreading an anti-bullying, anti-bigotry message? Truthfully, I find it hard to believe the same person wrote her oeuvre and the quoted tweets. I suppose one could try to argue she could have learned since writing the Harry Potter books… except that, as we’ve learned from examining the Cursed Child play and the Cormoran Strike books, she’s still writing things that are problematic and insensitive at best. Loten speculated to me that Rowling could have outsourced her Twitter account to somebody else; I’m willing to be slightly more charitable, and say that maybe she’s a skilled parrot who repeats arguments without understanding them.

I’m going to make a horrible comparison here; I honestly think this might be like the respondents in Lisak and Miller, and similar studies. Plenty of men will admit to rape as long as you describe it using other words (“no I’ve never committed rape, but yes I have had sex with a woman by force when she didn’t want to”). Perhaps this is a similar case of not connecting a word to its definition – Rowling may know “bullying” and “hate” and “homophobia” are wrong but not necessarily what those words actually signify?

Plenty of us have internalised biases and bigotries, that’s inevitable when living in kyriarchy; it’s difficult to fight against those forces unless we’re able to identify and try to correct it in ourselves wherever possible. There’s an old saying (ironically, from an ancient book full of bigotry) that says to tend to the plank in your own eye before the speck in another’s. It’s good advice, and maybe Rowling should follow it.

I don’t necessarily want her to stop saying these things, because they’re good things and people do need to say them. But it might be nice to see a bit of self-awareness and reflection.

 
9 Comments

Posted by on August 30, 2016 in mitchell

 

Tags: , , , ,

Fan Games (Metroid, Pokemon and More)

Given that we spend a lot of time talking about fanwork and writing about it on this blog, and several fan-made games have been going viral recently (or at least within certain subcultures), I thought it might be worth talking about these. This post may end up being a bit disconnected, as there are a few different games I want to talk about and they’re not really related to each other in any way.

This is primarily a review of “AM2R”/”Another Metroid 2 Remake” and “Pokemon Uranium”.


Firstly, there is “AM2R” , short for “Another Metroid 2 Remake” (a fan-made remake of the 1991 “Metroid II: Return of Samus” for Nintendo Game Boy), by Milton Guasti aka DoctorM64. It was apparently in development since 2006, finally released this year on August 6 to coincide with the 30th anniversary of Metroid (and was immediately threatened with legal action and taken down, though it continues to circulate on the internet and isn’t hard to find if you look for it). From what I understand it was highly anticipated, although I only heard of it recently after its release. Honestly, it’s a fantastic piece of work and I cannot find enough good things to say about it; if you have any interest in platform games and Metroidvanias at all, or more specifically the Metroid series, it is definitely worth tracking this down and giving it a try.

The creator somehow managed to combine the best gameplay elements from the 2D games (the visual style and sprites draw heavily from Zero Mission and Fusion), with the worldbuilding and lore of the 3D Metroid Prime series, and while I won’t claim to be an expert on the story and lore of the series, everything they added seems to fit in seamlessly and matches the style very well while fleshing out the Metroid II setting. At the same time, the updated versions of mechanics unique to Metroid II make it feel distinct from those and like its own thing (unlike, say, the myriad Super Metroid romhacks which mostly focus on remixing the level design and could never hold my interest). The music is also fantastic, combining remixes of tunes from the original series (including but not limited to Metroid II itself) and original pieces that fit the tone and atmosphere well.

While it may seem like a small thing to some people, the other thing I absolutely loved about AM2R is that the ending graphics were tastefully and respectfully done. So many of the official Metroid games end up resorting to sexualised images of Samus (see Anita Sarkeesian on “Women as Reward“) in the tradition of showing her outside her suit, which I always thought was disrespectful and untrue to the character. This game chose instead to, while still acknowledging and continuing the tradition, show her relaxing and drinking beer in a realistic pose while reporting on the status of her mission. I also appreciated that they went with the older version of her character design (which I described flippantly to Loten as “more muscles, less boobs”, though that’s actually a serious point, a badass athletic warrior who spends most of her time heavily armoured is not going to look like a 1950s pinup girl). This is how you do it right, game designers; are you listening?

It was that, more than anything else, that motivated me to actually attempt speedrunning the game to qualify for the best ending (most Metroid games do this, the “better” endings – which usually meant Samus removing more clothing and/or posing more sexily, sigh – are given for faster times and better item completion percentages), which was never something I bothered with before. Once again: game designers, are you listening? Feminists like me are more likely to put more effort into playing your game if you make an effort not to be stupidly sexist and objectify your female characters. I’ve already done three full playthroughs – my initial one, 100% on hard mode, and a pathetic attempt at a speed run (2 hours was the time limit for the best ending, I ended up barely managing at 1:59:12 with 67% items). I’m not particularly good at Metroid, but I wanted to pull it off out of appreciation for their treatment of the ending images, and was pleasantly surprised I was able to.

Overall it was an absolutely fantastic experience: it’s immersive and addictive, it’s easy to pick up, and I can’t recommend this game enough if you like the genre. (There were a handful of bugs, including one that was gamebreaking if you had certain graphics cards, but these have been fixed in the 1.1 update.)

Unfortunately, while it is a fantastic game, I can entirely understand why Nintendo were quick to assert their intellectual property rights and have the official download links pulled (though thus far it doesn’t seem like they’re pursuing legal action further than that). The game relies very heavily on Nintendo IP, from game mechanics to setting and lore to many of the actual sprites and visual assets used. And while it’s distributed for free and the creator does not seek to earn profit from it, it’s still beyond the scope of Fair Use laws. Like so many good fanworks, it would be impossible to do a “Fifty Shades of Grey” and file the serial numbers off, it’s far too closely tied to the source material. Transformative works tend to be. (For what it’s worth, the creator himself has encouraged people to purchase the Virtual Console version of Metroid II from Nintendo if they liked this game to show that there is still an appreciation for the series.)


The other fangame that’s been going viral this month is “Pokemon: Uranium Version” or just “Pokemon Uranium” (Official Site, Wiki). This was made by a two-person team and was in development for a similar length of time, something like nine years, and is a very ambitious project. Like AM2R, official download links have unfortunately been pulled after legal threats were issued, but the game can still be found without too much effort.

(I’m playing this one too, so I can have an opinion here, unlike the previous game.)

It’s a standalone Pokemon game, set in an original region with a cast of mostly-original monsters (I counted 34 that are actual official Pokemon, and nine ‘fake’ new evolutions of official pokemon; it contains 200 pokemon in total). It seems to be designed for veterans of the Pokemon series: the game difficulty is significantly higher than especially the recent games, and the ‘fake’ pokemon generally place a bigger emphasis on dual types (including a lot of type combinations that still have yet to exist in official games); I think the selection of monsters in this game looks like what a lot of players always wanted, or may not have realised they wanted. Building a team in this looks like it should be challenging and nuanced.

The good first: this game really looks and feels like a Pokemon game. Aesthetically it’s very pretty, the sprites are well-drawn and colourful (I’m pretty sure the style is based on the “4th generation” Nintendo DS games), and the original ‘fake’ pokemon look like they could fit in naturally with Nintendo’s official offerings. The music is fantastic, again mixing remixes of classic tunes (mostly from the original red/green/blue/yellow games, for nostalgia factor) with original offerings (including original battle themes, which are quite catchy and might be my favourite tracks so far). The creators definitely did their homework. Most of the menus are comfortable and intuitive, despite being original designs rather than lifted directly from the official games (although some of them still need work).

The bad: I said earlier this game was ambitious, and I think it may have overreached a bit. The version currently extant as I write this is 1.0.1, which they claim is a “full release” (there were prior beta versions, which I shudder to contemplate), but the truth of the matter is that it is still quite buggy and feels much closer to an early beta than anything. Now to a certain extent I realise that, in today’s world where “release early, release often” is a dominant software design framework, it’s fair to release something and fix bugs as they appear. And as the creators are only two people and fairly young, it’s harsh to expect a perfect product from the get-go, or bugfixes to come quickly and frequently. But the way this was being talked about and heaped with praise, there was next to no awareness of just how many issues there were, and I do not think there was any beta testing phase at all before they went public with the “full version” (the impression I get is that previous “betas” were demos in which all the content had not been fully implemented, and I don’t want to imagine what those might’ve been like to play). I think I would have been much happier with this game if I’d been able to go into it knowing that.

Also, I see signs of bloated/inefficient coding, perhaps a consequence of the RPG Maker XP engine they built it in: the game is subject to a lot of lag and slowdown in places. This doesn’t help, especially when the natural pace of the game is already quite slow: I think the battle animations in this are even slower than the slowest of the official games, which gets quite tedious at times.

(The lag can be very painful. It can also cause you to run into event flags before you’re ready. And once you realise how buggy and crash-prone the game is, each lag spike is a moment of fear.)

It could be worse; for the most part, the game is playable, and when you’re lucky enough not to run across bugs or lag it really is quite enjoyable. But at the same time, there are a large number of moves and abilities that just don’t work or don’t work correctly, there are frustrating cosmetic issues with several menus and such (some of these have been fixed in an unofficial patch), and there are quite a few game-breaking bugs which can completely ruin your file. I ran afoul of one of these after 12 hours of logged gameplay time and lost everything; suffice it to say that if you’re going to play this, you need to back up your save file regularly. I had just been starting to get into the game when that happened, and it was frustrating enough that I’m seriously considering giving up on it entirely.

It also offers online play – as I said, this game is very ambitious – for trading and some forms of battling, but right now the server(s) are plagued by “hackers” distributing glitched monsters that can corrupt your file. On top of that, the interfaces for all of the online content are among the worst in this game; we found them clunky and awkward to use, though with enough trial and error you can eventually muddle through.

And then there’s the writing. Oy vey.

In fairness, it’s not all bad: they’re attempting a more serious plot than many of the official games manage, which is honestly something that would be nice to see in a Pokemon game if done well. I didn’t get far enough to see how it all played out, but there were some nice touches (such as the opening, in which your character is actually explained as taking a job as the professor’s assistant, which gives a justification for many of the random tasks you’re asked to do). And it was very refreshing to see a gender-neutral/androgynous player character option being given in addition to the typical male and female (I was initially even more impressed that they used ‘they’ pronouns for this character, until I realised that actually they used them for every character so as not to need to rewrite the dialogues. Laziness or inclusivity? You decide!). There are also some genuinely cute nods to the original games, such as a running gag where characters talk about playing the Red and Blue versions (which apparently exist in-universe as a simulation of the real battles that also go on); it’s a tad clunky, but I’ll take it. And there are a couple of fantastic puns in the original pokemon names; we both laughed out loud at Daikatuna, for instance.

We also really appreciated the design of one of the legendary pokemon, Seikamater, which is flavoured as a queen of several related bug pokemon lines, and you have to obtain by killing the previous one (it cannot be captured, though I suppose that might annoy people who think any wild pokemon should be theoretically catchable) and receiving a royal jelly item that will allow you to evolve a juvenile into a new queen. That’s genuinely original and clever, and feels like a good fit for the Pokemon universe. Although we found it strange that they made the queen unable to breed, rather than having it produce juveniles of all three lines as the writing surrounding it suggests it ought to be able to.

On the other hand, oh gods the sexism. The first gym leader scenario is cringeworthy (she’s a former champion who retired to become a gym leader, but doesn’t want to do the job; you have to convince her to return to the gym by getting a house key from her stalker and literally breaking into her home while she sleeps). To be fair, it doesn’t present stalking as a positive thing, but at the same time it came across to me as being played for laughs. Neither of us were amused, to say the least. And it gets worse.

If I wanted to be charitable I’d speculate they were doing this as a nod to the original Red/Blue/etc, where it was also depressingly common, but in any case the vast majority of female trainers you fight talk about stereotypical feminine things (boyfriends, clothes, that sort of thing) in a really cringeworthy way, while the male trainers/NPCs have more varied dialogue (until you get near the beach town, where all of them start talking creepily about how there are “hot girls” everywhere and how attractive the female gym leader is, metaphorically rubbing their hands together about skimpy swimwear, etc). It’s gross. And so far all nine of the rematch trainers I encountered were male, and I’ve read documentation that suggests that trend continues through the entire game. I reiterate: there is apparently not a single female rematch trainer in the entire game. This game has a sexism problem. This game has lots of sexism problems, which is even more disappointing when you consider one of the two creators is female. (Turn on the Farla signal!)

The rival, Theo, is an amalgamation of the worst aspects of rival characters in the official games: the arrogance of Gary/Blue (without his competence to justify it), the irritating hyperactivity of Barry, and the incompetence of Bianca, with a veneer of whiny entitled child to finish it off. It’s incredibly irritating and downright painful to read. In fairness, I think this might’ve been a deliberate writing choice (and if they were trying to annoy the hell out of us they undoubtedly succeeded); I just don’t think it was a good one. Small favours, at least they didn’t make the incompetent moron a girl this time?

(Thus far Theo has been the worst part of the game for me. I haven’t progressed as far as Mitchell has, so outside of the stalking subplot of the first gym I haven’t seen as much sexism yet – it’s a treat yet to come, lucky me – but I want to punch Theo’s creator every time he shows up. The player character is stated to be somewhere around 12-13, and Theo is meant to be at most a couple of years younger than that, but he comes across as 6 or 7 years old and spoiled to boot. He literally cries every time he loses, constantly whines about how unfair everything is, and has terrible pokemon so there’s no challenge whatsoever. He is honestly worse than Bianca, who is definitely the low point of the series.

This has been an issue in every game since Generation One, honestly. Gary is the best rival, without question. He was genuinely difficult. You had to work to beat him. His dialogue acknowledged that you’d won but shrugged it off saying you got lucky and he’s totally going to beat you next time (which he might do). Rivals since then have been getting progressively easier and more one-dimensional and forgettable, to the point where I don’t even remember most of the names of the group of ‘rivals’ in X and Y and the ones that I do remember were bad.)

The originals also benefitted from not having a female rival or player character, honestly, because the sexism in these games is ridiculous. Every female sprite is sexualised, including the trainer classes meant to be young children, to the point where everyone greeted the short-lived trainer customisation in X/Y with OH THANK GOD I CAN WEAR LITERALLY ANYTHING BUT A MINISKIRT AND CROPPED LOW-CUT SHIRT NOW. The dialogue changes more than you’d think when you play as a female compared to a male, and never positively. Mitchell linked to Farla earlier and she’s done a few comparisons.

I’m wandering off the point. Uranium has improved slightly on some of these issues, but one suspects by accident more than design. Some of the sexism vanished because they didn’t create separate dialogue to acknowledge the player’s gender, and I’d like to think this was a conscious choice but I suspect it was lack of resources, given that they found plenty of ways to include it elsewhere. Some sprites are better, though many have just been taken from the originals. And while Theo is weak and one-dimensional, he’s not forgettable, though frankly he ought to be.)

There’s a subplot with the common fanfic device of a prototype “translation system” that purports to interpret what pokemon say into English. Except, conveniently, it only works when talking to specific NPC-pokemon who are plot-relevant or sidequest-relevant, which raises so many more questions than it could possibly answer. I think this device could potentially work in a prose story, where you can craft the story around it and treat every pokemon as a character, but in a game where the player apparently possesses this device and yet cannot use it to talk to your party or any of the random pokemon that attack you in the wild? It’s just an enormous plot hole, and I don’t think you can paper over that with the excuse that “well, it’s a prototype, it doesn’t always work”. I think they thought they were being clever, but this should seriously have been cut, because it wreaks havoc on any sense of immersion.

(You can’t talk to any of the pokemon sprites you encounter in towns either, unless they’re plot-relevant.)

And then there’s the setting, and the ‘radioactivity’ subtheme that’s laced all through this. It’s not all bad, and I’m not completely averse to e.g. theme naming based off the periodic table, but it feels forced in places and you can kind of tell the creators were thirteen when they started working on this. The game adds a “nuclear” type to the Pokemon type chart, which is basically super-effective against everything but itself (and steel, I think; both of those resist it) and weak to everything but itself. (Which also means it will do 4x damage against dual-typed mons, which are the vast majority of things in the game.) It reminds me of nothing else but young children on the playground who are convinced they’re brilliant for adding nukes to rock-paper-scissors and completely trivialising the game balance in the process. But at the same time, gameplay-wise this might actually be interesting (whether or not it’s actually good game design; sometimes bad/unbalanced design decisions on paper still end up making for good gameplay, I’ve thought that for a while).

(If I manage to get through the game without it breaking, or if Mitchell forgives the corruption of his save file enough to start again, we’ll probably do an updated post about how the rest of it pans out. Most of the story is yet to come, I’m not even at the third gym yet.)

So overall, I’m not sure what to say about this game. It’s ambitious and working from some promising ideas, and the good bits are very, very good. But it’s buggy as hell and the writing is problematic in so many places, and I find several of the design choices questionable at best. I’m not entirely comfortable recommending it, but I won’t warn people away either; just go in with your eyes open and don’t let great expectations and hype get the better of you. I do feel a bit guilty being so hard on this game, because I can tell it was a labour of love, the creators are still quite young (from what I understand they’re early twenties now), and there are definitely a lot of good and creative ideas there. It’s definitely better than a lot of fanworks and romhacks I’ve run across, though that’s not necessarily saying much. And perhaps I’m being harder on it because of the contrast with AM2R, which was damned near perfect and happened to come out at the same time; that has occurred to me. I also think I may have been deceived a bit by the insane levels of hype Pokemon Uranium was getting, and felt more let down as a result (in contrast, I went into AM2R with barely any expectations at all, so all the surprises were pleasant).


While I’m at it, over the past few years, there have also been a lot of fan-made games for the Mega Man series. I don’t necessarily want to go into a lot of detail about these, this post is long enough as it is and I wanted to focus on the recent fangames, but quite a few of these are fantastic. There is Megaman Unlimited by “megaphilx”/Philippe Poulin, probably my favourite of them (though also quite challenging and definitely aimed at series veterans), in addition to Megaman: Rock Force, Megaman: Super Fighting Robot, and Street Fighter x Megaman (the last of which was even officially endorsed and supported by Capcom, though ironically it’s by far my least favourite of them). These all are quite faithful to the series and I enjoyed playing them.

In terms of actual writing, I think Unlimited is the most successful, by actually placing itself within the official series and trying to fill in gaps in the storyline; it ends up feeling the most polished to me. Although there’s also something to be said for a game that knows what it is and doesn’t even pretend to care about storyline (for example: why is Mega Man beating up Street Fighter characters? Why are those characters lurking in Megaman-style levels? Because both games were having an anniversary and someone thought it would be fun, of course; it’s not supposed to make sense, so just play the game and don’t think about it). As far as gameplay goes, I think all of these ended up feeling superior to Capcom’s parallel attempt to return to their roots in Megaman 9 and Megaman 10; not that those were bad, but these were better.

Youtuber RoahmMythril (whom I like) has also done Let’s Plays for all of these, if anyone is curious but wants to look before touching.

I think Megaman fangames end up working especially well because the original series was so formulaic (some might say repetitive), which makes them more straightforward to replicate, and by definition the target audience for fangames is the people who liked the original formula. Of course there are still twists to put on it, but I do think that plays a role.


One thing I do find interesting about these fangames is that, while there are a lot of surface similarities to fanfiction, the multi-media nature of video games ends up requiring a lot more to come together to make these things work (e.g. visual aspects, music, level design, etc in addition to worldbuilding/story/writing in general), and to be successful it’s important to be stylistically faithful to the original in all of these areas. So it doesn’t necessarily surprise me that they often fall short in at least one (which seems most often to be writing/storytelling in my experience), and when they don’t it’s usually because they’re made by teams bringing together diverse skill sets. A great deal more work ends up having to go into these things than the average fanfiction, I suspect, but there’s definitely something to be said for fanwork that takes the same form as the original medium of whatever it’s imitating.

It has also been observed in various places (I can’t claim credit for this insight), that by dint of being produced by fans, these kind of games end up being better-attuned to what the fandom of a particular series actually want, and as such are better received by the fandom than official games. It’s especially obvious in the case of AM2R, when there has not been a proper Metroid title since 2007 (excepting the insulting, sexist and demeaning Other M in 2010), or arguably 2004 if you’re talking about 2D titles. Whether that means they are superior to official games is an open question, because appealing to longstanding/hardcore series fans is a very different thing than appealing to a general audience (and not necessarily a good business decision for a company seeking profit), but there is definitely a niche audience made very happy by these which does not tend to be served as well by traditional, commercial offerings.

At the same time, there are obviously legal issues. Even when distributed for free, a fangame which eclipses official offerings and satisfies fans is going to negatively affect the company who owns the IP, because those fans will be less willing to pay for lacklustre official IP (though the same sort of thing can be argued for fanfiction as well). The cultural popularity of many video games may make them feel like public domain, but they certainly are not and there is really no argument to be had against a company that wishes to shut these things down. In terms of maintaining goodwill with their fans, I might argue that (for example) Capcom’s approach of accepting the existence of, and even adopting or endorsing, fanworks is the right strategy, but that cannot necessarily be the only consideration.

So while I think a lot of these are really impressive works that engage well with the source material and provide positive experiences for fans, it’s hard to find fault with the companies for not appreciating them. (Though one could argue that these companies should be trying to learn from them. If your fanbase are gushing over something made by amateurs, your R&D team should be playing them to find out why and perhaps even offering the creators jobs, because clearly they’re doing something you aren’t.)

 
6 Comments

Posted by on August 26, 2016 in mitchell

 

Tags: , , , , , , , ,

Cursed Child Detox Thread (or: let’s talk fanfic)

In the wake of Cursed Child and everything that entailed, I thought it might be fun to do a fanfic recommendations and discussion thread. Let’s share recommendations for post-canon/next-generation Harry Potter fanfics that put Cursed Child (and the original series for that matter) to shame, and maybe some time travel stories done right. I’ve got a fair number of these but I’d love to find more, so please post them in the comments if you have any.

Let’s get this out of the way first, obviously there’s Loten’s stuff, though I suspect if you’re reading us there’s a good chance you’re already familiar with it. I’m utterly incapable of being objective here; these stories literally changed my life because I’d never have met her without them. I love all of her fics but to stay on the theme of post-canon, Post Tenebras Lux is the obvious one (SS/HG, sexually explicit), Picture Perfect (the PTL epilogue I made her write), and a shorter, unconnected one called Here I Am Not.

I’ll also plug a couple of my own (very short) pieces, as far as post-war stuff goes there is “Et Tu, Brute“, “Overdose” and “Tabloid Journalism“.

The Golden Age” by Arsinoe de Blassenville. This is the quintessential cynical “reality ensues” post-canon fic, it’s well-written and realistic while still being a very pointed criticism of canon and “all was well”. I will say, however, to stay away if you are a fan of Hermione because this story is very hard on her and deliberately explores the consequences of her worst acts in canon (and bases her characterisation on those). I can’t say it’s wrong about later books’ canon Hermione, though, and it’s thought-provoking and a good criticism even if you prefer to interpret her character differently.

The works of Vera Rozalsky. My personal favourite of hers is “In Which the Princess Rescues the Dragon“, which is a long and nuanced story written from the rare perspective of Andromeda Tonks. It’s actually an alternate perspective of her other long story “Amends, or Truth and Reconciliation“, but I think it’s the stronger and more interesting one, and her Andromeda is a fascinating and well-rounded character with a unique perspective. She does have ships, “Amends” is Hermione/Neville and Hermione/Neville/Draco, which are not ships I’m normally interested in but she makes it work (and it’s largely out of view in “Princess” anyway). “Princess” also has a subtheme deconstructing love potions and dealing with their consequences. “Four o’clock in the morning” is also quite good, a shorter story not in the same continuity as the other two focusing primarily on the mental-health consequences the canon events should have had (also Hermione/Neville but it’s primarily Hermione-Draco friendship).

Questions and Answers” by little0bird. This is a very long-running next-generation fic. I hesitate to recommend/endorse this one because it’s epilogue-compliant and very much within Rowling’s value system (family uber-alles, it focuses on the characters as parents and the children’s growing up and eventually finding their way into heteronormative relationships, and does not address the Potterverse’s dystopian elements), but for what it is it’s very well-written and I think it’s probably as good as such a thing can be. Very much YMMV though (I do not agree with or endorse messages or characterisation that show up in this). I will also add that I had to hold my nose through every scene Hermione was in because Ron/Hermione squicks me and this fic is canon ships all the way (except, for some reason, pairing Draco with Daphne instead of Astoria).

Silence” by mortenavida. This is a short piece (and Dudley/Daphne) but manages to be surprisingly nuanced and interesting IMO.

The “Backward With Purpose” series by Deadwoodpecker. This is another one that I hesitate to recommend and will not endorse, but it is very well done for what it is. It’s a time travel story, Part 1 has Harry, Ron and Ginny travelling back from a bad timeline to try to create a better outcome, Part 2 stars Albus as time-traveller trying to prevent Harry dying an early death, and Part 3 (incomplete) I don’t think I’ve read because I got sick of it before then. I’m mainly mentioning this because it’s a well-crafted story that featured time-travelling Albus long before Cursed Child became a thing; this is another story that’s invested in canon ships (including a truly creepy version of Ron/Hermione that made my skin crawl far beyond what that ship usually does) and Rowling’s value system, but at least the time travel mechanics are well-thought-out and it did some interesting things.

Just because I like the genre, I’ll throw in a couple of other time travel stories. “Arachne” by sylvanawood and “The Traveller” by Somigliana are my favourite SS/HG time travel stories, and “The Apprentice” by Deborah Peters (though sadly unfinished and unlikely to ever be so) is by far the best of the “Snape is forced to relive his childhood” genre (it’s one of the only portrayals of Severus/Lily I can still tolerate, its portrayal of magical acadaemia is a thing of beauty, and it has truly memorable and compelling OCs. Seriously, when I reread this I do it more for the OCs than anything else, they’re fantastic). These three come highly recommended by me, and are relatively short if you’re turned off by massive novel-length monstrosities.

[Loten here, more to confirm that I’m still alive than anything else. I can’t contribute much to this one, Mitchell reads more fanfic than I do – the more of my own stuff I write, the more concrete my headcanons have become, and the harder it is for me to enjoy someone else’s vision. I also personally don’t like time travel as a genre, though Mitchell’s talked about some of these to me and they do sound pretty good. (Also some of my plotbunnies are post-canon, I really need to get back into writing again…)]

Add your own in the comments! Let’s be fanfic connoisseurs together and purge the taste of Cursed Child from our brains.

 
5 Comments

Posted by on August 18, 2016 in mitchell

 

Tags: , , , , ,

Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, Final Thoughts

First off: this play really is terrible. It’s probably impossible to summarise all of the ways in which it is so, and I’m pretty sure I barely scratched the surface in my read-through and our discussions in the comments (thank you to everyone for engaging, though, it’s been fun). I want to break this down into sections to try to keep my thoughts organised.

Let’s talk about the plot.

I don’t want to talk about the plot. I already went through and summarised all of it with running commentary. And also, the plot is the most widely-discussed aspect of the play. It’s practically been done to death at this point.

The plot of this thing is an incoherent mess, taken as a whole. If you look at the interconnectedness of individual scenes, you can sort of see how they’re meant to follow from each other, but even then I don’t think it holds up. (This is a problem Loten and I have observed in a lot of fiction, which ends up being written in such a way that individual scenes aren’t terribly problematic, and scenes flow reasonably from one to the next, but when you look at the trends that emerge over the entire work it becomes a huge mess. Whether in terms of themes, or worldbuilding contradictions, characterisation turning out not to be what the author intended, or what have you.) Cursed Child doesn’t even manage that, though. From the beginning there are contradictions and inconsistencies everywhere, whether it’s internally or with respect to the books.

Then let’s look at the structure of this thing. It starts off with a sort of bait-and-switch, the first couple of scenes are setting up for this thing to be about the Next Generation’s Hogwarts experience, then they skip over that with a weird montage-style “scene”, and immediately start doing more setup for the time travel. Even disregarding the characterisation fail that’s already been rampant by this point, that was the first sign this thing was going to go off the rails: they skipped through three years of Hogwarts in a single “scene”, when I suspect the Hogwarts time is what most people would have been interested in seeing.

And most of the plot is driven by Delphi, who in turn is motivated by a prophecy of unknown provenance. It’s not even like the prophecy in the books, where she had the decency to do the self-fulfilling thing and have the mere existence of the prophecy be a motivator for people (I really don’t like prophecy tropes overall, but at least Rowling was willing to play with it a bit in the books), and in different ways for different people. I won’t say she did it particularly well there, necessarily, but it was miles better than what we got in this play. Nobody knows where this prophecy came from, nobody thinks to ask. And the only sensible explanation for why Delphi did the things she did is “the prophecy said so”, which ends up meaning authorial fiat. The writers wanted her to do things for the sake of plot, but couldn’t think up a motivation so they papered over it with a prophecy. That doesn’t make for a good character, nor for an interesting villain (which aren’t always precisely the same thing).

[Particularly since we’re never told who made the prophecy or who witnessed it or how anyone knew it was real. At least in the main series we were told all the reasons why the entire cast believed it without question.]

The final act of this play is honestly just bizarre. You would think that, if they were going to do this “rehash the backstory of the original series” thing, they’d actually do something interesting and maybe reveal some new information or a new interpretation of those events. Nope. It just served as a backdrop for the (honestly uninteresting) reconciliations and confrontations that were going to end the primary plot of this thing, and I think it was meant as nothing more than emotional manipulation of the audience (or at least of invested fans) so that the ending felt like it had more weight. I don’t think it succeeded at that because it was so blatant, but I think that’s what they were trying to do.

It doesn’t help at all that the vast majority of this thing is an Idiot Plot and required the characters to be unaware of things they should have known, and/or making the worst possible decisions they could make. And the actual events that occur are just… stupid.

Likewise, it has no sense of what the logical consequences of any particular thing should be. We’ve had lots of discussion about “Cedric the Death Eater” but that’s really symptomatic of a much larger problem, in which the writer(s) didn’t seem interested in actually thinking through how the actions taken would actually cause the timeline changes they wanted.

The play also wastes loads of our time with Harry’s prophetic dream scenes, that didn’t make any sense and also didn’t end up mattering at all in the end. They were clearly just an attempt to squeeze in certain characters (I really don’t know why it was so important to see Petunia and Vernon, really I don’t) [maybe the writers realised Harry was being openly abusive and felt they should tell us the Dursleys were (allegedly) worse, instead of actually doing something to either fix or acknowledge it?], and occasionally to feed Harry information he might have otherwise had to work to obtain (I think the only things he actually learned from the dreams were “Albus is in the Forbidden Forest”, which he could easily have learnt some other way and didn’t even need to know, and “something to do with Voldemort is afoot” which, likewise). And to make matters worse, it never even explains how Harry is capable of having such dreams, when there was no previously-established mechanism by which he could.

In the end, the plot honestly doesn’t even matter, because the play basically ends with a restoration of (and acceptance of) status quo. Yes, there’s theoretically some character development that happened, that’s normally the point of this kind of plot where the end goal is to return things to the way they started, but because the vast majority of the characters were so thoroughly derailed so early on, I found it nigh impossible to care about their development after that. (Maybe the derailment is less obvious in the actual theatre, when the actors have a chance to do something with it?) [Most of the characters don’t seem to change that much, honestly. Harry realises he’s been a complete dick to his son. Everyone else seems to stay more or less the same.] There are actually a couple of other things (Albus and Scorpius get closer and learn time travel is wrong, Harry and Draco become friends) but it’s pretty minimal.

What I found weirdest about this thing, honestly, is that it does feel qualitatively quite different from fanfiction. Fanfiction, or at least good fanfiction, in my experience generally has an awareness that it’s subverting the canon in some way and does so with purpose. It’s engaging with the canon (building on it, filling in gaps, criticising it, etc), and having a conversation. Even the worst of fanfiction tends to do this. This play, possibly by dint of having been declared canon, or possibly just because the authors didn’t feel like they had anything to say, doesn’t do that, and in failing to do that, feels very hollow. I don’t get the impression this play had anything to say about the canon, or was really doing any constructive building on the original story. It’s just kind of… there.

This has been a non-exhaustive rant about the plot of this play.

What about the themes and messages?

There are two major themes that come through loud and clear in this play: time travel is stupid and you shouldn’t do it, and something to do with parent-child relationships (well, really just father-son and father-daughter, mothers are pretty de-emphasised).

I’m not sure what can really be said about the first one, aside from maybe “thank you, Captain Obvious”. Time travel doesn’t even exist, so did we really need a heavy-handed morality play telling people not to do it?

That said, what’s less obvious about the time-travel theme is that it also ends up having some very unfortunate implications. The play is pretty clear that it views the alternative timelines are aberrations, less good than the original outcome (never mind whether or not readers/audiences agree, e.g. on Ron/Hermione versus Ron/Padma), and must be corrected. I think this is problematic for two reasons: firstly, it encourages a sort of Panglossian “best of all possible worlds” interpretation of the canonical Harry Potter endgame, when that’s failed to address all of the dystopian elements of the Potterverse, and secondly, if viewed in any kind of metaphorical sense it has to be seen as arguing that trying to change the world is pointless and destructive and the status quo must be preserved at all costs. I don’t think I need to elaborate further on how or why this is toxic.

As for what it has to say about parent-child relationships… I really don’t know that it has a coherent message, beyond “these things are important, and being a shitty parent will fuck up your kid”. “Don’t be oblivious to your kid’s concerns and try to listen to them, and don’t expect your child to be a clone of you.” Once again, thank you, Captain Obvious.

Oh, and I suppose you could argue something like “child abuse and subsequent reconciliation is a good way to get a cheap emotional response from the audience”.

What about characterisation?

As far as the existing characters went, it was almost uniformly awful. I may not think Rowling is a spectacular writer, but her characters do tend to have distinctive voices (well, with some exceptions) and this play did not do a good job adhering to those. Nobody’s dialogue sounded anything like their canon selves to me.

The only exceptions were Ginny and Draco. I actually thought that they were written better than canon, though of course this comes with the huge caveat that I’m being charitable in not holding the plot against them. Even though they were responding to a nonsense plot, their reactions seemed genuine and understandable. And I have to give them some credit for managing to have Ginny acknowledge and react to a past that the books largely forgot she’d experienced, even though they ended up contradicting the books in doing so. I never thought I’d be saying Ginny Weasley was the high point of anything.

As for the new characters… outside of Scorpius, who actually is half-decently realised, there isn’t much of a sense of who these people are. (Witness, for instance, the Sorting issues: if we were going by personality instead of plot contrivance and family allegiance, Rose should be in Slytherin, Scorpius in Hufflepuff and Albus – ironically – in Gryffindor.) The most I can say for the new generation is that they did a decent job selling me on the Albus/Scorpius relationship as friendship and possibly more, until they decided they had to No Homo the ending and ruined everything. Compulsory heterosexuality!

That only really leaves Delphi. I’m not sure what to say about Delphi, honestly. They had the opportunity to do something interesting with her, even if I think on the whole her existence was a contrivance that created way too many plot holes. If they had fleshed out her motivation and maybe given her some doubts – she’s trying to bring back a father she never knew, a regime she never knew, based solely on what she’s learned from the neglectful and possibly abusive people who raised her; she should have some questions about this. But no, biological heritage is everything. And while her plan could have been interesting, they ruined it by making it a prophecy (even if we had to keep the time travel, how much cooler would it have been if she’d analysed the history books and figured out points of divergence to try on her own? Just that would go a huge way toward improving her as a villain). And then there are all the things she shouldn’t know but somehow does, all of the amazing powers she has, and her absurd hair colour; she really is very badfic Mary Sue (right down to the absurd hair colouration and being shoehorned into canon where she doesn’t really fit).

How did this happen?

I want to talk about how this play came about, because I have a theory about the thought processes that led to it. (casts Legilimens)

[Current spell count: Mitchell, 1!]

I think it went something like this:

I don’t think the writers were clear on how to write a Harry Potter story with conflict that didn’t involve Voldemort. But Voldemort was pretty thoroughly dead, so they needed to figure out a way to keep him relevant or bring him back or something. Someone hit on the idea of time-travel from there.

Once the idea of time-travel was settled on, there are questions about who’s going to do it, what they’re going to try to change, and why they’re going to do that. Maybe Thorne just liked Goblet of Fire and wanted to do a homage to it, but I actually think it goes a bit deeper also. Goblet of Fire was probably the most structured of the books, because the Triwizard Tournament forced a distinct sequence of discrete (and recognisable!) events that had to happen in a certain order. So I think someone liked the idea of using the three tasks of the Triwizard as the touchstones where our traveller(s) would instigate changes because it would help structure the play. And if you look at Goblet of Fire… well, what are the biggest things that went wrong in that book? Cedric died, and Voldemort returned.

I suppose “go back in time and kill Voldemort/prevent Voldemort reviving” would too obviously create a huge ripple effect, but saving Cedric is the kind of thing that could look innocuous on its face and be the sort of thing that would appeal to children to try to fix. And aside from Voldemort himself, there’s not much else to fiddle with in that year.

[This raises a good point. Why was there no reference to Barty Crouch at any point? If the kids know how the tournament went wrong, they must know who did it. I realise that as you say it would be too big a change, but it’s something the characters should discuss while they’re trying to figure out what they should do.]

The parallel question is this: if someone’s instigating time travel to bring back Voldemort… well, who’s going to do it? Most of his supporters outside the Malfoys (who are better off without him and know it) were either dead or in prison. They could probably have just picked a random Death Eater who’d survived and handwave that, and would frankly have been better served to do it, but I suppose they might’ve been thinking that all of the surviving ones would reason similarly to the Malfoys (though that’s optimistic and I doubt it). The writers may have been thinking that nobody who is not intimately connected to Voldemort wouldn’t want him back? Anyway, I think we ended up with Delphi because they couldn’t think of any other reason someone might want to bring Voldemort back. I’m not sure if they decided to emphasise all of the father-son issues for parallelism after they decided Voldemort’s child was going to be integral to the plot, or if that reasoning went the other way around (we want to talk about parent-child issues, so what if Voldy had a kid?), but there’s definitely a connection there too.

And there you have it: Voldemort’s secret daughter manipulates some well-meaning children into interfering with the Triwizard tasks to try to save Cedric Diggory, in a plot to bring him back.

Or in shorter words, I think this entire play happened because they were too lazy to think up a plot that didn’t involve Voldemort, and the rest was just a chain of interconnected bad ideas from there, following at least a sort of logic. It doesn’t explain everything, and obviously I’m just speculating here, but it does seem to hang together and make sense of the otherwise incomprehensible.

[Looks like Rowling’s exam-conditions writing is catching. Someone really needs to explain to authors the world over that you can actually change things, you don’t need to just keep going and hope to stumble on a way of trying to fix the first idea that popped into your head.]

Who should see this play?

Nobody.

In all seriousness, I found myself repeatedly asking the question “who was this written for?”. And I did end up having some thoughts about that.

First off, there’s the question about barrier to entry. This play makes some pretty extensive assumptions about what the audience will know, and does not in any way try to explain things for newcomers. Parents of children who are into the series but haven’t read it yourself who’ve been dragged to see it? Good luck understanding anything. This is a very weird choice, considering the change in medium, though I suppose understandable if you consider this thing “Harry Potter Book Eight”. (And I suppose to some degree, Harry Potter has reached a level of saturation in the cultural consciousness that you could assume at least some baseline level of audience familiarity…)

[This could explain why the characters never seem to discuss things they really ought to talk about. The writers assume the viewers will know it all already, and overlook the fact that it’s still relevant to the characters. And assuming even a baseline level of familiarity would be optimistic, I’m thinking of my own parents here – I once challenged them to name literally any character who wasn’t Harry. My mother actually got Hermione, which is impressive, though couldn’t say who that actually was. Dad made a vague stab at Voldy and got the name wrong. That’s as far as they got. They don’t know the name Hogwarts, they don’t know the plot, my father assumed for years that my Slytherin tie was my own school tie despite my uniform never including a tie at any point ever. Yet they’ve been in the room while I watched at least two of the films, and were ostensibly watching them with me. I can confidently say that they’d be utterly lost while watching this within the first two minutes.]

I actually think part of the problem is that this thing wanted to be Book Eight, when for the change in medium it would have been much better to try to make it a more independent story. There is absolutely no reason that a story about “Harry Potter: the Next Generation” had to be so intimately tied up with plotlines from the books. I think they’d have been much better served to treat the series’ events as backstory, and try to tell an original story featuring the children (e.g. a conflict that had nothing to do with Voldemort, or at least connected only tangentially through residual social issues). Look to the future, not the past. I am not arguing that ignoring history completely is a good idea (neither in fiction nor real life), but rather that the fixation on time travel and returning to the past events of the books did this play no favours in terms of its accessibility to people who are not enfranchised fans.

So what does that say about who this is aimed at? This play is aimed squarely at deeply enfranchised fans who prefer to engage the source material with their brains firmly shut off, people who always accept what the narrative tells them rather than what it shows them. This play is aimed at validating the Goddamned Epilogue, and telling anyone remotely critical of it that alternative realities are not as good. I really do think that’s it. As an example, much ado was made (including by me) of the deathblows this play deals to e.g. the Ron/Hermione ship if you’re thinking through the implications, but it ends up coming down firmly in favour of it and arguing that it’s effectively predestined, part of a perfect world and must not be protested.

[This after even Rowling admitted it was a mistake she should never have written. Seems like she’s retconned that opinion and is back to thinking it’s wonderful. Consistency, what is that?]

Does the play succeed, as something aimed at people who loved everything about the original series? I’ve seen a few people claim to enjoy it on those terms, but it doesn’t seem to have been the most common reaction. Even a lot of people who were not critical of the series, I think, were turned off by the blatant absurdity of the plot in this, and by the character assassination of almost everyone.

Now again, maybe this play is improved somewhat by seeing it in actual theatres. It’s been pointed out many places already that a lot of work goes in between a script and the final performance you see, maybe the actors are rewriting the dialogue to sound more natural, or something. And maybe the “special effects” are seriously impressive, because the play does actually call for a lot of them. I can well imagine appreciating what the tech crew were able to pull off on a stage without necessarily approving of the plot or anything else. (What I have a harder time imagining is choosing to invest the money and resources in pulling off all those effects for such a stupid story.) And there’s also the theory I put forward in my prior post, that, essentially, after the huge downer ending on night one, the relief of seeing the status quo restored may well make the second night’s ending a high note.

I still don’t think you should see it. Or read the script. I read it so you don’t have to. Just try to forget this bullshit exists and get on with your life.

Before I forget…

Some last-minute miscellany. I was asked to look at the cast list and see if there was anything interesting there, and Loten wanted me to do the spell counter.

Firstly, the cast list.

These are the roles that were combined:

Moaning Myrtle and Lily Potter Sr
Uncle Vernon, Severus Snape, and Voldemort (!!! seriously?)
Hagrid and the Sorting Hat (again, why is someone playing the Sorting Hat)
Aunt Petunia, Madam Hooch, and Dolores Umbridge
Amos Diggory and Albus Dumbledore (again, seriously?)
Trolley Witch and Professor McGonagall
Cedric Diggory, James Potter Jr and James Potter Sr
Dudley Dursley, Karl Jenkins and Viktor Krum (these people aren’t built remotely the same!)
Rose Granger-Weasley and Young Hermione

[Okay most of these are very silly. Vernon’s the size of Snape and Voldemort combined. Umbridge is shorter and wider than Petunia or Hooch (and why was Madam Hooch even in this?) Krum and Dudley are also very different. The notion of Hagrid (presumably not actual size) being a hat is quite funny though, and McGonagall being a weird child-attacking monster works worryingly well.]

Young Harry is played by six different people, I guess so he can appear different ages in different flashbacks?
Lily Potter Jr, likewise, is played by three different people. I didn’t even realise she appeared on stage that many times.

Craig Bowker Jr, despite appearing in all of two scenes before he gets killed, has a unique actor. Bane, the centaur, who appears in exactly one scene, has a unique actor (though he’s also credited as Movement Captain later, so I think if anything this is more of a prominent crewperson getting a cameo). The stationmaster, who appears in exactly one scene and has barely any lines, has a unique actor.

I don’t really think I have any special insights from this, but perhaps someone will find this information interesting.

And the spell counter. Here are the results:

Delphi – 16
Draco – 13
Albus – 10
Harry – 9
Hermione – 5
Ginny – 4
Scorpius – 4
Cedric – 4
Snape – 3
Ron – 3
Trolley Witch – 2
Voldemort – 2
(Total = 75)

Honestly, there’s not much to remark on there. Some of this was a little ambiguous, there were some nonverbal things I chose to count as spells, and likewise a few attempts at spells that were cut off that I chose to still count (and on a couple of occasions, lots of people casting the same spell at the same time, which gave all of them a point each). I’m not sure if this actually tells us anything; there were actually a lot of spells cast in this.

Delphi, Draco and Harry have their counts inflated by participating in duels (although Harry somehow manages fewer spells than either despite being the one involved in both of those duels…). Cedric appears for one brief scene and does four spells in it. Snape is present only in three scenes in the alternate timeline, and manages three spells. The Trolley Witch and Voldemort are effectively present in only a single scene each, but manage two spells each (yes, that’s two for Voldemort also; apparently they only showed him killing James and Lily, not casting the third spell at Harry). Professor McGonagall is not on the list because she never does a single spell the entire play.

Delphi won the spell count despite not using magic at all until late in act three. Once she decides to reveal she’s evil, she starts spamming all over the place.

I found it odd Albus did so many more spells than Scorpius, despite Scorpius being present in more of the play (particularly the “bad timeline” when Albus doesn’t exist, but he does no spells in the bad timeline).

Make of that what you will.

[It’s a lot more than I was expecting. I suspect that’s going to be close to the entire spell count for at least half the canon series. Good to know Harry continues to suck magically, though.]

 
23 Comments

Posted by on August 14, 2016 in mitchell

 

Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, a Read-along (Act Four)

I sentence this play to death. Let’s see if I can follow through and finish it off. (Previous instalments: Act One Act Two Act Three)

Act four.

Scene one.

Again in the “grand meeting room” at the Ministry. Again this basically looks like Hermione’s giving a press conference for the general public (the other characters we know are present are the usual adult crowd for this play: McGonagall, Harry, Ginny, Draco, and Ron). She announces they found Craig Bowker dead, and that they learned of the prophecy and the existence of Voldemort’s child. (I find it interesting she actually used the title Dark Lord also, because that’s appeared pretty seldom in this play, most of the time people just say “Voldemort”.)

There’s a lot of talking back and forth about how little they know and how little they can do (McGonagall in particular is extremely angry with Hermione for apparently losing track of the Time-Turner again), that they’re trying to investigate (but it seems pretty hopeless). One by one, Harry, Draco, Ginny and Ron join Hermione on the stage in solidarity basically to say “we all fucked up”, apparently it’s a huge deal and shocks everyone present that Draco is supporting them.

Not much else to be said about this scene. It’s honestly just more filler, it’s not terribly written and it’s clearly trying to ratchet up the tension but I don’t think it accomplishes much.

Scene two.

Wow, I didn’t think there were more sharks left for this play to jump, but somehow this scene manages it, and in so doing clearly sets the tone for the rest of what’s still to come. Not promising, not that I was really expecting it to be.

Anyway, the setting is specified as a train station in the Scottish Highlands, in 1981. You can already see where this is going, I’m sure. That’s actually a bit of a spoiler if you’re reading the script, because they intend the year to be a bombshell reveal at the end of this scene.

Albus and Scorpius are at the train station, arguing with each other whether to try to talk to the stationmaster who is a Muggle, to find out if anyone has seen Delphi and/or what year it is. At least, they start out trying to talk about that, it pretty quickly gets sidetracked into their issues (Albus is hung up on the fact he thinks his father will blame them for this; Scorpius thinks it’s a bigger deal they’re trapped in an unknown time without wands, etc, and that Albus has odd priorities). There’s also an exchange about how Albus fancied Delphi and now feels guilty about it (so I guess they’re now trying to insist he’s completely heterosexual?).

The stationmaster interrupts them and asks if they know the trains are running late, in a very thick Scots accent they barely understand. He hands them a timetable and this gives the super shocking reveal: the date is 30 October 1981.

From this, the boys immediately jump to a conclusion, they think they’ve figured out Delphi’s plan. They think it’s because they were going on to her about how prophecies don’t need to come true, so instead of trying to fulfill the existing one she’s going to interfere with the original one (which they recite for the sake of the audience). So they decide they need to get to Godric’s Hollow to prevent Delphi killing Harry as a baby.

I have lots of questions about this, obviously. I almost don’t think it’s necessary to explain how ridiculous this is. I did check back to the previous scene, and apparently it does hint there that she’s doing something with the Time-Turner while they were struggling over it, before she breaks it, but still. It continues to amaze me how easy it supposedly is to specify dates/times to travel to on this Time-Turner, that Delphi could do something like this on a moment’s notice.

Likewise, I think we’re intended to view this as clever of Delphi, but really this is an Idiot Ball moment for her. She’s already had it confirmed that her previous strategy worked (they already brought true her prophecy, for fuck’s sake), she could’ve just offed the boys and replicated what they did to Diggory in the second task. Instead she’s going out of her way to interfere with something else, which is needlessly complicated, and she still has the boys in the same time period (again, why don’t you just shoot them).

Obviously this play is going to try for some kind of pseudo-profound parallelism in going back to “where things all began”. I’m really not sure what it’s going to be able to accomplish, because let’s face it, there’s nothing particularly special about the backstory/setup in which Voldemort tries to kill Harry, and I’m not sure it’s a good idea to be encouraging us to put that scene under greater scrutiny when the “power of love” bullshit explanations were thin and unconvincing as it is.

Sigh.

Scene three.

Suddenly the boys are in Godric’s Hollow. Again I have questions – how’d they know how to get there from wherever they were? How’d they get there so quickly? We don’t see them get on a train or anything, and they explicitly go out of their way to talk about how they have neither wands nor brooms. [They’re also not old enough to Apparate.]

Anyway, they walk through the city. Scorpius points out various landmarks, apparently he’s been there before but Albus never has (he apparently refused every time Harry tried to take him there). Scorpius mentions the statue that will exist eventually, which Albus apparently never knew about. They glimpse Bathilda Bagshot who Scorpius fanboys over (okay, that’s kind of cute), then see the Potter home, and see James and Lily pushing baby Harry in a “pushchair” (why don’t they just call it a pram, is pushchair an actual thing?). [Yes, a pushchair is what you call a stroller, a pram is the fancier show-off version. Which honestly James and Lily would have had, so your argument is perfectly valid.] They realise Delphi hasn’t gotten to them yet [why, what is she doing?], but also that they have no plan for what they’re going to do when she does show up.

[…why are James and Lily out with the baby? They’re meant to be in hiding. If you know bad guys are after you, maybe don’t go out for a stroll? Also, PLOT HOLE ALERT – the Potter house is Secret-Kept at this point. Pettigrew hasn’t told the boys, or the Mary Sue, where it is. None of them should be able to see it.]

Very good point about the Fidelius thing; somehow I completely missed that. Now there is some potential ambiguity here because we’re never told how that bloody spell is supposed to work. It does seem to render 12 Grimmauld invisible to those who haven’t been told the Secret, in OotP. But at the same time, the time-travel shenanigans could also just mean that, because everyone involved already know the Secret and it’s not under Fidelius in their time, they keep that knowledge when going backward (they weren’t there when the spell was cast, so under some theories of how it works they could be unaffected by it). But the play never even acknowledges the possibility (I’d have been perfectly fine if they just used a handwave like that) or acknowledges the Fidelius was there in the first place, so that’s another zero for you, writers. (And that’s even disregarding the fact that they’re supposed to be in hiding, they shouldn’t just be parading Harry about in public view without a care in the world.)

Scene four.

Harry’s office at the Ministry. This is a long scene and full of bullshit.

We open on Harry rifling through papers, trying to find any clue he missed. Dumbledore’s portrait initiates a conversation with him. Harry doesn’t seem particularly happy to see Dumbledore, and basically tells him to get lost because “[he was] absent every time it really counted”. Dumbledore spouts some platitudes about how he would have spared Harry if he could, but Harry isn’t having any of it:

HARRY: “Love blinds us”? Do you even know what that means? Do you even know how bad that advice was? My son is — my son is fighting battles for us just as I had to for you. And I have proved as bad a father to him as you were to me.

Damn, Harry. I may not care much for how they’ve written him to this point, but that’s a pretty good line, and something that probably did need to be said. In response, more self-justification from Dumbledore. We eventually get this:

[DUMBLEDORE:] Of course I loved you . . . and I knew that it would happen all over again . . . that where I loved, I would cause irreparable damage. I am no fit person to love . . . I have never loved without causing harm.
A beat.
HARRY: You would have hurt me less if you had told me this then.

I’m not sure what to make of this. I actually like that this is giving us some explicit acknowledgment that Dumbledore wasn’t perfect (never saw much of this in the main series! even Deathly Hallows’ attempt was tepid at best), and that Harry acknowledges Dumbledore treated him pretty badly. On the other hand, it just leads from that into Dumbledore spouting more platitudes about love (albeit, I think, slightly better ones than usual) and Harry admitting he loved Dumbledore too:

HARRY: I loved you too, Dumbledore.
DUMBLEDORE: I know.

They’re even ripping off fucking Star Wars now?

Dumbledore leaves. I think we’re supposed to have viewed this as an emotional and moving scene, but really it’s just more of Dumbledore being an arsehole. [I’m okay with that. Though it’s somewhat invalidated by people having been swearing by him as though he’s Jesus for the entire play.] Like the books, the play wants to have its cake and eat it too where Dumbledore is concerned.

Draco shows up shortly afterward, and the scene rapidly improves (though there’s still a lot to dislike).

DRACO: Did you know that in this other reality — the reality Scorpius saw into — I was Head of Magical Law Enforcement? Maybe this room will be mine soon enough. Are you okay?
HARRY is consumed in his grief.
HARRY: Come in — I’ll give you the tour.

That’s a pretty good exchange, I actually like it. But then we get this:

DRACO: The thing is, though — never really fancied being a Ministry man. Even as a child. My dad, it’s all he ever wanted — me, no.

I guess this is written to the movie canon, in which Lucius Malfoy worked at the Ministry for some insane reason? (I remember him once telling Arthur Weasley “I’ll see you at work” but it didn’t make a whole lot of sense). I tend to agree with something I once saw Arsinoe de Blassenville say in an author’s note, “it’s obvious that Lucius Malfoy’s career is being Lucius Malfoy”. He’s on the Hogwarts board and possibly the Wizengamot, he has investments, he throws money around, but he’s not the type to work for someone else (except reluctantly Voldemort) and he’s certainly not a bureaucrat. Lucius Malfoy buys politicians and bureaucrats, he wouldn’t sink so low as to become one himself.

Anyway, here comes the big reveal. The Time-Turner that’s been driving the plot up to this point was just a prototype, hence the five-minute problem. Apparently Theodore Nott (remember him?) had actually been working on commission from Lucius Malfoy, because “he liked owning things that no one else had”, he wanted it for his collection but had no intentions of using it. Anyway, Draco has the perfected version, which doesn’t have a time limit (and is also made of gold, as opposed to the other being made “of inexpensive metal”).

[Are we ever told what happened to Lucius and Narcissa? Or Molly and Arthur, come to that? It’s unlikely that all four of them are dead, and it’s less likely that none of them care about their grandsons. I can easily assume Ginny/Ron never bothered telling their parents what was going on, but Draco wouldn’t keep this from his parents. Likewise, James 2 and Lily 2 seem unconcerned about their brother.]

Nope, nothing. (Likewise, lots of people have been making noise about the absence of Teddy Lupin; lots of people are inexplicably missing who should be around.) To an extent I can understand this as artistic licence, because in a play you do need to keep the cast at reasonable levels, but it’s weird they don’t even mention these people’s existence or explain where they are (I suppose a problem in adapting books with a large cast to this medium). And there are some weird choices made (like, for instance, having Petunia and Vernon and Hagrid show up in flashbacks) that seemed unnecessary to me (though some of these are combined with other roles, admittedly), so I don’t think this defence works either.

We also get this:

HARRY: Hermione Granger. It was the reason she kept the first, the fear that there might be a second. Hanging on to this, you could have been sent to Azkaban.

Stop rewriting history, play. She said she was keeping it because she didn’t feel she had a choice, it was something new that they hadn’t seen before. Nothing to do with worrying about there being more of them. (I went back and checked.)

Draco says they couldn’t reveal they had it, because it would’ve supported the stupid rumours about Voldemort being Scorpius’ father. He goes into a monologue about Astoria; apparently it wasn’t so much that she was ill but an ancestral curse, a “blood malediction” that “showed up in her”. Much melodrama. Apparently he didn’t want to risk her health on a pregnancy and didn’t care if the Malfoy name would die out, but she insisted because she didn’t expect to live a long life and wanted Draco to “have somebody when she left”. They decided to live in seclusion in the hope that would be better for her health, but apparently that fuelled the rumours (somehow? Plenty of people live in seclusion in the Potterverse, it shouldn’t have seemed weird). Draco is regretful about this.

Draco offers the Time-Turner to Harry, he wants to go searching for their sons (he also says he’s been constantly resisting the temptation to use it to see his wife again, which is legitimately sad and a nice touch). Harry says they can’t, it would be impossible to find them. [You’re telling me the Head of the Aurors is saying there is literally no way to track specific individuals? I get that they don’t know what time period the boys are in, allegedly, but even going back year by year and casting locator spells each time wouldn’t take all that long. Harry isn’t exactly coming across as desperate to find his son.]

It would help if they explained how the Time-Turner worked (for instance, to what level of precision they can specify when to go to); I think the implication is supposed to be “we couldn’t possibly search all of time, there’s no way we’ll find anything”. Going year by year might not be enough, and day by day would probably be too daunting. That said, Harry does give up surprisingly quickly. It’s almost like he knows the plot’s going to feed him information later.

That’s where the scene ends.

Scene five.

Back with Albus and Scorpius trying to figure out what to do. Their first ideas are to tell people something (the Potters, then Dumbledore [not Snape, the only guy who ever actually tried to stop it?]) but they end up rejecting that because they’re afraid it’ll interfere too much with the future. (Finally, they’ve learnt caution! [Out of character caution!] I guess this is meant to be character development?) They realise they can’t ask for help in the past without risking changing it, so they’ll need to try sending a message to the future. [Faulty logic is faulty. They’ve never hesitated to change things before, and it’s never done anything catastrophic; what’s so special about this time?]

You’re absolutely right, the play’s weird insistence that “minor” changes don’t matter and only major ones do (e.g. they never undid Albus and Scorpius talking to young Hermione at the Triwizard, just the disarming spell on Cedric; that conversation should rightly have changed things too) plays havoc with their reasoning here. But I suppose this is an incidence of two stupids cancelling each other out, somehow.

Their first idea for that is to use Pensieve technology to implant it in baby Harry’s memory and try to set up a trigger for him to remember eventually, but they reject this because they’re afraid it’ll traumatise him. (I’m wondering how they’ve suddenly gained the knowledge and abilities necessary to do something like that, before they started on this time-travel odyssey they couldn’t even do expelliarmus.) [I wish you’d been doing a spell count, is Albus any more competent than dear old daddy?] (There actually is a lot of spellcasting in this, but you’re right, a spell count is probably a good idea. I’ll consider going back and doing it for a later post.)

Their next idea is to hide somewhere for forty years but that gets rejected pretty quickly, they think they’ll be hunted down and killed.

Albus sees Lily wrap Harry in the blanket (oh gods, here’s how the blanket becomes relevant; I told you it was a Chekhov’s gun) and realises Harry still has it (and remembers Harry said he always likes to hold the blanket on Halloween night) [Not only have we never seen this in canon, but Harry goes through multiple Halloweens throughout the series without giving his parents a single thought.]. But they don’t want him to see the message too early, so they have to do it in a way that it will only become visible when (of course) the love potion gets spilt on it. Apparently love potions contain pearl dust, which reacts with “tincture of Demiguise”, and tincture of Demiguise is otherwise invisible. Again, I wonder how they know this, because neither of them were particularly good students and this seems very specialised knowledge.

[This is stupid. If they’d done this, then the message would have already showed up when Albus first got rape juice on the blanket. It didn’t, therefore they didn’t, therefore this is impossible.]

They actually make excuses for this, along the lines that the blanket had been thrown in a corner and nobody went into that room since Albus first went missing. It’s a bit contrived, but they did try.

Scorpius remembers a “rumor” that Bathilda Bagshot never believed in locking doors, so they break into her house to “steal some wands and get potioning”. Sigh. Something about that phrase just sounds really, really stupid. [Everything about it. And why does Bathilda have multiple wands? And Potions equipment? She was a historian.]

Scene six.

We start with Harry and Ginny in Albus’ room, Harry’s blaming himself and angsting over the situation and Ginny’s comforting him (I think we’re supposed to make something of the fact she’s finally come around to not blaming him for it). Eventually Harry picks up the blanket, at first he’s upset to realise the love potion has burnt holes in it but eventually they realise it’s a message.

The way the rest of this scene is done is almost clever, Albus and Scorpius show up on another part of the stage and we cut back and forth (I’m assuming they do this with spotlighting, or something like that) between them trying to decide how to compose the message, and Harry and Ginny slowly figuring out what it says. Anyway, the message is “Dad. Help. Godric’s Hollow. 31/10/81.”

They’re filled with hope, and go to send owls to Hermione and Draco to tell them to meet them in Godric’s Hollow with the Time-Turner, they’re all going to go back.

I probably should complain about the contrivedness of this, but in the context of the rest of this bullshit play, I actually think this is one of the better scenes, just from a writing perspective.

The final line of the scene undoes most of my goodwill, though.

HARRY: Of course you’re coming. We have a chance, Ginny, and by Dumbledore — that’s all that we need — a chance.

WHY ARE YOU ALL STILL SWEARING BY DUMBLEDORE. FOR FUCK’S SAKE.

Scene seven.

They’re walking through Godric’s Hollow, reminiscing. Apparently they’re surprised to see lots of Muggles around. At one point Ron decides to insult Draco, Hermione doesn’t care for this and we get a bunch of pointless banter; eventually she forces him to apologise. I hate Ron. (At least Ron and Draco are calling each other ‘Malfoy’ and ‘Weasley’, they seem to have maybe finally figured out the last-name-basis thing.)

They use the Time-Turner.

Scene eight.

In “a shed” in Godric’s Hollow in 1981. Albus looks up and sees all of the others. (How’d they manage to turn up in the precise location the boys were waiting for them? Contrived coincidence is contrived.)

They talk for a bit, making plans. Eventually they decide that because they don’t know where Delphi is, they need to find a good vantage point with a wide view, to stake out and wait for her. Hermione decides on someplace called St Jerome’s Church. I don’t think we’ve ever really heard of this before, but it is one of the landmarks Scorpius pointed out when giving Albus the tour in the earlier scene. [St Jerome is the patron saint of librarians, translators and encyclopaedists. Seems an odd choice.]

Scene nine.

In the church now. Albus is taking a nap in a pew, Ginny and Harry are talking about him while wondering where Delphi is.

HARRY: Poor kid thought he had to save the world.
GINNY: Poor kid has saved the world. That blanket was masterful. I mean, he also almost destroyed the world, but probably best not to focus on that bit.

Ginny reminisces a bit about the time “[she’d] almost destroyed everything”, the Chamber of Secrets incident, and apparently one of the things that helped her get over it (even though we never saw this in canon) is that Harry, while everyone else was ignoring her, decided to play Exploding Snap with her in the Gryffindor common room. She basically tells Harry that it’s the small gestures that matter, and she thinks that’s what Albus needs from him. She doesn’t think Albus knows Harry loves him.

This is actually pretty good characterisation – a surprise, for this play – and honestly, the kind of thing Ginny’s character was missing in the books. One of the complaints we always had about her is that the books never show any of the emotional fallout of the Chamber incident for her (and the other characters, including Harry, pretty much ignore her on-page in the aftermath of that), and that as a character she was very inconsistently written from book to book. Something like this could’ve gone a long way back then, if Rowling had thought it was important enough to include, and probably would’ve helped make the Harry/Ginny ship more believable.

[I’m amused that Harry’s idea of helping someone who’s traumatised is to play a game involving things exploding.]

They talk for a while and Ginny eventually has a breakthrough. She realises that if Delphi were going to go after Harry, she could’ve done it at any time, because Harry was fifteen months old here (that’s explicitly stated, which underscores criticisms we’ve had of the Philosopher’s Stone opening but that’s a matter for another time) and she had plenty of time in which to kill him. Ginny thinks Delphi actually wants to meet “the father she loves”, and just to stop him making the attempt to kill Harry in the first place because that would be an easier way to subvert the prophecy.

[Voldy would kill her for it. Best way to do this would have been to kill Pettigrew before he could tell Voldy anything, then make sure the Order knew he was dead so they could give the Potters an actual competent Secret-Keeper. Though as I mentioned earlier the writers have forgotten about that.]

Scene ten.

Same place, but now everyone’s there. I’m not sure where the others were meant to be in the previous scene while Harry and Ginny were having their moment.

Anyway, some of the others are confused by this plan, that they’re essentially planning to help make sure Voldemort kills the Potters and tries to kill Harry properly.

Albus has the first important insight, which is apparently that none of the history books record when or where Voldemort arrived in Godric’s Hollow (fair enough, there’s no way they would have known), so he suggests they have someone Polyjuice into Voldemort and lure Delphi to them. (Apparently he thinks Bagshot has all the ingredients in her basement; he seems to have forgotten it takes a month to make the stuff. Though in fairness, I think the earlier scenes which involved Polyjuice had also forgotten that.) They realise they don’t have a piece of Voldemort to use, though, so that won’t work; they decide to use transfiguration instead (apparently that works?).

There’s much ado about everyone volunteering to play Voldemort and offering their own reasoning why it should be them to do it, which I honestly don’t care to recap (except to note that Ginny’s the only one not interested, because she “doesn’t want that voice in her head again”, I actually like that they’re going out of their way to try to give her consistent characterisation from CoS). It’s pointless, and a smokescreen for what they eventually realise has to be the way to do it, they have to use Harry because he’s the only one who speaks Parseltongue and it won’t be convincing without.

There’s much angst about how horrible this will be for Harry, and how they’re afraid he could get stuck that way if something goes wrong.

***PLOT HOLE ALERT*** hey, it’s been a while since I’ve done one of these. How do they know what Voldemort looked like in 1981? The only one who could possibly know is Harry, who never had visual memories of him. If we’re going to take this seriously, the weird snakelike noseless abomination he returns as was nothing like his original appearance, but rather a consequence of the ritual he used to rebirth himself. He should be more human looking in 1981, more “Tom Riddle” than “Voldemort”. The play will completely ignore this.

[Facepalm. Also, Harry is totally okay with this plan? He has no doubts whatsoever about helping to kill his parents?] Much angst will ensue later.

Anyway, their plan is for Harry-as-Voldy to get Delphi’s attention, then they’ll “zap her”. (Ron’s phrase.)

They all turn their wands on Harry and turn him into Voldemort. It apparently works.

Scene eleven.

Same place. Ginny’s angsting over how she doesn’t want to look at Harry while he’s in Voldemort’s form. Albus is angsting about the fact he liked Delphi, and Ginny’s empathising with him (I suppose she does have the experience of being deceived by Tom Riddle; again, they’re actually doing a decent job with Ginny).

Delphi shows up. The others take positions.

This scene is stupid. (Fitting, as it’s the climax of a thoroughly stupid play.)

She reveals herself to Pottermort and introduces herself as his daughter. He asks for an explanation. Here’s what she gives:

DELPHI: I am from the future. The child of Bellatrix Lestrange and you. I was born in Malfoy Manor before the Battle of Hogwarts. A battle you are going to lose. I have come to save you.

This does not make the logistics of her existence work out. Bellatrix showed up on-page quite a few times during Deathly Hallows [including in Malfoy Manor] and at no point during that was she shown to be pregnant. Nice fucking try, writers. (Likewise, as we’ve seen before and will shortly again, she knows how to fly without a broom, a skill we only ever saw Snape and Voldemort use. How did she learn this? Neither of them were available to teach her, regardless of which of them we’d prefer to believe taught the other.) THIS IS STUPID.

Anyway, he asks her for proof, she demonstrates first Parseltongue and then flight. Harry pretends to be impressed and implies he’ll accept her, wants her to come closer. She’s “desperately moved” by this, comes closer. Their plan is working until the transfiguration fails (a bit gradually, apparently first his hands go, then his hair “sprouts” so apparently they’re going with bald snakeymort after all, and I was right to insist this is a plot hole [I suppose they’re assuming the Mary Sue wouldn’t know what he looked like either?]) and she realises it’s Harry. (The way this spell unravels and he turns back, it seems pretty obvious to me they originally wrote this scene for Polyjuice, which comes with a built-in time limit, but may have realised that didn’t work and changed to transfiguration as a handwave. I don’t think we’ve ever seen time-limited transfigurations before.)

A fight starts. She sees the others trying to come out of the doors and shuts them with Colloportus. There’s a bit of duelling, she’s getting the better of Harry (stage directions say she’s “far stronger”), she disarms him. (She’s a huge Mary Sue.) [I don’t know, we know Harry’s magically inept and almost never uses magic…]

There’s a bit of Harry running away while she tries to kill him, Albus “emerges from a grate in the floor”, she tries to kill Albus but misses. Albus unlocks the church doors with Alohomora. (I didn’t think this is how those spells worked, as far as I knew “colloportus” was only for shutting doors, and alohomora only for opening locks, they’re not opposites.) [Agreed. Finite Incantatem would have made more sense.]

Anyway, the others come out and overwhelm her with the power of numbers.

HARRY: I’ve never fought alone, you see. And I never will.

Cheesy. [But true. He needs other people around to actually cast spells and achieve things. Even his battle against the basilisk needed Fawkes.]

They bind her but refuse to kill her. There’s some more cheesy dialogue:

DELPHI: I only wanted to know my father.
These words take HARRY by surprise.
HARRY: You can’t remake your life. You’ll always be an orphan. That never leaves you.
DELPHI: Just let me — see him.
HARRY: I can’t and I won’t.
DELPHI (truly pitiful): Then kill me.
HARRY thinks a moment.
HARRY: I can’t do that either.

Actually, that’s pretty cold for Harry. But as I said, cheesy dialogue. There’s more cheesiness as they discuss why they can’t kill her because they have to be better than her, so they’ll bring her back to the future and lock her in Azkaban “to rot like her mother”. [Yes, that’s much more noble and merciful than a quick death. Our Heroes, everyone.]

Voldemort shows up. And this happens:

DELPHI: Father!
DRACO: Silencio! (DELPHI is gagged.) Wingardium Leviosa! (She is sent upwards and away.)

This play is so stupid.

Scene twelve.

Harry angsts that they have to let his parents die and there’s nothing they can do about it. The others tell him that he could stop it, but he won’t and that makes him heroic (Mark Oshiro called this play “an after-school special on not using time travel” and this has never been so clear). They decide they have to watch it happen [once again, Secret-Kept, they can’t see the bloody house]. We get a rehash of that scene.

Scene thirteen.

It’s the Potters’ ruined house. Hagrid shows up and finds Harry, takes him, leaves. Nothing else to say.

Scene fourteen.

There’s been a significant timeskip, because apparently that was enough closure to put on the main plot of this play (no trial for Delphi?). This play is stupid. Anyway, we’re in “disgusting epilogue” territory now.

The setting is a generic “classroom” at Hogwarts, but only Albus and Scorpius are present. This scene is deliberately aimed at destroying any possible sense you may have had that these boys could be gay and attracted to each other. “Have I mentioned I am heterosexual today?” Mark is not going to be happy. [He’s not.]

This scene is cringeworthy and, frankly, misogynistic and objectifying. They’re talking about how Scorpius asked Rose out, she turned him down, but:

SCORPIUS: But I asked her. I planted the acorn. The acorn that will grow into our eventual marriage.

SCORPIUS: Pity is a start, my friend, a foundation on which to build a palace — a palace of love.
ALBUS: I honestly thought I’d be the first of us to get a girlfriend.
SCORPIUS: Oh, you will, undoubtedly, probably that new smoky-eyed Potions professor — she’s old enough for you, right?
ALBUS: I don’t have a thing about older women!
SCORPIUS: And you’ve got time — a lot of time — to seduce her. Because Rose is going to take years to persuade.

Creepy. This is some PUA bullshit. But not quite as creepy as Rape Juice Ron. [Ick.]

There’s some irrelevant talk about Quidditch and that maybe they’re going to try to get into it despite not caring before. I don’t care now.

The scene ends with them hugging. But I don’t think any of the people who wanted them to see that are going to be happy with this scene. This scene is honestly insulting.

Scene fifteen.

The setting is “a beautiful hill”. I can already tell this is going to be full of banalities. Harry and Albus are together, reminiscing. It’s a sort of reconciliation. It’s trying to be profound but it’s really hard to care.

Albus mentions watching Harry’s parents and says he thinks they’d have liked them. Harry goes from that into a monologue:

HARRY: You know, I thought I’d lost him — Voldemort — I thought I’d lost him — and then my scar started hurting again and I had dreams of him and I could even speak Parseltongue again and I started to feel like I’d not changed at all — that he’d never let me go —
ALBUS: And had he?
HARRY: The part of me that was Voldemort died a long time ago, but it wasn’t enough to be physically rid of him — I had to be mentally rid of him. And that — is a lot to learn for a forty-year-old man.

“lost” is a really strange word choice for this, it almost sounds like Harry’s talking about breaking up with an ex-boyfriend. [Suggested drinking game for anyone contemplating reading this – shipper bingo.]

There’s some reconciliation. Harry resolves to be a better father.

HARRY: Delphi wasn’t going anywhere, Albus — you brought her out into the light and you found a way for us to fight her. You may not see it now, but you saved us.
ALBUS: But shouldn’t I have done better?
HARRY: You don’t think I ask myself the same questions?

That’s actually a decent exchange, this scene isn’t entirely garbage.

HARRY: Those names you have — they shouldn’t be a burden. Albus Dumbledore had his trials too, you know — and Severus Snape, well, you know all about him —
ALBUS: They were good men.
HARRY: They were great men, with huge flaws, and you know what — those flaws almost made them greater.

This isn’t terrible either.

Anyway, it turns out they’re actually at a graveyard; specifically, Cedric Diggory’s grave, because of course they are. Apparently Harry likes to come here to “say sorry” for not having been able to save him [once again something we never saw in canon, he barely gives Cedric another thought after the single incident of Dudley overhearing nightmares], there’s a forced parallel with Albus having seen Craig Bowker die while not knowing him well.

HARRY: I didn’t know Cedric well enough either. He could have played Quidditch for England. Or been a brilliant Auror. He could have been anything. And Amos is right — he was stolen. So I come here. Just to say sorry. When I can.

This is fucking rich coming from a play that operates on the fundamental assumption that Cedric Diggory would have become a Death Eater in any timeline in which he survived.

Anyway, they have a father-and-son moment.

That’s where things end. The entire play. I think it’s supposed to be poignant or something. Fuck it all.

Semifinal thoughts on this act:

This is some heavy-handed, contrived bullshit, to force in callbacks to the backstory of the original series and use them to create pseudoprofundity. At best, it’s playing on the emotions of invested fans of the series to create a response it hasn’t earned. At worst, it’s a bunch of redundancy that’s trying way too hard.

Delphi is revealed to be an implausible Mary Sue figure shoehorned into the canon where she couldn’t possibly exist. Rather emblematic of the play as a whole, really.

All of the queerbaiting for the Albus/Scorpius ship comes to nothing as the play insists on heteronormativity in the end, which is (frankly) utterly insulting. Not that the play’s portrayal of heterosexual relationships is any better, that’s full of misogyny and rape culture. This is a bunch of regressive nonsense that we should really have moved past in this day and age, especially when Rowling likes to claim she’s feminist and progressive. She should have been embarrassed to put her name to this if that were the case.

As it turns out, my speculation was mostly right, in that (in the end) the status quo is restored and people can leave the theatre knowing that most of the bullshit they saw was irrelevant. That leaves them free to have enjoyed the special effects (which I can’t judge, not having seen them, but the script is quite demanding and to pull off what it calls for on a stage would be genuinely impressive), and some of the character development that was forced in at the end (and the final scene does manage some genuine pathos) while ignoring the parts they don’t like. Especially after the massive downer/cliffhanger at the end of part one, I can see why this ending would be a relief, so this is my hypothesis for why many people are leaving the theatre raving about this play while everyone who reads it thinks it’s a horrific mess. (Alternatively, they’re just nuts; I’m sorry for singling this person’s comment out but their perspective is utterly alien to me.)

I won’t quite say I wish I hadn’t read it – shredding it felt good in places, and I’m happy to do this as a service so other people don’t feel the need to read it themselves and put themselves through that. Hopefully I was sufficiently thorough that you can all see the bullshit for yourselves.

[For my part I’m glad I didn’t read it, and although I do have a copy of the script I don’t plan to.]

I’m planning to do a final thoughts post in a few days, once I’m more sure how to sum up this whole experience.

 
18 Comments

Posted by on August 11, 2016 in mitchell

 

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, a Read-along (Act Three)

I really don’t want to do this, but there’s the entire second night of play to get through. Here begins part two. I was actually expecting this to be called “part two, act one” but it’s actually “act three”; honestly, I find that preferable. So, here begins act three, the first act of part two. If you missed them: Act One Act Two.

(Side note: judging by the search terms bringing people to our blog, nobody else knows what a scarramanger is either.)

Scene one.

This is essentially an “infodump the timeline differences” scene, it looks like. We’re in the Headmistress’ office, now occupied by Dolores Umbridge, and Scorpius comes in to talk.

Umbridge is praising him for his “past actions” (how we learn what alternate-timeline-Scorpius was up to before being replaced by time-traveller-Scorpius). There’s not a lot to be said about this, really; pure blood is obviously included, she praises his athleticism (which puzzles him) and reveals he plays Quidditch and is known for catching Snitches, she favours him for Head Boy, and has apparently praised him to something called “the Augurey”. [Isn’t that something from Fantastic Beasts? Let me look it up… yes, it is. It’s an Irish phoenix-like bird that can predict when it’s going to rain. What the hell does that have to do with anything?] (I looked it up too, and discuss it later.)

But she wants to know what’s wrong with him because of his “sudden obsession with Harry Potter” and has been asking lots of questions, says they’ve “checked him for hexes and curses” but there wasn’t anything.

Scorpius assures her it was just a “temporary aberration”. She seems to accept this without any suspicion whatsoever, because for some reason lots of people like to write as though evil and stupid are synonyms.

She dismisses him with some kind of salute or secret handshake thing (“She puts her hand to her heart, and touches her wrists together.”), saying “For Voldemort and Valor”, which Scorpius reluctantly copies. [I’m trying to picture that and whichever way you look at it, it looks stupid. I’d rather they took the really obvious route and co-opted V for Victory, though I suppose a society that eliminates all Muggleborns wouldn’t know about that.]

That’s where the scene ends.

I have to wonder, here, whether this is Team Rowling’s love of alliteration getting the better of them, or if they’re so steeped in Gryffindorism that they think any victorious group would adopt that ideology and value system. “Valor” is a very peculiar thing for the Dark Lord and his followers to incorporate in their slogan. Why not “For Voldemort and Victory” or something like that? That one’s not perfect because this is after they’ve already won, but it would still be an improvement, and it keeps the alliteration they seem to want so badly. It took me less than thirty seconds to come up with something better. [Team Valor is one of the gym-claiming teams in Pokemon Go.]

Consistency in characterisation is important and this play doesn’t seem to care.

Also, while I’m at it, I should say that I can already see where this is going. The next several scenes at least are going to focus on showing exactly how awful this bad timeline is, and probably not revealing any information readers/viewers care about, or much that will be relevant to the plot once this all gets undone. It’s going to be a colossal waste of everyone’s time for the sake of Scorpius’ angst and making the audience miserable, and I’m not looking forward to reading it.

Scene two.

Hogwarts Grounds, Scorpius is with some generic Hogwarts students. More specifically, these are the three recurring generic Hogwarts students who show up whenever generic Hogwarts students are needed, I haven’t bothered mentioning them before because they’ve shown up only in a handful of scenes and had barely any lines. But here they are, all together, so I’ll give their names: Karl Jenkins, Yann Fredericks, and Polly Chapman. And here’s what we know so far about these people: absolutely nothing!

They call Scorpius “Scorpion King” and this is apparently a running nickname. Facepalm. Here’s how to make your play more interesting, reference bad movies! Okay, okay, it’s a bad nickname and Scorpius has to pretend to like it, much angst. [I’m assuming they’re all purebloods given that we’re in grimdark world now, so how have they heard the phrase before? I could see them managing Scorpion, but in conjunction with King?]

The boys are after Scorpius to see if they’re “still on for tomorrow night” to “spill some proper Mudblood guts”. Serious question: this is something like twenty years after a Voldemort victory, how are there still “Mudbloods” left who would be accessible to teenagers (i.e., haven’t been killed, imprisoned, or gone into hiding)? This is heavy-handed at the expense of making sense. We get it, it’s a Voldemort wins timeline. [I assume new Muggleborns are still being born, and powerful ones are still being registered by the magic book nobody understands? So they’re going to prove their manliness by killing children, because grimdark?]

Polly, because she’s a girl, wants to talk about balls and crushes. (Feminism!) No, not about crushing balls, that’d be interesting. She’s trying to get Scorpius to ask her to something called the Blood Ball (essentially she asks him, but because The Man must do the asking, she’s asking him to ask her. Of course). And because we haven’t heard that word enough already, the reason she’s asking him is because there were rumours he liked her, she repeats the word rumour multiple times.

And of course it’s called the Blood Ball (I almost wish they’d gone for irony factor and called it the “Purity Ball“, that’d have been halfway clever, but I suppose we mustn’t piss off Christians), because lazy implausible names are the way to go, subtle writing is out of fashion. You’d think if they wanted to stick to Goblet of Fire parallels (as is so much of this play) they’d just use the Yule Ball, but that doesn’t sound EEEEEEEEVIL enough.

[It just makes me think of the opening scene from the first Blade movie.]

Scorpius hears some screaming and asks what that is. Here’s Polly’s response:

POLLY CHAPMAN: Mudbloods, of course. In the dungeons. Your idea, wasn’t it? What’s going on with you? Oh Potter, I’ve got blood on my shoes again . . .
She bends and carefully cleans the blood off her shoes.
Like the Augurey insists — the future is ours to make — so here I am, making a future — with you. For Voldemort and Valor.

Again, why are these people at Hogwarts to torture? Where are they coming from? Is Hogwarts still recruiting Muggle-borns and then throwing them into torture chambers? (I thought the official talking point in Deathly Hallows was there were no such things as Muggleborns, they were stealing magic, so shouldn’t the official line be that after the existing ones were eliminated no more should arise?) Are these just political prisoners being tortured in Hogwarts because reasons? Why am I thinking about this when the authors clearly haven’t?

Why is Polly using Potter as a swear word? Do defeated enemies typically get made into swear words, do American soldiers go around saying “oh, Saddam”? Again, this is heavy-handed bullshit.

And of course, for maximum angst, bad-timeline-Scorpius has to be a leader in the pro-Voldemort movement.

And the clunky dialogue name-drops “the Augurey” again. I wonder. Could that possibly be something important that the audience is meant to remember? [No, seriously, I checked the HP wiki as well. It literally just predicts when it’s going to rain. Has Rowling forgotten her creations again?]

I hate this play.

Scene three.

We’re in the office of the head of magical law enforcement, which is now occupied by Draco. I have to quote the stage directions here:

DRACO is impressive in a way we haven’t seen. He has the smell of power about him. Flying down either side of the room are Augurey flags — with the bird emblazoned in a fascistic manner.

Is it really common practice, to use purple-prose descriptions in stage directions that are meant to indicate how to set things up? Is some naive theatre director going to decide they have to dunk Draco in a certain kind of cologne (maybe scented like crude oil, or something?) for this scene? [He sounds like an Ayn Rand hero…]

We start off with Draco scolding Scorpius, but it pretty quickly comes out that Draco isn’t entirely on-board with the Voldemort regime despite holding a prominent position in it. Scorpius keeps mentioning his mother and how she didn’t think Draco is evil so how could he be doing this, etc etc, which is what brings that on. This is actually a pretty well-written conversation, I don’t mind this scene. Except for the fact that Draco name-drops the Augurey again, as someone he reports to; it hasn’t even been revealed what the Augurey is (well, we know it’s a bird) and I’m already tired of hearing about it.

DRACO studies his son.
DRACO: There’s more of her in there than I thought.
Beat. He looks at SCORPIUS carefully.
Whatever you’re doing — do it safely. I can’t lose you too.

It’s heavy-handed, and there’s an extent to which this is a sexist cliche (once again Astoria is the Sainted Dead Mother, and it takes a woman to bring out the best in men or some bullshit), but I like that Draco seems to be a decent father even in the bad timeline.

This was definitely one of the better scenes, though.

Scene four.

Scorpius is in the Hogwarts library, and the question he’s asking is “How did Cedric become a Death Eater?”. The question I’m asking is how he knows to ask this, because this is the first we’ve heard of it. And also how he doesn’t know the answer, because “Team Potter turned me into a fucking hot-air fireworks ballon to try to get his friends together” is a pretty solid motivation and Scorpius saw that happen.

He runs into someone called Craig Bowker Jr (who I’m pretty sure we’ve never heard of before), who’s wearing “tattered and worn” clothes and frantically trying to do Scorpius’ homework for him (Scorpius is shocked by this, and more so when Bowker goes on and on about how much he knows Scorpius hates homework). He mentions the assignment is for Professor Snape, which gives Scorpius an idea.

SCORPIUS: Did he say Snape?

I guess you need to be a bit heavy-handed at times in theatre to make sure the audience catch the important things, but really, an explicit double-take after Bowker leaves? Really?

Scene five.

Potions classroom, and get ready for some awkward conversation. Snape’s apparently alone in there (why isn’t this, say, in his office? Why would he be alone in the classroom? Conservation of sets, I assume, but at the same time I don’t think we’ve seen the potions classroom before).

Snape is vaguely sarcastic but doesn’t really sound like I would expect him to (but there are plenty of ways this could be explained, so while I think it’s bad writing it’s probably defensible). He does get a handful of decent lines:

SCORPIUS: I just don’t know what help I — need. Are you still undercover now? Are you still working secretly for Dumbledore?
SNAPE: Dumbledore? Dumbledore’s dead. And my work for him was public — I taught in his school.

In response to Scorpius initially mentioning time travel:

SNAPE: I’d say that the rumors of Hogwarts’s beloved Scorpion King losing his mind are well-founded.

Anyway, they talk about things for a while, Snape is suspicious but for some reason still answers Scorpius’ questions. Apparently where it all went wrong is that Cedric Diggory became a Death Eater and killed Neville in the Battle of Hogwarts; Snape doesn’t know why this would matter but Scorpius concludes it’s because that meant Nagini survived. Snape’s eventually had enough, and tells Scorpius he’ll go to Draco if he doesn’t leave.

Scorpius’ response to this is to mention Lily. Once again, this is some heavy-handed bullshit. Snape is “overwhelmed” by Scorpius mentioning he loved Lily. Then this happens:

[SCORPIUS:] Harry Potter told his son you’re a great man. […] He said you were the bravest man he’d ever met. He knew, you see — he knew your secret — what you did for Dumbledore. And he admired you for it — greatly. And that’s why he named his son — my best friend — after you both. Albus Severus Potter.
SNAPE is stopped. He is deeply moved.
Please — for Lily, for the world, help me.

I understand you’re desperate, Scorpius, but do you really have to go straight for the emotional manipulation?

Anyway, apparently this is enough to convince him, and (for some reason) he uses a spell to close the door (so they were having this conversation with the door open), and “opens a hatch” which apparently leads to a secret passage. This will take them to “a room hidden in the roots of the Whomping Willow”. Snape mentions “we’ve had to move” a few times but doesn’t say who the others are.

[This is not how Snape would behave. I agree the lines don’t really sound like him, but he also would not be convinced this easily. He’d reveal nothing, admit to nothing, kick Scorpius out and then start trying to figure out who the hell had this much blackmail material on him and who he has to kill to keep it silent.]

Scene six.

The set name for this scene is just “Campaign Room”, whatever that means. Someone’s getting lazier. So much for hoping this play might’ve improved when Snape inevitably showed up.

Once again, this is hard to recap. Anyway, in this room is Hermione, and Ron will show up shortly. She threatens Scorpius and it takes a while for him and Snape to convince her he’s on their side.

SNAPE: Safe. He’s safe. (Beat.) You know you never could listen. You were a terrible bore of a student and you’re a terrible bore of — whatever you are.
HERMIONE: I was an excellent student.
SNAPE: You were moderate to average. He’s on our side!

This doesn’t really sound like Snape to me. It also sounds a bit flirtatious. I’m pretty sure this scene and the next one were put here entirely to tease the SS/HG shippers. [I do not approve, this is not fair.]

There’s this:

HERMIONE: Most people know me as Granger. And I don’t believe a word you say, Malfoy —

Oh, NOW they decide to bring the last-name-basis stuff in? So people call each other by first names in good-worlds when the side of good wins, but last names are what you use when evil is about? (That’s obviously ludicrous but how else do you interpret this?)

RON runs in. His hair spiked. His clothes scruffy. He is slightly less good at the rebel look than HERMIONE is.

What the fuck does this mean? Why does he have spiked hair? Are we supposed to get the impression that he’s trying too hard to look like a teenager’s idea of what a rebel is, because somehow that’s what you do when you’re actually a rebel against something? I don’t find this amusing. Even Ron isn’t that stupid. If you’re living in hiding because you’re one of the only holdouts against a totalitarian regime trying to kill you, you don’t really have the time or resources to gel your hair into spikes and keep it that way.

Ron tries to threaten Scorpius but “fumbles out his wand” and ends up holding it backwards. How is Ron still alive?

SNAPE: He’s safe, Ron.
RON looks at HERMIONE, who nods.
RON: Thank Dumbledore for that.

Why is Snape calling Ron by his first name? [Well, if the surname thing is apparently normal now, it’s presumably some sort of infantalising insult. That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.]

And again with the “thank Dumbledore”. Dumbledore is not God, try to get this through your heads, writers! Dumbledore’s also explicitly been stated to be dead in this timeline. Dumbledore lost, why are you thanking him? THIS MAKES NO SENSE. [Technically Jesus lost too, and people still invoke him…]

Scene seven.

Apparently, between the last scene and this one Scorpius has done some off-screen explaining. Anyway, they’re inclined to believe him because there’s no other way he could’ve known what he knows about them.

Ron claims he and Hermione are the only survivors of “Dumbledore’s Army”.

[RON:] Granger here is a wanted woman. I’m a wanted man.
SNAPE (dryly): Less wanted.

Okay, I almost chuckled. I told you they’re baiting SS/HG. [Well, so far this has been the only line I actually like. I still maintain it’s not fair though.]

They ask Scorpius about the details of the original timeline, which he tells them. Hermione is shocked but happy to learn she was Minister for Magic, Ron less pleased to learn he runs a joke shop. Then we get this exchange:

SCORPIUS: You’re mostly focused on bringing up your kids.
RON: Great. I expect their mother is hot.

I hate Ron. He’s a stereotype of male chauvinism. Scorpius of course decides this is the moment to tell them they were married to each other, which we’re told “astonishes” them, and he makes a point of how they were surprised by this in the other timeline too. There’s much ado about them exchanging looks, I’m not actually sure what this scene is trying to imply about them.

HERMIONE: Close your mouth when you’re looking at me, Weasley.

Snape calls him Ron but Hermione calls him Weasley? (she also calls Snape Snape in the next sentence) Would it hurt you to use a bit of consistency, writers? Did you bang this out in one sitting and not proofread? [Still going with Snape insulting Ron. Also looks like Hermione is no longer friends with him, which I’m also okay with.]

Honestly, this naming inconsistency is the first thing I’ve seen in this play that clearly shows signs of being other than Rowling’s handiwork. She was very, very consistent with how she wrote last-name basis in the books. It’s weird.

Anyway, Snape has figured out that he’s dead in the other timelines, based on the fact that Scorpius was surprised to see him. He’s not too happy to find out that Voldemort killed him:

SNAPE: How very irritating.
There’s a silence as SNAPE digests.
Still, there’s glory in being taken down by the Dark Lord himself, I suppose.
HERMIONE: I’m sorry, Severus.
SNAPE looks at her, and then swallows the pain. He indicates RON with a flick of his head.
SNAPE: Well, at least I’m not married to him.

Being married to Ron a fate worse than death? I approve this message. Also, again with the naming weirdness – she called him Snape earlier, now she’s calling him Severus? (more SS/HG baiting) [Not fair!] Although his line before that is out of character: since when has Snape given a fuck about glory? [I suppose maybe it’s to call back to his infamous Potions speech about brewing it? Bit of a stretch. But I can see him at least being pleased to get a somewhat noble death. Luckily Scorpius didn’t tell him how that scene actually went, he’d be much less pleased about that…]

They discuss how the Time-Turner works (including the explicit five-minute time limit which Scorpius has figured out… somehow), what spells they used to mess things up and how they’ll reverse them (apparently a shield charm will do it). They also talk about the limitation that it only moves you in time, not in space, so they’re going to have to leave this safe room and endanger their lives; Snape thinks only he and Scorpius should go, but Hermione insists it’s worth the risk and she doesn’t want to trust anyone else with the task.

They use the Time-Turner (apparently, despite the five minute limit, they’re going to go back in their current location and then rush to the tournament; this seems implausible to me).

There is a bang and a flash and our gang disappear.

Our gang? That’s what you choose to call this group? I don’t know why, but that choice of word really irritates me.

Nitpick: if the Time-Turner moves you only in time and not in space, they’ll end up in the vacuum of space somewhere because they have no way of accounting for planetary motion (and motion of the solar system itself, and so on; nothing is stationary). In order for this play’s plot to work as written, it has to assume a geocentric universe. What amuses me is that that is actually not the most ridiculous assumption the play has made so far.

Scene eight.

It’s a rehash of the first Triwizard scene, but these four are now there watching. Hermione blocks Albus’ disarming spell (though the stage directions say “as Albus attempts to summon Cedric’s wand”, so they can’t even keep straight what spells people are using). As the time turner pulls them back they hear Bagman talking about Diggory pulling off the dog transfiguration.

[BAGMAN:] A dog — he’s transfigured a stone into a dog — dog diggity, Cedric Diggory — you are a doggy dynamo.

Bagman is awful and I loathe him. [What the fuck, nobody talks like this. Is he stoned?]

***PLOT HOLE ALERT*** I don’t understand why they’re undoing the first change first. That should have changed the timeline they’d return to: Albus’ entire reasoning around the second “humiliation” gambit was based on the fact Cedric still did well after losing his wand somehow, without that reasoning he’d likely try something different, and these time travellers should end up in an entirely different future. They show no awareness of even having thought about this; they could easily have dropped it in when they were discussing what spells to use.

Maybe it’s because I’ve studied programming, but it seems obvious to me that you have to treat these kind of changes as a stack: last in, first out. That way, each time you undo a change you return to a previously known state. The way this play is doing things, the characters are being incredibly reckless. Also, we’ll see in the next scene they return to the “bad timeline” as if nothing changed, so the play is ignoring the consequences of that recklessness. This is incredibly poorly-thought-out, and somebody should have caught this. You fail time travel forever.

This play is stupid.

Scene nine.

They return to the present, at the edge of the forbidden forest. Ron’s in pain for some reason [good], Scorpius mentions that happened to Albus too. Snape is aware that because they’re outdoors, they’re vulnerable (he also says “we came back to the wrong place”; apparently, they were expecting to return to wherever they used the Time-Turner at first, despite having clearly stated it moves you only in time and not in space? This is stupid), and is trying to get everyone back to shelter.

Dementors notice them. Hermione decides the dementors are after her, not the rest of them, so she’s going to sacrifice herself to buy them time (that’s your best plan? MELODRAMA). She tells Ron she loves him and has always loved him (sigh, so much for the SS/HG tease) [oh goddamnit], she doesn’t care the Dementors will suck out her soul because the timeline will be undone, and tells them to go. Ron decides to stay with her (“can we talk about the love thing?”). She prevents him from doing a Patronus because she thinks they’ll keep the dementors there longer that way (is that how that works? I didn’t think it took dementors long to kiss people), they reminisce about the fact they had children in another timeline and think that’s a nice thought (sigh), they kiss. The dementors pull them apart and kiss them.

Well, actually, it’s described like this:

And then the two are yanked apart. And pinned to the ground. And we watch as a golden-whitish haze is pulled from their bodies. They have their souls sucked from them. And it is terrifying.

No mention of the dementors actually kissing them, which is weird and probably an inconsistency. Also, for maximum drama Snape and Scorpius basically just stand there watching this [probably stunned by the stupidity]. I suppose that’s a consequence of doing this in a play, they don’t want to have multiple things going on to divide the audience’s focus? But that has the unintended consequence of making the characters look like idiots and wasting the sacrifice by not actually taking advantage of the delay.

Sidebar: Can I talk about the stupid soulmate thing now? I guess I’m going to talk about it now. I really take umbrage at the notion, promoted by this play, that each person has a “correct” partner they’re meant to be with (how this is actually determined varies depending on who you ask, but usually it’s some flavour of predestination) and can’t have the same quality of romantic relationship with anyone else. This is deeply toxic and dangerous, and does not reflect the world we actually live in. (I recommend Tim Minchin’s statistically accurate love song. Seriously, he really covers a lot of what’s wrong with the soulmate model and does it hilariously.)

This play is, pretty much explicitly, arguing for something like the soulmate model in its portrayal of Ron and Hermione in the alternate timelines. (Never mind what I think of the Ron/Hermione relationship, and how problematic it is that THAT relationship is the one they choose to be the “correct” one, or the frequent mentions of love potions rape drugs). This despite the fact that they’re also hinting that Ron was happy with Padma in the first alternate timeline and possibly that that relationship was better for him, until he gets wind that he could’ve had Hermione instead (despite the backstory of that timeline being that he’d gotten on better with Padma!) and suddenly changes course to pine over her. Unless you find your predestined match, you’re doing it wrong, even if superficially you look happy with whomever you found instead (this play seems to be arguing). No. NO. I reject this utterly. If all of the parties to a relationship are happy in it and it works for them, that’s a successful relationship, full stop. This shouldn’t be a controversial view.

FUCK THIS PLAY.

[Needless to say, I agree with all of the above.]

Okay, that’s that off my chest. Back to this scene.

A dementor blocks the progress of Snape and Scorpius, rendering the sacrifice we just saw entirely meaningless. They talk a bit about why they’re doing what they’re doing and it’s not terribly interesting; Snape is trying to distract Scorpius from the effects of the dementor but it’s not working. [As opposed to, say, fighting the damned thing? Snape can cast a patronus and I’ve never believed that’s the only way to harm a dementor anyway.] Then Umbridge shows up saying they’ve caught Hermione.

Apparently this version of Snape isn’t very good at lying or keeping his sarcasm in check, because he says this

SNAPE: That’s — fantastic.

and apparently that’s enough for Umbridge to instantly conclude that they’d been working together all along. There’s a bit of argument, Snape admits it; she admits she’s suspected him for years, then this happens.

UMBRIDGE rises off the ground. She opens her arms wide, full of Dark Magic. She takes out her wand.

What’s this supposed to be? We have never seen magic work like this in the Potterverse before. And likewise, what the hell does “full of Dark Magic” even mean? This is word salad. Anyway, Snape beats her to the draw and uses a spell called Depulso on her that sends her flying away (why doesn’t he just kill her?).

He summons his Patronus, which is still Lily’s doe, and they talk about that a bit. More dementors come, and Snape basically does a “you shall not pass”, he intends to hold the dementors off while Scorpius does the time travel thing, and tells Scorpius to tell Albus he’s proud to be his namesake. Scorpius runs, and Snape too is kissed by the dementors (but again it’s described as earlier). [So… in this timeline patronuses don’t actually do anything to dementors except slow them down a bit? In complete contrast with everything we’ve ever seen or heard about them before?]

(Snape, you’re proud to be the namesake of a bumbling fool who screwed about with time and accidentally made Voldemort win? Those being his last words make this an even more ignominious death than he suffered in canon.)

[I agree. This is bullshit. It’s out of character, it breaks what passes for the magic system, I’m pissed at the mockery of my ship and this is not how any of these people would act.]

There are a lot of stage directions here. Weirdly, they don’t actually indicate Scorpius using the Time-Turner or anything, there are just a bunch of events and then Scorpius evenutally comes up in the lake. But “The sky certainly seems — bluer than before.” (heavy-handed colour imagery, fuck this play) and Albus is there too so he’s clearly back in one of the better timelines. They both start talking pretty rapidly at each other, apparently Albus has just gotten back from the second time-travel incident (I’ve already said why this makes no sense and won’t keep harping on about that) but he saw Scorpius cancelling the spell on Cedric just after it started. So we’ve actually skipped completely the time travel incident and just jumped straight to the good timeline. That seems a weird choice. Scorpius doesn’t even seem to know that he succeeded at stopping Albus, so I’m not clear how that even happened.

Anyway, he’s really happy to see Albus and hugs him while they’re trying to swim (apparently this is a struggle), and is really happy to realise that Albus is wearing Slytherin robes again. Albus is confused, because Scorpius is really happy that they failed and this doesn’t make sense to him. (This scene is definitely pushing the Albus/Scorpius ship really hard; they’re even floating in water!)

Harry, Draco, Ginny, and McGonagall show up and find them and there’s some talk. They know what was going on because apparently they found out from Myrtle; Scorpius eventually realises he doesn’t have the Time-Turner any more and says he’s dropped it. Albus is annoyed he’s given the game away, but Harry says he already knows. End scene.

This was a long one. And yes, all of this is put as one scene in the script. It was a real struggle to get through.

Scene ten.

Everyone’s in the Headmistress’ office, apparently having explained what happened, and McGonagall is lecturing the boys on their stupidity. Harry tries to interject but McGonagall cuts him off, says his role as parent is irrelevant and she as headmistress has the authority to decide their punishment. Draco and Ginny approve of this. I want to ask why it’s been decided this is a school matter; I actually think I’d be on Harry’s side here, because he’s the magical police chief and this ought to be a criminal matter, except I don’t think that’s what Harry was actually going to say.

She says she should expel them but doesn’t care to (again, why is this an issue of school discipline?) and puts them in detention for at least the rest of the school year, removes their Hogsmeade privileges and tells them “Christmas is canceled for you” (I wasn’t aware that’s how holidays work).

Hermione bursts in and McGonagall’s not pleased to see her, says she wishes she could also give her detention, and rants at her about how badly she mishandled the Time-Turner. (I’m inclined to agree, I complained about Hermione’s office security earlier.)

Then McGonagall’s brain falls out.

PROFESSOR McGONAGALL (composes herself for a moment): Your intentions to save Cedric were honorable, if misguided. And it does sound as if you were brave, Scorpius, and you, Albus, but the lesson even your father sometimes failed to heed is that bravery doesn’t forgive stupidity. Always think. Think what’s possible. A world controlled by Voldemort is —

Actually, that’s better than I expected of her (anyone in this universe recognising that bravery isn’t the be-all-end-all of virtue is a pleasant surprise to me), but still, I don’t even think they deserve that much praise or that much benefit of the doubt. But I suppose a spoonful of sugar helps the medicine go down, and they need an awful lot of medicine. [Not in character for McGonagall, though. These are Slytherins she’s speaking to. And that raises a point – where is their Head of House? They should be present for any punishment of Slytherin students.]

She wants them to find the Time-Turner and bring it to her. (Why does this fall under McGonagall’s authority and why are the others obeying her? This seems like yet another vestige of the books, where Dumbledore as headmaster was effectively a hugely influential political figure, nearly the ruler of the wizarding world, but the narrative liked to pretend he wasn’t.)

Scene eleven.

Albus has let Harry into the Slytherin dormitory and they’re chatting in his room. It’s uncomfortable. But they actually manage to make some progress; this is actually a decently-written scene.

Basically, Albus admits he made a mistake and was reckless, Harry admits he was wrong to think Scorpius was Voldemort’s son/the black cloud (apparently this happened in the original timeline too? We only actually saw it in the second timeline), wrong to put Albus under surveillance and he’s locked the map away.

They hint around their issues with each other but don’t really resolve them; Albus mentions that in the second timeline he was in Gryffindor but that didn’t make things any better so Houses aren’t the issue, which Harry acknowledges.

This is a competently written scene, and the dialogue feels natural enough; it’s made worse by the fact that everything they’re talking about relates to the horrendous overall plot.

Scene twelve.

It’s another one of Harry’s stupid prophetic dreams. This one’s another flashback to something that never happened, Aunt Petunia’s taken young Harry to visit and leave flowers on his parents’ graves. She tries to convince him that Lily and James were awful people and had no friends (she says Lily was repellent by nature, and James “extraordinarily obnoxious”). Go Petunia. I don’t disagree with you.

The scene doesn’t agree with her, though. Harry asks her why there are so many flowers and so many personal messages thanking Lily and James if nobody liked them. She tries to claim it’s just the wind blowing them from other graves or someone playing a prank, but the stage directions say she’s getting emotional. I’m wondering what the point of this all is.

[Plot hole alert – Petunia’s a Muggle. I doubt she could even see the graves, let alone get to them. We know there are Muggles living in Godric’s Hollow, but the Potter graves would be hidden the way the stupid statue was. Harry, your dreams fail.]

Voldemort’s voice says there’s “a stench of guilt upon the air”. We get more pseudo-symbolic bullshit. Voldemort rises from the Potters’ graves, asks Harry “do you still see with my eyes”, then for some reason Albus bursts out of Voldemort’s cloak.

We get the same prophetic Parseltongue whispers and Voldemort’s voice hissing Harry’s name.

These dream sequences are a waste of time. I don’t know why it’s so important for Harry to have all these prophetic dreams, and it’s not an ability he ever had before either (except insofar as he saw into Voldy’s mind thanks to the Horcrux). I’m not sure if they’re just trying to reference that, they’re just trying to pad out the play, or there’s actually going to be some payoff to all of this. [I’m guessing padding.]

Scene thirteen.

Potter residence. Harry wakes up in a panic. He’s disturbed because this dream was of events that never happened, and he thought that they’d resolved whatever danger Albus was in.

Ominous dreams are ominous, I guess.

Scene fourteen.

Scorpius and Albus are hanging out in their dormitory. This conversation’s pretty decent from a characterisation perspective, Scorpius is basically saying that he’s not afraid of anything any more because he saw how bad things could have been, he doesn’t mind being in detention and all that because it’s better than the bad timeline. He’s learning to appreciate things he didn’t before. He’s afraid of what the bad timeline says about him, because he didn’t like how people were afraid of the alternate-timeline-Scorpius that he replaced (not that he words it like that, he thinks of it as him).

Albus blames himself (rightly) for everything that went wrong, and wonders why he was so determined to save Cedric.

This scene’s honestly pretty shippy too.

Anyway, the reveal of the scene is that Scorpius still has the Time-Turner even though he told the adults it fell in the lake. He wants Albus to help him destroy it.

[SCORPIUS:] it’s time that time-turning became a thing of the past.
ALBUS: You’re quite proud of that phrase, aren’t you?
SCORPIUS: Been working on it all day.

That’s kind of twee, but it could’ve been worse.

Scene fifteen.

Harry and Ginny are in the dormitory trying to find Albus. Craig Bowker Jr (who is this guy again? should I call him Miscellaneous Student Number Four? This scene makes it look like he’s a prefect but that’s never stated) won’t let them in, until Professor McGonagall shows up and brushes him off. Apparently Albus and Scorpius are missing again and they’re concerned. McGonagall and Bowker leave to search the school [if only they had access to some sort of map that shows where people are… or house elves, portraits and ghosts able to cover the whole castle very quickly…], Harry and Ginny talk. Ginny thinks this is Harry’s fault and wonders if he said something to set Albus off again.

In other words, it’s a filler scene.

Scene sixteen.

Albus and Scorpius are in the Owlery (why the Owlery? Why on earth would you choose a place full of nocturnal animals to destroy something, especially when they seem to be trying to do it at night?), trying to figure out how to destroy the Time-Turner. They think they can do it with a spell and are debating which one to use. [I don’t know where the hell Rose went in all this, but it’s a shame she’s not here. She has the genes necessary to remind them that the library exists.]

Delphi shows up out of nowhere (surprise, surprise). Oh joy, not her again. [How does she keep getting into Hogwarts?] Anyway, apparently Albus sent her an owl because he thought “it felt important” to keep her updated and this concerns her too. They tell her what they’re doing, they’re planning to destroy the Time-Turner because of the bad timeline and start talking about all the awful things it involved.

She smiles (well, it says “her face breaks” but I assume that doesn’t mean the way I want to imagine). Asks them for more details to confirm Voldemort really survived and won.

They tell her that humiliating Cedric turned him into a Death Eater, he killed Neville, that’s what made everything go wrong. She plays on their emotions, she says Cedric would have understood, so they’ll destroy the Time-Turner together and then go explain to Amos. She takes the Time-Turner.

Albus notices a tattoo on the back of her neck and asks what it is. She says (dun dun dun) it’s an Augurey.

DELPHI: Haven’t you met them in Care of Magical Creatures? They’re sinister-looking black birds that cry when rain’s coming. Wizards used to believe that the Augurey’s cry foretold death. When I was growing up my guardian kept one in a cage.

Stage directions explicitly specify she’s toying them now, so this is the reveal of her villainy. [Okay, so the writers do know augureys actually don’t do anything sinister, or see the future, or anything else relevant to villains. So why use one?]

DELPHI: She used to say it was crying because it could see I was going to come to a sticky end. She didn’t like me much. Euphemia Rowle . . . she only took me in for the gold.
ALBUS: Why would you want a tattoo of her bird, then?
DELPHI: It reminds me that the future is mine to make.

Albus thinks this is cool, he might get a tattoo of it also. Scorpius is a bit cleverer and realises the Rowles were a Death Eater family, and starts asking questions, no longer believing the backstory she’d given them. Realises she was “the Augurey” in the bad timeline (which she likes hearing). She takes the Time-Turner, easily overpowers them with magic and ties them up, pauses for some villainous gloating (in which she reveals she’d been controlling Amos, surprise surprise), snaps their wands and runs off.

DELPHI: Albus. I am the new past.
She pulls ALBUS’s wand from him and snaps it.
I am the new future.
She pulls SCORPIUS’s wand from him and snaps it.
I am the answer this world has been looking for.

I am the Mary Sue. I am the Cliche Villain. The world revolves around me.

(I’m only surprised she doesn’t have an evil laugh on top of that to go full panto villain.)

[Given her alleged genetics, I suppose melodrama was inevitable, but this is just bad.]

Scene seventeen.

THIS SCENE IS AWFUL.

I’ll spare you the gag about pretending to skip it this time, but I was seriously tempted.

We open on Ron and Hermione in Hermione’s office. Ron’s eating porridge for some reason, and keeps going on about how he can’t understand how they weren’t married in the other timelines. Hermione’s annoyed at him and wonders if this is his way of asking for a separation.

RON: Shut up. Will you shut up for once? I want to do one of those marriage renewal things I’ve read about. Marriage renewal. What do you think?
HERMIONE (melting slightly): You want to marry me again?

Oh, what a healthy relationship, when you respond to your partner’s concerns with “Shut up, will you shut up for once.” FUCK THIS BULLSHIT. I still hate Ron. I also hate marriage fetishism, which this feels like, but that’s probably a rant for another time because (much as that irks me) marriage fetishism is a mainstay of mainstream romance culture so it’s not a huge surprise to see it here (it was already all over the Harry Potter books proper).

[Excuse me while I vomit.]

They’re being romantic until Harry, Ginny and Draco come in and interrupt them. They tell her what’s going on, Harry’s still having prophetic dreams and the boys are missing. Hermione wants to summon Aurors (couldn’t Harry have already done this?) but Ron says it’s fine, he’s seen Albus last night, everything’s fine.

Apparently Ron was out drinking in Hogsmeade with Neville the previous night (Ron and Neville are friends? When did that happen?) and on the way back, somehow, saw Albus with Delphi on the roof of the Owlery and concluded Albus just has a girlfriend.

RON: He hasn’t run away — he’s having a quiet moment — he’s got himself an older girlfriend —
HARRY: An older girlfriend?
RON: And a cracking one at that — gorgeous silver hair. Saw them on the roof together, near the Owlery with Scorpius playing the gooseberry. Nice to see my love potion being used well, I thought.

FOR FUCK’S SAKE, RON. Never mind the reveal of Delphi’s super-special hair colour (which, after Harry asks, he clarifies is not just silver but silver and blue). Ron’s reaction here is “your son’s fine, he’s just raping an older woman like I thought he should!”. ALBUS IS FOURTEEN. Never mind that he’s still missing, so that doesn’t really resolve what they’re concerned about either. Rape culture, everybody. Rape culture. Don’t you dare tell me it doesn’t exist.

[Fuck off and die, Ron, and by extension every writer who let this pass. Hermione, run away.]

Also, where exactly is the Owlery located in Hogwarts, that they can be on the roof of it but still visible to Ron who’s at ground level in Hogsmeade? THIS IS STUPID! [The Mary Sue’s silver hair glows in the dark, obviously.]

Harry recognises the description as “Delphi Diggory” and they hurry out of the office.

Scene eighteen.

The adults go to St Oswald’s old-age home to confront Amos Diggory. He has no clue what they’re talking about, no memory of meeting the boys or any idea why he should know where they are, even after Harry threatens him with Azkaban. The big reveal is (surprise, surprise!) he couldn’t possibly have a niece because both he and his wife were only children.

Scene nineteen.

Delphi never read the Evil Overlord List. She’s telling Albus and Scorpius her plans.

She’s taken them to the Quidditch pitch because that’s where the Triwizard maze was and she wants to go back to that. She plans to interfere again, to save Cedric in order to bring back Scorpius’ bad timeline. (wait wait wait wait… I was okay with Cedric becoming a Death Eater so far specifically because what Albus did to him was tagged explicitly as Potter-adjacent; I fail to see how it’s a necessary outcome of saving his life here)

DELPHI: I want a return to pure and strong magic. I want to rebirth the Dark. […] The one true ruler of the wizarding world. He will return.

She apparently wants to interfere with the third task because (thanks to their efforts) the previous two are too messy with time-travel shenanigans.

DELPHI: I don’t just want you to stop him. I want you to humiliate him. He needs to fly out of that maze naked on a broomstick made of purple feather dusters. Humiliation got you there before and it’ll get us there again. And the prophecy will be fulfilled.

This is stupid. (Never mind that plan, that’s also stupid.) Now there’s a fucking prophecy? We all know how good Rowling is at handling those, you’d think she’d have learnt from last time. Anyway, Albus says she’ll have to use the Imperius to get them to cooperate. She says she can’t do that, the prophecy says he can’t do it as a puppet (the prophecy doesn’t actually say this), so she has to force him some other way, so she kidnaps Scorpius and threatens him. (This play is totally shipping them.) She’s torturing Scorpius with Crucio and telling Albus to do what he’s told or she’ll continue.

[You know, there’s actually a positive message here. Entirely by accident Rowling et al have finally blundered into the concept that publicly humiliating people isn’t funny, is only done by bad people, and causes bad things.]

They’re interrupted by Craig Bowker Jr (who is he again?). I guess it doesn’t matter who he is, because Delphi kills him with Avada Kedavra. She tells him again to do obey her or she’ll kill Scorpius too. Then we get this:

DELPHI: Voldemort will return and the Augurey will sit at his side. Just as it was prophesized. “When spares are spared, when time is turned, when unseen children murder their fathers: Then will the Dark Lord return.”

Wow, that’s a stupid prophecy. And a really blatant one too, she at least tried to be subtle with the one in the books. I wouldn’t say she did it well, that prophecy was more word salad (“neither can live while the other survives”?) than anything else, but it was at least not this transparently obvious. And as if that weren’t bad enough, Delphi then goes on to spell out in detail exactly what each element of this prophecy corresponds to. I guess if I wanted to be charitable, she probably thinks Albus is an idiot and is trying to rub in how screwed he is, but I don’t want to be charitable. This writing is awful, this plot is awful, this play is awful.

She grabs Albus and makes him use the Time-Turner.

Scene twenty.

It’s 1995, they’re at the maze. Delphi is dragging Albus and Scorpius around, they’re tied up. Bagman’s announcing and (because this play is sexist garbage) we have to hear about the cheers again. This time, Hogwarts and Durmstrang’s are merely “loud”, while Beauxbatons’ is “fulsome”. At least that’s something, but I can’t help thinking what it’s saying is “those French”/”those ladies” just can’t do this cheering right, they either do too little or too much. [‘Fulsome’ is a somewhat loaded word, too…] And regardless of whether I’m right about that, it’s a pointless running gag, a waste of time and didn’t need to be there.

Delphi’s trying and failing to find Cedric; the hedges are trying to attack them. Albus and Scorpius talk (somehow without being overheard by her?) and decide their plan has to be to run out the five-minute clock, because they can’t fight her and win.

LUDO BAGMAN: Now let me remind you of the current standings! Tied in first place — Mr. Cedric Diggory and Mr. Harry Potter. In second place — Mr. Viktor Krum! And in third place — sacré bleu, Miss Fleur Delacour.

Just like the books, this play hates Fleur. I’ve already explained why this makes me angry.

The boys somehow get away from Delphi and try to run; she starts flying without a broom and chases after them. (Damn it, that’s Severus’ ability, don’t give it to her.) [To be fair (what am I saying), Voldy could do it too.] They’re shocked by this but she just gloats, and tells them they’ve used up three minutes but still have two more. Scorpius tries to logic her out of this and starts an argument about the nature of prophecies; she starts laying about with Crucio.

There’s a deus ex machina! It’s Cedric. He disarms Delphi and uses a binding spell on her. But then he seems to think they’re some kind of monsters that are part of the task; they just tell him the task is to free them and he can get on with the maze (he uses “emancipare”). They tell him his father loves him and regretfully let him go.

There’s some weirdness about that encounter if you think about it. In the book, Cedric arrives at the cup just barely at the same time as Harry; if this new encounter delayed him, it could well have altered that. It’s entirely possible they’ve just saved Cedric anyway, but I fully expect the play to ignore that. They also don’t even consider just saying “if you touch the cup along with Harry, you’ll die, don’t do that”; I kind of understand why they wouldn’t, after everything, but again, no indication they even considered it or regretted not doing it. The play doesn’t seem to really remember that Cedric was a decent guy and would not inevitably become a Death Eater if allowed to survive. [He honestly might. He’d have won and been a champion but nobody would ever have paid him any attention and it would just have been all about Harry, he’d be completely unrecognised. Decent guy or not, that would fester.]

Time’s running out, Delphi still has the Time-Turner, and they think she’s going to leave them behind. The boys grab onto it, and apparently the time limit has run out and it starts to bring them back. Delphi gives a villain speech about how they haven’t stopped her, she may have to give up on Cedric but she’s not done yet, she’s just done with them. She “crushes the Time-Turner” and it “explodes in a thousand pieces”. How? How delicate are these things, exactly? If it’s so fragile you can crush it with your bare hands (and how’d she not injure herself on glass shards, for that matter?) how did it survive this long?

She flies away and the boys realise they’re all stuck in the past now. They want to stop her but don’t know how to do it.

Scene twenty-one.

At St Oswald’s, the adults are investigating what was Delphi’s room, not learning much. Harry says she must have used a Confundus charm on Diggory to convince him she was his niece. Hermione’s found no records of her in Ministry files. Ron thinks she has to have hidden something in the walls.

Then Ginny finds something.

GINNY unscrews a chimney from an oil lamp. There’s a breathing-out noise. And then hissing words. They all turn towards it.

[…a magic lamp. Seriously? Well, problem solved, just ask the genie to undo everything.]

Apparently it’s speaking Parseltongue and wants to address someone called Augurey. Harry talks to it and it activates. It paints images of snakes on the walls and apparently the prophecy is written there. And despite this Parseltongue-as-security thing, the prophecy is written in English and Ron reads it out. I won’t repeat it here.

They figure out what it means, or close enough. Then we get this:

DRACO: Who is she? To be so obsessed with all this?
GINNY: I think I’ve got the answer to that.
They all turn to her. She points up . . . Their collective faces sink further and fill with fear.
Words are revealed on all the walls of the auditorium — dangerous words, horrible words.
“I will rebirth the Dark. I will bring my father back.”

WHY ARE THOSE WORDS WRITTEN THERE? DID SHE MEAN THIS TO BE FOUND? THIS IS STUPID!

I know why it’s written there. It’s because we needed a bombshell reveal to end the act on. It literally ends on them being incredulous and horrified at the notion that Voldemort had a daughter.

I’m horrified too, but for a different reason.

Again, full disclosure: I knew this already going in, so I’m not shocked by this. I’m not sure whether or not I would have been, really. It’s shocking in the sense that it’s hard to believe they’d actually go with this plotline, so I probably would have been surprised, but not in a good way. I still don’t understand how the logistics of Voldemort having a daughter were supposed to work out, but I suppose we’ll have to wait and see how badly they bungle that explanation later.

So that’s where this part ends. We’re on page 146 out of 191 now.

Semifinal thoughts.

I really don’t know what to say about this. I don’t think I reacted as much to things as I went this time, because mostly this is just an endless string of exposition and action scenes, and character-assassination against existing characters. They have to go into detail about the bad timeline and the different versions of characters, etc, and that takes time. Then there’s all of the reveals about (sigh) Delphi. Whose other name, Augurey, sounds far too much like “augury” for my taste considering all the prophetic bullshit being thrown around.

I did look up what an augurey is in the Fantastic Beasts book Rowling previously released, but it doesn’t have a whole lot interesting to say (apparently it’s also known as “Irish Phoenix” despite not having anything in common with phoenixes, it looks like a thin and underfed vulture, and its cries were believed to be a death omen but really foretold rain). I don’t actually know what this is supposed to have to do with Delphi the character, except that it’s apparently an ugly bird (and we all know ugly things are evil).

[It’s something everyone assumes is evil because it looks/sounds a bit creepy, but is in reality not remotely sinister or threatening and has no useful purpose whatsoever. That actually sounds about right for our villain. I suspect not the effect they were really going for, though.]

Anyway, never mind that. This plot is revolving around two of the biggest cliche plots imaginable, this time-travel farce and now the prophecy. They’re not using them together in any interesting way. I really doubt they’ll be able to redeem this thing in another act. Truthfully, I almost suspect that what’s going to happen is this: they’re going to find a way to make everything turn out all right in the end (because of course), and audiences are coming away from this with the knowledge that everything that came before that is meaningless and they no longer have to care about it. That’s my theory of why people are leaving theatres with a positive impression of this play.

 
6 Comments

Posted by on August 9, 2016 in mitchell

 

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , ,

Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, a Read-along (Act Two)

Okay, let’s keep going with this. Bring on the mental thumbscrews and iron maidens, Ramsay Bolton should’ve read this play to Theon Greyjoy. Part One if you missed it.

Act Two.

Scene one.

Another flashback scene, because everyone wanted those! Do they think that if they keep using flashbacks to the time of the books it’ll get people’s interest who care less about the next-generation stuff?

Anyway, this is another nightmare of Harry’s, as the next scene will reveal (which explains some things I found weird in it). The scene is between “young Harry” and Aunt Petunia, who woke him up to berate him for cleaning the pots incorrectly, tell him what a disappointment he is, and force him back to work. Apparently (we’re getting into Inception territory here, I feel), young Harry in Harry’s nightmare has also had a nightmare, and wet himself; Petunia yells at him for this and calls him a disgusting animal.

Harry tells her the nightmare was about his parents dying, and remembers a lot of detail (he nearly gets the incantation, even) and she tells him it’s nonsense and it was a car crash.

And the stage contorts and trees rise as the dream twists into something else entirely.
Suddenly, ALBUS appears and stands looking at YOUNG HARRY.

So that happened. And we get Voldemort-voice whispering his name again, there are “Parseltongue whispers” and something saying “He’s coming. He’s coming.” (Harry, you naughty boy, you, dreaming about such things.)

Such subtle foreshadowing, I wonder what this could possibly be about.

(Side note: I’m forgiving the lapses in detail and contradictions with the books because this is a dream and Harry could be backfilling the things he shouldn’t have known when he was a child. Likewise with Petunia being more explicitly abusive than we ever saw her in canon, Harry could well remember it as worse than it was.) [Makes sense, in his own head Harry is definitely a tragic little abuse victim despite there being no evidence of any such thing onscreen.]

Scene two.

Very short scene. Harry wakes in a panic, starts telling Ginny about his dream. Except what he describes is a bit different from what we saw, and the main thing he focuses on is that he thinks he saw Albus wearing red Durmstrang robes. Somehow from that, he thinks he’s deduced where Albus is.

That’s the entire scene. [So Harry is now explicitly psychic, because reasons. I’m going to go out on a limb here and say that this will never be explained.]

Scene three.

Harry and Ginny are in McGonagall’s office (explicitly labelled as Headmistress’ office, so yes, McGonagall is Headmistress) at Hogwarts, telling her they think Albus is in the Forbidden Forest because of Harry’s dream. [How does Albus wearing Durmstrang robes = Albus being on Hogwarts grounds, exactly?] (I think the end of the dream scene was supposed to look like the Forest, but the stage directions were unclear in that scene itself.) They’re asking her for help searching, she offers Professor Longbottom because “his knowledge of plants might be useful” (nothing against Neville but I’m honestly not sure how that’s meant to be the case), then Hermione turns up (“tumbles out of the chimney”) offering help.

[Hermione is Santa now? As for Neville, maybe the night and day he had to survive on his own in the Forest after he was abandoned on that first-year detention taught him a few things. Facetiousness aside, I assume as a Herbology expert he probably goes looking for plants in there; I think the Acromantulas died off during the final battle in book 7 so there’s nothing really dangerous in there now.]

She’s followed shortly by Ron; the writers seem to be going for “comically inept” with him, he shows up “Covered in soot. Wearing a gravy-stained dinner napkin.” saying he wasn’t sure which Floo to go to and ended up in “the kitchen” accidentally. I don’t find this particularly funny, and also, while I hate to defend Ron for various reasons it’s not even in-character for him. Ron’s the one who grew up using Floo powder all the time (remember in Chamber of Secrets, it was implied to be the preferred method of travel for the Wizarding poor? before Rowling forgot this and just made it a universal thing), he’s honestly the last person I’d expect to bungle it.

Then Draco shows up and everyone’s surprised to see him. He’s the only person to show manners, and also just brushes off Harry’s rudeness toward him:

DRACO: Sorry about your floor, Minerva.
PROFESSOR McGONAGALL: I dare say it’s my fault for owning a chimney.
HARRY: Quite a surprise to see you, Draco. I thought you didn’t believe in my dreams.
DRACO: I don’t, but I do trust your luck. Harry Potter is always where the action is at. And I need my son back with me and safe.

As an aside: one weird thing I just noticed (and went back to prior scenes to check, it’s doing this consistently) is that everyone’s calling Draco “Draco” rather than “Malfoy”. The books were pretty consistent about maintaining the last-name-basis thing, except where close friends were concerned (and Draco even called his friends Crabbe and Goyle rather than Vincent and Gregory), so I find this peculiar. I’m not sure whether they intend to convey that they’re on better terms now (despite the consistent hostility of their interactions), or they think it’s too much to expect the audience to remember characters’ first and last names, or what.

They head for the forest.

Scene four.

At the “edge of the Forbidden Forest”, Albus and Delphi are practising Expelliarmus (which she is apparently teaching him). He manages to pull it off and they seem surprised/impressed by this. [Of course they do. Ugh.]

SCORPIUS appears at the back of the stage. He looks at his friend talking to a girl — and part of him likes it and part of him doesn’t.

Fuck this misogynistic bullshit. (Okay, okay, it’s probably a realistic-ish reaction for a teenager but still, fuck this.) Also: Delphi is nearly twice their age, she should not be a “girl”, thank you so much stage directions. [How on earth is an actor supposed to convey that anyway?]

Delphi’s really laying on the flattery: “I think you’re becoming quite some wizard, Albus Potter.” and they’re going on about how they’re friends. (They’ve known each other what, a day?) This is pretty creepy, but in fairness I think it’s sort of supposed to be (given that Delphi will turn out to be the villain later, but I’m not supposed to know that yet), so I will reluctantly give this a pass.

They go immediately from expelliarmus practice (how is that relevant to anything, anyway?) into discussing their ludicrously foolish plans. Scorpius has apparently found a way for them to get into the school.

Apparently their plan is to sabotage Cedric in the Triwizard Tournament because “if he doesn’t win, he can’t be killed.” Oh, here’s how expelliarmus comes in, they’re planning to disarm him while he’s fighting the dragon. Scorpius at least worries this might get him killed, but Delphi just brushes him off with “this is Hogwarts. They won’t let damage happen to any of the champions.” Aside from being very awkwardly worded, that’s really not a good fallback plan.

Oh, and they’re going to do it wearing Durmstrang robes to avoid raising questions about who they are. This is a brilliant idea that cannot possibly go wrong in any way. [Neither of the boys question how framing Durmstrang while they have a Death Eater as Headmaster is supposed to help matters? Neither of them suggest wearing something else, or using Disillusion charms, or Polyjuice again, or literally anything else?] Nope, nothing. Although the Durmstrang robes were Delphi’s idea, she suggested them first.

Delphi admits she can’t pass for a student and wonders if she should pretend to be a dragon tamer instead. The boys tell her she can’t come with them, which she does not like at all (and they argue about for a bit) but they override all her objections and she reluctantly agrees. She kisses Albus on the cheeks, they’re really emphasising all the flirtatious/seductive gestures she makes toward him. Hooray paedophilia. (Again, reluctantly forced to give this a pass because she’s the villain and undoubtedly trying to manipulate him, but that’s still a misogynistic trope.) [I’m not giving this a pass. He’s thirteen. This is gross no matter what.]

ALBUS: Let’s do this.

The scene ends.

Serious question: why didn’t they come up with a better plan than this? In an earlier scene (1-10) Albus and Scorpius discussed the Triwizard Tournament and knew precisely how it ended, so they have to know it’d make more sense to just delay Cedric in the maze somehow so Harry would get to the cup alone. I know they’ve not been portrayed as exceptionally clever, but it really doesn’t take a genius to work out that they should minimise the number of changes, and the farther back they go from the point they care about the less likely what they alter will make the difference (so Cedric gets fewer points against the dragon, big deal, they’ve now altered the entire future and he could make up the deficit on other tasks, and in the final task points barely mattered anyway). I guess this is supposed to be teenage hubris?

THIS. IS. STUPID!

(Charitable reading would blame the characters. I place the blame squarely on the authors.)

[Aside from anything else why don’t any of them suggest leaving an anonymous note for Dumbles and/or Snape before the final task saying the Cup’s been sabotaged again and turned into a Portkey? Albus 2.0 should want to communicate with one or both of them anyway, he doesn’t know they’re going to be looping constantly so at this point this is his only chance to meet either of his namesakes.]

Scene five.

Harry is in the Forbidden Forest, looking for the children. Some other people are mentioned to be searching in the background but they vanish offstage. Bane, the centaur, shows up and starts talking with him. He’s not happy to see Harry and accuses him of trespassing (which Harry doesn’t appreciate, and basically asks why Bane can’t be more welcoming since they fought together in the Battle of Hogwarts and all). Bane basically says the centaurs fought to defend themselves, nothing else, and they don’t want anything to do with humans. On one level I appreciate this, and sympathise with him, but on another Bane’s basically just a talking schtick: every time he appeared in the books it was to be xenophobic toward humans and complain about trespassing, and here he is doing that again.

Apparently Bane doesn’t know where Albus is, but he’s “seen him in the movements of the stars” and there are bad omens. There’s “a black cloud around [him]” and this is dangerous (I almost said ominous, but that’s redundant because it’s an omen).

Oh joy. Just what I wanted, pretentious portents with no content. [This scene was definitely worth making the wardrobe people try to come up with a centaur costume. There is literally no other way Harry would ever learn that his son might be in danger in some vague unspecified way.]

Scene six.

Albus and Scorpius in the Forbidden Forest. They catch a glimpse of Hogwarts (I assumed this meant they’d already travelled back in time and were seeing it in the past, but nope, just happen to see the castle) and it sets them off into reminiscence for some reason. Scorpius goes on for a while about how wonderful Hogwarts is (surprising Albus, who hates the place), because

[SCORPIUS:] All I ever wanted to do was go to Hogwarts and have a mate to get up to mayhem with. Just like Harry Potter. And I got his son. How crazily fortunate is that.
ALBUS: But I’m nothing like my dad.
SCORPIUS: You’re better. You’re my best friend, Albus.

I’m not sure if this is cute or pathetic (and how must Draco feel, to have his son idolising Harry?). Also, this throws into relief something that’s been low-key bugging me about Scorpius’ character so far: he’s characterised primarily by his desire for friends, and everything he’s done so far has been motivated by friendship and loyalty to Albus. Why’s he in Slytherin and not Hufflepuff? [Because Hat racism, silly. Malfoy = Slytherin.]

They hear Ron’s voice calling out looking for them and decide it’s now or never, they have to use the Time-Turner. Albus “presses down upon it”, which doesn’t line up with any description of how Time-Turners worked before. In the book, it was explicitly like an hourglass and it sent you back an hour for each time you flipped it (and also you had to live out the time between whenever you went back to and the present, which won’t be happening here). There’s no indication here of how they knew how to set the thing up, how to specify when it would take them to, or anything like that. Inexcusably lazy. Anyway, trippy things start happening (the description is honestly incomprehensible and I have no idea how they meant to produce effects like this in a theatre) and the scene ends.

Scene seven.

They’re at the same location (“edge of the Forbidden Forest”), but it’s 1994 and the Triwizard Tournament is happening.

I already don’t want to be reading this. Help me.

Ludo Bagman is being a showman and calling for cheers in favour of each of the schools. Hogwarts and Durmstrang both get loud cheers, but Beauxbatons’ is “slightly limp”, and Bagman mocks this, saying “Slightly less enthusiastic from the French there”. This bothers me. It’s worst if you consider the film, in which Beauxbatons seems to have been made an all-girls’ school, but even in the books Beauxbatons (literally “pretty wands” in French, btw) is by far the most feminine-coded of the three (and has the only female headmaster and female champion), so this has more than a hint of misogyny about it. At its absolute best, this is playing into the cultural animus between the English and the French, but I think even that may be giving it too much credit.

Bagman introduces all of the champions and gives them stupid nicknames (which we never heard of in Goblet of Fire), and it is similarly awful. I absolutely must quote this so you can share my pain:

“there’s nothing he won’t try on a broomstick, it’s Viktor Krazy Krum”
“zut alors, it’s Fleur Delacour”
“he makes us all go weaky at the kneesy, he’s Cedric Delicious Diggory”
“you know him as the Boy Who Lived, I know him as the boy who keeps surprising us all . . . Yes, it’s Harry Plucky Potter.”

Eeeeeeurgh. How does Bagman still have a job? (Also notice how little attention the one woman gets. No, I’m not letting this go. It also explicitly notes she only gets “polite applause” while everyone else gets much more enthusiasm. FUCK THIS PLAY.) [Yes, that was absolutely terrible. Good grief. Though honestly I’m glad they didn’t nickname Fleur, fuck knows what they’d have pinned on her but there’s no way it wouldn’t have been sexist and slut-shaming.]

Scorpius and Albus cheer for “Krazy Krum” in an effort to look more like legitimate Durmstrang students. I’m inclined to think it’d make them stick out more, because I wouldn’t expect Krum’s friends and classmates to like that nickname and continue using it.

They’re standing near young Hermione (who the play explicitly notes is to be played by the same actor as Rose), and Scorpius calls her Rose by mistake. She’s suspicious of them because they don’t have accents; Albus fakes “a bad accent” [which accent? We still don’t really know exactly where Durmstrang is. I’m assuming generic B-movie Eastern Europe racist accent.] and apologises but calls her Hermione, and she’s more suspicious because he knows her name somehow. Typical stupid time-travel farce plot, which I despise on principle.

Cedric’s up against the dragon. Albus successfully disarms Cedric, and Bagman notices and discusses it in commentary: “but no, what’s this? Is it Dark Magic or is it something else entirely? His wand is flying away — Cedric Diggory is Disarmed” but somehow nobody saw where the spell came from or where the wand went?

Conveniently the Time-Turner starts malfunctioning and the two boys get sucked back to the present; this causes Albus pain and he screams. (This is nothing like how Time-Turners worked in the main series. I need to keep reiterating that. Aside from the brief exchange between Harry and Hermione about how amazingly different this thing is – with no specifics, of course – we’ve got no explanation for that. This is bad writing.) They deduce that it must have a time limit (with special emphasis on the word ‘time’ there, this play really talks down to its audience), and then they’re found by Harry, Ron, Ginny and Draco. There’s emphasis made that Ron dresses differently (apparently he now has a part in his hair and “his wardrobe choices have become more staid”).

They wonder if they’ve changed anything. And here’s how the scene ends:

ALBUS: Hello, Dad. Is something wrong?
HARRY looks at his son disbelievingly.
HARRY: Yes. You could say that.
ALBUS collapses onto the floor. HARRY and GINNY rush to help.

I hate this play. Words cannot express how much I hate this play.

Scene eight.

We’re in the hospital wing, Albus is asleep in bed and Harry’s fretting over him. “Above them is a picture of a concerned kindly man.” Actual description from the stage direction, which is surprisingly vague since this is Dumbledore’s portrait. Why’s Dumbledore’s portrait in the hospital wing? (Well, I guess this is an altered timeline now so anything goes?)

Dumbledore strikes up a conversation with Harry. Harry says this about what’s wrong with Albus:

HARRY: He’s been out twenty-four hours, mostly in order so Madam Pomfrey could reset his arm. She said it was the strangest thing, it’s like it was broken twenty years ago and allowed to set in the “most contrary” of directions.

Dumbledore’s being Dumbledore. Harry asks him how he felt about his namesake (apparently it’s never come up before?) and Dumbles says he thought it was something a child shouldn’t be burdened with. [ROWLING STOLE MY LINE FROM SNAPE AND GAVE IT TO DUMBLES. WHAT THE FUCK.] Harry asks how he can protect his son. Dumbledore says this: “You ask me, of all people, how to protect a boy in terrible danger? We cannot protect the young from harm.” Is this refreshing, to see Dumbledore having some modicum of self-awareness? I honestly can’t tell. [I don’t think this is self-awareness at all. I’ll bet everything I own that he’s only talking about what Harry went through here, and not anything that any other Hogwarts student has ever suffered.]

Anyway, they talk for a while but it’s mostly irrelevant. Albus wakes up and the portrait leaves.

The following conversation is really cringeworthy. Basically, Harry wants to know where Albus went and what they were planning, Albus lies and says they were running away from school to make a life in the Muggle world. Harry thinks Scorpius encouraged him to leave and everything’s Scorpius’ fault, then tells Albus to stay away from Scorpius because he thinks he’s dangerous, connected to “Dark Magic” and the “black cloud” from the omen. Harry’s also planning to use the Marauders’ Map to stalk Albus at Hogwarts (apparently he’s given it to McGonagall) and make sure he doesn’t spend time with Scorpius.

Then he drops what’s supposed to be a bombshell, I guess, and tells Albus to stay in the Gryffindor common room whenever he doesn’t have to leave for lessons. Yep, apparently our big time-travel change is that Albus was sorted differently. Of course Albus protests he’s a Slytherin and Harry doesn’t believe him, saying “don’t play games”. Harry’s also planning to have the Auror department investigate Scorpius’ “true heritage”, because of course he is.

HARRY: I thought for a long time I wasn’t a good enough dad for you because you didn’t like me. It’s only now I realize that I don’t need you to like me, I need you to obey me because I’m your dad and I do know better. I’m sorry, Albus. It has to be this way.

That’s how the scene ends, with Harry deciding he needs to be a more abusive parent. [Lovely. Just lovely.]

Fuck this play. I’m tempted to take inspiration from the (old) Pharyngula playbook and suggest the use of porcupines and cacti, but the poor things wouldn’t deserve that fate. FUCK. THIS. PLAY.

Scene nine.

Albus and Harry are apparently continuing their conversation on a staircase. Albus is threatening to run away again and Harry’s telling him to go back to bed. Ron shows up. Albus says “Thank Dumbledore” (this is now the second time this has shown up) and says they need Ron’s jokes to defuse things. Ron’s confused, Albus mentions he runs a joke shop and he’s more confused. Apparently he’s married to Padma in this timeline, and has a son named Panju; Albus has no idea who these people are. Anyway, apparently school supplies are this Ron’s idea of a cheer-up gift for Albus (admittedly, I like this Ron better than the version who gives rape juice, but that’s a pretty low bar).

Albus says something like “but isn’t Ron married to Hermione” and this Ron says: “Hermione. No. Nooooo. Merlin’s beard.” I’m amused even the play seems to recognise how implausible that relationship is, but at this point I’m not even capable of appreciating that. [Particularly since it’s implying that Hermione’s just that awful and has nothing to do with Ron being rapey scum.] That said, the way Ron talks about Padma is still creepy:

RON (to HARRY): Taken a Confundus Charm to the head, has he? (To ALBUS.) My wife, Padma. You remember. Talks slightly too close to your face, smells a bit minty. (Leans in.) Padma, mother of Panju! (To HARRY.) That’s why I’m here, of course. Panju. He’s in trouble again.

So basically this scene continues to be really awkward, Harry and Ron are expositing things they think Albus should know but he doesn’t (but it’s still weird that their response to his confusion is to list off details for the audience).

Also, I had my suspicions about the name Panju so I Googled it to see what Indian people might have to say. Turns out, yep, not a realistic Indian name and people are pissed. Quelle surprise. [It sounds like a Pokemon.]

The scene ends with Albus breaking up with Scorpius, because of course it does.

ALBUS: Just — we’ll be better off without each other, okay?
SCORPIUS is left looking up after him. Heartbroken.

Melodrama. Woohoo.

Scene ten.

PROFESSOR McGONAGALL is full of unhappiness, HARRY is full of purpose, GINNY is not sure what she’s supposed to be.

What the fuck kind of stage direction is that. Anyway, we’re in the Headmistress’ office and McGonagall is not comfortable with being asked to constantly spy on Albus and keep him away from Scorpius. (And I’d like to ask: doesn’t she have a job? She’s fucking Headmistress of fucking Hogwarts, she has things to do, you can’t expect her to watch surveillance all fucking day. The Potterverse continues to have no conception that school administration actually involves real work.)

Ginny isn’t keen on it either but Harry talks over her. Such feminism, Joanne!

Harry implies he got the idea from Dumbledore’s portrait, and McGonagall isn’t buying this either, saying Dumbledore’s dead and portraits aren’t really the people they represent. [I agree, but this completely contradicts everything we see of portraits in the books.]

HARRY: Albus didn’t like me before. He might not like me again. But he will be safe. With the greatest respect, Minerva — you don’t have children —

Fuck you, Harry. McGonagall is rightly offended by this, citing that she spent a lifetime as a teacher (good on her! even if I think she’s not done a particularly good job in loco parentis, that’s irrelevant here), but Harry just steamrolls over her and threatens to bring down “the full force of the Ministry” on Hogwarts if she doesn’t cooperate.

Fuck you, Harry. [Oh yes, this tired old line. You cannot possibly know anything about children unless you’ve contributed some genetic material to one. (Adoption/surrogacy doesn’t count among the type of people who say this sort of bullshit.) Donating gametes alters your brain and allows you to magically understand not only your own spawn but all other children everywhere and only then can you possibly have any idea of how to raise them or what is best for them. I agree, fuck you, Harry. And by extension, fuck the writers.]

Scene eleven.

It’s the classroom for Defence Against the Dark Arts (though this script continues to use American spellings for some reason and calls it “Defense”). Albus walks in and is surprised to see Hermione is the professor.

She’s not pleased to see him and is vaguely sarcastic at him (I see where people were comparing her to Snape, but she’s sadly not quite at that level yet), and when he continues to express disbelief the class laugh at him. She’s taking points off Gryffindor in Snapely quantities, though. I’ll admit some of it amuses me, though the “Albus is clueless at timeline changes” schtick is already wearing quite thin.

ALBUS: But you’re not this mean.
HERMIONE: And that’s twenty points from Gryffindor to assure Albus Potter that I am this mean.

She’s really offended when Albus mentions Rose (“Who’s Rose? Your invisible friend?”) and then, when he explains who Rose is she takes fifty points off Gryffindor (presumably for daring to suggest she could ever have married Ron. That’s my story and I’m sticking to it).

[I heartily approve of this version of Hermione. I’m sure nobody is surprised. Snape approves too.]

She’s lecturing on Patronuses because that’s the only thing Rowling et al could think up for a Defence lesson.

Scene twelve.

No dialogue, thank the gods. And it’s a short one. Albus and Scorpius are walking on the staircases missing each other, they exchange some poignant looks, the end. (Shippers, this scene is presumably for you.)

Scene thirteen.

Harry and Ginny are having an argument in their kitchen, or starting to anyway (there’s a knock at the door and she leaves for some reason). It’s Draco, saying Scorpius is in tears and he wants to know why Harry’s keeping them apart.

HARRY: I’m not keeping them apart.

Wow, you’ve got balls, Harry. And I don’t mean that as a compliment.

When Draco continues to ask questions, Harry says he’s trying to protect Albus, mentions the “darkness” Bane sensed and Draco’s hackles go up. When pressed further Harry actually asks Draco if he knows Scorpius is his son (ugh, will this stupid plot just die). Draco is, understandably, very angry, and pulls his wand on Harry and tells him to take it back (rather than, say, saying something like “this is slander and I’ll have your job” and calling a lawyer? Bad form, Draco.). Naturally, they end up dueling. I suppose the writers wanted to shoehorn in a duelling scene somehow, and this was the best they could come up with?

They’re using almost entirely low-level spells. (I almost said first-year spells, but it’s more like second- or third-year. Still pathetic.) Here’s a list: expelliarmus, incarcerous, tarantallegra, densaugeo (the one that did Hermione’s teeth), rictusempra, flipendo, levicorpus, mobilicorpus. There’s a couple of new ones at the end, and they’re even worse than the usual incantations: brachiabindo (which apparently wraps ropes around the torso), emancipiare (apparently undoes the former), obscuro (apparently puts a blindfold around their head). Draco’s generally getting the better of Harry, at least, but it’s still a pretty pathetic duel. [Oh good grief. This is stupid. I am also giving major side-eye to ’emancipare’, that’s a very loaded word.]

I could believe Draco holding back because he wants answers from Harry more than he wants to hurt him, but that’s honestly a stretch and not supported by the way this scene is written, and likewise I find it very difficult to believe a supposedly-qualified Auror would use such useless spells in self-defence (well, okay, it’s entirely in-character for Harry, who used bloody expelliarmus against the Dark Lord). This scene is stupid.

[Alternatively, we’ve established in Philosopher’s Stone that Harry and Draco were in love for years before both marrying women to carry on their family names, maybe they just don’t want to hurt each other. Though that invalidates Harry attempting to murder Draco in book six.]

It ends with Harry throwing a chair at Draco and Draco “slowing the chair with his wand”.

Ginny comes in and complains of the mess. (Hooray, sexist tropes!)

I will admit to being kind of curious how they pulled off the stage directions here (they’re apparently shooting spells at each other and blocking with things, at one point Draco “bounces Harry up and down on the table” – hey shippers, there’s another one for you), so maybe this scene looks nice, but this is bullshit.

Scene fourteen.

We’re at Hogwarts on the staircases again. (Wow, a lot of scenes are taking place there for some reason.) [The unnecessary centaur costume earlier cost them set-building money.] Scorpius is moping about; Delphi shows up to talk to him.

She admits she’s never been to Hogwarts (she claims to have been too sick to go as a child, which Scorpius sympathises with; I think the implication is meant to be that he’s thinking of his mother), is bemused by lots of things (including “lax security”, the portraits and ghosts), and says she shouldn’t be there because it’s “endangering our entire operation”.

They discuss how their plan failed; apparently, failing the first task only made Cedric more determined to win the later ones. Who’da thunk? Anyway, she claims she’s put the Cedric thing on hold for now because reuniting Albus and Scorpius is more important. Albus has been writing to her frequently, apparently, so she knows he’s missing Scorpius.

There’s a bit of bonding over their mutual loneliness as children, apparently they both felt the need to invent imaginary friends.

DELPHI: Albus needs you, Scorpius. That’s a wonderful thing.
SCORPIUS: He needs me to do what?
DELPHI: That’s the thing, isn’t it? About friendships. You don’t know what he needs. You only know he needs it. Find him, Scorpius. You two — you belong together.

Sounds like she ships them, honestly. (Knowing what I know about who she really is, I wonder where she’s learnt off these platitudes about friendship.) [She watches My Little Pony in her spare time. Explains the hair colour, anyway.]

***PLOT HOLE ALERT*** How does Delphi know what their plan was, let alone that it failed? She didn’t go along on the time-turner trip with them, so this should technically be new-timeline-Delphi. (I’ll reluctantly accept the conceit that past!Albus and past!Scorpius replaced their new-timeline-versions on arrival, as seems to be the norm in this kind of time-travel story but that doesn’t work for Delphi). Unless she didn’t have the slightest clue and found out from Albus’ letters, but I don’t think that works either.

I’m running out of ways to use the word fuck in a sentence. [Here’s another one. Fuck it, it’s magic.]

Scene fifteen.

We’re back at the Potter residence, right where we left off. Draco apologises to Ginny about the kitchen and she says it’s not her kitchen, Harry cooks (admittedly I like this, and it’s consistent with Harry learning to cook for the Dursleys). [Okay, so what the fuck does Ginny do all day? Harry has a full time job. We know Ginny stopped playing Quidditch professionally when she had children. Has she gone back to work in this timeline, or does she just sit around doing fuck-all while Harry does everything after work?] It’s actually mentioned in an earlier scene she’s a Quidditch writer/editor for the Daily Prophet, for whatever that’s worth.

Most of this scene is Draco monologuing at Harry. He commiserates over Harry’s inability to talk to Albus and says he and Scorpius are the same, he says he always envied Harry having real friends when he only had Crabbe and Goyle (so much for my and many others’ headcanons that Crabbe and Goyle were smarter/better friends in private when not putting on the thug act). Ginny says she envied Harry his friendships also, which is an interesting characterisation note. [Hard to say how plausible this is. Literally the only other student in Ginny’s year ever named is Luna. The other DA members and Ginny’s boyfriends are all from Harry’s year, if I remember rightly.]

Draco’s really laying into Harry here and I like it: “My father thought he was protecting me.” and then he says that being alone as a child “sent [him] to a truly dark place” and then goes further: “Tom Riddle was also a lonely child.” (How does Draco know that?) “Maybe the black cloud Bane saw was Albus’ loneliness.”

Good job, Draco. I’ll deduct some points because the dialogue in this scene is a little clunky, but overall this is actually decent.

Ginny tells Harry to get the Floo powder or she will (I guess to go to Hogwarts?).

Scene sixteen.

Scorpius runs into Albus in the Hogwarts library. Albus doesn’t want to talk to him and is trying to get out of the conversation, but Scorpius won’t let him.

Scorpius reveals that he read Rita Skeeter’s book about Ron and Hermione (this exists? and is credible? what?!) [I concur. What?] and that the reason they broke up was that they actually did go to the Yule Ball together.

SCORPIUS: As friends. And they danced in a friendly way, and it was nice, and then he danced with Padma Patil and that was nicer, and they started dating and he changed a bit and then they got married and meanwhile Hermione became a —
ALBUS: — psychopath.

SHE IS NOT A PSYCHOPATH. FOR FUCK’S SAKE, ROWLING, THORNE, WHOEVER WROTE THIS. Strict teachers are not psychopaths. Being bitter over some supposed lost love (heh, I see what you did there) does not turn people nasty; Snape had plenty of canonical reasons to be nasty to students beyond just not having love in his life or whatever bullshit way you want to word this. I am not amused. This bullshit offends me. The implication of this is that being single turns you evil, and for the sake of single people everywhere I refuse to let this stand. [I agree, this is Hallmark bullshit.]

It gets worse.

SCORPIUS: And without Krum, Ron never got jealous and that jealousy was all-important and so Ron and Hermione stayed very good friends but never fell in love — never got married — never had Rose.

THE JEALOUSY WAS ALL-IMPORTANT. THE FOUNDATION OF THEIR RELATIONSHIP WAS LITERALLY JEALOUSY. (This had been mentioned before, so it shouldn’t surprise me but I’d forgotten about this. This is one of the biggest deathblows the Ron/Hermione ship could possibly be given. Relationships founded on jealousy are not healthy. I know it’s a trope in mainstream depictions of heterosexuality, romcoms and the like, but mainstream descriptions of heterosexuality are terrible.)

I suppose we should thank the play for explicitly saying what sensible people already knew? Except the play isn’t condemning this, it’s arguing it’s a legitimate foundation for a relationship. So fuck this play. [I don’t know whether to be angry or horrified.]

(Also, I suppose I should mention for completeness’ sake that the reason Hermione didn’t go to the ball with Krum in this timeline is apparently because she thought Albus and Scorpius, qua Durmstrang students, were sent by him to sabotage Cedric.)

This scene has hit rock bottom and continues to dig.

Scorpius and Albus continue to argue. Scorpius gets angry that Albus is so focussed on his relationship with Harry when the problems are bigger than that (apparently something called Professor Croaker’s Law says the furthest you can go back in time without risking serious injury is five hours; no further explanation, just an arbitrary limit), and Scorpius thinks what they did created really bad changes. Albus wants to go back and meddle more to try to fix it and Scorpius thinks that’s “the wrong answer”. Scorpius apparently still has the Time-Turner, though.

Albus takes it from him and they continue to argue. Scorpius thinks they’ve proven they’re inept losers and they’ll just mess things up further (I don’t think he’s wrong), Albus says “I wasn’t a loser before I met you” and Scorpius loses his shit. Essentially (I’m summarising here) he goes off on Harry for being caught up in his own problems and not being supportive towards his own, Albus is so miserable to be the son of Harry when Scorpius has to deal with being thought the son of Voldemort and his mother’s dead, etc etc. Scorpius has a point. Also, Scorpius was hopeful that maybe fucking up the timeline could’ve saved his mother but he was devastated to see she’s still dead. This is decent characterisation given all the bullshit that’s come before, I can’t really criticise this.

McGonagall comes looking for them. Albus pulls out the Invisibility Cloak from “his bag” (since when has he had a bag? I guess he has a bag) and they hide under it. He explains he stole it from James. Anyway, McGonagall comes in and can’t see them, she figures out what’s going on and decides to play dumb, so she leaves.

Albus tells Scorpius that Harry’s Aurors are actually investigating the Voldy-dad thing, Scorpius says he doesn’t mind because he wants to actually know the truth, and Albus says not to worry because he’s too good a person to be Voldy’s son. (Genetics don’t work like this, but okay, I guess it’s a way to segue into apologising.) Albus starts waxing rhapsodic over how great Scorpius is and how much he appreciates him, keeps going on and on (it’s honestly sounding like a love confession). Eventually this happens:

SCORPIUS (interrupting): Albus, as apologies go this is wonderfully fulsome, but you’re starting to talk more about you than me again, so probably better to quit while you’re ahead.

*clap* *clap* okay, that’s a good line. [Agreed.]

Anyway, here’s where this scene becomes totally awful again. He’s come up with a new plan for how to change the past. He thinks, that because “losers are taught to be losers” (never mind that here, they’ve just made up their minds to keep trying, so clearly THAT DOESN’T WORK), they need to humiliate Cedric and maybe that will work. [There’s a nasty smell of victim-blaming here. Being worn down by things is your fault, just shake it off, if you don’t succeed you should have just tried harder.]

Scorpius, despite having shown signs of having a brain in the previous conversation, has now regressed and decides he thinks this sounds like “a really good strategy”. Albus also has a plan to get Ron and Hermione back together for Rose’s sake, but isn’t telling Scorpius what that is. Also Albus says that he’ll do it by himself if he has to, but asks Scorpius if he wants to come. The final line of the scene is the reveal that they need to go to Moaning Myrtle’s bathroom, whatever Albus’ “humiliation” plan is, it involves using Myrtle because they’re “not allowed to leave the school building”. I’m not sure why that matters, but I’m afraid to see where this is going. This is the stupidest plan I have ever heard.

Scene seventeen.

FUCK THIS SCENE.

Scene eighteen I’m sorry for reusing this gag.

Again on the Hogwarts staircases. Ron runs into Hermione and they talk. Apparently they’re still in love, or something. Hermione’s apparently done something with her hair (she claims she’s combed it) and Ron compliments her on it; she notices he’s looking at her oddly and he explains it’s because Albus said he thought they were married. It’s awkward. Lots of wistful looks, that kind of thing. The dialogue continues to be clunky and awkward and stupid. He compliments her hair again at the end as she leaves.

[…oh for fuck’s sake.]

I’m not recapping any more of this, there’s really not much I can say about it. I suppose, if I wanted to be fair, I could say the awkwardness makes sense because how the fuck do you talk to someone about some kid randomly thinking you’re married?

I also can’t help thinking about the references to hair in a racial context, because black!Hermione (I know black women’s hair can be a sensitive issue). I don’t know if it’s appropriate to think about that, and it’s not as though he’s touching/trying to touch her hair or anything obviously inappropriate, but this is written by white people and Ron is white so this hair talk feels weird.

Scene eighteen.

McGonagall’s office. She’s pleased with herself for not following through with Harry’s plan to separate the boys. Harry and Ginny and Draco show up unexpectedly through the fireplace. There’s a bit of talking past each other but they eventually establish that Harry’s there to apologise to her and to the boys, and decide they’re going to go look for them.

They check the map and discover they’re in the first floor girls’ bathroom.

Scene nineteen.

In the bathroom. Albus tells Scorpius his plan, which is apparently to use an Engorgement Charm on Cedric’s head to make him float, so he can’t complete the task.

LGN;FSGHRGHISJFAPIDJK;FDJAIPHFOHJOA’J

[I concur. Couldn’t have said it better myself.]

Furthermore, apparently Myrtle’s involvement extends only to learning how the castle pipes connect to the lake, they’re going to take gillyweed and travel there. Apparently the pipes to the bathroom sink are big enough for people to swim through? What is this?! [To be fair this is sort of canon, the pipes throughout the castle are apparently big enough for a basilisk to move through. Not that that ever made sense.]

In fairness, there are some decent bits in this scene. Firstly, Scorpius says ‘Moaning Myrtle’ and she gets offended, and wants to be called by her actual name, which is fair enough. But the actual name is Myrtle Elizabeth Warren. I don’t think she had a canonical middle or last name before, and I suppose there’s nothing wrong with this name, but I cannot help fearing that this is a dig at a certain actual person named Elizabeth Warren (a well-respected leftist US Senator, if you don’t know who she is, and someone I greatly admire). If that is the case, I am very unamused. But I suppose it could be coincidence. [I don’t believe in coincidence any more where these people are concerned. Fuck you, writers.]

And Myrtle says this about the Triwizard Tournament:

MOANING MYRTLE: Such a shame the pretty one had to die. Not that your father is not pretty — but Cedric Diggory — you’d be amazed at how many girls I had to hear doing love incantations in this very bathroom . . . And the weeping after he was taken.

WHAT IS THIS WITH THE LOVE POTIONSSPELLS. WHY IS THIS ENTIRE UNIVERSE FULL OF MAGICAL RAPISTS. I get that it’s supposed to be a joke but seriously, this shit is not funny. Cut it out.

Anyway, after a whole bunch of discussion the boys take gillyweed (where’d Albus get the gillyweed? It was a plot point in Goblet of Fire that Dobby had to steal it for Harry from Snape’s stores, I don’t think we’re meant to believe this is common stuff but he just has it in his bag?) and jump into the pipes. They apparently activate the Time-Turner.

The adults show up just barely too late, because of course they do.

MOANING MYRTLE: Oops, you caught me. And I was trying so hard to hide. Hello, Harry. Hello, Draco. Have you been bad boys again?

Okay, that line actually amused me. Anyway, she mentions Cedric Diggory and Harry immediately figures out what’s going on, and explains it to the others.

Scene twenty.

At the lake in 1995. Bagman’s announcing again. The stage directions make a point that the cheer for Beauxbatons is “slightly less limp” this time. FUCK THIS PLAY.

This scene is a fucking nightmare.

The engorgement charm works, Cedric turns into a balloon and literally floats up through the water and into the sky. Then fireworks explode around Cedric that say “Ron loves Hermione” and I want to explode as well. Bagman’s going on and on about this, how much the crowd is loving it and how much of a humiliation it is for Cedric. […oh God what.]

Stage directions:

The world becomes darker. The world becomes almost black, in fact.
And there’s a flash. And a bang. And the Time-Turner ticks to a stop. And we’re back in the present.

Because “darkness” has to be literal. My god I loathe this play.

When they come up out of the lake, they are greeted by Dolores Umbridge who is now Headmistress, and is not pleased with them. He mentions he’s looking for Albus Potter and she informs him – again, I suppose this is meant to be a bombshell – that there’s no such person, the last Potter at Hogwarts was Harry and he “didn’t turn out so well” and is dead. There are a bunch of dementors around, there are “Parseltongue whispers” and apparently it is something called Voldemort Day.

Thus ends the first “part” of the play.

I believe the two “parts” are actually shown on different nights, so this cliffhanger/downer ending is actually what people are going home on (presumably why people were so upset when the plot first leaked).

This is page 101 in my edition, so 90 more to go. Fuck me. Fuck everything.

Okay, have some semifinal thoughts I guess. I know it’s a trope in this kind of time-travel story that the bungling traveller has to go back, fuck things up, and return to a bad present/bad future, so they can regret what they’ve done and work toward fixing it (or just give up in despair, depending on the tone of the story; I’m thinking of e.g. A Sound of Thunder). Usually these stories go out of their way to make the bad future as bad as possible. Presumably the next part is going to explore how awful this bad future is, and somehow they’ll put things right in the end. That’s how these stories work.

That doesn’t make this a good story, nor does it make this anything less of an Idiot Plot (tm TvTropes). This is not a pleasant thing to read, it’s just endless contrived bullshit after contrived bullshit, the characterisation is inconsistent, the whole thing’s just thoughtlessly written at best (the other thing with these time travel plots is that the different timelines are usually used to highlight characterisation details in looking at how things could have gone, etc, but none of that works here either). I have already made my opinion of the writing, the events of this play, and everything else abundantly clear, I am sure.

Anyway, I’m taking the rest of the weekend off, as I have meatspace things to deal with (and I fully intend at some point to get thoroughly drunk, I need it). I will subject myself to Breaking Dawn Part Two oh I’m sorry did I say that? of course I meant Harry Potter and the Cursed Child Part Two, next week and hopefully have the writeups done before the week is out. I want to put this thing firmly behind me.

In the meantime, I hope you’re enjoying my suffering. That’s what makes all this worthwhile. [I was, but now I’m just horrified and sympathetic. You brave soul.]

 
7 Comments

Posted by on August 6, 2016 in mitchell

 

Tags: , , , , , , , , ,