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Mitchell’s Feminist Relationship Advice for Heterosexual Men (& everyone else too)

For better or worse I’ve ended up having way too many conversations about romance/sex/etc advice recently, so I thought I might as well collect my thoughts in one place (and just in time for Valentine’s Day too, sometimes coincidences are fun). It’s a good time for it anyway; the mainstream culture is always so terrible about these sort of things, and I think it’s especially important to push back against that in this age of the Sexual-Predator-in-Chief.

This is a serious post despite the snark.

I’m afraid this may feel disjointed in places, as it’s mainly a collection of things I’ve found myself saying or wishing I had said in response to things people have said to or around me, but so be it. I’m fairly certain the core ideas should still come through just fine. That said, I’m not entirely sure who the target audience is here: I’ve tried to keep this mostly at 101-level for accessibility but I’m not sure I entirely succeeded, and also I’ve tried to address various different stages here so it’s unlikely it all is likely to be applicable to everybody.

(And as this excellent piece I encountered the other day points out, patriarchal relationship norms aren’t good for men either. I think it’s always a worthy effort to undermine them.)

[I likely won’t have much to add, but I’m here agreeing with these points.]

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Posted by on February 14, 2017 in mitchell

 

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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.

 
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Posted by on August 11, 2016 in mitchell

 

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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.

 
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Posted by on August 9, 2016 in mitchell

 

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The Silkworm: Part Seven

Well, from the lack of comments last chapter I suspect you’re all about as interested in this clusterfuck as I am. Nonetheless, in a brief pause when I’m not working and have run out of things to procrastinate with, I shall struggle onwards, because there are two-thirds of this book left to go and I can’t move on to anything more fun until I’ve finished it. (Okay, I can, but I’m not going to.) Here we go again.

Trigger warnings: sexual assault, victim-blaming, I hate everything. And more of Strike’s misogyny, of course.


Chapter Twenty opens with Strike sitting on his own eating takeaway noodles and making notes (via pen and paper, which is rare in this day and age) while waiting hopefully for Robin to call him. If you recall, last chapter ended with Matthew’s mother dying and Strike rejoicing that it meant Robin’s wedding would be delayed.

Our Hero.

He’s making a list of things that have to be done relating to Owen’s murder, though we’re not told what these things are, only that he’s delegating some of them to his police buddy Anstis who flagrantly broke the rules for him last chapter. The narrative calls him arrogant and deluded for thinking he can do this, which I find amusing – when your own narrative voice is getting sick of your protagonist, you are doing something wrong. Despite this, I imagine he’ll manage it just fine. In the meantime he sits and silently criticises his ‘friend’ as ‘competent but unimaginative‘ and generally a textbook example of the plodding policeman stereotype found in virtually every detective/private investigator novel since the dawn of time. He goes on to question whether Anstis is capable of solving a murder like this. I flicked back and we’re not given Anstis’ actual rank, but he’s senior enough to pull rank in order to interview his buddy, and you don’t get to work homicide for the London Metropolitan Police without a fair amount of experience and ability, so I’m going to say “Yes, Strike, he is, now shut the fuck up.”

His phone rings, and he’s disappointed that it’s not Robin, but only Leonora. She tells him the police have been to search Owen’s study, and she didn’t want to let them in but did anyway. They’ve locked her out of it now and they want to come back to search again, but she doesn’t want them to because it’s upsetting Orlando. One of the policemen suggested she move out temporarily and she refused for the same reason.

(For those who have been successful in blocking this shit from their memories, Orlando is Leonora and Owen’s daughter with special needs. Actual age unknown, late teens/early twenties I think? She was born in the 1980s but I don’t know what year this book is set. Actual condition unknown as well.)

I don’t know why they’re only searching his study, why they need to come and search it again, or why they would suggest she move given that Owen didn’t die there and by all accounts hasn’t spent much time actually living there. Regardless, all Strike says is that they have grounds to search and that if they want to ask her any questions she should have a lawyer present. Presumably he’s forgetting that she’s been questioned once already, or does he think they hauled her into the police station last chapter to tell her that her husband had been found dead instead of them going to her house to tell her?

He offers to go and see her tomorrow morning – I don’t know why – and she agrees. Hanging up, he goes back to his notes, and we’re told that he’s writing a hell of a lot:

“There was an intensity, almost a feverishness, about the way Strike returned to his scribbling… Thoughts came fluently, cogently: jotting down the questions he wanted answered, locations he wanted cased, the trails he wanted followed. It was a plan of action for himself and a means of nudging Anstis in the right direction.”

Naturally, we’re not told anything he’s writing down, because why would we want to know what the investigator actually thinks about the case or what he plans to do next. But seriously, mate, you’re not actually in charge of the police investigation, and there are seven clear and named suspects to follow. Nobody needs your help to work that out. Fuck off.

His final act of the night is to look online for the brief announcement of Owen’s murder, and to be surprised that there’s no mention of the gory details. Are you really this stupid? Of course there aren’t, you idiot.

He goes to bed and angsts a bit, wondering how it didn’t occur to him that Owen might be dead. I wonder the same thing, given how many people were repeatedly saying that he’d been quiet for too long and wasn’t behaving normally and they were worried something had happened to him. Strike thinks he should magically have known because he used to be super-awesome and amazing at sensing this kind of thing. I like self-doubting characters, but not when it’s out of left field to fill up a bit of space before the end of the chapter, and not when the character in question is a piece of shit.


Next morning he’s accosted by reporters on his doorstep as he leaves to… go somewhere and do… something. I repeat what I said last chapter about two hundred murders a year. Owen wasn’t famous enough for anyone to care; I can’t imagine the press would be that bothered. Not to mention that there’s no way they could possibly know Strike’s involved yet. But my biggest issue with this scene? There are numerous references to camera flashes nearly blinding him.

In the previous book, camera flashes triggered a PTSD episode. Admittedly we were never told why and it never made much sense, but still, it happened. Flashback, panic attack, the works.

Here? No sign. No mention of any such thing, it never occurs to him. He’s magically been cured over the last year apparently. Because that’s absolutely how trauma works.

Damnit, Rowling.

Anyway, Strike flounces sulkily off in the back of a taxi, presumably upset that the mean nasty reporters were asking the very good question ‘why didn’t you tell the police when you realised your client’s husband had been missing for two weeks’, and decides that someone from the Met tipped off the press. Get your head out of your arse, sunshine. The penalty for doing so is way too steep for anyone to bother just for you – at the very least it’s a sackable offense, and at worst the officer in question would be charged with perverting the course of justice, which carries a hefty prison sentence. You just aren’t that special. Sadly, I imagine he’s actually going to be proved right in the end, because the police force is clearly just one on the long list of parts of real life that seem to have escaped Rowling’s comprehension.

He does at least text Robin to warn her there are journalists outside the office, though honestly I can’t imagine that she’s going to be working today anyway. Her fiancé’s mother just died, you jerk. Then he calls his police friend and doesn’t quite accuse him of being the one responsible for the leak, but does demand that he tell the press to stop being mean. Anstis says of course he will and invites Strike round for dinner later to discuss the case with him.

There are only so many times I can say THE POLICE DO NOT WORK THIS WAY, you know.

Having arranged his date, Strike swaps the taxi for the Tube – still without telling us where he’s going, but I’ve remembered he said last chapter he would visit Leonora this morning so I assume that’s what’s happening – and whines a bit that his knee still hurts before getting a couple of text messages. The first one is his sister Lucy wishing him Happy Birthday, which he’d forgotten about – so had I, we seem to have had so many mentions of the birthday he absolutely totally doesn’t care about that I assumed it was over – and the second is Robin saying thanks for the warning but she’s already run into the journalists and she’ll see him later because it’s not like her fiancé’s mother just died and Matthew might actually want her there with him.

Sigh.

Turns out yes, he was visiting Leonora. For some reason there’s a policeman on guard outside her house, but not a sniff of a journalist, because Strike is far more important than someone as insignificant as the wife of the victim. Strike insults the policeman, pretty much just because he can, and Orlando answers the door. Refreshingly her description doesn’t insult her at all, and there’s no attempt to telegraph whatever condition she’s meant to have, which I appreciate – she sways from foot to foot more or less constantly, and sounds younger than she is, but there’s no ableist language or anything else unpleasant.

Leonora apparently has a stomach upset, so disappears to the loo after letting Strike in, and he wanders through to the kitchen to find out that Jerry’s visiting with flowers and a card and condolences. That probably means he’s the murderer. He’s certainly a bit thick, since despite talking to him for most of a chapter recently at the publishing party he fails to recognise Strike and doesn’t know who he is. I find this unlikely, because he wasn’t that drunk. For some reason Strike lies to him and says he’s a family friend, which is contradicted a couple of paragraphs later when Leonora rejoins them and says who he really is. Jerry’s not sure why Leonora’s hired a detective:

“‘Cos I need one,” said Leonora shortly. “The police think I done it to Owen.”

One, there’s no evidence they think any such thing – I certainly don’t think she was physically strong enough, quite apart from any other concerns. And two, in that case you hire a lawyer, not a P.I. Anyway, Jerry’s very uncomfortable and flailing, and tries to make his excuses because he’s sure Leonora’s busy with the funeral arrangements and so on, and she points out that they haven’t released Owen’s body yet so she can’t make any arrangements. He gets even more jittery, asks out of the blue if she’s got a copy of Bombyx Mori anywhere, then flees.

I hope he’s not actually the murderer because damn was that clumsy writing.

Strike starts actually questioning Leonora at last, asking if she’s heard from anyone who saw Owen after he vanished, and she says no. She doesn’t know anyone at Roper Chard except Jerry, who she’s only met a couple of times, and she hasn’t read the book and doesn’t know why everyone keeps asking about it. Then she asks Strike what’s really going on, because the police won’t let her see the body and won’t tell her what happened but they took his toothbrush for DNA sampling. Strike says vaguely that Owen’s body had been there for a while, and that they’re not really sure what happened to him yet, which she clearly recognises is bullshit, but then Orlando wanders back in with some drawings to show Strike and they drop the subject. (Leonora addresses her daughter by the nickname Dodo. I can’t decide if that’s meant to be cute or horrible.)

The police did find a couple of old typewriter ribbons in Owen’s study, but nothing else, and Leonora told them he’d taken the manuscript with him. (You know, Strike, at some point you might want to tell the police that you’ve got a copy, since Jerry’s acting so weirdly he might not have turned over his to them…) She says it was a tip and took them ages to go through everything, and Orlando helpfully pipes up that ‘Auntie Liz‘ (who turns out to be Liz Tassel) went in there when she visited, while Leonora was in the loo with her stomach upset. That’s a neat trick given that the police locked it up…

Leonora says she asked Liz why there was such a problem with this book, and Liz said it couldn’t be published because of all the real people in it. Honestly I think everyone’s so distorted by fucked-up drug trip nightmares that they’re unrecognisable and he could have got away with it easily, but I’m not a literary agent. Leonora doesn’t see the problem either because he’s always done it and has put her in lots of his books – hopefully in slightly more flattering terms than his final opus – and Strike changes the subject again to ask about Talgarth Road, again. She repeats that she doesn’t know why Owen went there, that he’s always hated the place, and that he wanted to sell but Fancourt wouldn’t let him, all of which has been said numerous times now, and before Strike can ask a new question they’re interrupted by Orlando asking for more paper to draw on. On being told that it’s all locked up in Owen’s study she goes into the hall and tries to force the door, and her mother shouts at her; she runs off crying and Leonora comes back, telling Strike she’s just upset because the police are here, before ‘yawn[ing] nervously,’ which I’ve never seen before. I wasn’t aware yawns had emotions.

They talk a bit more. Leonora’s been trying to think of who could have done it (aside from apparently everyone) since she knows Owen upsets people sometimes, but… and she thinks Michael Fancourt must still have a key to the house and they hate each other but she doesn’t think he would have done it, and then Daniel Chard was sending Owen threatening letters and Owen always hated him… she looks for the card Jerry brought, which was signed by most of the people at Roper Chard, and realises Orlando took it to draw on and calls her back to get it. She rants to Strike about what a hypocrite Chard is, and Orlando joins the conversation again, saying Owen told her he didn’t like Chard, before adding, “He give me a paintbrush, after he touched me.”

There’s a horrible silence, before Leonora asks what she’s talking about.

Orlando explains she went to work with her father (Leonora confirms, it was about a month ago, because she had a doctor’s appointment so Owen took her with him to the publisher; why he was there given that the new book had been rejected by his agent is anyone’s guess) and she was looking at the coloured pictures for some of the books and “Dannulchar” touched her. Her mother interrupts and says she doesn’t even know who Chard is, and Orlando replies that he’s got no hair and that it happened after Owen took her to see ‘the lady‘ who had nice hair – Kathryn, maybe? Though even Owen’s not likely to take his daughter to see his mistress… – and Chard touched her and she shouted, and afterwards he gave her a paintbrush.

“You don’t want to go round saying things like that,” said Leonora and her strained voice cracked. “Aren’t we in enough – Don’t be stupid, Orlando.”

There’s honestly nothing I can say here. A young woman with special needs has just implied that she was molested, and her mother’s immediate response is to tell her to shut up. Naturally, she gets upset and runs off. And then Strike’s immediate response is to say absolutely nothing about it and to change the subject, asking how Leonora met Owen (at the book festival in Hay-on-Wye), whether she’s had any more dog shit through the letterbox (yes, once more, a couple of days ago), has she seen the girl who was following her again (no) and is she all right for money (yes, Owen had life insurance and a neighbour’s lending her some money until it pays out) before getting the fuck out of there.

I skimmed very quickly through the next chapter. This subject is basically just going to be ignored as far as I can tell.

I’m done for today. I need a hot bath and a stiff drink. There’s no way Rowling’s going to handle this well, no matter what the truth turns out to be, and it’s inexcusable.


A new day, a new dose of shit, and boy do I not want to do this. There is no scenario where this turns out well. If Orlando is telling the truth, her mother is scum for not believing her and Strike is scum for not reporting it, and if Chard’s not the murderer then it’s not even plot relevant and – spoiler alert – there’s never a good reason to put sexual assault into a story ‘just because’. If Orlando is not telling the truth… the last thing we need is more instances of people lying about something this serious, because that makes it less likely that victims will be believed or listened to in future, or of people with special needs ‘just being crazy’ because that’s just gross.

Fine. Let’s see how terribly Rowling manages to fuck this up, shall we?

Strike whines a bit about his knee hurting on the Tube ride home, then calls Robin. She says the journalists are still hanging around outside the office and Strike’s been mentioned on the news (you’d think Rowling, as an actual celebrity, might by now have figured out how this whole fame and publicity thing actually works, wouldn’t you?) and he asks if Anstis has said anything yet. Long story short, yes, his buddy has covered his ass and asked the mean nasty journalists to leave him alone, which hasn’t stopped the ones she literally just told him are still outside his office.

In a breathtakingly horrible display of seeking validation, Strike says very obviously that he can’t believe the press are so interested in Owen’s murder given that they don’t know the sensational details. Cue Robin telling him that no, the press aren’t interested in that at all, it’s him because he’s awesomely famous and amazing. Gag. Anyway, because he’s so noble and saintly and not remotely like Harry Potter really, Strike doesn’t want to see the journalists, and asks Robin to meet him in the pub. They’d have to be really, really shitty journalists not to know Robin’s his assistant and follow her, you know. After he hangs up it occurs to Strike that a decent human being would have asked how Matthew’s holding up, but he’s more preoccupied with wishing he’d asked Robin to bring his crutches.

To the best of my recollection he doesn’t actually have crutches, so I’m not sure how she could have managed that.

He’s limping really badly by the time he gets to the pub, and I’m inclined to believe he’s faking it for sympathy, because thus far this supposed knee injury vanishes whenever he’s doing something dramatic like finding corpses and only reappears when he’s doing something boring like travelling. In any case, Robin is appropriately sympathetic as he explains how he hurt himself – surprisingly admitting that he ‘fell over like a tit’ while following someone – before he hints that he could use a drink and she promptly runs off to buy him one. Damnit, Robin. Not only that, but she comes back with a birthday present as well. Hey, remember the family tragedy that should be occupying her? Remember how before that she was really pissed at him? Nope, me neither.

They rehash that the girl he was following is probably the one who’s been following Leonora and putting dog shit through her door, though they still don’t know why. Strike whines a bit more about his leg, because he’s ‘supposed to be doing surveillance on Brocklehurst and Burnett’s husband this week‘. I have no idea who Brocklehurst is. Burnett might be the brunette woman, in which case holy fuck she finally has at least part of a name after twenty two chapters (but also holy fuck she is Burnett the brunette, facepalm…), but I thought he’d finished with that after watching the guy pawning her jewellery or whatever. Regardless, Robin immediately pipes up with touching eagerness that she could follow them for him, and predictably Strike totally ignores her.

Instead he asks about Matthew, surprisingly. Turns out he’s gone to stay with his dad and his sister. And Robin didn’t go with him because…? Well, because she’s a terrible person. She makes a point of telling Strike that the wedding is going to be postponed, as if anyone still believes it’s going to happen at all by now, and he asks if she got on with her future mother in law. Robin says immediately that yes, of course she did, she was lovely, but she thinks privately that she always thought the woman was difficult and a hypochondriac and now feels guilty about it. Changing the subject, she asks about Leonora, and Strike obligingly rehashes the events of last chapter for a while.

It takes far, far too long for him to mention what Orlando said about Chard; he hasn’t thought about it at all before now, either. Naturally Robin looks horrified and asks how, exactly? Strike replies that she wasn’t specific, and then starts vomiting whitewash:

“It might not be that… He might’ve accidentally knocked into her and given her something to placate her. She kept going off on one while I was there, shrieking because she didn’t get what she wanted or her mum had a go at her.”

Fuck you. Just fuck you.

Shit like this is the reason so many people are so reluctant to report assault or rape.

Continuing to establish himself as a terrible human being only interested in absolving himself of all responsibility, Strike goes on to add that anyway, Owen said in his book that Chard is gay.

One, Owen actually said Chard was a necrophiliac with a rotting dick, which probably isn’t true, and made no mention of whether the victim’s gender mattered. Two, sex attacks usually aren’t primarily about sex. Three, you are a disgusting human being. And so is Robin, who follows the change of subject and starts talking about another of Owen’s books that she picked up and read, which is also about a hermaphrodite (before anyone tells me this isn’t the polite term any more, I know, but it’s the terminology the book uses and I refuse to accidentally give Rowling credit for sensitivity) and the issue of whether or not a vulnerable young adult was actually molested and whether they should actually do something about it is carefully swept under the rug. I wouldn’t be at all surprised if it’s never mentioned again.

They have a rambling conversation about how Owen’s books often involve characters changing their gender or sexual orientation, and about how Strike’s birthday chocolate tastes good, and about how Robin’s meant to be dieting for the wedding but eats some anyway, and about how they both dropped out of uni and Strike’s never bothered to ask her why she never finished but assumes it was something traumatic because that’s why he did (no really, that’s his logic; he left uni when his mother died of an overdose, therefore Robin left uni because of something horrible) and a lot of other stuff I really don’t care about.

Robin wonders why the murderer followed the book so closely, perhaps it was a way to hide their real motive? I don’t think anyone in this book is that smart, but good try. She then goes to order them dinner because of Strike’s knee, because interrupting plot-relevant conversations with mundane shit is always a stellar writing choice. Ignoring the fact that she made a very good point, Strike rather patronisingly tells her not to try so hard, it’s okay to admit that the corpse photos were really icky and make her feel sick, and thinks to himself that if he was with his manly soldier buddies they’d be laughing and joking but her poor delicate ladybrain isn’t ready to cope with that yet. You know, I’m not even angry any more. Given all the things he’s ignoring or condoning, his sexism is just boring.

He goes on to say her theory doesn’t matter because mostly you don’t find out the motive until you catch the person who did it. That seems like bullshit to me, because I’m pretty sure most murder investigations start with the possible motives in order to draw up a list of suspects. He adds that he thinks they’re looking for someone with medical knowledge because of how precise and accurate the removal of the intestines was. I have no idea how Strike knows how well it was done, given that the body was fairly old and had been covered in corrosive acid and left in a very hot room with no ventilation… this is the same school of writing that thinks the crime scene investigation team are also the ones who go on to solve the crime and arrest and interrogate the perpetrator. Strike does not have a background in biology or forensics. He magically just knows.

Robin interrupts, ‘a little desperately‘ begging him to ‘humour [her] for a moment‘. She says the killer must have felt such an elaborate death was worth it, because of all the problems with how it was done – the logistical issues, the fact that the pool of suspects is confined to the few people who’ve read this unpublished manuscript…

Strike interrupts her in turn to tell her that she’s wrong. He thinks the pool of suspects is huge, because Fisher spread knowledge of the book far and wide (first I’ve heard of it, Fisher himself hasn’t even been mentioned in a fucking long time) and Roper Chard kept the manuscript in a safe that the world and his wife could apparently break into.

Determined not to let him shit all over her perfectly sound theory, Robin continues stubbornly, pointing out that Owen wasn’t killed very recently and that there had to be a delay between the killer reading the book and getting the murder set up, getting all the stuff that was needed and getting into the house on Talgarth Road, and unless they knew Owen was going to go there they also had to get him there to be murdered.

Rather than back down, Strike pretends he thought this way all along and runs with it. The killer can’t have read the book any later than maybe two or three days after Owen first buggered off. And unfortunately that makes Leonora a likely candidate, because she could have read it at any time, it was literally a few steps down the hallway, and Owen himself could have told her the ending months before as well. He adds that he doesn’t actually think she did it, but she’s got a lot of good motives and they’ll need more than his opinion.

“Robin took their empty glasses back to the bar for refills without being asked; Strike felt very fond of her as she set another pint in front of him.”

If I had to read it, so do you.

Strike adds it’s possible someone heard he was going to self-publish the book online and wanted to stop it, because maybe Owen found something out and put a cryptic reference in among all the fucked up porn. Robin agrees because she’s been wondering why anyone killed Owen in the first place given that it would be much easier to just use legal channels to stop the book being published; I’ll forgive her for not knowing that’s already happened, because God knows Strike’s trying very hard to keep her away from the actual cases. Strike says dismissively that she’s assuming the killer was thinking rationally, and she retorts that it can’t have been a crime of passion because of how long it would take to plan.

Robin adds that she’s been reading the manuscript herself, since Strike left it lying around. So in between helping Matthew with his bereavement and postponing her wedding she’s had time to read most of two of Owen’s books? Okay. They talk about it for a while, trying to figure out the symbolism behind irrelevant details like the Harpy eating rats and Epicoene’s ‘singing’ not actually being singing, before Strike’s phone rings.

It’s his journalist friend Culpepper, Nina’s cousin. Apparently a policeman is talking to his paper and has said Owen was murdered the way someone was killed in one of his books. That policeman is looking at a very long jail sentence, or he would be if this actually ever happens, but repeat after me: the police do not work that way. Anyway, Culpepper’s got his knickers in a twist because Strike didn’t tell him first and he thought they were pals, and Strike maturely responds by calling him a ‘dickhead‘ and telling him the murder’s from a random book of Owen’s before hanging up.

Robin’s been browsing online on her phone to try and avoid hearing all this, and offhandedly mentions reading something about Pippa Middleton, which sparks a memory. Strike remembers that on Kathryn’s blog the mysterious Pippa claimed to have heard some of Bombyx Mori. Credit where it’s due, I actually like this bit. Robin looks up the blog and confirms Pippa posted that before Owen disappeared, so she might have known the ending already. Strike agrees and sends her to buy dessert.

When she gets back he tells her he’s going to dinner with Anstis later and is hoping for a time of death so they can work on narrowing down the list of suspects: Leonora, Pippa, Fisher, Liz, Liz’s assistant Ralph (but not her other assistant Sally, because sexism I expect), Jerry, Chard, Kathryn, and Fancourt. Robin asks how Fancourt could possibly have seen the manuscript, and Strike’s phone rings again before he can answer.

This time it’s Nina, who understandably sounds pretty pissed off with him but is pretending not to be. She jokes about his inexplicable fame, asks whether it really was murder, says it’s insane at work because nobody’s doing anything except talking about it and hopefully asks for details, which Strike says no to. Also Chard has broken his leg, apparently he phoned from his ‘weekend house‘ to yell at Jerry about the police getting hold of the manuscript and somehow can’t leave said house because of a broken leg. Must have been some break. Nina gets in a little dig about how maybe Strike can call her when he’s not so busy and hangs up before he can say anything. Good for her.

He repeats the gist of the conversation to Robin, who repeats her earlier question about why Fancourt’s a suspect. Strike’s rather flimsy justification is that obviously Chard will have told him, not wanting him to find out from other sources, but they’re interrupted yet again – this time it’s Robin’s phone.

It’s Matthew, inevitably. Poor bastard. Robin asks how he is (don’t ask that question, it’s bloody stupid) and he replies understandably that he’s ‘not great’ before hearing some background noise and asking where she is. And of course she tells him that she’s in the pub with Strike celebrating his birthday. Now yes, she’s perfectly entitled to do this, but it’s not exactly sensitive. Matthew’s obviously not happy, but he doesn’t yell at her or anything, just says he’ll call her later and hangs up. She promptly starts panic-dialling him to grovel and placate him, because that’s what the ‘romance’ plot needs to happen, despite him not having seemed particularly in need of placating, and Strike remembers his bad knee and whines all the way to the loo and back, thinking about it.

“The accountant was unhappy that his fiancée had gone out to lunch, that she was not sitting shiva for his mother.”

I had to ask Mitchell what ‘sitting shiva’ means. Wikipedia covers it pretty well but it’s basically an extended wake. The family get together for a few days and share food and commiserate and there’s a prayer service. Except… Strike’s not Jewish to my knowledge, and there’s been no mention that Matthew is (and Robin’s thought about him and the wedding enough in her rare POV scenes over the past two books that it surely would have come up by now), and Rowling isn’t Jewish either, so I have no idea why this phrase would enter his head. I know in a lot of places in the States, for example, there’s a high Jewish population and it’s not an unreasonable assumption, but generally speaking in the UK white British = some flavour of Christian/atheist, or at least that’s the accepted view. Certainly in London there’s a very mixed population, but the Jewish families tend to be more strongly culturally Jewish and are mostly non-Caucasian, so you don’t often have to guess.

Also, the shiva takes place after the funeral, and the poor woman only died a day or two ago. I doubt they’ve buried her yet given everything that has to be arranged when someone dies.

Anyway, yes, Matthew is a bit pissed that his fiancée hasn’t gone to mourn with him and help the family out and is instead at a birthday party with someone who is very clearly a love rival. How unreasonable of him to be annoyed and hurt by that. Especially since he wasn’t a dick about it, just said he’d call back later.

Strike limps slowly back to the table as Robin finishes her phone call. She asks if he’s all right, and he snaps at her. She offers again to do some of the surveillance work so he can rest his leg, and he snaps at her. Then he tells her to go type up the paperwork, and adds that they really need to hire someone else.

Robin promptly gets her things and storms out. I wish they’d been in a restaurant rather than a pub, because then Strike would be left with the bill, but sadly in a pub you pay when you order rather than after you’ve eaten. Strike spots that she’s angry with him (you can see how he became a great detective with keen observational skills like that) but refuses to do anything about it.

Next chapter will be his dinner date with Anstis, but I can’t wade through any more of this crap right now.

 
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Posted by on September 7, 2015 in loten

 

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Game of Thrones S05E06: Link Roundup & Some Thoughts

SPOILER ALERT: Game of Thrones through S05E06, ASOIAF through ADWD

TRIGGER WARNING: Rape, Rape culture, Patriarchy, Sexual objectification, Discussions which are callously indifferent to such

There’s been a lot of discussion going on in the feminist blogosphere about the rape of Sansa Stark in season five, episode six of Game of Thrones. I feel the need to contribute something here even if I’m not particularly qualified to do so; it’s interesting to me how much disagreement there seems to be over this and that I find myself agreeing to some extent with both sides of a heated controversy.

[Let me (Mitchell) state for the record that I’m actually a bit behind in my watching of the show, and have actually yet to see the episode in question. I’m at least passingly familiar with what’s been going on this season (Loten’s seen them at least and has been keeping me informed), but for a variety of reasons my enthusiasm for the show has been flagging for a while. That said, I do think this needs to be discussed, and I do still plan to watch them eventually when I find the time and energy.]

First off, here are links to various perspectives on this, all of which I found interesting and well worth reading even if I’m not sure who or what to agree with when they disagree.

Rebecca Watson:
http://skepchick.org/2015/05/why-last-nights-game-of-thrones-was-the-worst/

Melissa McEwan:
http://www.shakesville.com/2015/05/today-in-rape-culture.html

Jill Pantozzi at The Mary Sue:
http://www.themarysue.com/we-will-no-longer-be-promoting-hbos-game-of-thrones/

Sen. Claire McCaskill quoted at Talking Points Memo:
http://talkingpointsmemo.com/livewire/claire-mccaskill-game-of-thrones-rape-scene

Amanda Marcotte:
http://www.slate.com/blogs/xx_factor/2015/05/18/another_major_character_is_raped_on_game_of_thrones_this_time_it_works_for.html
http://www.rawstory.com/2015/05/all-hopefully-of-the-bad-arguments-about-rape-on-game-of-thrones-debunked/
(semi-related) http://www.rawstory.com/2015/05/game-of-throness-littlefinger-is-a-great-satire-of-the-pick-up-artist/

Daniel Fincke:
http://www.patheos.com/blogs/camelswithhammers/2015/05/a-defense-of-game-of-thrones-rape-depictions/

Caroline Siede writing for BoingBoing offers some useful context around the show’s contradictory depictions of sex and female nudity:
http://boingboing.net/2015/05/12/the-naked-hypocrisy-of-game-of.html

Interview with Sophie Turner (the actor who plays Sansa):
http://www.ew.com/article/2015/05/17/game-thrones-sansa-wedding

Before anything else I’d like to say that I am absolutely disgusted that somebody (director Alex Graves) described this planned plot/character arc to Turner as “you’re going to get a love interest this season!” Irrespective of anything else, I find that incredibly disgusting and creepy (especially to say to someone like Turner who is, we must remember, a young woman), and indicative of the level of thought we’re likely working with here from the people planning this show. (See also Siede’s article at BoingBoing revealing that the show intentionally and actively attempts to appeal to the “pervert audience”.)

So while I think that there’s a lot of interesting analysis going on and good points being made by people like Marcotte and Fincke (linked above) in defence of the show, taking the show as a depiction of the horrors of rape culture, I think it’s a bit disingenuous to look at this situation from a 100% Death of the Author perspective. I’m not sure precisely how to explain what I’m trying to get at here – “intentions are not magic” is usually taken as an argument against good intentions being exculpatory and an encouragement to look only at outcomes, but here what we have is a case where bad intentions are very likely and analysis of the outcome (Death of the Author) ends up being more charitable. I think perhaps too charitable, especially given that many viewers are unfortunately not going to go to that level of analysis. I think a lot of what, e.g., Fincke is saying makes sense but doesn’t justify the creators’ decisions unless you look at the work in a vacuum and ignore what those creators have actually said about it. Which maybe needs to be done (Death of the Author and all) but isn’t and can’t be the only way we can look at it.

I think, if anything, my biggest objection to the Sansa thing is that they completely interrupted her arc (which had nothing to do with rape, and actually seemed like it was leading to a place where she’d gain a lot of agency even if it did involve Littlefinger) to put her in the place of another character. They basically raped the character on a meta level in addition to the literal sense. Weirdly I don’t think I’d have objected to a rape in her storyline if it happened differently (I was entirely prepared for a lot of Littlefinger sleaziness, for example, in the books). I think I might even be willing to concede that whatever happened on the show is the most likely/realistic outcome if Sansa ended up with Ramsay, but there is still the uncomfortable fact that the show runners decided to put her there without much if anything of a good reason.

It’s also worth pointing out that Game of Thrones isn’t a documentary. It’s not a factual program designed to educate people. It’s an entertainment show on HBO. They aren’t trying to teach anyone anything. They could be, and maybe they should be (and there’s a sense in which any work of literature is social commentary), but they don’t seem to be approaching the task with the level of responsibility that ought to require. There was an interesting point made at Ophelia Benson’s blog recently about the power and influence narrative can have over our thinking (well worth reading: one two).

Also, in defending the role of rape in the show, Fincke hasn’t mentioned at all the unnecessary scene at Craster’s, with women being raped as background landscape. It’s difficult to accept any kind of informed and well-thought-out decision making from a show that does that. There are a lot of good, valid arguments on both sides – more than we thought at first. But based on the show’s past record and the constant creation of excuses to include sex and nudity for no reason in scenes where it doesn’t need to be there, it’s hard to defend giving them the benefit of the doubt.

Clearly we’re a bit ambivalent on this; I think on some level we accept that there are ways of viewing/interpreting the show in which this isn’t a horrible betrayal by the show creators, but we also think that’s too charitable an interpretation to have any real credibility given their actual comments and track record. I think there’s room to remain a fan of the show and continue taking it seriously (we all know how to be a fan of problematic things ), but also to point out bad decision-making where it occurs and where it is genuinely offensive, infuriating and downright insulting.

Please leave us your thoughts and link any other interesting takes on this you’ve found.

 
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Posted by on May 20, 2015 in loten, mitchell

 

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Signal Boost: Dude Social Fallacies

Read this. Read this now.

http://spcsnaptags.tumblr.com/post/115253287239/dude-social-fallacies

I recognise so many of these; they’re bloody everywhere. How’s this – if you catch someone (likely a cishet man, but I’m sure it’s not completely exclusive to them) you know engaging in these behaviours or this kind of thinking, encourage them to read this article and stop interacting with people they view as potential sex partners until they’ve thoroughly digested it.

(via Captain Awkward)

 
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Posted by on April 2, 2015 in mitchell

 

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Ideology Kills (Re: the Santa Barbara shooting)

[Content Notes: murder, suicide, misogyny, MRA/PUA rhetoric, guns]

I’m honestly not sure whether I want to write about this, but I’ve been seeing it discussed almost everywhere I look and I think I need to.

TRIGGER WARNINGS FOR ALL THE THINGS.

It has emerged that Elliot Rodger, the alleged shooter in the Santa Barbara incident last night (to my knowledge counts currently stand at 7 dead and 7 injured, including Rodger himself; there have also been reports that an additional three bodies were found in Rodger’s apartment) was an active participant in the community of internet misogynists known as the “manosphere”. David Futrelle at The Site Formerly Known as Manboobz has made a complete transcript of the youtube video in which Rodger laid out his twisted rationale, and in addition to the comments there there have also been some great discussions at Pharyngula and Skepchick among other places. The posts and comments are well worth reading if you can stomach them.

I’ve only read the transcript – I don’t think I could stand subjecting myself to the video – and he’s hit an alarming number of MRA talking points. Entitlement drips from every word. One thing we must note is that this sense of entitlement is one that our society encourages men, especially affluent white men, to develop, and even specifically with respect to women (see, for example, romantic comedies etc). Elliot Rodger was practically a textbook Nice Guy ™ (if that term is unclear, here is a very good overview of the phenomenon), as far as I can tell. And nowhere are these attitudes more thoroughly reinforced than in the manosphere.

From what I’ve seen, there seem to be two paths a man can take after discovering the Nice Guy ™ phenomenon and his own participation in it . Either he will read feminist criticisms and take them to heart, eventually correcting his behaviour and his thinking, or he will read feminist criticisms and decide that feminists are out to get him and be driven into the arms of the manosphere, where all of his resentments will be further reinforced. Sadly, I think the latter response is probably more common (if nothing else, just because of how much difficulty many people have not considering any criticism a personal attack), though I don’t have any numbers to back this up. Now obviously I am grossly simplifying things here, and some of this is reliant on conjecture (which is based on my personal observations of internet discussions), but I think this model is sufficient to make the point I want to here.

This hinges on both one’s ability to honestly evaluate ideas’ coherence to reality, and on one’s sense of empathy. Without empathy and a willingness to understand women’s perspectives on behaviour like this, these men may never be willing or able to encounter or acknowledge the facts that would change their minds even if they were open to being convinced (this, I think, is one reason so many supposed “skeptics” end up supporting misogyny and/or the MRM).

The “men’s movement”, like many extreme political movements and religious cults, tends to polarise and indoctrinate people. What I think tends to happen is that people who feel hurt or aggrieved go looking for support, find the MRAs, and as they spend more and more time in that movement they are encouraged to generalise a single bad experience into a hatred of all women. It seems that immersing oneself in an ideological echo chamber is a very good way of insulating oneself from reality, and replacing it with a delusional reality constructed by the group; furthermore, this process is self-reinforcing (as people are encouraged to view everything that happens through an ideological lens, they force events to fit their mental model and then take that fitting as confirmation of the model’s accuracy) and tends to only result in further group polarisation in the long run. There is an extent to which all cultural norms behave this way – that’s how the patriarchy/kyriarchy works, after all – but it seems to be much more pronounced, and even more dangerous, in cloistered groups like the MRM.

Rodger is not the first to be driven to violence by misogyny of the sort promoted by the MRA ideology, and I highly doubt he will be the last.

Ideology is dangerous. Ideas can drive people to kill. (I am tempted to compare people like Rodger to the 9/11 hijackers, but that may be overly provocative; oops, I just did. It seems to me a difference in degree, not in kind.) Steven Weinberg famously said “Religion is an insult to human dignity. Without it you would have good people doing good things and evil people doing evil things. But for good people to do evil things, that takes religion.” My friend Professor Andy Norman, in a talk promoting secular humanism, suggested that “religion” in that quote would be more accurately replaced by “ideology” (of which religion is a subset), and I agree with him. I do not mean to suggest by this that Elliot Rodger would have been a good person if not for the influence of the MRM – that is a counterfactual we cannot evaluate – only that we must acknowledge those ideas played at least a partially etiological role in the atrocities he committed, and were it not for them, he would have been significantly less likely to commit this particular hate crime.

It may sound like I am advocating against freedom of speech in writing this. That is not my intent, or at least not quite (do note that criticism of an idea, no matter how strong, is not equivalent to silencing). I do think there are ideas that do harm by dint of being believed; we have evidence of that in cases like this recent shooting. The lesson I think we need to take from this is that it is incredibly important to honestly consider evidence and be willing to change one’s mind, and to foster the development of empathy, because failure to do so leads directly into the trap of toxic ideologies such as the MRM. I am not sure how to deal with the immediate problem posed by such hate groups; I think many of them have reached the point where any attempt at education is futile, but they may not all be. And if nothing else, we can make note of the importance of critical thinking education – and teaching empathy, because empathy can be a learned skill – in an attempt to inoculate other young people against ideological viruses (also Andy’s metaphor). Elliot Rodger was 22 years old, literate, and enrolled at a selective university. Whatever else he was, he wasn’t stupid (though he clearly believed some very stupid and vile ideas), and in principle could probably have been educated. This does not make him any less responsible for the crimes he committed, but it does mean that responsibility was not solely limited to him.

Rodger’s victims and their families have all of my sympathies and condolences. What happened last night was a tragedy. But merely being tragic does not mean it happened in a void, nor does it mean we should refrain from discussing things that contributed to it; it is only by doing so that we can begin to work at preventing further atrocities of this kind in future.

 
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Posted by on May 25, 2014 in mitchell

 

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