Review: *sigh* Harry Potter and the Cursed Child

Cursed ChildDo I have to write this post?

Can we just pretend this didn’t happen?

I don’t even know how to start this.

Buckle your seat belts, this post is going to be LONG.

NOTE: THIS REVIEW WILL BE FULL OF SPOILERS. AND SWEAR WORDS. LOTS OF SWEAR WORDS.

So, as you all know (hopefully), Harry Potter and the Cursed Child was released on Sunday, the script of the West End production, a 2-part play written by Jack Thorne. The script had J.K. Rowling’s approval, as she was a major collaborator in the story development, but she did not write it. The play opened on the 30th, though previews have been going for the last several weeks. I avoided all spoilers prior to reading the script, which I did after receiving it at midnight in true HP spirit.

Typically, my reviews are traditional narrative style, but for this one, I’ve decided to section it off based on the major points fans have been discussing on the interwebs since the release. I’ve been participating in MuggleNet’s Cursed Child spoiler chat group on Facebook, which you can join here. It’s going to be a LONG review, so that way you can also skip around if you want.

Let me also say before I begin that I did not have high expectations for this play. I was skeptical. So my disappointment was not because I set a high bar for it. In fact, I set a low bar. It still sucked. Let me also also say that Harry Potter is as dear as a series can be to someone; I work at an HP fan site, it’s kind-of a big deal in my life. Let me also also also say that I do not consider this play canon. For an explanation as to why this is, please view my previous post. Ok, ok, review time.

SPOILERS START NOW!

THE PLOT

Let’s start with the big one, shall we? This plot was Steven-Moffat-meets-HarryPotter-fan-fiction…and not in a good way. I could not believe that the cleverest plot line Jo and Co. could come up with was a freaking Time Turner plot! Seriously!? Of all the rich stories you could have developed with this new generation of characters, you decided to simply go back and revisit things that have already happened?? Jo even admitted on Pottermore that the Time Turner was a weak plot device, which is why SHE DESTROYED THEM ALL in Order of the Phoenix! (BTW, that article has since been taken down). Here’s the worst part: the story did ABSOLUTELY NOTHING to progress ANY plot WHATSOEVER. Literally all that happened was this: “Let’s go back in time to change a bad thing. Ok, we changed the bad thing, but we done fucked up and created an alternate universe where everything sucks. Now we have to go back and fix it. So we did. And now everything is normal again. The end.” Literally nothing new happens. They just mess up the past and then fix it. I feel so incredibly cheated. If I want a story like that, I’ll just watch Back to the Future Part II. At least that movie is GOOD.

THE FAN SERVICE

Oh my God, this was the most fan-service-y piece of shit that I have ever read. So many of the old major characters randomly appear who we didn’t expect to appear because we knew the play was supposed to be about the next generation. Because of the time travel, we get to see all our favorite (and some least favorite) characters again. Some people liked this, and I understand why. It’s nostalgic. But the fact that it’s nostalgic does not cancel out the fact that the characters and plot were poorly constructed. Don’t let the feels and nostalgia blind you; if character appearances are largely used for feels and nostalgia purposes, the plot suffers.

THE CHARACTERS

Now Imma break this one down into several different characters who deserve to be discussed. As a general comment, I think the writing was just slightly off for every character, and honestly, it’s because Jo didn’t write it. Their voices, which are so distinctive in the books, were not captured accurately.

Harry: A lot of people had a problem with Harry, but he was actually one of the characters I was more o-k with. He’s always been hot-headed and impulsive, so his comments and choices in the story jibed with his character decently well. No major gripes there.

HermioneShe was o-k, I guess. I’m ambivalent about her being Minister for Magic because I’m not sure she would want a position of that much power, and I really wanted a calm life for her. She was probably a killer Magical Lawyer, and I kinda wish we would have seen her as that.

Ron: Oh, poor, poor Ron. You got the side-kick treatment in the movies and the comic-relief treatment in the play. Why can’t anyone ever get Ron right?? He’s so much more than a goofy, brainless uncle! I will concede that I had a good laugh at a lot of his lines, but man, this was not how I pictured him 19 years later.

Scorpius: Scorpius was actually the best. Nerdy, quirky, original, hilarious, heartfelt. He was the best part of the show.

Draco Malfoy: I liked Draco’s character a lot. After his realization in books 6 and 7 that he was in too deep, he deserved a redemption. He’s still an ass, but a redeemed ass. Loved the part when he admitted of being jealous of the trio’s friendship.

Snape: Opinions on Snape are still pretty well split depending on which Snape camp you’re in to begin with. I’m in the camp that thinks Snape had a beautiful, tragic redemption story but is still a total dick (in other words, the on-the-fence camp). I thought the writing of his character was very off, but that might be because he was in an alternate universe where every character was “alternate.” However, considering the off-ness of the other characters in the “real” timeline, I’m inclined to chalk that up to the bad writing. His appearance was pure fan service.

Dumbledore’s portrait: Fan service.

Albus Severus: Meh.

Teddy Lupin: “Wait, Teddy Lupin was in the play? Did I miss him?” No, you did not miss him. You know, he’s only Harry’s godchild who lost both his parents in the Battle of Hogwarts and is a huge part of the Potters’ life as a result. In a play about the new generation of wizards. Yeah. Not it in.

Cedric DiggoryI appreciate that his death was commemorated by this play, but seriously?? Embarrassing him during the Tri-Wizard Tournament would turn him into a DEATH EATER?? WHAT THE FUCK!?

Craig Bowker Jr.: WHO IS FUCK CRAIG BOWKER JR.? And WHY should I care if he dies? WHAT THE FUCK!?

The Trolley Witch: WHAT. THE. ACTUAL. FUCK!?

THE ELEPHANT IN THE ROOM

Let’s talk about the secret love child of Voldemort and Bellatrix. If the play was already feeling fan-fiction-y to me after Act I, then this just took the cake. Yes, we all know there’s probably nothing in the world Bella would want more than a Voldy love child, but I just cannot see them doing the nasty. It’s too human of an act for Voldemort. He’d never stoop to it. This is another point that fans are split on, but to me it oozes pure fanfic.

PLOT HOLES AND CONTINUITY

Fails. Fails all around. It would take an entire separate post to list all of the plot holes and continuity issues with the original series, so I’m not even going to start because I’m already over 1000 words and want to be done.

THE SHIP

Many fans are upset at the lost opportunity for LGBT representation with Albus and Scorpius. I definitely read their relationship as homosexual at times; it was pretty clear. However, as a few of my friends pointed out, Thorne was probably trying to emphasize the theme of friendship that’s a big part of the Potter series, but went a bit too far with the melodramatic dialogue. Again, bad writing if your goal was just to portray friendship.

THEMES AND CLOSING THOUGHTS

Daddy Issues: Ultimately I understood and appreciated the point of the play being the development of the father-son relationship between Harry and Albus. It was touching. It connected together as a nice foil to the other characters with daddy issues, Scorpius and Delphi. But did you have to invent a ridiculous-ass plot in order to convey that theme? No. No you didn’t. I was expecting more of a character drama since good had already triumphed over evil, but instead I got a decidedly un-funny version A Very Potter Sequel. (Seriously, demon trolley witches and convoluted Time Turner plots? Starkid wouldn’t have to change a word of this play to make it a parody.)

Stage production: I tried to give this script the benefit of the doubt because after all, so much hinges on the performances of the actors that you can’t possibly get all the information in the play simply from reading the script. I’m a theater nerd, I understand this. I’ve talked to people who’ve seen the show, and they said it was a production management masterpiece, with dazzling effects and seamless staging. But largely, I’m hearing that people who saw it still disliked the hoaky plot, the fan-fiction-y nature, and some of the characters’ off-character lines. The acting and the staging can’t make up for the fact that the plot is just bad.

Canon and fandom memory: I’m giving this play 2 stars because it did have its moments of clever laughs and heartfelt feels. It might even gain an extra star if I see the production and am sufficiently pleased by it. But my hope is that this play will fade from most fans’ minds once the hype is over. I’m also hoping that the amount of continuity issues will make fans realize that we should not consider all this extra content canon. I hope that the fandom can laugh about how bad it was in years to come as “that one thing that happened that one time, wan’t that terrible?” Every fandom has one of those, right? Well, Potterheads, ours is The Cursed Child.

blograting2stars

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*Feel free to discuss in comments; despite my sailor mouth and clear convictions on the topic, I understand plenty of people enjoyed it and will respect your opinions! 🙂

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50 thoughts on “Review: *sigh* Harry Potter and the Cursed Child

  1. Esther says:

    I haven’t read it but I went ahead and read your whole review and boy oh boy I knew it! I knew it was going to suck. It sounds worse than I expected, actually. I’m glad some are enjoying it or that it brings them that feeling of nostalgia, I think that’s pretty sweet, but I will pretend it doesn’t exist and maybe read one day if I receive it as a gift or if I see it on sale. Great review!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Canary says:

    One of my rules of thumb when I’m reading something with serious nostalgia points is to ask myself if it could ever exist as a standalone. The good books manage it, more or less, even if they are number 486 in the series. If the answer is no, then it’s probably fanservice. And that’s fine, I guess, as long as folks don’t call it a good story in a fiction writing sense…

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Krysta says:

    I have to say, this was really fun to read! 😀

    I don’t mind the time travel plot. I think the plot is actually about Albus and Harry’s relationship and if you view it that way, a lot happens. I also don’t mind the Time Turners came back. I can see a dark wizard trying to make one or get their hands on one. They may have been too convenient for plot purpose, leading JKR to destroy them, but they do exist in the HP universe and I think it stands to reason that someone would be trying to create one at some point after they were all smashed.

    I think Ron’s character was kind of like a caricature of movie-Ron–too goofy and suggesting he’s not intelligent or generally important. But Hermione I think might one day be Minister for a short period of time. She is interested in public service and the welfare of others, so I can imagine her getting frustrated at red tape and weak ministers and one day just going, “Ugh, just make me in charge and we’ll fix this.” I don’t know if she’d want the job for a long time, but I can see her doing it if only out of a sense of duty. And Harry read pretty much the same to me. He still hates reading and he likes to be in on the action.

    Dumbledore’s portrait may be fan service, but I think it makes sense in a story about different types of love and especially about fatherhood. And the main question when stuff happens is of course going to be “Why doesn’t someone just question Dumbledore’s portrait?” Kind of like “Why didn’t the eagles carry them all to Mordor?” It’s just something fans would wonder about if it weren’t in there.

    Teddy Lupin was probably cut because this play seems to have a pretty large cast already. A lot of the roles are doubled or tripled but it still seems like you’d have to hire tons of people to put it on. And, of course, there’s the question of how you’d cram Teddy into the plot. He and Rose are probably both on the fringes because neither is dumb enough to try to change the past.

    I’m not going to defend the Trolley Witch. She’s planning to what? Slice up the students to keep them on the train? And then they escape with no effort whatsoever after she brags of her prowess. I just don’t get why that scene was there. What does it add? It’s just bizarre. Who puts someone so violent in charge of children?

    But I think Craig Bowker is kind of there purposely to be nondescript. He’s just this person we and Albus barely know, and then he’s dead because evil is senseless. He really is the “spare” even more than Cedric, whom we knew a little better. And the question is, I think, how to process what happened to him. Does his death not matter because he was seemingly unimportant? Is he that person in the newspaper you read about and then forget? Or should he be something more? That call to action to stop senseless violence? And while we’re all trying to figure out if we care about random Craig Bowker, the reality is that he is someone’s son or brother or friend. He did matter. There’s no such thing as a “spare.”

    Liked by 1 person

    • Emily | RoseRead says:

      All fair points! I agree with you about Hermione, that is entirely possible. I love how you brought up the LotR Eagles comparison – I thought about that, too. I just wish this production hadn’t been wasted on a question like that…I wanted a new story; not a re-hashing of old events, but I understand they were going for emotional appeal. I think father-son tales can be told without the absurdity of this plot. The “spare” theme is a really good point; unfortunately, the themes were lost on me amidst my other gripes.

      Like

      • Krysta says:

        I’m not going to say it was the best plot I’ve ever read, but when I see so much backlash against it, my first thought is “Well, okay, what was the author trying to do?” even if it didn’t quite work.

        And, honestly, I’ve only begun to think of the themes in-depth as I read so many negative reviews. Again I’m thinking, “Well, okay, why is Delphi here?” I don’t think Delphi is an inspired plot device, but I guess she’s trying to achieve something thematically and we should acknowledge that.

        I think I am ironically looking like more of a pro-Cursed Child advocate than I felt when I read it. ;b

        Liked by 1 person

  4. thelittlesquid says:

    Ahh, that’s disappointing, especially considering how excited everyone’s been leading up to the release! After so much time I think anyone attempting to add to the series is going to fall short, with so much passion and nostalgia surrounding the books, it’s a huge feat to pull-off. Still, you would think the plot would have a little more to it if JK Rowling was there in the planning stage.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. rakioddbooks says:

    I went in without any expectations and I loved it!
    When I first heard the news I hated the idea of an 8th book. Like, why? But I decided that I was going to read it anyway so might as well not convince myself that it was going to suck before actually reading it.
    It also helps, I guess, that I haven’t read the Harry Potter series in many years. I didn’t notice any of the plot holes and continuity issues that you mentioned.
    As I read along all of the questions/complaints I had got resolved.
    I still don’t like Rose though. Hmph!

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Jack Dowd says:

    I’m in two minds about the script. I finished reading it the other day and I thought the plot was far fetched, there was to much fan service and it was a bit all over the place. Why, oh why did it have to be a play? There were some good points but not enough to save it. Personally I’m not accepting Cursed Child into my headcannon.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Katie K. says:

    Thank you for explaining the reasons that I felt cheated by this work. I enjoyed the reading of it, but did not feel deep connections to or concerned about any of the characters, because –as you point out–good has already triumphed over evil, so we want the characters to move forward as PEOPLE, not as wizards. =)
    I also figured that the production itself would draw more excitement and interest than the printed edition. Lots and lots of fantastic stage directions about time spinning forward and back–would love to know how they make THAT happen on stage.
    Our Library staff had a long discussion about how to catalog the print edition for the library, and where to put it in our collection. The book is not written by JKR, so it should not be shelved with the other HP books, and it is in play form, so really should be in the 800s…. So frustrating.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. nice to meeghullg (@SaekoKiller) says:

    I saw the play and this more or less said it all. At times I wanted to throw things at the stage over the characterisation of Ron. The staging was amazing, and the acting great, but everything else was … not. One thing you left out was the appalling treatment Ginny received as this sugar-hating crusader who banned everyone from anything sweet. This is Ginny we’re talking about. Ginny, whose mum’s cakes were legendary, and who ate chocolate in the library. Giny reduced to a horrible horrible housewife trope neatly ignoring every fiery attribute in the books. The only time I came close to recognising her was when she argued with Draco -and then for a fleeting moment, I wanted to ship them.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Sarah says:

    I went into reading this with expectations. There are things I hated for sure. The whole Bellatrix and Voldemort having a love child. Honestly I feel like this would so have been done via insemination. I was honestly imagining Bellatrix taking infertility drugs and putting her legs up in the air and being inseminated. I can’t imagine Voldemort being loving enough or human enough to do a very human act. Yes Animals have sex but he wasn’t human or animal just a sliver of a living being. So the whole Delphi thing has me perplexed like why!?!?!?. JK did say that Bellatrix spoke to him like they were lovers just can’t wrap my hand around it. I disliked what they did with Ron and Ginny. I think JK should have took a better look at the work and go uh no! Ginny is not a sugar monger/Ron isn’t a total dolt! However, I loved Draco and Scorpios and Harry was true to form. I really found it fun and I kind of liked them bringing in Triwzard tournament since it was my favorite book of the series. I just wish that Snape was written better and Dumbledore. They could have done anything with the whole wizarding world at their finger tips so yes the time turner plot was extremely lazy. I enjoyed it regardless. I consumed the book and was immersed in a world I love and enjoy. So at the end I will read it again and I will enjoy it all over again besides the fact it does have quite a few short comings.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Bridgitt says:

    I bought the screenplay, but haven’t read it yet. I’ve been really on the fence about it, worrying that just this would be the case. Thank you for the long and complete review, especially the spoilers. I may break down and read it someday (there’s no way I’ll be able to see the play, not unless it’s filmed), but right now, I don’t see any point. When I first saw a comment about the time-turner plot device, I was concerned. It’s been done, for heaven’s sake, and most of the time, not well. Using the time travel plot device in the “reboot” of Star Trek totally fucked it for me. I HATED it and have not seen the newer ones either. I think I’ll just stick to re-reading the series every couple of years and let it go at that. I’m not a big fan of fan-fiction, and that’s what this sounds like.

    Liked by 1 person

  11. Milena Hdez says:

    Couldn’t agree more with you’re review! For me one of the positives, which aren’t many, is Scorpius. I loved his character, specially because it surprised me. I never thought much of him. I love that he and Hermione are so much alike.
    I also don’t believe that Rose, being the daughter of H and R would EVER treat someone the way she treated S when they met. Hermione and RON would never raise a kid to be a bully, or a snob, or to turn her back on a kid like Scorpius. He’s the same as the trio when they met! A muggle, a legend or a poor Weasley, they were all lonely, and separated from the rest because of their backgrounds. That was a deal breaker for me.
    Also, Harry yelling at McGonagall?? Really? And her complying with all his craziness? How could Rowling approve that mess?
    I can’t give Curse Child too much thought, it hurts my brain.

    Liked by 1 person

  12. Kelly says:

    I have to admit I was nervous about reading this review as I never usually look for negative things about things that I love, however, it was a really entertaining read! I finished reading the book just last night and after going in with no expectations I really enjoyed it. A big part of this was that I just loved being back in Harry Potter world. Just reading about it again made me happy. As much as I did enjoy it though, it wasn’t until I read your comments about the characters dialogue that I knew that I felt something was off. You hit the nail on the head about the way they spoke as sometimes I found myself saying ‘it’s Okay maybe they all just speak different 19 years later!’ :p But all in all I did enjoy it. I kind of just took it for what it was and found it fun and exciting. Without it being a full length novel written only by J.K Rowling or the play itself just written only by J.K Rowling it was never going to be the masterpiece that the other books were.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Emily | RoseRead says:

      Truth! Thanks so much for your thoughtful comment! I’m glad you were entertained, that was a goal of mine in writing this 🙂 now that time has gone by since I’ve read it, and I’ve talked to people with varying opinions, I’ve been placated a bit.

      Like

  13. luvtoread says:

    Completely agree with this!!! There was so much off about how the characters were portrayed – it was very frustrating. In parts Ginny seemed like she was really jealous of all the attention Ron, Harry, & Hermione get, and it just didn’t seem like her at all. The Ginny from the original books would be proud of their accomplishments, not jealous that everyone looks at them and not her. I was very disappointed in the book and just felt really frustrated with it. A missed opportunity for sure, and I honestly don’t even know if I’ll keep my copy of the play. I doubt I’ll ever read it again. It was just off in so many different ways!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Emily | RoseRead says:

      Yeah, they are also going to come out with a difinitive collector’s edition of the final draft (this was just a rehearsal copy). Ugh, I don’t want to spend another dime on this. (Though given the opportunity, I would like to watch the production).

      Liked by 1 person

  14. theorangutanlibrarian says:

    Ahh I am so conflicted about reading all of this post- cos I’ve already read spoilers and probably won’t read this… but even then it’s hard to read past the spoiler warning. But I can already say, just from the little I’ve read, that I get why you’re not a huge fan. I also am not sure this should be considered canon, because let’s face it, it’s not actually written by Rowling (having her approval isn’t the same) and honestly having picked it off the shelf in a bookshop and read the first few scenes… I was not overly impressed :/

    Liked by 1 person

  15. duskangelreads says:

    Came here from The Candy Book Tag you just posted.. This review is perfect and I couldn’t agree more! I strongly disliked this book and refuse to consider it Book 8 of the Harry Potter series.. The fact that they even tried to call it that is really annoying to me too.. My review of this book is up on my blog too.. Pretty sure I gave it 2 stars as well! 😠

    Liked by 1 person

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