By John Tiffany, Jack Thorne, and J.K. Rowling
Little Brown UK, 2016
In this stage-format sequel, the heroes of the Harry Potter septology are grown up and married, and their now Hogwarts-aged children are facing their own coming-of-age trials in a world threatened by the foretelling of Voldemort’s return. Best friends Albus Potter and Scorpius Malfoy, two rebels who’ve never seen eye-to-eye with their respective (and differently notorious) fathers, are determined to find their own way, maybe correcting a few of the last generation’s mistakes as they go.
A few characters from the original series are decidedly ill-used by this coda. George Weasley is inexplicably unmentioned while Ron manages his joke shop. Ron is played almost entirely as the buffoon, with a few moments of genuine sweetness but none that recognize his heroic Gryffindor side. Some time travel shenanigans indicate that, before his death, Cedric Diggory was one public embarrassment away from becoming a murderous Death Eater. That’s not Cedric. That’s the exact opposite of the point of Cedric. He’s far from the most intimately explored character in the original series, but the one thing that’s made clear about him is that he’s humble and decent in the face of any challenge, and even within Cursed Child itself, Cedric is supposed to represent an innocent and senseless loss.
Unrelated to the sanctity of the original, Scorpius’s attempted courting of Rose Granger-Weasley feels thoroughly tacked on, presumably a (useless) attempt at fanfic deterrence once the writers noticed how cute a couple Albus and Scorpius were becoming. But fine. Okay. The power of platonic love is awesome too, and a major theme of the originals, so one could argue that there's a certain authenticity in the choice to make this sequel about friendship rather than romance. (They're really cute together, though.)
First, let me note that, like many diehard Harry Potter fans, I was both excited and apprehensive for the release of Cursed Child. I often find that generational sagas water down original classic characters, and the main Harry Potter series was beautifully tied up by Deathly Hallows. As thrilling as the prospect of returning to the fictional world that defined my childhood along with so many others might be, I found myself bracing for the possibility of an underwhelming dose of aimless nostalgia without substance.
I’m so glad to be wrong.
While nostalgic revisiting of classic scenes from the series is a recurring device, the magic is back, and it’s far from more of the same. Scorpius is a sweet, shy bookworm, and Albus, as he’d tell you himself, is not Harry 2.0. He’s not popular. He’s not a Gryffindor. He hates Quidditch. But the one thing he can’t shake from his genes is wanting to help people. Albus and Scorpius together carry their own adventure, bringing their own flavor and their own particular baggage.
There are moments of the books’ whimsical humor (the Trolley Witch’s backstory especially), and moments that do use the generational cycle of time in neat ways, including the new kids taking Polyjuice and impersonating Harry, Ron, and Hermione to infiltrate the ministry, just has Harry, Ron, and Hermione once impersonated the ministry officials of their day.
At the same time, Cursed Child dares to challenge some of the less satisfying points of the books. The returning characters get to call out the unanswered wrongs of the past. Ginny has well deserved issues about being left out and left behind. Harry no longer sees Dumbledore through a rose-tinted lens, and the audience is not asked to squint through one either.
In fact, the largely black hat/white hat style of the original series’ conflict is subverted in this follow-up. Slytherins can be good. Mentors can be wrong. Villains can be sad. Prophecies can be broken. It’s a more grownup story, which may be exactly what many now grownup Harry Potter fans will appreciate most about it.
It worked for this fan.
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