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OK, Weve Got Some Opinions About Harry Potter and the Cursed Child | WIRED

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K.M. MCFARLAND
08.05.16 5:30 PM

06/08/16 09:27

CULTURE

OK,
WEVE
GOT
SOME
OPINIONS
ABOUT
HARRY
POTTER
AND
THE
CURSED
CHILD

http://www.wired.com/2016/08/harry-potter-cursed-child-conversation/

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Page 1 of 22

OK, Weve Got Some Opinions About Harry Potter and the Cursed Child | WIRED

06/08/16 09:27

ALAMY

J.K. ROWLINGS HARRY

Potter fantasy series


supposedly ended in 2007
with the publication of the
seventh and final book
Harry Potter and the
Deathly Hallows. But nearly
a decade after Rowlings
original story endedand
five years after the movie
versions wound down
shes expanding her
Wizarding World empire in
increasingly diverse ways.
The Wizarding World of
Harry Potter theme parks
have opened in Orlando,
Hollywood, and Osaka,
Japan. Rowling has moved
into screenwriting,
adapting her charity
textbook Fantastic Beasts
and Where to Find Them
into an upcoming film
http://www.wired.com/2016/08/harry-potter-cursed-child-conversation/

Page 2 of 22

OK, Weve Got Some Opinions About Harry Potter and the Cursed Child | WIRED

06/08/16 09:27

trilogy starring Eddie


Redmayne. Shes writing
about the history of magic
in America on her company
hub Pottermore. And after
years cultivating other
parts of the franchise,
shes dipped back into the
lives of her main
characters.
The script for Harry Potter
and the Cursed Child, a
two-part stage play that
opened in London in June,
has now been published as a
standalone book. Its
another Harry Potter story
insofar as Harry is a major
character, but its
completely unlike
the novels. Rowling devised
the story along with
director John Tiffany and
playwright Jack Thorne,
with the actual script
written by Thorne. The play
centers mostly on Harry
and Ginny Weasleys son
Albus Severus Potter, and
his friendship with Draco
Malfoys son Scorpius as
they navigate tumultuous
early years at Hogwarts19
years after the events of
http://www.wired.com/2016/08/harry-potter-cursed-child-conversation/

Page 3 of 22

OK, Weve Got Some Opinions About Harry Potter and the Cursed Child | WIRED

06/08/16 09:27

Harry Potter and


the Deathly Hallows. Not
surprisingly, theres no
shortage of Pottermania at
WIRED, so a couple of us
devoured the book and
thought wed talk about it.
Warning: The post contains
plot spoilers for the
entirety of Harry Potter and
the Cursed Child. Do not
proceed unless youve
finished reading the play.

The cast of Harry Potter and the


Cursed Child on stage in London.
MANUEL HARLAN

K.M. McFarland: So, Chris,


this is the first new Harry
Potter-centric story in
Rowlings Wizarding World
in nine years. Its the
fastest-selling script book
ever, and the fastest-selling
http://www.wired.com/2016/08/harry-potter-cursed-child-conversation/

Page 4 of 22

OK, Weve Got Some Opinions About Harry Potter and the Cursed Child | WIRED

06/08/16 09:27

book of the decade in the


UK, and sold over two
million copies in the United
States in its first 48 hours. I
had so many things running
through my mind when I
finished the script, a lot of
things about a certain
magical device from Harry
Potters world that Im sure
well get into since it plays
such a major role in the
story. But heres a burning
general question Id like to
start with: Do you think
Cursed Child does enough
over the course of 300
pages? Does it provide
enough additional story to
justify its existence as
anything other than an
additional cash cow for the
franchise?

Chris Kohler: Well, lets first


be clear: Harry Potter and
the Cursed Child is a play,
not a novel, and we are
reading its script. Its
important to bear in mind
that we are not
experiencing this work in
the way it was meant to be
experienced. Were being
given the opportunity to
http://www.wired.com/2016/08/harry-potter-cursed-child-conversation/

Page 5 of 22

OK, Weve Got Some Opinions About Harry Potter and the Cursed Child | WIRED

06/08/16 09:27

purchase a facsimile of an
actors toolkit, and thereby
get a glimpse through a
keyhole of what it might be
like to attend this play. So
to engage with it as a
standalone book is, I think,
to set yourself up for no
small measure of
disappointment.
I feel like Rowling & cos
hands were forced here: As
the play is sure to
eventually expand out from
London to Broadway and to
worldwide tours, many will
get the chance to see it in
the coming years. But right
now, only a whisper of a
fraction of a percent of its
fans will be able to see the
London production. Had
this script been kept under
lock and key, ravenous fans
would have been hacking
together all kinds of bootleg
scripts from halfremembered lines,
surreptitiously trying to
record the show, or who
knows what else. This script
had to be published, and it
had to be published now.
With such inevitability
http://www.wired.com/2016/08/harry-potter-cursed-child-conversation/

Page 6 of 22

OK, Weve Got Some Opinions About Harry Potter and the Cursed Child | WIRED

06/08/16 09:27

taken into account, was it


all worth it? I think so. The
plays focus on many
different frayed parentchild relationships gives it a
fairly solid thematic
throughlinethe big
question of Who is the
Cursed Child? seems to
have any number of
answers as you read
throughgiving us an adult
Harry, Ginny, Ron, and
Hermione that are far more
fleshed out than those onedimensional Ron-has-abeer-gut renditions we saw
in the controversial
epilogue at the end
of Deathly Hallows. Hell,
the whole thing almost feels
like an apology for that
epilogue; I love that it starts
right there and wastes very
little time ripping the whole
things pat happily-everafter la-di-daness to shreds;
Albus Severus does end up
in Slytherin, Harry doesnt
know how to dad, and
relations with the Malfoy
family are a chilly alliance
at best. That feels right.
Could it have stopped there,
http://www.wired.com/2016/08/harry-potter-cursed-child-conversation/

Page 7 of 22

OK, Weve Got Some Opinions About Harry Potter and the Cursed Child | WIRED

06/08/16 09:27

I wonder. Could this simply


have been a play about
fathers and sons, rather
than a play about fathers
and sons and Voldemort
and time travel? Is it Harry
Potter without high
adventure? Perhaps not. I
wasnt bugged by
Voldemorts daughter. But
Ill tell you what I was
bugged about, and I bet you
know since we talked about
this with regard to 12
Monkeys: In the books, time
travel was of the closedloop variety. When
Hermione went back in
time, she couldnt change
the past, because shed
already been there. But in
Cursed Child (which is
canon!), Albus and Scorpio
can cause a butterfly effect
and create an alternate
timeline, andtheres no
explanation for why time
travel (using the same kind
of device) works
differently. Narratively, it
lets us explore other
aspects of our favorite
characters, but its also a
gaping plot hole. Am I right
to be bothered by this, or
http://www.wired.com/2016/08/harry-potter-cursed-child-conversation/

Page 8 of 22

OK, Weve Got Some Opinions About Harry Potter and the Cursed Child | WIRED

06/08/16 09:27

should I just (in the words


of another upcoming
Broadway hit) let it go?

K.M. McFarland: That cuts


right to the heart of my
biggest complaint about the
play: it introduces a kind of
magic previously never
hinted at by Rowling. In
Prisoner of Azkaban, when
Hermione and Harry use the
Time-Turner in an attempt
to free Sirius Black, the
story depicts time travel
exactly the way you
describe. We see events
over again, but things that
seemed strange or off to
Harry the first time around
are suddenly explained
because he realizes the time
travel has already
happened, and he performs
what needs to be done (like
a full Patronus Charm)
because hes already seen it
occur. And once Harry and
Hermione return to the
Hospital Wing, they havent
irrevocably altered the
timeline, theyve just reexperienced it from a
different vantage point.
Thats not how Cursed
http://www.wired.com/2016/08/harry-potter-cursed-child-conversation/

Page 9 of 22

OK, Weve Got Some Opinions About Harry Potter and the Cursed Child | WIRED

06/08/16 09:27

Child uses time travel at all,


though. During the
deviations into different
timelines, as Albus and
Scorpius make multiple
attempts to save Cedric
Diggory from being killed
by Peter Pettigrew during
the Triwizard Tournament,
the makeup of the world
shifts dramatically. At first
it alters the foregone
conclusion of Ron and
Hermiones marriage,
erasing their daughter Rose
from existence. Later, the
course of magical history
shifts even further in a Man
In The High Castle
direction, with Scorpius the
Big Man On Campus at
Hogwarts if the war had
ended with a Voldemort
victory. While its
intriguing to see the
Wizarding World turned on
its head for several pages,
this is where criticisms that
Cursed Child feels like some
canonized fan fiction has
merit. It gives the play
something of an Its A
Wonderful Life quality that
I dont think I ever needed
to see, and it feels almost
http://www.wired.com/2016/08/harry-potter-cursed-child-conversation/

Page 10 of 22

OK, Weve Got Some Opinions About Harry Potter and the Cursed Child | WIRED

06/08/16 09:27

irrelevant because I never


once felt that anyone was
truly in danger when the
timeline shifted. Theres no
Wash at the end of Serenity
moment here. Everything
would get restored, families
would heal, and love would
conquer all.
Thats not to say that
theres not a ton of
rewarding material in this
script. Im even more
excited to get a chance to
see the actual live
production whenever it
tourslikely a Broadway
production before an
eventual national tour. I
loved the way an early
scene rushed through Albus
Severus first years at
Hogwarts. How he
immediately feels the
weight of expectation on his
shoulders, doesnt
encounter the same luck
Harry didnt finding friends,
and suffers in
uncomfortable silence.
Harry and Ginnys eldest
son James and youngest
daughter Lily end up in
Gryffindor, but Albus is
http://www.wired.com/2016/08/harry-potter-cursed-child-conversation/

Page 11 of 22

OK, Weve Got Some Opinions About Harry Potter and the Cursed Child | WIRED

06/08/16 09:27

marooned in Slytherin, just


okay in his classes, and
nothing like his father at
Quidditch. Fans of the
novels have sorted
themselves into the four
houses of Hogwarts for
years, but Rowlings books
eventually stacked the
other three against
Slytherin. But Cursed Child
does more to inspire
sympathy for that house
than I ever thought
possible, through Albus,
and especially through
Scorpius, who even
manages to humanize Draco
as a grieving,
overprotective father who
has a lot in common with a
middle-aged Harry.
Also of note, theres a scene
in Hermiones officeshes
Minister for Magic,
obviouslywhere Albus,
Scorpius, and Delphi (later
revealed as the main villain)
uncover the prototype Time
Turner. Its protected by a
series of riddles and
magical barriers that made
my imagination run wild
the same way it did when I
http://www.wired.com/2016/08/harry-potter-cursed-child-conversation/

Page 12 of 22

OK, Weve Got Some Opinions About Harry Potter and the Cursed Child | WIRED

06/08/16 09:27

first thought about the


winged key room in
Sorcerers Stone or the
Department of Mysteries in
Order of the Phoenix.
Theres still some magic left
to wring out of this story.
And I was surprised by
which familiar characters
crossed paths with the main
trio and their respective
children along the way.
Amos Diggory means more
here than I ever thought he
would after the fourth book.
Minerva McGonagall might
have the best speech in the
play, admonishing the new
generation for failing to
understand what she and
their parents endured and
fought through in order to
ensure peace. But for every
moment that made me tear
up (and there were quite a
few) out of nostalgia or the
joy of getting more
information, there was
another that made me want
to chuck the script across
the room. (Is Myrtle
Elizabeth Warren an
honorific simply because
her name is in the Harry
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Page 13 of 22

OK, Weve Got Some Opinions About Harry Potter and the Cursed Child | WIRED

06/08/16 09:27

Potter canon, or is it a
backhanded compliment
because its the full name of
Moaning Myrtle?) How did
you parse through all the
callbacks and updates to
familiar characters, and did
you find little things like
the timeline of Bellatrix
Lestranges pregnancy as
unbelievable as I did?

Chris Kohler: Hey, Delphi


was a wartime baby, just
like Teddy Lupin. What with
Voldemorts quest for
immortality, you figure hed
have as many backup plans
as possible. And he would
have gotten away with this
one, too, if not for those
meddling kids!
I do think they could have
written a compelling show
without the time travel,
because theres so much to
explore. Look, Slytherin is
not Evil House. Hogwarts
wouldnt have an Evil
House. And I love the idea of
this story exploring that
what is Slytherinbut it
doesnt go very deep. Why
was Albus sorted there,
anyway? I guess by the end
http://www.wired.com/2016/08/harry-potter-cursed-child-conversation/

Page 14 of 22

OK, Weve Got Some Opinions About Harry Potter and the Cursed Child | WIRED

06/08/16 09:27

of the book, the middlechild syndrome is fairly


obvious, and it does put a
new twist on that exchange
in the epilogue: Albus
wasnt just irrationally
worried about getting
sorted into Slytherin, he
was worried it would
happen because somewhere
deep down he wanted to go
there, to get out of the
shadow of his famous dad
and cool older brother (who
we barely see, but who we
are told has no social
problems, like his
namesake). The Sorting
Hat takes your choices into
account, Harry told him (I
paraphrase), and Harry
probably thought that was a
cool-dad move and yet that
probably freaked Albus out
even more. (And really, I
think we can all agree that
what would have been most
embarrassing would have
been getting sorted into
Hufflepuff.)
Putting a new twist on an
already-told part of the tale
is a strength. If Cursed
Child has a weakness it is,
http://www.wired.com/2016/08/harry-potter-cursed-child-conversation/

Page 15 of 22

OK, Weve Got Some Opinions About Harry Potter and the Cursed Child | WIRED

06/08/16 09:27

as you say, the moments


where it strays a little too
close to fanfic. Again, much
of this may be the fault of
the fact that were reading
the script versus seeing it
take place on stage (like
you, Im not going to fly to
London, but I will make the
trip to Broadway). But still.
Where it crossed the line
for me was the return, via
the Darkest Timeline, of
Severus Snape.
This didnt need to happen.
That story was wrapped up
with a bow on it. Harry
named his kid after him
(middle kid, middle name,
but still). We didnt need to
go back there. But its not
just the fact that Snape
returns thats so unsettling.
Its that Scorpio launches
into a plot recap, telling
Snape how rad he is, how he
knows he loved Harrys
mom, how he knows he is a
Good Person underneath all
that grease, and how he is
just the bravest and most
kindest cuddly teddy bear
in all of the books. At this
point, we have left the
http://www.wired.com/2016/08/harry-potter-cursed-child-conversation/

Page 16 of 22

OK, Weve Got Some Opinions About Harry Potter and the Cursed Child | WIRED

06/08/16 09:27

realm of pure fanfic and


dipped a toe into something
far worse: Mary Sue fanfic.
I liked the interaction
between Harry and
Dumbledore(s portrait)
more, especially when
Harry blurts this out: I
have proved as bad a father
to him as you were to me.
Ouch. I dont know what
cuts deeper: Harry telling
Dumbledore that he was a
shitty dad, or Harry
Freudian-slipping to
Dumbledore that he was
basically his dad. If Return
of Snape was my throw-thescript-across-the-room
moment, this was my dropit-in-shock moment.
(Especially since, as the
play makes sure to remind
us, Harrys not really
talking to Dumbledore, who
is really dead, hes just
telling an AI that he loves
him.)
Theres good stuff in here. I
think its going to work on
the stage. I think maybe its
a little bit more of a
revisiting than it needed to
be, but maybe thats what
http://www.wired.com/2016/08/harry-potter-cursed-child-conversation/

Page 17 of 22

OK, Weve Got Some Opinions About Harry Potter and the Cursed Child | WIRED

06/08/16 09:27

theatergoers, over the long


term, are going to wanta
theatrical experience that
reminds them of what they
liked about the Harry Potter
books. Theyre clearly
trying to walk a delicate
line, looking backwards
while looking forwards, and
after thinking about it I feel
like it succeeds more than it
fails.

K.M. McFarland: That


Dumbledore scene crushed
me too, almost more than
the not-beyond-the-grave
scene at Kings Cross from
the end of Deathly Hallows.
McGonagalls explanation
of what remains in a
portrait was also insightful
and poignant, in the same
way as Nearly Headless
Nicks explanation to Harry
about remaining on the
earth as a ghost at the end
of Order of the Phoenix. And
I totally get what youre
saying about Snape, but
thats the point in the play
where I started reading his
lines in the voice of the late
Alan Rickman, which made
me forgive it just a bit.
http://www.wired.com/2016/08/harry-potter-cursed-child-conversation/

Page 18 of 22

OK, Weve Got Some Opinions About Harry Potter and the Cursed Child | WIRED

06/08/16 09:27

When I was a teenager


reading the books, I
couldnt help but make lists
upon lists of unanswered
questions about places,
characters, and past
decisions left unexplained.
But while theres even more
left unresolved here
whether its Dracos wife,
Albus sorting, or what
happened to the other
WeasleysI was content
with the slice of the
Wizarding World that could
fit into a stage play for an
overstuffed two-night
performance. Sure, I
wanted way more of the
focus on Hermione running
a magical government or
for the show to feel as
thought it tracked along the
timeline of a school year
calendar while managing to
suggest global implications
for the danger at hand as
the books did. But I did
appreciate the way the play
did, as you said, look
backwards while looking
forward
Literally every single book
is obsessed with the past
http://www.wired.com/2016/08/harry-potter-cursed-child-conversation/

Page 19 of 22

OK, Weve Got Some Opinions About Harry Potter and the Cursed Child | WIRED

06/08/16 09:27

while driving Harrys story


ahead. He discovers
information about his
family in the first book;
learns about Tom Riddle in
the second; his fathers time
at school in the third; more
Voldemort family history in
the fourth; the Order of the
Phoenix in the fifth, more
Tom Riddle in the sixth, and
then Dumbledore and
Grindelwald in the seventh.
So it makes total sense that
this play would not only
revisit Harrys Hogwarts
years, specifically the
Triwizard Tournament,
while also flashing all the
way back to the night
Harrys parents were killed
in Godrics Hollow. But
showing those events to
Albus and Scorpius,
allowing them to have an
active hand in preserving
the timeline, and then
accepting lifes sometimes
cruel imperfections
Like any other Potter novel,
there are a million little
things to nitpick
(telegraphing the villain
very early on) and plenty
http://www.wired.com/2016/08/harry-potter-cursed-child-conversation/

Page 20 of 22

OK, Weve Got Some Opinions About Harry Potter and the Cursed Child | WIRED

06/08/16 09:27

more we didnt name that


deserve praise. I could wax
poetic about the use of a
blanket that feels ripped
straight out of Rian
Johnsons Looper that
made me gasp. But once
again, Im left impressed by
how much Rowling and her
contributors made me care
about these characters all
over again. It will inspire
more people to read, and
then probably go out to see
live theater. At the very
least, it was a more
successful addition to the
Wizarding World canon
than History of Magic in
North America. And
though Rowling has said
this is officially the end of
Harrys story, you never
know what will happen a
decade from now. At that
point well have to see what
Scorpius Hyperion Malfoy
and Rose GrangerWeasleys daughter
Hermione Astoria MalfoyWeasley-Granger thinks
when she takes an illegal
Time Turner back to see her
father misuse an illegal
Time Turner.
http://www.wired.com/2016/08/harry-potter-cursed-child-conversation/

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