Cursed Child, Act 3, Part 1: Where we’re going, we don’t need continuity

Dear readers: We talked… a lot… on this one. As such, we have split our consideration of Act 3 into two parts. Hopefully, you will not find it hard to see why.

This week, we discuss: authoritarian regimes, Death Eater Ross Gellar, making the Wizarding world great again, the scourge of fan service, epic characterization failures, Batman v. Scorpius, Harry Potter’s great big mouth, why Polly Chapman reminded us of Nazi propaganda, Joseph Campbell’s Monomyth, Autotune Umbridge, and why no one seems to be able to get away from this damned lake.  

S: Welcome back to Advanced Muggle Studies, where we are going to be considering Act 3 of Harry Potter and the Cursed Child! I am Professor Seraphine –

C: I am Professor Creed.

S: We are on to Act 3 of Cursed Child.

C: And it’s not getting any better – in fact, it’s getting worse.

S: Yeah, well, shit got dark, is what I have.

C: I was thinking during the interim of this past week – maybe we’re focusing too much on the negative. Maybe we need to look at the bright side. And then I read Act 3.

S: Actually, I have a couple of bright sides, things I actually liked. So there will be minor bright sides.

C: There were things I liked too, but then there was just overwhelming stupidity.

S: I cannot wait to hear your take on it. I think after a certain point my brain spazzed out. I was trying to wrap my head around the logic of the going back – coming forward – going back and I think my brain just gave up and said, “Nope.” Hopefully you can revive it with your righteous indignation.

C: We’ll see.

Act 3, Scene 1: Tell those uber-black blackbirds to fuck off

S: In the headmistress’s office. As of last week, we were all ready to celebrate Voldemort Day because Scorpius is now the only surviving member of his defining relationship – Albus is no longer in existence. Voldemort is ruling, Umbridge is headmistress of Hogwarts – although I really hope the actress in the play really brought the Umbridge, because in the dialogue she doesn’t sound like Umbridge to me.

C: There was not a single “Hem hem!” anywhere.

S: Scorpius enters Umbridge’s office wearing “darker, blacker robes,” though not sure how that is possible. But welcome to Voldemort’s future, where all colors are darker and blacker. Even black.

And Umbridge is very polite, talking about his wonderful potential, athleticism – apparently he’s a talented Seeker – she’s “positively glowed about him in dispatches to the Augurey, and their work flushing out the more dilettante students has made the school a safer, purer place.” Cue the screams from offstage.

But she’s starting to question his mental health, because he’s suddenly obsessed with the fate of Harry Potter, who we know is dead, and Cedric Diggory. And either Dolores Umbridge is just really intimidated by who Draco and the Malfoys are now – she’s so ridiculously accommodating and solicitous. “We checked you for hexes and curses. Is there anything I can do to restore you to what you were?”

C: It’s clearly a world where Draco, if he ever found his conscience like he did in the regular reality, has been forced to hide it and his son never developed one. And the Malfoys are powerful and awful. I would assume in a world where Voldemort won that Lucius Malfoy is still pretty up there as a Death Eater, Draco also, which means I’m sure they’re raising their grandson/son to be cut from the same cloth. He would be considered royalty. He’s the flip dark side version of glad-handing Rose Granger-Weasley from Act 1.

S: Yeah, I read this as all Draco’s worst tendencies as a kid gone wild. Instead of being opposed at any point he’s been indulged and encouraged. So Scorpius has turned into an exaggerated form of who Draco was as a kid.

Now, this is the first mention we have seen of this thing called the Augurey. I immediately knew what that was. Did you?

C: Umm….birds?

S: Right. We know that augury is fortune telling using birds, and specifically examining the flight patterns of birds in order to interpret divine signs. It was also practiced at the same time of the Oracle of Delphi, both were practiced in the Roman Empire. So I read this and was like, okay, I get it. We’ve already met a significantly named character named Delphi, now we see this institution called the Augurey, and my mind goes back to the mention in Act 1 when Hermione mentions one of the things making her nervous – giants crossing the Greek Seas, etc. – she mentioned that they had tattoos of bird wings on their backs. So all of that put together –

C: Like the front cover.

S: Right. So whatever happened, I think we can safely assume that our dear friend Delphi has some role here.

C: I think you would be interpreting the bird shit correctly.

S: To be fair, there’s really no other way to take it. That’s the downside of this play – there’s no room for misdirection. If you know enough basic Roman history you’ve put two and two together. And there’s no alternative explanation, because who else is it going to be? You already know everyone else in this play.

At least we know who to blame – we know Delphi will come in with her bird nonsense in a big way soon.

Then we conclude with Umbridge saluting Scorpius – she puts her hand to her heart, and then she touches her wrists together: “For Voldemort and valor.” And all I could think was of Friends, that thing where they would get mad and bang their wrists together twice in a “go fuck yourself” gesture. So instead of a Nazi-ish salute, I’m picturing everyone exiting the room doing this:

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For Voldemort and valor!

C: I prefer your version, for sure.

S: Well, it’s kind of an odd choice. I understand they’re trying to recreate a Nazi-esque sort of environment – we’ve got “for Voldemort and valor” replacing “Heil Hitler” as an expected greeting. But that seems like an odd choice – if you were going to do any gesture for Voldemort wouldn’t it be clasping your hand just below your elbow on your forearm, because that’s where the Dark Mark is?

C: I would think they would just do that thing Spock does in Star Trek. V for Voldemort and valor.

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Maybe something like….this?

S: But that’s so…..cheerleaderish.

C: Well then what the hell is this?

S: This is just odd. I still lean toward something more reminiscent of the Dark Mark – although, if I think about it, that still lends itself to a very rude gesture that was basically the equivalent of flipping the bird 50 years ago. So I don’t know. All I know is that if you salute Voldemort, you’re telling people to go fuck themselves.

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C: Well, that is what happens when Voldemort is in charge. Many people are fucked.

S: “For Voldemort and valor.” I guess what bothers me about the way they’re picturing the world with Voldemort in power, a lot of this feels out of character for Voldemort’s personality. Doesn’t seem like the thing he personally would choose. Now, maybe these are the sort of things other people have developed in order to curry favor with him, and he’s allowed it to continue. But I don’t see Voldemort coining “For Voldemort and valor.”

C: It sounds weird. I get that they’re going for alliteration. And bad guys never think they’re bad guys, so – I guess Voldemort doesn’t think he’s evil, but he thinks he’s right. Do you think Voldemort thinks of himself as valorous?

S: I think that Voldemort believes what he said to Harry in the first book: “There is no such thing as good and evil. There is only power, and those too weak to seek it.” I don’t think he thinks in terms of ‘good’ or ‘bad’– probably never has – but more in terms of ‘What I can do’ and ‘What I can’t do.’ To him, being able to do something and choosing not to is weakness. I don’t think he would care if he was considered good or bad, but would be more concerned with being perceived as weak. Which doesn’t AT ALL parallel any political figures in our own time, so it’s hard to get a handle on that.

C: I feel like within a year or two science will have devolved back into oracles and auguries here, since science is not a real thing.

S: We may be just reading about our own future, who knows?

Act 3, Scene 2: You, too, can make the Wizarding world great again

S: Back on the Hogwarts grounds, and again with awkward dialogue. Maybe it just reads awkward on the page, and doesn’t play out that way – or is it just me that finds the way a lot of these lines are written to fall oddly on my ear?

C: What about this play isn’t odd?

S: I’m trying to give it the benefit of the doubt! I’m thinking maybe it’s just me, but the dialogue through the play feels odd. Maybe it’s because I’ve got J.K. Rowling’s voice in my head. “We are ready to spill some proper Mudblood guts?” That’s strange.

C: To remind everybody again, I have not re-read the books in years, so my memory is a lot fuzzier than yours, but I don’t recall getting a whole lot of Death Eater stuff. In the later books there was more, but we’re in Harry’s head mostly, and when we did see them they’re adults, “purebloods,” Voldemort has chosen them. They think of themselves a certain way and they speak a certain way. You would never hear Lucius Malfoy say “Let’s go spill some guts.”

S: Very true! Interesting point. You’re right – you’re looking at a situation where Voldemort has been in power for a generation at least, and you’ve got kids growing up with this and working it into their own identities as children.

Also, Scorpius is the “Scorpion King.”

C: I feel like that’s the entire reason they named him Scorpius, so they could use that nickname.

S: Blame J.K. for that one. So Polly Chapman is really into Scorpius – apparently, everyone is. There’s a ball coming up, the very subtly named Blood Ball, and – okay, this again is where it feels like weak fanfiction. There’s some people when they’re writing an evil alternate future, everything about that alternate future has to be evil. Even a dance! Has to be called a Blood Ball! It’s a little much, don’t you think? Yes, the future can be evil and taken over, and that plays out in a multitude of ways, some subtle, some blatant, but you get this image of people in this world sitting around thinking, “What are the scariest names we can think of to call things?”

C: The Nazis did not have Blood Balls. If they had dances, they were just soirees, which brought like-minded people together. They didn’t name them things like that.

S: And in fact, if this was playing out the way that it really would, they would be named things very positive or vague, because that’s how authoritarian regimes do things. They appropriate language to favor them. Voldemort wouldn’t call it the Blood Ball.

C: It would have been like the Loyalty Ball.

S: The Purity Ball. Even the Freedom Ball. Because we all know that’s not truly what those things are, and they’ve been appropriated.

C: It’s scarier – the banality of it makes it scarier. Because you’re being gaslighted.

S: Exactly that. That’s why Blood Ball seems silly. I wish they had gone with Purity Ball. We have Purity Balls in our world.

C: They’re also scary.

S: Creepy, yes! The idea of taking that and re-appropriating that for something else, might make the audience do a mental double take.

C: Part of that too is these people are British, and in London they don’t have our wacked-out Puritanical culture that large swaths of the US still clings to. So they don’t have a frame of reference for a Purity Ball the way that I do as soon as that phrase comes up.

S: But they do have a better frame of reference for fascist and authoritarian regimes, and I would hope they’d have a better understanding of language’s role in those cases, and use it to create a sense of ominousness, foreboding, dread – which is what that behavior does, rather than painting everything black and naming everything after blood and guts. It’s a little Hot Topic, is what I’m saying.

C: Make the Wizarding world great again!

S: So Polly Chapman really wants Scorpius to ask her out. So much so that she’s willing to literally spell it out for him. “That is an F-A-C-T, fact.”

C: As we learn later, this universe’s Scorpius does not do his own homework, so she might have needed to spell that out.

S: He really is Draco run amok. And this interesting thing – there’s more screaming, and Scorpius asks about it. Polly says, “It’s Mudbloods in the dungeons. Wasn’t that your idea?” So Scorpius is really in that position where his idea to—what? Let’s round up all the Mudbloods in the school and hang them in the dungeons? That’s taken seriously and put into practice by school administration? That does tell you something about who his family is at this point.

Also, Harry Potter’s name has become synonymous with shit.

C: Which probably is why they came up with using Dumbledore for God, so they could do the opposite with Harry.

S: Which feels contrived, but fine. Fine. It’s your play, if this is what you want to do, go for it.

C: One thing interesting, when I was reading this, I was thinking, oh, Polly Chapman, give me a break. Then I was reminded of when you and I were in Lit Crit together in high school, and we read Richard III. And our first reaction was when Lady Anne agreed to marry Richard, you and I were both incensed. How could she do that? He was clearly terrible; this was not going to end well for her. And our teacher was like, what the fuck else is she going to do? She’s a woman in the middle ages. She has no power, no agency. The best thing she could do was go along with it, try to make herself appealing enough to him not to get hurt.

So is Polly Chapman really into Scorpius? Or is she really into not dying horribly?

S: I have an alternate interpretation of that. There’s definitely an argument to be made for what you just said. And I imagine a lot of people are just strategically sucking up to the right people, because that’s how you get along in an authoritarian regime – cronyism is king. That is how you get forward.

But this also really reminded me of the propaganda efforts in Nazi Germany that were aimed specifically at women, really pushing this notion that a German woman’s true duty was to be a mother, to have children, raise the future of our country, and that was a patriotic duty that was equally important as military service.

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Do your duty by strengthening the pureblood race

And I didn’t really think of that until this line: “Like the Augurey insists, the future is ours to make. So here I am, making a future with you. For Voldemort and Valor.”

I was like, whoa there girl, aren’t you 14? You’re talking about making a future with Scorpius? Don’t you feel like you’re getting ahead of yourself? And then I thought, wait – maybe not. Maybe in this environment that is exactly what you’re encouraged to do.

C: And they marry so young in the Wizarding world anyway, it’s quite possible they could be married 3 years from now.

S: And that is part of your patriotic duty, to perpetuate the pureblood existence. And she is a true believer, and that is what she is doing. And that blew me away.

Either way, we’re looking at a dire situation.

C: Well, now I’m creeped out.

Act 3, Scene 3: You’re killing Astoria!

S: We’re back at the Ministry of Magic in the office of the Head of Magical Law Enforcement, who is…dun dun dun… Draco Malfoy. Enforcing laws. Isn’t that terrifying?

C: Almost as terrifying as a flaming racist being named to a high cabinet position.

S: Scene directions: “Draco is impressive in a way we haven’t seen. He has the smell of power about him.” What does power smell like?

C: Dark Magic Moves.

S: Patchouli! It smells like patchouli. “Flying down either side of the room are Augurey flags with the bird emblazoned on them in a fascistic manner.” So obviously we had that right.

Scorpius shows up. And Draco is a dick. He’s like his dad, but worse. “How dare you embarrass me, I did not bring you up to humiliate me, why are you asking questions about Potter?” And Scorpius is putting things together – wizards blowing up bridges to see how many Muggles they can kill with one blast, reported in the Daily Prophet, Mudblood death camps, burning alive people who oppose Voldemort. Now that all makes sense to me, in terms of Voldemort and his particular brand of cruelty and things he’d be okay with.

So Scorpius pulls a Batman v. Superman and brings his mother into it, which changes everything.

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C: I have SO many thoughts about this. First of all, Astoria apparently still married Draco in this particular version of the future, even though she appears to still be the awesome person we assume she was in the regular future with the way Scorpius turned out. He says “Grandfather didn’t like her too much. Opposed the match. Thought she was too Muggle-loving.” If that’s true, then why is she married to Draco?

Because it’s clear that Draco loves her still in this version of the future. It was not a pureblood convenience marriage.

I think that he obviously is going along to get along, to protect himself and his family, and I’m sure he’s done a lot of terrible things, but I’m sure there are things he wishes he was brave enough to change or defy in some way, because he basically tells Scorpius, “I don’t know what you’re up to, but go for it.”

S: So I guess we’re to understand that Draco as a person really hasn’t changed all that much. Maybe putting on a better front than he used to. And his backstory with his wife hasn’t changed much, regardless of what was around them.

“The Malfoys – the family you can always count on to make the world a murkier place.” I guess that makes sense, that Draco says that one of the things he loved about Astoria was she “always helped me find light in the darkness. She made the world – my world, anyway – less – what was the word you used? Murky.” As someone who has always muddled through questions of morality and right and wrong, I can see where Draco would be attracted to someone who brought clarity.

C: She clearly seems to have brought out the best in him, which is something that we should all hope for in a partner. She basically seems awesome, and I’m bummed that she’s dead.

One other thing: “Mum always told me that you were a better man than I could see. But this is what you really are, isn’t it?” So granted, maybe these are Astoria’s deathbed confessions, but are those really the sorts of things that you tell your pre-teen, early teenage child about your spouse and their parent?

S: Yeah, but most of the time that’s in abusive relationships where you’re trying to excuse the other person’s behavior, or when dealing with someone who’s damaged. My dad has a lot of issues from growing up in a family that was violently, physically and emotionally abusive. And there were a lot of times when my mom would pull us aside and make excuses for his behavior: “Your dad loves you, he’s just dealing with this” or “that’s not what he meant, he just doesn’t know how to express himself.” So a lot of times in situations like that, I can see one of the parental figures excusing the other. Whether the excuses are valid depends on the relationship. Maybe she was trying to communicate that Draco had to be this way, getting along to get along. But that does make sense to me.

C: In something like that, is that excusing the behavior, or trying to explain it? Because those are two sides of the same coin.

S: It depends on the situation. If you’re trying to explain why Dad went out and gambled away our income and we’re going to be hungry again for the next few weeks, and you’re trying to explain it away, that’s one thing. If you’re trying to explain why Dad can’t have this conversation or won’t listen to you when you’re upset, that’s another thing.

And I appreciate them giving Draco a little dimension. Again, the Slytherins are more roundly developed than anyone else.

C: I am so much more interested in Draco and Astoria, what happened to him after Book 7, what is her deal, how did they get together.

Act 3, Scene 4: He must blend in to the blacker-than-black scenery

S: Scorpius does what Hermione would do: when in trouble, go to the library. He’s trying to find a history book. Because apparently, Cedric became a Death Eater. And he can’t figure out how that happened. And Craig Bowker Jr. is in the library, clearly panicked, exhausted, and trying to explain why he’s not done doing Scorpius’s homework.

C: I have a problem with this scene. At the end of this scene, Scorpius says, “Did he say Snape?” But in the first scene of this act, Umbridge says “in the three days since I found you in the lake on Voldemort Day.” How did he go 3 days in Hogwarts and not know that Snape was alive?

S: Was he conscious for all 3 days?

C: He must have been, because he was asking questions and behaving differently.

S: Continuity error! But yes, Craig is doing his Potions homework. And Scorpius double-takes over a mention of Snape. And thousands of shippers around the world took heart, because Snape is alive again.

Act 3, Scene 5: Thoughts on modern authoritarian regimes, censorship, and how Harry Potter needs to shut the fuck up

S: In the Potions classroom, Scorpius has run to find Snape. What do you think about how Snape is presented here?

C: In the scene, or act?

S: Just this scene for right now.

C: I feel like Snape would not have let Scorpius get through any of this big speech that he gives him. Although maybe he would, because doesn’t Harry shout some bullshit at him in Order of the Phoenix, and Snape acts like he doesn’t care and then—

S: Uses it to alert the Order. But there was a very good reason why he would at that point pay attention to what Harry was saying, because he could see plainly that Harry was in serious trouble. It was the only way Harry could get a message out, Snape understood it, and took it for what it was.

In this case, the only thing I can account for Snape’s extraordinary patience with Scorpius is him playing nice with the Malfoys. He put up with a lot of Draco’s shit for that reason, so maybe that’s it.

C: Now it’s an infodump.

S: Yes. We find out that Cedric was humiliated out of the tournament and became a Death Eater. Cedric Diggory. Became a Death Eater. Because he was embarrassed.

C: Well, if I became a Death Eater for every time that I was embarrassed, I would have been a Death Eater a lot.

S: I’m trying to make the mental construction of a possible timeline in which Cedric is humiliated out of the Triwizard Tournament and turns to following Voldemort as a result.

C: This reminds me of the second Austin Powers movie, when Austin’s talking to Will Ferrell’s character. “You have to ask me the same question 3 times.” So – humiliate Cedric once, and it’s fine. Humiliate him twice, and it’s Death Eating for Cedric.

S: Completely disregarding Cedric’s character, because – let’s say you humiliate him twice, and he’s mortified, eaten up with embarrassment, having to sit through the third task and watch everybody compete while he doesn’t. Harry comes out of it with the story of Voldemort returning. No dead body to prove it, but I got the sense that Cedric was a reasonable, rational person. Don’t you think he might take that into consideration in his understanding of what happened to him? Because he knows he didn’t mess up in those tasks. He knows something happened to him to screw him over. So either one of the other players sabotaged him, in which case he has to deal with it, or he might start to reason out, “Huh. That’s a weird thing Harry’s saying, but that leads me to believe that there might have been tampering of this whole event.”

C: The only way I could come close to explaining it is if he realized something happened to him out of his control, Harry comes back and wins who shouldn’t be in the Tournament, saying Voldemort’s back, getting all this attention, some people shouting him down, but it’s attention nonetheless. If that made him hate Harry, flipped his switch completely, that’s the only way – but still even if he hates Harry you can hate somebody – most of us do, but don’t then go out and murder them or other people.

S: If the events of Book 5 take place, Umbridge is installed at Hogwarts, starts her takeover, forms her Inquisitorial Squad, and who better to put on the Inquisitorial Squad than Cedric Diggory who now hates Harry Potter. Maybe it’s more of bureaucracy – less buying into ideals and more slowly being absorbed by that world. It’s not impossible, I just wish I understood it. Because on the surface it feels illogical.

And Cedric only killed one person at the Battle of Hogwarts –

C: Isn’t that convenient?

S: Cedric Diggory killed Neville Longbottom. To which I say, fuck you all! Neville Longbottom was way more badass, even by the end of Book 7 in an alternate version, Neville Longbottom is still a badass.

C: But if things are different, does Dumbledore’s Army exist? Does Neville believe in Voldemort returning? So on, so forth.

S: Okay, fine. Neville’s dead, which is the worst. Okay, so another question. Scorpius brings up the Horcruxes, saying Neville was supposed to kill Nagini, so we destroyed Cedric, who killed Neville, so Voldemort won. So does Voldemort still have a Horcrux left? He must.

C: And also, this brings back a point – why the hell do all these people know all this shit?

S: Everyone knows everything, right? Why would you let it become public knowledge after everything that Voldemort had 7 Horcruxes, that you had to destroy them, that that was how he was staying alive, and what each of them were?

C: Yeah, because you’ve just come up with a great template for the next Dark Wizard, who knows now to hide his Horcruxes better.

S: And as we have learned, information can be very dangerous. I know a lot of people don’t agree with how Dumbledore handled information, to which I say, you’re wrong –

C: We’ll get there.

S: But Dumbledore taught Harry something he clearly learned, because he was parceling out information in a very particular way. He could only afford to let certain people know certain things. And I struggle to believe that after this is all over Harry would let it be known all the history of Voldemort’s family, the Horcruxes, that they were significant magical objects, that he, Ron and Hermione tracked them down, how they destroyed them – that’s a LOT of information about serious Dark Magic. Do you want that to be common knowledge? Dumbledore pulled those books from the shelves years ago to keep that from being common knowledge.

C: And Hermione has kept them in her super secure office, because those are not books that need to be out there for people to get a hold of. Which, generally I am not a fan of censoring information, but in this particular magical setting, totally the right move.

S: This reminds me of something I saw on Twitter. It was a discussion about a shooter, and there was a picture going around of a bookcase in that person’s house, full of books on the Third Reich, Hitler, Nazis, and somebody responded to that with, “Well, that could be the bookshelf of a history professor.”

C: I’m going to go out on a limb and say that unless he picked those books up at Stormfront, they’re not painting Hitler in a good light or a thing that should be emulated.

S: But it depends on how you come at that information. You can read a book about Hitler’s tactics, and the book may condemn Hitler. But if you like him already, you’ll just pick what you admire up and ignore the rest, because you don’t agree with an anti-Hitler viewpoint.

There is this difficult line with dangerous information – or misinformation, because all of Hitler’s bullshit was exactly that, bullshit. It was recycled medieval prejudices served up on a platter, mixed with Nordic mythology, for people who felt economically and historically disadvantaged and pissed off. It was bullshit, but very persuasive bullshit, as we’ve seen. So where is that line? I think we saw that when Mein Kampf came into – was it public domain? Or when the US decided to start publishing it again? There was a lot of discussion – do we carry it in stores? How do you handle that in a free society where you know this does not end well, and you want to keep that out of the hands of people inclined to use it in a bad way, but also we’re students of history, how do you not examine it?

C: Have we not examined it enough in the US? Is that what our issue is?

S: I think we’ve examined it enough, but we’ve ignored the fact that the racism built into our culture has always had a powerful lure, and that people find it very easy to pick and choose ideology. And many people don’t care, if it means they get to be powerful. What do they care if schools taught that it was wrong or if history frowns on it?

C: So we have a lot of Voldemorts and Death Eaters, is what you’re saying.

S: I’m saying people want power. And some people see power in the sense of wanting everyone to feel autonomy – I want control over my life, and I want that for you. Some people are motivated by justice and equality. And then – maybe we’ve all been sold this story that we’re a special nation and people and when it doesn’t play out that way, people get angry. That notion of having power, even if it comes at the expense of millions, even if it means allying themselves with the scum of the earth – people are willing to ignore that.

Like you said, everyone thinks they’re right. People forgive themselves for monstrous things, because they have very good reasons for doing what they did, right? I can see where nationalism appeals to so many because it gives you a place, a role, and it makes what you stand for better than everybody else. And so many people fall for that lure, because they want to be better than others.

Whatever side it comes from, it’s dangerous. That’s always been – coming back to the book – what drove Voldemort. He needed to be special.

One of the things I found interesting – you know Joseph Campbell’s journey of a hero?

C: Yeah.

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S: In Campbell’s model, the hero must first reject the notion of being the hero. Always. Luke Skywalker does not want to go with Obi-Wan Kenobi. Hagrid tells Harry he’s a wizard and Harry says, “I can’t be a wizard, I’m just Harry. You’ve made a mistake.”

But Voldemort did not. When told that he is a wizard, his response is, “I knew it. I knew there was something special about me. I’ve always known it.” He was so eager to embrace that notion that he had always been better, and that is the basis of all of this – the Horcruxes, trying to find a way to outlive everyone else, regardless of how many you have to kill to get there.

And it’s all about that superiority. Clearly, it’s caused a lot of problems, in our world and the fictional world. Sorry to get a little heavy on this – I’m sure you can’t tell we’ve had a lot on our minds recently.

C: Just a bit. When we were talking earlier, there was something about someone being worried, and I almost commented about having felt nothing but existential dread since Nov. 8.

S: So let’s go to Scorpius’s existential dread. He’s trying to convince Snape he’s from the future, and he plays the trump card: he knows about Lily.

C: Which again is something you would not have known.

S: Wouldn’t it have been sufficient to simply say that Snape had been a double agent all along, that all the questions about his loyalty could be answered through evidence of Snape’s’ assistance to him without going into the why of it all. It’s such a personal thing – do you really publish that to the world? Especially when Snape himself clearly did not want that known?

C: All the kids in Hogwarts saw Harry and Snape interact. They knew there was no love on either side. For Harry to turn around and name his son after Snape – all he’d have to say is “He saved my life, he had to endure terrible things, but he did it and was incredibly brave.” Because like Snape or not, he was incredibly brave to do what he did.

So anybody close enough to Harry would have just accepted that, because they would know that he would not turn around and name his son after him for no reason.

S: On top of that, we have Snape’s body. Snape was killed by Voldemort, on his orders. Need any proof of that, look at how he was killed. That if nothing else lends credence. But Harry could present sufficient evidence after the fact of the things Snape did. I feel like Harry would respect Snape enough to not publicize that.

Harry Potter is an inconsiderate dick in this universe, is what I’m saying.

C: Not as much of a dick as his son.

S: But that works. He tells Snape about Harry naming his son Severus. And Snape is moved by this.

C: Un-Snape like but sure.

S: It’s so ridiculous it has to be true, right?

C: And everybody is so different from reality to reality in ways that don’t make sense, sure, let’s just say that this version of Snape would totally be moved by that, why not.

S: Where we’re going, we don’t NEED consistency!

So Snape is going to take him to the Order of the Phoenix – in basically the Shrieking Shack, but underground.

C: When they’re trying to do their Polyjuice Potion, they can go to random ass Whitehall –

S: But because we lack imagination in the geography of the Wizarding world, we’re going back to the Whomping Willow.

Act 3, Scene 6: Ron has always been better than this

S: Campaign room?

C: They’re running for election?

S: The anti-Voldemort campaign, I guess? Britishism?

I love this stage direction: “Scorpius is pinned to the table by a magnificent-looking Hermione. Her clothes faded, her eyes blazing, she is full warrior now and it rather suits her.”

C: I’m down with this version of Hermione!

S: At this point, this scene is where Snape starts being more Snape-like, and I enjoy his dry humor. And it really is tinged more with humor than disdain like it used to be, because now that he’s very clearly working with Ron, Hermione and the others, he can still be his sarcastic self but there’s humor there. I enjoy him telling her, “You were a terrible bore of a student and you’re a terrible bore of whatever you are.” “I was an excellent student!” “You were moderate to average.” That was lovely.

C: She was, in fact, excellent.

S: But he would never admit it, which is truly in character. Hermione doesn’t trust Scorpius. Ron runs in: “His hair spiked. His clothes scruffy. He is slightly less good at the rebel look than Hermione is.”

C: You know, I feel bad for Ron because I feel like his theme throughout the play is that he is slightly less good.

S: It’s ineptitude. They’re using him as an inept foil for humor. And that is not who Ron was! Yeah, he suffered from insecurity, but that didn’t mean that when the chips were down – he was awesome. This scene where his wand is pointing the wrong way – come on, give him more credit. It’s an easy target given that Rupert Grint often played Ron for humor, magnificently. I have a hard time finding flaws with Rupert’s portrayal at all, except for the fact that the script so often relied heavily on the humor of Ron rather than his capabilities.

C: But there is no way that any version of Hermione, let alone full on warrior Granger is going to be in love with this guy.

S: No, because Hermione admired Ron’s nerve, and the fact that he came through at surprising times – he would think of something no one else had.

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Act 3, Scene 7: A brief moment lacking in total awfulness

S: Hermione’s looking at the Time-Turner. Ron’s trying to grasp that the future rests on Neville Longbottom.

C: Hot Neville.

S: So Dumbledore’s Army has shrunk considerably. But again – why does Ron call Hermione “Granger?” THEY WERE STILL BEST FRIENDS. No matter what happened, the three of them were still friends. Harry gets killed at the battle, but –

C: Yeah, it doesn’t matter if Ron married Padma and Hermione became bitter, or they both were the last remnants of the DA. They might change, but they would change together and still be friends together.

S: Because if nothing else, they have that connection to Harry. Who else do you have that in common with?

C: What made Harry so great and powerful – it wasn’t because he was the smartest or best, it was because he loved people and formed connections with them, and they loved him back. By changing Ron and Hermione’s relationship so much from timeline to timeline flies in the face of one of the core themes of this series – their friendship.

S: It disregards who the original trio really were. But had Harry died, I think Ron and Hermione would have united and fought harder together – as friends – than ever before.

So he explains the proper timeline – Hermione is the Minister, Ron runs the joke shop and is focused on his kids with Hermione. And this whole scene feels so wrong. “Close your mouth when you’re looking at me, Weasley.” WHY DO YOU TALK TO RON LIKE THAT. HE IS YOUR FRIEND.

C: Especially when we find out that she’s been in love with him all this time. And while we’re on this, if these are basically the last 3 people in the DA, why is Ron this way? That means, I assume, that his entire family is dead.

S: And all his friends. He would not still be this way. In 7 he gets more intense and hard edged because he’s afraid for his family. Losing them?

C: He’d be as much full-on warrior as Hermione.

S: And I think he’d be fiercely protective of her and her friendship –

C: Because they would be all the other had left.

S: So this is lazy characterization, because they just want to use Ron for comic effect. They’re subbing in an audience’s vague recollection of Rupert Grint’s comedy from the movies for Ron the character, which are different.

But they fail to do justice to Hermione’s character repeatedly in this play, so I don’t know why we expect any different.

The ONLY thing that sort of makes up for it is Snape. Snape SLAYS ME in this scene. He has already figured out that in the other world, he is dead. “How?” Scorpius: “Bravely.” Snape: “Who?” Scorpius: “Voldemort.” Snape: “How very irritating.”

THAT IS BEAUTIFUL.

C: That’s how Sirius would feel about being killed by his dipshit dark cousin. “What the fuck? Seriously?? Bellatrix?”

S: This little bit with Snape redeems so much for me. And maybe this play has set the bar so low that I’m just relieved to see some of the characters being done well by. And Snape is one of my favorites, so I love this. I also love that Hermione apologizes that he’s dead, and Snape jabs her about being married to Ron.

Snape is kind of funny. He’s had to form relationships with these kids, which he probably never thought he’d have to. I believe he expected to be dead long before this. Things have not gone the way he expected. Harry’s dead, Dumbledore’s dead. And over time I think they’ve grown respect for each other. It leads you to imagine who Snape might have been if he hadn’t had the burden of massive guilt, if he had formed relationships. It almost gives you a glimpse of who Snape might have been had things been different.

C: Makes as much sense as anything else in this play.

S: So Ron says, okay, we go back, use Shield Charms to stop you two fucking everything up. Snape logics that Hermione is wanted, the Dementors are everywhere – but I like how Hermione is so much more like book Hermione here. “I’m done with failed attempts, I’m done with us barely scraping by. This is our chance. We’re going to take it.”

C: Because they would have been doing it for more than 20 years at this point. And also I would like to say that in the inevitable porn parody, a Dementor’s Kiss is something very different.

S: So Hermione’s plan – go where they need to be, use Time Turner, fix it. If we get this right, Harry’s alive, Voldemort’s dead, the Augurey is gone. Whatever the Augurey actually IS at this point, we’re not really sure, but it doesn’t seem good.

I like that she apologizes to Snape: “I’m sorry what it will cost you.” And Snape is okay with it. He was always aware that he had a limited life expectancy, and he’s willing to take that if it means doing what he meant to do the whole time.

So thanks, authors, for not COMPLETELY ruining Severus Snape.

Act 3, Scene 8

S: Back in 1994, Triwizard Tournament. They block Albus, who doesn’t stop Delicious Diggors. Who is writing this dialogue for Ludo Bagman? Can we stop them? He wasn’t this annoying in the book, and he went around in his old uniform.

Act 3, Scene 9: Fan service is always catching once you reach the Force Lightning level

S: Forbidden Forest. Why is Ron in pain?

C: Scorpius says it did something to Albus too. But other than the fact that they want to set up the conversation between Harry and Albus in the hospital, and then to set up this scene with Ron and Hermione, is there a reason this happens?

S: It’s not like they’re Apparating and Ron got splinched. Maybe because the Time Turner is rudely constructed and somewhat faulty? It’s a convenient device to set up these tragic/touching scenes. And there’s another scene that we’ll get to later on where we see the authors’ serious penchant for setting up ludicrous constructions to create some kind of payoff at the end.

So it works, but now they’re exposed and surrounded by Dementors who are after Hermione, the Sirius Black of this world. And NOW, of all times, she tells Ron she’s always loved him. I’m sorry, Hermione, you would have told him before.

C: Not to drag this into the gutter, but they’ve been doing this for 20 years at this point. I think I would have told Ron pretty darn quick after Harry died – 1, because they have no idea how long any of them are going to live, and 2, because you’re frightened, on the run, miserable, everything sucks – you might as well be having sex.

S: Again, NOW Hermione starts fitting into character. “This is still Voldemort’s world, and I’m done with it.” She’s willing to stay and let the Dementors get her so Scorpius and Snape can get where they need to be for the next task to reset everything.

And I love Ron stays. I know it’s a setup for at “touching scene,” but Ron would do that.

C: There’s no way he’d let her face that alone. Even if they weren’t in love, he loved her too much as a friend.

S: And this is a nice moment. It’s contrived, to get us here, but I do like that they look at each other and talk about how they liked the idea of them together with kids. It’s stupid that you’re having this conversation, but I’ll take it. Again, lower my expectations enough and I’m grateful for what I get.

Snape is such a badass here, in these last moments, trying to teach Scorpius something, to focus on why he’s doing it – AND HE’S DOING IT FOR ALBUS, EVERYBODY.

C: The great gay love story rears its head again – which I am okay with, frankly.

S: “Think about Albus. You’re doing it for Albus, aren’t you?” YES! CAN WE JUST DO THIS STORY? You’ve ruined everything else. Would it have hurt to take two new characters, have some guts, and say, you know what, yes, let’s put them together.

C: I gotta say, I didn’t see Fantastic Beasts this weekend, but that is one thing I’m interested by – these upcoming movies that will focus on the rise of Grindelwald – did they ever date, were they together?

S: It was a one –sided love affair. Dumbledore it seems felt much more strongly, and the implication is that Grindelwald possibly knew how Dumbledore felt and used it to his advantage. But it came down to Dumbledore letting his guard down, and then shit happens.

We have a lot to talk about when you watch that movie.

Now here I start wavering on my love for this Snape, because he starts saying a lot more than he ever did, even with Dumbledore, about his feelings. Snape never held forth like this about Lily and how he felt about her. I get that you’re doing it because you’re trying to show how great Snape is, blah blah blah, but it’s out of character. Even in his last moments I do not see Snape having this conversation.

C: Because that’s not who he was. He was somewhat emotionally stunted and very internal, and there is no one left in his life, either in this version or in the real version, that he loved and trusted enough to have any conversation like this. But this is where it gets into the realm of fanfiction. This is the sort of thing people want to imagine happened. It’s fan service-y.

S: Wait until we get to the end. I almost died from the amount of fan service. There was a moment where I slammed the book shut and said “You’ve gotta be fucking kidding me.” But we’ll get there.

Yeah, this is for all those people who have waited breathlessly and dreamed of Snape saying these things, so they make him say them, and it’s not Snape’s character and lessens who he really was. People like that – when you hold on to something that tightly inside, you don’t give it up, even if you’re about to die.

In Deathly Hallows, Snape is desperately trying to get to Harry to give him the information he needs. But even had he found him, I have a very hard time believing he would have told him anything. I think he would have given him the memories. I can’t picture Snape verbalizing all of this.

C: It would have made him vulnerable.

S: And to Harry, of all people. So this is stupid, and fan service.

And Dolores Umbridge is out wandering the grounds, AGAIN. Is she actually headmistress? Or does she just go on brisk walks around the school?

C: I think given that we are in the darkest timeline, that she has captured the centaurs and is going out and torturing them.

S: I’m on board with that! Makes more sense than anything else.

I like this brief moment, and then it gets dumb. It’s good for one, brief, shining moment, and then it fails. Snape is trying to defend why he’s outside, and Umbridge clearly saw Hermione and Scorpius, and they have this moment where Snape smiles, and says, “How long have you known?”

And then none of this shit makes any sense.

“Umbridge rises off the ground. She opens her arms wide, full of Dark Magic. She takes out her wand.” And I picture her with a voice synthesizer as she’s speaking. “Years. And I should have acted upon it far earlier.”

WHAT IS THIS SHIT?

C: Autotune Umbridge?

S: You can hear it, can’t you?

C: Yeah. So this idea that people can randomly fly without brooms now – that in no way would have come in handy in other parts of the series.

S: Clearly it’s a Dark Magic thing, because Voldemort and Snape could do it in 7.

C: This must be like Force lightning.

S: Yes, we’ve reached the Force lightning phase of this book. But I don’t buy that Umbridge ever reaches the inner circle in terms of Dark Magic like this. Do you? She’s a very useful tool, she’s evil, great for enforcing, but this?

C: I don’t think Voldemort would give her the time of day.

S: And her little trying to use the locket Horcrux in 7 to bolster her own claims leads me to believe her background might not be as pure as she’d like it to be. I don’t buy Umbridge in the inner circle. And Umbridge never seemed interested in Voldemort – she was much more interested in the Ministry, wielding power that way. She loved the bureaucracy, being in government. What does she care about Voldemort? I certainly don’t see her becoming a Dark Magic wielder.

C: This cracks me up, imagining her rising up like some kind of giant pink specter, going on this very Bond villain-esque thing, and Snape is like, “Ugh, she was always too grand for her own good.” I wish that he’d just be like, gun to the forehead, boom. What does she think she’s going to do? Intimidate Snape? If he really is an undercover double agent for literally decades, does she really think Snape will be scared by her hovering overhead?

S: Also, the character Dolores Umbridge would not have let suspicions rest for years. She would have made up a reason to act on it, and never let that go.

Did you ever see the new Clash of the Titans?

C: Yes, and it was terrible, and I loved it.

S: It is terrible, I also loved it, and if you ever get a chance to read Cleolinda’s Movies in 15 Minutes, it’s the best thing ever. But at this moment I’m picturing Hades rising up with smoke and sparks all around him, and it’s Ralph Fiennes head hovering among bad CGI.

C: Since you brought that up, when they called him Scorpion King earlier, all I could think of was that movie with the Rock.

S: So Snape sends out a Patronus, which Scorpius knows is Lily’s Patronus, and again, HOW THE FUCK DO YOU KNOW THIS? Harry, stop talking! I don’t know where you unlearned all your lessons about respecting boundaries, but why does everyone know that Lily’s Patronus was a doe? That’s your mother, why would you tell everyone that?

And this line from Snape: “Strange isn’t it? What comes from within?”

C: And then Scorpius: “Thank you for being my light in the darkness.” We’re getting back to that point where people in this play – and yes, I know you can’t write dialogue in screenplays and novels exactly as people talk – but they do not talk how people really talk!

S: I’m getting to the point of imagining slash fic off this. Read these lines in a slightly different way. “Strange, isn’t it? What comes from within?” “Thank you for being my light in the darkness.”

C: Lines they can import straight over to the inevitable porn parody.

S: Starting to think we should just write the porn parody!

C: I’ve got scenes, we could block it out, hire some people – we could make some money.

S: Scorpius runs after the doe, gets to the lake, Dementors kiss Snape and the doe Patronus looks at him…okay… and we infer that Scorpius went back – and now he’s back in the main timeline with Albus.

So he used a Shield Charm to block the other version of himself and Albus from humiliating Cedric with Engorgio.

C: Okay, but wait. Albus says “I looked at you and you had your wand out.” Were there two Scorpiuses?

S: This is where time travel gets messy.

C: Because when they went back to the first task, Albus and Scorpius were together, and the other Scorpius was with the other timeline. There should be two Scorpiuses. I’m confused. I think the people who wrote this play are confused.

S: It’s okay, our lovers are reunited!

C: “What am I wearing?” He pulls of his cloak. “Nothing underneath!”

S: Stop it! “We failed, and it’s amazing!” Yes, that is true for this entire play.

Scorpius is just so over the moon to see his boyfriend. “There you go, all dry humor and Albus-y, I love it.”

And then everyone shows up, because hanging out by the lake is a thing we all do now! Umbridge does it, Snape does it, Hermione and Ron do it, now it’s Draco, Harry, Ginny, McGonagall!

Annnnnnnnnnd then Scorpius realizes why he is the worst – because he lost the Time Turner.

C: I thought these kids – and this play – were dumb before. And yet somehow we’re at the second half of Act 3, and everything gets that much worse.

S: My God, how are we ONLY in the second half of Act 3?

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