We’re back, with Part 2 of our Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them discussion! In this episode we pick up at the most disturbing execution scene, and discuss: moral implications of the death penalty, echoes of concentration camps, egregious waste of government chair funds, the occasional superiority of Muggle logic, magic makeup is a thing we all need, tempests in teapots, masterful misdirection, the Ariana factor, FORCE LIGHTNING LEVEL ACHIEVED, epic casting fuckery, New York’s efficient water system, Deathly Hallows cliffnotes, and our sad lack of inappropriate sex jokes.
The frightening banality of the DeathSieve
S: So let’s talk about this, because you and I had a long discussion after this about the death penalty in America.
C: Yes. So apparently I’m going to go out on a limb and say Graves is the head of the Auror office, so maybe he’s got a Cabinet-level position type thing?
S: Seems like it.
C: You still don’t get to decide that people can be executed – at least, officially you can’t do that. So I thought it was interesting that he just arbitrarily made this decision on his own basically out of nowhere. It seemed a bit much. And it was interesting to me that these two witches were like, “All right, cool, let’s go.”
S: The bigger issue is that no one objects or raises any question, which raises the larger issue of – is this normal? Do they have trials? Or is this something that happens?
C: It was frighteningly banal.
S: Yeah. I get that GrindelGraves at this point needs to get rid of Newt and Tina as quickly as possible because they know too much, which explains his actions. But that does not explain the incredibly calm compliance of EVERYONE ELSE.
So we get incredibly disturbing death penalty commentary with this scene. They take Newt and Tina into a white room. First of all, if you’ve ever seen pictures of, or been in one as I have, a gas chamber from the Nazi concentration camps – that is what it looks like, barring the chair and goo. That is the first thing I thought when they walked in, and was just, WHOA.
They walk in, there’s a metal chair, very evocative of prison and execution, sitting in the center of this pool of black stuff. And they’re being escorted in by two elderly, motherly types, one black, one white – one of whom Tina knows and addresses by name, that’s not creepy – and the undertones in all of this were so disturbing. The kind of motherly, nanny, almost echoes of a Mammy stereotype to me, the “Oh, child, this won’t hurt a bit” – this benevolent black woman escorting you to your death – there are so many things in there I don’t know how to unpack.
So how does this work? They pull out memories and put them in the DeathSieve, and the idea is – what? To get you to walk in voluntarily?
C: Yes. And they want to kill you, but they want you to be happy when you die.
S: And how is it that that is way more disturbing than anything else?
C: Because that speaks to them trying to assuage their own guilt. Because they’re really doing it for their comfort, not for the comfort of the executed. That person will be dead regardless. But it’s a way for them to say, “Oh, well, you know, they didn’t suffer, they were fine, they didn’t even know it was happening.”
S: And the real lie of that is shown out by the fact that we know that Avada Kedravra is painless, immediate, and unblockable. You literally cannot suffer in that case. So why do this and not that?
C: Yeah. The idea is, oh, it’s one of those Unforgivable Curses and if you do it you’re a terrible person. You’re still killing somebody, so why the fuck does it matter how you kill them? Just do the fucking curse.
S: Right. This felt to me like a really strong commentary on the use of the death penalty, particularly in America. We’ve seen a lot of cases lately where things have gone wrong. This DeathSieve potion really made me think of the three-chemical cocktail that has been administered in the past for lethal injection, because of what that cocktail is meant to do. Only one chemical in that is actually lethal and will kill you. Of the other two, one is a sedative that makes it impossible for the person to move or speak, and the other is an anaesthetic. But some times one or the other will fail. There are a lot of people that reject anaesthetic. In that case you’re stuck with someone who can’t move or speak, and is dying in horrible pain. It’s on record that the reason for the sedative component is not to benefit the person being executed – it’s so that they won’t jerk, twitch or scream while being executed, and therefore not disturb the people viewing or performing the execution.
So we’ve built this notion around the death penalty that we’re being humane and helping them avoid any suffering. But three-quarters of what we do is to make ourselves feel better, not for the benefit of the person being executed. Like you said, if we take those things away, we’re left with the fact that we are killing someone. And having to see them suffer, respond, cry, try to fight back, only drives that point home harder. It’s much easier if you take away agency from that person, if you make it impossible to move or resist, and then kill them. It’s much more pleasant for everyone, isn’t it?
C: I just wish – well, first of all, I wish we didn’t have the death penalty, but since we have it – I wish that everybody involved in the process, from the arresting officer to the people on the jury to the judge to the governor who denied the stay of execution – mandatory attendance.
S: If you’re part of it you have to see it.
S: Dude, even Ned Stark is on board with that! Game of Thrones – one of the first things we learn about Ned Stark is that he believes that the person who passes the sentence has to swing the sword. If you’re going to be the person to sentence someone to death, you have to be man enough to step up and do it. And he’s an honorable, admired character in literature. Part of that is that he doesn’t shy away from his actions.
There’s something so very ugly in this, and there’s such a metaphor in that. They’re taken to a chamber in the heart of MACUSA, and it’s this horrific thing. It made me think of Hamlet: “Something is rotten in the state of Denmark.” If this is the heart of your system, how good can your system be?
C: Yeah, if people can be just secretly and summarily executed with no trial, you’ve got an enormous problem.
S: And NO ONE objects.
In Tina’s memories, we see Tina’s mother, who we know died when she and Queenie were young. Seeing her mother again entices her. She also sees a memory of Credence, his mother beating him, and her going after Mary Lou Barebone and tossing her over a balcony to protect Credence. Do you think she saw that because that was one of her proudest memories? Why would she see that moment?
C: I wondered the same thing, and it made me wonder if maybe somehow or another he was going to be their long-lost brother or something. I was very confused. Or they hadn’t really lost their parents, and Queenie and she just ran away because they knew they had to get away and hide their magic – I had no clue what that was doing in there. I had all kinds of mixed signals from that.
S: Narratively I see why it’s useful to give that information to Newt so you can find out how she got fired, but it does make you wonder – if the things in the DeathSieve are the things that are meant to entice you, is it just that her memories of protecting Credence were tied up with her feelings about her mother? Mothers and children, associated so strongly that one came with the other? Or maybe one of the things she’s most proud of having done, something she’d be drawn toward? I don’t know.
Meanwhile, they’re about to take all the memories from Newt as well, but unbeknownst to the calm crazies doing this execution, Pickett the bowtruckle has come to the rescue!
C: Yay Pickett!
S: YAY PICKETT PICKING THE LOCKS. Newt also has his Swooping Evil yo-yo! So he gets out of handcuffs, lets loose the Swooping Evil to get them away from him, and the witch’s wand gets tossed into the Death Potion, which starts cresting in waves about to swallow Tina up. She’s already in the chair at that point. I have a question about how this works.
Aside from the moral implications of this, how do the mechanics work? You have the Death Potion with the memories, the person gets in the chair, and is that what’s supposed to happen? You’re engulfed in potion? Because as Tina’s trying to get away from the potion, she’s standing on the chair and the potion starts to eat away and dissolve the chair. So do they have to get a new chair every time? Or was that not supposed to happen? In that case, what WAS supposed to happen?
C: Mmmmm….. new chair every time.
S: Terrible waste of government funding!
C: I didn’t notice the chair being eaten away. I just assumed you go out there and you sit in the chair and then either it swallows you or the chair sank down and you sank down with it, but that there was some kind of invincibility charm on the chair or something, so whoever was in it would be melted away as if they were just dipped in acid. But the chair would be fine.
S: And that’s the other question! What the fuck happens to you in that potion? Are you just dissolved??
C: That was how I understood it, watching it. Like stepping into molten lava. Not painless, by the way! I don’t care how happy you are, not painless.
S: Definitely not painless! Who came up with this awful method of execution?? But it doesn’t matter, because our heroes escape. And one of the things that helps them escape is that while she’s upstairs delivering drinks as part of her job, Queenie hears Tina sobbing and begging the woman to be let go.
IT CAN BE DONE, YOU MOTHERFUCKERS HAVE NO EXCUSE
C: Yeah, I mean, can you imagine hearing someone you love screaming in terror and you know that they are about to die – I would have freaked the fuck out. And she stays so cool and calm and collected, and is immediately able to come up with a plan, there’s no question that this is what she’s going to do. And she knows where it is, she’s got to know what’s happening and why, and in general who is doing this – MACUSA – and she is in the heart of that building and she’s saying, “Fuck it, I’m going to go get my sister.” Even though she’s got to think that if she gets caught, they’re going to do the same to her.
S: Yeah, absolutely. There’s no real moment of panic. She immediately has a plan – and her plan is to go get Jacob, to save him from being Obliviated through a spot of backmail. Jacob: “Aren’t you going to Obliviate me?” Queenie: “No, you’re one of us now!” The look on Jacob’s face – he’s so happy!
So they escape, go down to – where do they go, Professor Creed? To Graves’ office.
C: And this is our favorite part of this entire movie.
S: Queenie tries to open this fucking office with Alohomora, and GUESS WHAT. It doesn’t work. We found the one lock in the Wizarding world that does not respond to Alohomora. It was possible, Hermione. You could have done it. Shame on you.
S: Freaking Graves! So they try to unlock his office and they can’t get in, so Jacob is like, “Fine. I don’t know any fancy magical spells, but you know what I do know how to do? Kick down doors!”
My husband and I were talking about it afterwards and he asked, “Why would you have a fancy spell to keep it locked but let it be kicked down?” But J.K. Rowling has tried to show repeatedly that these people, sunk in their mindset, overlook really obvious things. Like Voldemort wanting to kill Harry Potter, but he’s safe whenever he’s at his aunt and uncle’s. Well, why don’t you just arrange for him to get hit by a bus when he’s not at his aunt and uncle’s? Problem solved. Because they don’t think like that. Graves is worried about another wizard coming in and trying to break in his office, but he doesn’t think that some wizard might come in and try kick in the door. That’s why somebody like Jacob is so important. So they get Tina and Newt’s wand, and manage to make it downstairs just as Tina and Newt are coming back together, and we get some awesome scenes with the wand fighting, and the Swooping Evil coming in a big circle – and we find out that Swooping Evil eats brains, which is terrifying.
And Queenie being brilliant, tells them to get in the case and she’s going to carry them all out in the case. I love that the moment she does have to try to cover for what she’s doing, she reverts to the thing that all women know men fear the most – she implies that there might be a douchebag or tampons in her case, which scares off anyone’s intent of looking into it.
C: I love it.
S: So this leads me back to my thought that Jacob and Queenie are adorable, and they’re probably going to have problems in the future, but for now I’m going to pretend they’re going to ride off into the sunset together.
C: They’d better. If they don’t, I’m going to be pissed. Because we know that Tina and Newt survive and get married and have at least one kid and wind up with a grandkid who I believe marries Luna.
S: Yeah, Rolf Scamander. Although that’s book canon, because in movie canon, it’s Neville and Luna 4EVA.
So back in the case, everyone is trying to figure out what to do. They go on top of a roof, Queenie and Jacob are bonding over her dad raising owls and his raising pigeons. Tina realizes she has an idea – she has an underground contact, and they’re trying to figure out where the rest of Newt’s creatures are. If they can just get the rest of the bloody creatures back in the case!
So they go to speakeasy to meet her contact.
C: I loved this! I loved the music!
I bestow upon thee this plot point
S: Yes! Oh, I know. Before we get there. We get another scene with Grindelgraves and Credence and the homoeroticism is really dialed up. Graves is embracing him, caressing his face. He knows Credence’s mom beat him again, sees the scars on his hand, and again, he heals them with no wand, just his hand. He says he wants this for Credence, and he would only trust a few people with this.
He gives Credence a necklace with a Deathly Hallows symbol, and tells him to press it once he finds the child and Graves will come to him. At this point, I am ashamed to say I didn’t realize he was Grindelwald. I thought he was one of Grindelwald’s supporters. I saw the Deathly Hallows symbol, there’s our precursor to the Dark Mark, and we know Grindelwald took this symbol as his own. That’s where Voldemort gets the idea for the Dark Mark, probably. At this point I should have figured it out. Did you know?
C: Oh hell no. I had no idea. As soon as they caught him at the end of the movie and they did the Revelio charm, I was like, “The fuck is going on? Who the fuck is this?” I had no clue.
S: At this point I elbowed my husband and said, “Oh my god, he’s one of Grindelwald’s!” And they’re piling on the clues here. They even have him caressing Credence, and telling him he will be “honored among wizards.” That is a direct quote from Book 4, Barty Crouch Jr. says the same thing talking about why he does what he does for Voldemort. The clues are there, saying THIS GUY IS THE BIG BAD AND HE’S EVIL. I can’t believe I didn’t see it. But it’s okay. I was so involved in the movie and enjoying Colin Farrell’s amazing performance that I didn’t see it.
Society will never advance without Gigglewater and magic makeup
So talk to me about the speakeasy!
C: I just loved it, and I want to go to one, minus the gangsters. I don’t want to be murdered, but I do want to go to a hot smoky jazz club and drink.
S: I do like the notion of being able to wave your wand and be in 20s flapper gear with makeup.
C: I know. I might actually wear makeup if I could just wave a wand.
S: We get some amazing comedic material from Jacob in the speakeasy, who’s trying to blend in to his surroundings and has no idea what to do.
C: Oh, the Gigglewater! That was so funny.
S: Gigglewater, which affects him more, right when he’s trying to be smooth. “No, there’s no one like me.” GIGGLE.
Then we get Tina explaining to Newt about the memory he saw in the DeathSieve – that she had been monitoring the Second Salemers, and attacked Mary Lou Barebone to get her away from Credence, in front of a bunch of No-Majs. It had to be hushed up, a lot of people Obliviated, big scandal, and Tina lost her job as an Auror.
This is a great scene because it shows you how similar Tina and Newt are. When Graves takes Newt’s case away, he’s in tears, shouting, “Don’t hurt my creatures, they’re not dangerous!” When objectively – yeah, some of them are. But to him, it’s about understanding them and appreciating them. They’re animals, don’t hurt them. Tina is the same. She saw someone helpless being victimized, and had to step in and defend him (even though we know that Credence is pretty dangerous.”
S: You start to see how similar they are.
C: They’re givers, not takers.
S: And then we met Ron Perlman, goblin, with his weird curly fingers.
His name is Gnarlac, and they go back and forth about what price Gnarlac is putting on his information. And he sees Pickett, and wants Pickett because bowtruckles pick locks. And at risk of not getting their information at all, Newt agrees to give Pickett. It pains him – you can see it on his face. And Pickett’s little squeaks of distress!
C: NOT PICKETT!!!
S: Gnarlac is able to tell him where the Demiguise, one of the remaining missing creatures, is, which is why they are there. But again, this is where I come back to my theory that Newt is there for another reason – they get the info they need from Gnarlac but Newt has a followup question about Graves. You’d have to be dumb not to be suspicious of Graves at this point – he did just try to have you killed – but he knows that there is something here. Gnarlac tells him, “Don’t ask questions that can get you killed, and oh, also I tipped off the Aurors.”
They’re trying to get away and again, Jacob has the best non-magic solution to this situation. You betrayed us? Allow me to punch you in the face. POW. And then with a last giggle, they’re gone.
C: I appreciated that. Also, I want Gigglewater.
S: I do too. Someone needs to get on that and invent it. Bill Gates, you have a foundation, right? How much are you improving the world if we don’t have Gigglewater?
C: Excellent question.
We cut back to Credence at home, and he is looking under Modesty’s bed for something and finds a wand. What are your thoughts about that?
C: I don’t have any because this is when I went to the bathroom.
S: Fine, I guess we have to go with my theories. I was like, hold the freaking phone. How did anyone in that family get a wand? First of all, is it real? Modesty says it’s a toy. At first I thought it was Credence’s, because he’s clearly interested in the magical world, but it’s under Modesty’s bed. So either it’s a toy, or it might be something else. I thought it might be – I was looking at the History of Magic in North America, talking about Bartholomew Barebone, who was a Scourer – there seemed to be a moment where he took Dorcas’ wand, and pictures of it were printed in the newspaper and spread around, and part of me wondered if that might be Dorcas’s wand – but it could just be a toy. Either way, it shows us that Modesty is a lot less compliant than she’s acting. We’ve seen what Credence is up to, but now we’re seeing Modesty is about as interested in staying in this life as he is.
It’s useful for misdirection, too, because we’re still supposed to think that Modesty is the dangerous one. But Mary Lou comes in, takes the wand, snaps it. Trying to keep her from punishing Modesty, Credence calls her “ma.” Mary: “I ain’t your ma. And your mother was a wicked, unnatural woman.” So pretty clear, I think, that Credence’s mother was a witch?
C: Sounds like it.
And the next moment the Obscurus blows things up, rips the floor and building up, and Mary Lou is on the floor dead. But again, we don’t see who generated the Obscurus. We see Modesty in the foreground, looking at her, but behind her in the background Credence is huddled against the wall, rocking back and forth. We see later on in the movie this is him losing control. But the visual misdirection in this movie is fantastic.
C: If his mother is a witch – well, it is America. If she was a witch and she went and got knocked up by a Muggle, then her wizarding family I guess would have disowned her, then she died and her poor wizard son got stuck with Crazypants Person.
S: Yeah, you have to wonder how Credence fell in with them in the first place. We’re getting drips of backstory, but not enough.
Meanwhile back at Macy’s, we see the Demiguise, our little blendable creature.
C: It’s so cute!
S: He is! He’s like an aged sloth, and he’s collecting candy. He’s creeping around the displays, and we find out he’s collecting candy for the Occamy, which is a little tiny bird that Newt is just now telling us grows to fit its surroundings. And it’s a great big attic it’s been hiding in, so of course the Occamy is now massive.
I think it’s cool that the Demiguise can see the most likely future, which explains part of how Demiguise hair blends you into the scenery in invisibility cloaks.
So big fight in the attic, literal tempest in a teapot – cockroach, teapot, cockroach in the teapot, occamy goes after the cockroach into the teapot, and shrinks. Ta-da!
C: This whole scene horrified me because I have an enormous cockroach phobia. It was the worst.
S: That close slo-mo shot of the cockroach flying across the screen was the worst.
C: If it was up to me to pick up a cockroach and throw it to save my life and your life and the lives of a couple of people we loved? We’d all be dead.
S: We’ve got the Occamy, and now pretty much all of them are back in now. Back in the case, Queenie is getting a little close on the boundaries, reading Newt’s mind, and we are finding out about Leda Lestrange, who Newt was friends with at Hogwarts, close for years, but they fell out, and Lestrange being what it is, I’m sure we can fill in the gaps somewhat. So who do you think Leda Lestrange is? How do you think she plays into the Wizarding generations in Harry Potter? I told my husband, surely, she doesn’t turn out to be Sirius Black’s mother, does she?
C: That’s frightening.
S: How crazy would that be?
C: I don’t care how evil she is – if she goes from her pretty picture that Newt has hanging up in his tent to the screaming, insane portrait that is in Grimmauld Place – nobody deserves that fate!
S: But we didn’t know Sirius’s mother’s name, but we do know she’ll be tangled up with the Blacks and Lestranges. (Update: Yes we do, her name is Walburga. Poor thing.)
The Ariana factor
Now the Thunderbird senses DANGER! And immediately we cut to Graves, amid the house’s destruction, looking kind of pleased by it. Credence is having a breakdown, terrified, and Graves’ patience is running thin. At this point he’s convinced it is Modesty. So Credence takes Graves to an orphanage where Modesty came from, because he thinks that may be where she went back to because she was scared. Once Graves finds out where she is, he drops all pretense. “You’re a Squib, Credence. I could smell it on you as soon as I met you.” He tells Credence he can’t be helped to become a wizard. “Your mother’s dead. That’s your reward. I’m done with you.”
Harsh, Graves. I thought we had chemistry. I thought we had something. He gave me jewelry and everything.
C: It was pretty harsh.
S: He is truly awful. I loved Colin Farrell, his performance was amazing. The way he switches it off immediately. He goes and finds Modesty hiding in the corner, and tries to get her to come out.
Not sure if I already mentioned this, but can we talk about him and Modesty? We know that Graves is Grindelwald. He tells Credence when they first meet that he had a vision of a child no older than 10 with immense power. So that vision is total bullshit. That’s the line he fed Credence to get info. Which means he already knew there was an Obscurial in the area and was trying to find it, because if he had actually had a vision he would have seen that it WASN’T a child below the age of 10.
C: Maybe he just had an incorrect or incomplete vision. That’s how they work in Star Wars – Anakin Skywalker saw his wife dying in childbirth, and she did, but it was because of stuff he decided to do later on.
S: That is very true. To me it feels like a bullshit line he spun because he knew what he was looking for, but wasn’t sure where to find it. This is where my theory that Ariana Dumbledore was an Obscurial comes in. I think the first time Grindelwald encounters this notion of an Obscurus and the power it contains is with Ariana. After that, I think he gets convinced of the incredible usefulness that would have, and I think he spends time trying to track another one down. Which is why he tells Credence that, because there’s no documented case of any living over the age of 10, so of course he assumes that is who it must be. It’s a fishing expedition. He knows there’s one there, but doesn’t know who it is.
C: I want to know what leads him to try to turn somebody from the Second Salemers.
S: So is it just that Grindelwald is very good at identifying people who make good targets, who can be manipulated? Clearly he and Credence have had contact up to this point. Whatever their previous interactions, at some point Graves has made promises to him, and used this as leverage. I don’t know if he’s an opportunist who identified a perfect mark, but either way, he thinks it’s Modesty. The moment when he is talking to Modesty here, his face – it’s interesting to me because I thought, of course he would think it was here. If Ariana was an Obscurial, of course he would assume it’s Modesty, because he’s been in this situation before with a scared, powerful girl. This time he’s not going to let it get away from him.
If that’s the case, that’s awesome because it gives a great explanation for how Graves misses the thing completely under his nose – that it’s Credence, who has been trying to work up to telling him but has been so terrified. OF course Graves thought it was impossible because Credence is too old, so how would be still be alive?
So we finally get the big reveal. Credence begins destroying the building, because he’s now so angry that Graves lied to and used him. Now it’s great ball of destruction tearing through New York. So what did you think of the big reveal?
C: I was surprised.
S: Me too. Wasn’t expecting it, but thought it was amazing.
So Newt and Co. up on the roof, Newt’s going to go after him, and has the parting line, “If I don’t come back, look after my creatures.” And they do this “pass the case” thing. Newt passes the case to Tina, and Disapparates. Tina passes it to Queenie, and Disapparates. Queenie hands the case to Jacob and is going to Disapparate, and Jacob tries to go with her. Jacob tries to go with her, and there’s this moment I read about where Rowling said the intent of this scene, where he tries to go with her and she tells him it’s too dangerous, and then she stops for a moment, touches his face, and says “Oh!” Originally I think the plan was to show Queenie seeing Jacob’s memories of what he experienced in the war, and her realizing that he’s been thorugh a lot and it’s not too dangerous – he can handle this. I hope we get this in deleted scenes.
C: Yeah, because it’s really just strange, the way it is in the movie.
S: It cuts short and leaves you hanging. I wish they had let that scene be finished.
C: My assumption was before you told me that was that she had picked up that he was straight up already in love with her, and she was like, “Oh, that’s why you want to go.”
S: Oh, I see. That makes sense, too. We’ll see if we get anything on deleted scenes!
So the Aurors are shielding the subway station where Credence is. Daddy Shaw is out there with cameramen, and the president of MACUSA is there, clearly aware that this is turning into a disaster. You see two very different interactions with Credence. Grindelgraves’ expression looking at Credence is just totally enthralled with his power, whereas Newt, when he talks to credence, has so much compassion on his face. You can see he wants to save him. He goes down there to try to talk to Credence. He asks permission to come over there and talk to him, and Credence starts coming back to himself. Then fucking Grindelwald comes and ruins it, because he’s a ruiner.
C: He’s a taker AND a ruiner, dammit.
Force Lightning Level, America-Style
S: He is! And he gets Newt on the rails of the subway and is whipping him with lightning repeatedly. At least here you see more Grindelwald. This isn’t the kind of guy who is like, “Goddammit, Newt, you’re in my way, I need to get to Credence, so I’m going to kill you.” That’s kind of like something Voldemort might do. But Grindelwald is all, “No, I’m going waste precious time standing here whipping you because you pissed me off.”
C: Yeah, because he just thinks there’s no way he’s not going to win. So he can waste as much time as he wants. And when he’s in such a position where he’s got people at MACUSA, where he says “Execute them, do it now” and they jump to do it now, why would he think otherwise?
S: And he’s pissed because he’s still alive. “Didn’t I have you executed?” He goes off into this moment of enjoying tormenting Newt. I appreciated this. I kind of expected more from when Newt and Credence finally meet, but I feel like it’s laying the groundwork for the future. Grindelwald whipping Newt sets Credence off again, possibly triggering Credence because of the echoes of someone helpless being whipped.
Tina comes in and tries to talk Credence down, and it starts to work, and then MACUSA comes in, and they’re ruiners too. Because they say, please, wands down, we’re talking him down. And they’re like, “Oh, did you say fire?” And they all fire at Credence, who explodes.
C: It’s really sad.
S: It’s tragic. You’ve got this poor kid, all these things pulling at him, and he doesn’t know who to trust, he’s desperate. He starts to calm down when Newt, and then Tina, talk to him. He’s so desperate to trust someone and have someone help him, because he knows he needs help. But then he’s blown into that kind of floaty black stuff we saw at the end of Deathly Hallows, Part 2. So that happened, and oh damn, now Graves is pissed. And now he gets to have his speech: “Damn you people and your damn interference. Let him expose us, because the laws protect them, not us, and now I’m going to fight everybody!” He starts to walk away from the situation, and the president has started to figure out that there’s a problem and Graves needs to be relieved of his wand. And Graves has a quiet moment where you see him thinking, okay. I’m going to do this. So be it. Graves turns and single-handedly starts taking on the entire Auror department, with his wand this time. And now we have Newt, who doesn’t try to use a wand to stop him but uses Swooping Evil to grab him, which works.
Wonderland is missing its Hatter
And we have our great big reveal. My question is, would anyone have thought to do this? Clearly Newt has suspected for a while, because as soon as he has Graves bound, he uses “Revelio.” He obviously suspects that he is someone else. I wonder if the MACUSA had any inkling of that, or just thought Graves had gone off the rails.
C: It’s a good question I don’t have an answer for.
S: I do know Graves wasn’t using Polyjuice – he was Transforming himself. And we get our reveal – and oh look! Handsome Colin Farrell is actually ugly albino Johnny Depp with weird contacts!
C: It’s an ugly albino dude! Which, I did not see Johnny Depp at all.
S: I will never forget when we were talking about this via text, and you came back with, “HOLY SHIT THAT WAS JOHNNY DEPP?” People in my theater laughed when he came on the screen, because he looked so silly, and that’s what I was afraid of! Why would you cast Johnny Depp? As someone who was for years and years and years obsessive, and then his choices and trajectory of late have made me say, “Oh, dear God, stop while you’re ahead, man.” And they cast him in this, and I was worried they’d play to his worse instincts: lots of makeup, funky costumes, weird behavior – and look, they did.
Are you happy with this casting of Grindelwald? Who would you have put?
C: I would have just kept Colin Farrell.
S: Once I saw Johnny Depp, I just thought, can’t we just have Colin Farrell back? I’m going to miss him. He put in one hell of a performance.
C: Yeah, I thought he did really well. I don’t like Johnny Depp as an actor or a human being, so not crazy about his involvement on either level. Hopefully – I mean, is David Yates going to direct all these goddamn movies from here until the end of time? Maybe he can rein him in somehow? I don’t know how that would work because I think at this point anything he does is Johnny Depp run amok, and Johnny Depp does what Johnny Depp wants to do. He’s kind of in that spot where Matthew McConaughey was, like phoning in bad performances in bad rom-coms, and then all of a sudden it Matthew McConaughey decided to care again, and you’re like, “Oh yeah, he is a great actor, he was good in A Time To Kill and this that and the other,” and he could do it again when he decided to give a fuck. So maybe Johnny Depp will decide to give a fuck. Who knows. He could certainly use some good PR.
S: We can hope. God, I hope so. The casting choice just flummoxed me. Of all the people you could have cast, it seems like the one glaring thing that does not fit. I read somewhere that the studio wanted a big name for the film. And I’m sitting here, like, REALLY? You needed a big name for the continuation of the HARRY POTTER UNIVERSE? It’s only one of the most lucrative properties in the world, and JK Rowling is attached to it. You think Johnny Depp is going to help that?
C: If that’s your reason for casting him, why are you casting him in a role where, I’m presuming from here on out, he’s going to be covered in makeup and looking odd?
S: The contacts. Why. What is the point of those. I could have gotten behind the super blond hair, and the pastiness, and the little mustache is dumb, but the contacts.
C: To make him like the epitome of Aryan, I guess?
S: Ugh. So he gets two lines. “Do you really think you can hold me?” Which raises the question, if we can execute people for being in the wrong place at the wrong time, do we really have to imprison him? Can’t we just execute him?
C: One would think!
S: No offense to the President, but she was extraordinarily useless through this movie.
C: The MACUSA lady is just, “We’ll do our best.” Oh, THAT’S reassuring! You have my utmost confidence! She looked pretty badass though.
S: Yeah, but she just mainly stood around and made glum pronouncements. “Contain this, or it will mean war.” Then do nothing about it and let everybody else do it. So she says, “We’ll do our best, Mr. Grindelwald.” That doesn’t inspire a lot of confidence. Up your security.
And then Johnny Depp gets one more line. I think he says “Will we die just a little?”
C: Cry just a little? Pretend that you’re feeling a little more pain?
S: I AM SO GLAD you did that. Even the first time I saw it, I’m sitting in the theater and I thought of you, and that horrible Faith Hill song that was popular and how you used to drive me up the wall bursting into that horrible chorus.
C: “CRY A LITTLE, LIE JUST A LITTLE, PRETEND THAT YOU’RE FEELING A LITTLE MORE PAIN! I GAVE, NOW I’M WANTING SOMETHING IN RETURN! SO CRY JUST A LITTLE FOR ME!”
S: WHY DO YOU KNOW ALL THE WORDS??
C: I have not heard that song literally in over a decade but I remember that.
S: I had an even harder time taking that seriously, because it was in my head. But I think it’s safe to assume that that parting shot is not meant for Newt. I think Grindelwald is safe in assuming that line will get carried back to Dumbledore. Particularly since we know Grindelwald and Dumbledore shared an obsession around the Deathly Hallows, and conquering death. I think it will probably be significant later.
C: I hope so. Otherwise it’s just totally random.
S: Maybe he’s a Faith Hill fan.
C: It’s hard not to like that song.
S: So Grindelwald is taken away to what I’m sure will be an inept prison with inept guards that he’ll easily escape.
New York really does have the most effective aquifer recharge zones
The president now is all, “We can’t contain this, it’s going to mean war, we can’t obliviate an entire city.” Newt: “I’ve got an idea!” He mentioned earlier that Swooping Evil venom has properties for obliviating bad memories. So he gives the vial to Frank the Thunderbird, who does what Thunderbirds do, flies up and starts a thunderstorm, dispersing the potion in the rain. So anyone in contact with water, rain, even drinking or showering –
C: Yeah, awkwardly showering. That was an interesting scene.
S: But they’re all obliviated. And it’s a great moment, the music is fantastic, you get cool scenes of Aurors and MACUSA people repairing the damage.
C: Did nobody notice?
S: Are we going to assume that even if people are being Obliviated while you do all this, if you take too long, aren’t you taking a risk?
They fix everything, and then we come to the terrible moment where the President decides to do at least one thing she should do, and tells them to Obliviate Jacob. I would have said, “Yes ma’am” and then not do it – but they have this touching moment coming out of the subway, fighting back tears. Newt tells Jacob he likes him, he’s his friend. Queenie offers to go with him, says I’m never going to find someone like you. Jacob: “There’s hundreds of guys like me.” He says this is how it has to be, he was never supposed to know all this. He closes his eyes, steps out into the rain, opens his eyes again, everyone is gone, he’s not quite sure why he’s there and goes about his business.
C: You left out the fact that Queenie makes a very cool translucent umbrella and goes out and kisses him. Which you would think she’d do before he’d forget it, but hey, it’s dramatic.
Circle theory and Hufflepuff love
S: And then we’re back where we started, with Jacob going about his every day business. He’s headed into the factory –
C: The cannery. What the hell is in this suitcase? They were eggs? What were they eggs of?
S: Occamies. This is where J.K. Rowling shows her love for circle theory, where you start in one place and you end in that place, events mirror each other. So the first time Newt and Jacob meet, Newt leaves the occamy egg on the bench, it starts happening, and that’s how they met. In the suitcase, Newt tells Jacob to be careful with the baby occamies because they learn to defend themselves from a young age because their eggshells are made of silver, so their nests are often plundered. So again, Jacob is on his way to his job, Newt bumps into him and they do the case switch, just like at the beginning. When Jacob opens it, it’s full of silver occamy egg shells. Newt has just given Jacob a suitcase full of solid silver to use as collateral for his bank loan. (And is not being super careful about the magic thing, since he calls them “occamy eggshells” in his note.)
C: So were those fertilized eggs with baby occamies in them?
S: No, they had already hatched, These are the eggshells, from the hatched baby occamies. And then we get Newt getting back on the ship, back where we started. He’s finally got some string for his bloody case.
C: Can I just make a complaint? Tina, what the ever-loving fuck are you doing, girl? I know that Graves was actually Grindelwald, but people that you know were perfectly fine with leading you to your death! And you’re just going to go back to the Auror office like nothing happened?
S: Yeah, she’s happy – she has her job as an Auror back. Again – I’m going to yell about this at length when we get back to the original series. This is like ending the war at the end of Deathly Hallows, and everyone goes right back to doing things the same way. People are still getting sorted into the same houses as before and we’re perfectly fine with Slytherin still being part of the foundation of this world, which stands for racism and potential violence. So you’ve exposed some serious problems at MACUSA, and I hope you aren’t just going to leave this.
They get a great little moment, Newt in his Hufflepuff scarf.
And he offers to bring her his book in person.
C: And she’s like, praise God you made a move.
S: It’s romance for awkward people.
C: It was really cute, because I thought he’d just get on the ship and that would be it, and we’d be left with them pining for each other and not having acknowledged it at all. Of course, it’s five movies, you can’t jump straight into the happily ever after right now. They need to stretch it out. But I’m glad we got a little bit of a happy sort of resolution in at least one respect – there’s happiness on the horizon, which is nice.
S: And on that note, I’m going to assume we jump forward a bit in time – we see Jacob’s bakery, which seems pretty well established. He’s got a van, customers out the door, he’s hiring – he’s clearly doing well. So maybe this is a few months? We see that Jacob has started to remember some of the things he saw, because all his pastries are shaped like the beasts he saw. And in walks trouble in pink.
C: I thought, and I may have pointed it out earlier that whatever it was that bit him earlier was going to make it hard for him to be Obliviated, or make him immune, and that may still be the case. But if the venom of whatever that was the Thunderbird released Obliviates bad memories – they’re not bad memories to him. It makes sense that stuff is going to hang around and start to surface. I don’t know what the status is going to be in the second movie, but I can easily see him remembering exactly who Queenie is and everything that happened when he sees her again, just because she’s probably the happiest that he’s ever been.
S: As it turns out, Rowling has said that murtlap is very resistant to other potions and spells, so you may be right on that. And I think that line, where Newt refers to bad memories, I think it’s not a throwaway line. He doesn’t want to forget these, or lose all of this. It might explain why he’s remembering. Queenie comes in and gives him a smile and we get this great unspoken moment with Jacob putting it together, and he smiles. And it’s over! And I’m dancing in my seat because I love this music!
C: And props to Queenie, because she is flying in the face of a whole bunch of law by going in there and doing what she’s doing.
S: Yes, so I think we can expect some interesting things for the future. From that moment where Newt is watching the little fragment of Credence re-forming and flying away, we know Credence will be back. Also for Queenie and Jacob, we can be sure that that little line from Newt about backward policies regarding Muggles and non-Muggles marrying, I think we’re definitely going to get a story line with Jacob and Queenie coming up against these laws and prejudices. This is going to be a very interesting road for them.
C: They need to do what all good Regency romances do, and elope to Gretna Green.
S: Elope to Scotland! Your kids will get to go to Hogwarts!
C: Oh, but Ilvermorny is the best.
S: Bah to Ilvermorny. And who knows what’s coming? I can’t wait until they bring Dumbledore into it. If my theory is correct and Newt is working with Dumbledore, I think it will be easier to bring the two plotlines into balance, because they’ll be intertwined. I think they’ll be separated, but interwoven. And also I think over the course of these movies we have to see Grindelwald find the Elder Wand, because I don’t think he has it at this point. So we have to see Grindelwald finding, obtaining and using the Elder Wand, and then Dumbledore having to step up and fight him.
C: Boy, I can’t wait until we get to see them flinging the exact same color of special effect at each other over and over again. What a sight that will be.
S: God, I hate when they do that. We need to talk to the effects people. But as long as the music is still being done by James Newton Howard, we’re good.
Back to basics
C: Before we go – as someone who has not read Deathly Hallows since a couple of days after it first came out, explain the Elder Wand to me.
S: The Elder Wand is one of the three Deathly Hallows. It was the only one that could be historically traced through generations. It’s the most powerful wand in existence. Rowling has since explained that not only was the wand exceptionally powerful, due to the wand having so many owners, the wand was learning as it was passed from person to person, and so becomes even more powerful by virtue of being owned by so many people.
The three Hallows are the wand, the Resurrection Stone, and the Cloak of Invisibility. Legend had it that the person who united the three Hallows would become Master of Death. They’re kind of like a Holy Grail, and they’re Dumbledore and Grindelwald’s shared obsession as young men. They’re obsessed with uniting the Hallows, even though as Dumbledore admits they both fundamentally misunderstood them. We don’t know how Grindelwald got the Elder wand or where he finds it. (Actually, yes we do, my brain was just being dumb. Grindelwald steals the Elder wand from Gregorovitch, the wand maker. We don’t know how he found out that Gregorovitch had it, or how he got it.) All we know is that when Dumbledore goes to fight Grindelwald in 1945, he obtains the Elder wand but then is very quiet about the fact that he has it.
C: So is that the wand he uses throughout the books? Or does he keep that tucked away and use a regular wand?
S: No, that is the wand he uses every time we’ve seen him. Dumbledore had it for years. So the Deathly Hallows isn’t taken that seriously, and their existence isn’t common knowledge. So when Voldemort tracks down Grindelwald in Nurmengard looking for the Elder Wand, from there, he figures out that the person who got it from Grindelwald was Dumbledore.
C: So Grindelwald is still alive.
S: By book 7, yes. But Voldemort kills him. Grindelwald is eventually imprisoned in the prison he built for his own enemies, Nurmengard, for years. He grows old in that prison. And Dumbledore says –
C: What did they do to keep him in THAT prison? It’s just one of those things, they put a Muggle padlock on it and that’s all it needed.
S: I don’t know, how DID they manage it?
Dumbledore tells Harry that in later years people said Grindelwald came to show remorse. In the movie, Grindelwald tells Voldemort where the wand is. In the book, he refuses. Harry thinks that might have been lingering affection or friendship for Dumbledore, that he didn’t want Voldemort violating Dumbledore’s grave.
C: Or he just was also crazy and power mad and narcissistic and liked having one up on Voldemort?
S: It will be interesting to see. I hope they cast Dumbledore well and don’t go with this impulse to get a “big name,” because that’s how we got saddled with Johnny Depp.
C: Well, if they don’t have their duel until 1945, it’s going to be interesting. We’re going to travel through the years.
S: Overall, it’s been a great movie, and I’ve had so much fun talking about it with you.
C: This is what we sound like when we talk about something we like. Unlike Cursed Child. We haven’t made a single porn parody joke!
S: We don’t swear nearly as much or make as many horrible sex jokes, because we like the material! This doesn’t lend itself to porn parody nearly as much, although Credence and Graves…
C: That scene where Tina, Jacob and Newt all come home to see Queenie in her negligee… It would work, I’m just saying. I like how it is now, I like Queenie and Jacob, but if they want to do a different twist I’d be good with that too, provided they weren’t related.
S: And may I also recommend Game of Thrones?
S: That is our movie discussion. We went long and will have to split this probably, and we may have more discussion on Fantastic Beasts, but barring that, are we about to start Sorcerer’s Stone?
C: Yes, I think so!
S: Also have to give a plug real quick to those of you with crossover interest in Star Wars – we are doing a Star Wars podcast! We did a discussion on Rogue One and are working to get it posted, and will also be doing one about political implications of the movie as well. Hopefully you’ll come yell about Star Wars too!
C: It would make me so happy.
S: Well, until we resume with Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, I am Professor Seraphine–
C: And I am Professor Creed–
S: And we’ll see you next time!