[spoilers for all of the Harry Potter series, including the new play Harry Potter and the Cursed Child to follow]
The Cursed Child is a meandering disappointment that uses one of the series’ least favorite McGuffin – time travel – as a central plot element. By the end of reading the two-part play, I felt bewildered and as if none of it even mattered.
When Time Turners were introduced in Prisoner of Azkaban, time travel was used just enough where it was satisfying, albeit murky. This time around, Harry’s second son, Albus, gets sucked into something that reads like a rejected fourth Back to the Future film. It’s unfortunate because I love LOVE the Potter-verse.
The basic plot (OKAY, SPOILERS) is that Albus hates being Harry’s son and it gets worse when he is the only one in the Potter-Weasley-Granger lineage who isn’t put into Gryffindor. He befriends Scorpius, Draco Malfoy’s son, who is rumored to somehow be Voldemort’s son… but that is so poorly constructed that it seems even more ridiculous than it should be. Albus and Scorpius are outcasts who come across a forbidden Time Turner and decide to go back to 1994-1995 to save Cedric Diggory from being murdered by Voldemort.
Got it? Good. Disappointed? Figured.
Imagine reading that plot, not condensed at all, and coming to the end of a two-part play to find out none of it matters. The characters altered history for the worst – a la Back to the Future 2’s second act where Biff owns all of Hill Valley – and then re-altered it so that everything was kosher by the end of the play’s fourth act.
Therefore, the minimal character development that actually did occur seems wasted. Accept for Albus and Scorpius, who were the only one’s who witnessed the multiple timelines. Which is unfortunate because Albus was the absolute worst.
I was never one who felt Harry had too much angst or was annoying in Order of the Phoenix. I did, however, feel Albus is the king of angst in this one. Thematically, I understand his plight with Harry. We’re meant to learn not to put our children in our shadows and that it is okay to be our own person. I didn’t need (technically) two plays with two acts each to tell me that.
A lot of people have been saying that this reads like fan fiction that JK Rowling tried to fix, but couldn’t. I won’t go that far… Rowling had her hand in the story that eventually became Cursed Child, but the final script goes to writer and director Jack Thorne. Still, Harry Potter and the Cursed Child is the first miss for Rowling in the Wizarding World that captivated our world for two decades. I’m just worried the upcoming prequel film Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, which she penned, will be the second miss now.