3P Reviews, Book and Play Reviews, Harry Potter Reviews

3P Reviews: Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, Part One, Act One

Telephone box: farewell, Harry Potter. In italics: He ascends away from the ministry of magic.

Update 9/23/2020: I wrote this a while back, but since then a certain author has fully outed herself (See? Pronouns aren’t that difficult, Rowling, you crybaby) as a misogynistic, transphobic asshat. I feel like if I’m going to be talking about her work, I ought to use the space to promote something more useful, so here’s a link to some U.K. groups that help trans kids:

The Proud Trust

LGBT Foundation


I would encourage you to donate money to them or another trans UK-based charity instead of feeding money to Rowling.


After my disappointment in the first Fantastic Beasts film and the lack of any news that makes me eager to see it, I doubt I’ll be reviewing Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald. However, I feel it would be a shame to witness the release of the tenth film in this zombie of a series without a celebration, so let’s take a look at Harry Potter and the Cursed Child. It’s been over two years since the release of the bizarre eighth book-play in the Harry Potter canon, and there are a lot of lessons to learn here. At the time of its release, the play was lauded by some fans and loathed by others, but pretty much everyone admitted that there was something off about it. It was like coming home to your family after not having seen them in years, only to find a bunch of mysterious creatures that appear to be wearing their skins.

If I ever get to reviewing the main series, I might elaborate, but I’ve mostly been indifferent to the Harry Potter series for much of my life. I was right in that target demographic that was in school around the same time that the books were being released, but I didn’t read all of the books or see the films for my own pleasure. Harry Potter was a social phenomenon, much like the Marvel films are now, and the series was fun because I could talk to my friends about it and go see the movies with them. I liked that, but the books I could take or leave. Harry Potter is the exact middle-of-the-road for me in terms of quality, and while I appreciate its mastery of broad appeal, it really is still a children’s series. It wears its themes on its sleeves, and they’re not much to look at. The world is fun, but it’s not especially creative. Hermione and Ron are decent characters, but they’re overshadowed by the protagonist, and Harry himself is about as interesting as a lump of wood. It has serious flaws.

The major buffer to the quality issues of the Harry Potter series is that it’s designed to create and cater to nostalgia. The average viewer considers it fondly and at face value, not bothering or wanting to think of the series’ emphasis on blood right, benevolent slavery, and a suspicious lack of diverse characters despite the author’s insistence otherwise. In the United States especially, we have a rather caustic culture of nostalgia that deems childhood interests sacred, never to be criticized or reflected upon, only indulged in. Corporations know this well; it’s a lot easier to create consistent interest in a product like a film if you can rely on emotional shortcuts like nostalgia, hence the recent dump of adaptations based on prominent 1980s and 1990s products, most of which are terrible.

You may have noticed I don’t hold nostalgia in very high regard. I was irritated to learn, then, that Rowling was releasing another Harry Potter book. I had long since grown out of the series and felt it deserved to die a peaceful death. It was a fad, it came and went, and now it was time for something new. Of course, the release of a new Harry Potter book was always going to distract from new series with fresh material and characters. How wonderful would it have been for the next major young adult fantasy series to star LGBT minority characters, or deal with gray morality? Instead, we were going to get this book, and an inevitable film based on it, and maybe more sequels or prequels or spinoffs. I decided I wasn’t going to read the new book-play about the moment I became aware of its impending release.

And then I read the early reviews.

I couldn’t believe my eyes. Was this really in the book? Was this really supposed to be canonical with the rest of the series? It was a hilarious take from a bewildered fan who pointed out that the whole thing read like fanfiction on par with My Immortal. I ran to my nearest friend to see what their response was, and I found out, to my dismay… they liked it. They thought it was good. They considered it a decent extension of the ending of the last book. A lot of people I talked to liked it actually. The few who offered criticism seemed unable to agree on a root source of dislike. Most agreed that it wasn’t as good as the originals, but it was still fun and engaging. Others hated it with the fiery rage of the hottest circle of Hell. That obviously meant I had to read it.

With all this in mind, I can’t be completely impartial about this book. I didn’t have high hopes for it initially, and the main reason I bought it was to have the chance to tear it to pieces, in a literary sense. I would like to say before I begin, to all the diehard fans of this book, I get it. I understand how important this series can be to people. I will try to be considerate and give it a fair shake where it deserves it, if it deserves it. I like to be critical of things, but more than that, I like to tell the truth about them. To give the book its best chances, I have decided to do one review for each act, four in total. I will not be considering anything to do with the live play, which I haven’t seen, only the writing of the script. I will take into consideration that it is a script and not a piece of fictional prose. For those with a sensitive disposition, this is your cue to exit. For the rest of you who want to see how badly the canonical Harry Potter fanfiction train can crash, let’s start the fun.

Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, Act One

Spoilers: Yes, for this book and the Harry Potter series.

Audience Assumptions: Familiarity with the Harry Potter series.

Star Rating: ***

Part One: In Which Fred is Given a Garbage Name

Scorpius (as smoke comes out of his ears): Thank you for staying for my sweets, Albus.

First things first, we have to talk about the format. This series is stated by Rowling to be a canonical entry in the series, and while I’m not going to wade into the mess that is Rowling’s attempts to micromanage Harry Potter fan interpretations via her Twitter account, I think it is worth mentioning that. Public perception is important for a series, especially one as big as this one. No one considers the DK sticker book version of a Disney film to be a meaningful contribution to the main canon, nor the writer of such a book to be a co-author of the broader narrative. Cheap cash-grabs and peripheral fan guff are readily distinguishable from the main canon most of the time.

Harry Potter and the Cursed Child lies in a perplexing No-Man’s Land. Most fans insist that it’s not the same series as the beloved Harry Potter books, but rather a brand-authorized license by some random playwrights. It’s certainly stylistically distinct, being told in a different format from the main series. I’ve heard more than a few complaints that the poor quality of Harry Potter and the Cursed Child is due to it being a script. I envy that level of optimism. Unfortunately, I’m well-acquainted with scripts and can crush those hopes and dreams by saying that scripts are very much like books, especially dialogue-heavy series like Harry Potter. It’s not the script. Now, perhaps the play is better than the script alone, having actors and special effects to add layers of depth. However, I’m not reviewing the play, I’m reviewing the piece of literature sold for money as a sequel book/play script to the original Harry Potter series. Much Ado About Nothing isn’t made worse if I see a botched live version of it. Likewise, a good version of the play does not improve the script.

Another common defense is that it wasn’t really written by J. K. Rowling, which for me is both untrue and irrelevant. Rowling’s name is pasted in big bold letters on the front, so she’s not bereft of blame, and certainly just as if not more responsible for it than __. I don’t particularly care if they just adapted what was feasible for the stage from her draft or if she contributed four lines and cashed her paycheck. As Foldable Human says, if you’re going to take all of the credit, you get to take all of the blame. Besides, I’m not here to judge Rowling’s writing, I’m here to judge the writing of the Harry Potter series. Despite some authors’ best efforts, once a book is released, it’s no longer just their work. Audience interpretation is a big part of the reading process, and once a work is no longer in your own head as a writer, you can’t really dictate how other people interpret it.

So then, I’m going to treat this book the way I feel it was marketed and written: as a later addition to a finished series meant to continue the same story, much like a Disney movie sequel.

The Harry Potter series ended, as many young adult stories do, with the protagonists in a happy life, married off to one another, or in Harry’s case to some girl he had about two conversations with in the entire series. Of course, they all have children who look just like them.

Plenty of people have made fun of the ridiculous names bestowed upon the unfortunate moppets, so I’ll continue the trend and point it out too. Harry and Ginny’s children are named James, Albus Severus, and Lily. That’s right, despite Ginny and her husband having a positive relationship with both of her parents, and a much more significant relationship than Harry had with his own parents before they died, and there being about nine or so more relevant names (Fred, Rubeus, Sirius, Remus, Ronald, Dobby, heck even Harry, to name a few) that they could have chosen from, and despite Ginny having no particularly special relationship with Dumbledore, and neither of them even liking Snape, that’s what they named their children. It would seem that Ginny either does not care what her offspring will be called for the rest of their lives, or Harry is such an overbearing prick that he won’t let her weigh in on his choices.

Believe it or not, this is thematically relevant to Harry Potter and the Cursed Child. Not in the way the book seems to think it is, mind you; as in the epilogue of the main series, The Cursed Child shows off a scene where Harry tells his underappreciated middle child that he was named after the two bravest people Harry ever met, and one of them was in Slytherin. He notably fails to tell his son that the Slytherin brave wizard was also a wizard Nazi at one point and killed the other brave wizard, but Harry feels that the braveness is the most important part of the exchange. The book thinks it’s setting up the idea that Slytherin isn’t an inherently bad house, so when Albus ends up there, we’ll sympathize with him. This is an odd thing for the book to feel like it has to establish, but given the black-and-white nature of most of the Harry Potter series’ morality, where most of the characters are presumed to be inherently good or inherently bad, it kind of makes sense to try to lean the series in a different direction. Especially now that there is no main antagonist and the story is set up to be about more complex family drama.

(I know, hold your laughter.)

What the book ends up establishing, though, is that Harry cherishes the vague concept of bravery above all else, and is a fucking liar. After this point, he’s constantly suspicious of anyone placed in the Slytherin house on the sole basis that they are in that house. This bullshit about him being open-minded and not judging people on where they come from is in direct contrast to his actions not only here, but the rest of the series too. Harry never made amends with Snape. At most, Harry kind of saw that Snape had some very shallow hidden depths, but at no point did they like or even respect one another. I won’t get into the prickly discussion of whether Snape is a relatable character or just a complete scuzbag, but suffice it to say, Snape was at one point a wizard Nazi. If he’s the best example Harry can come up with of a Slytherin who wasn’t a bad guy, he’s setting the bar pretty damn low.

And that’s not even the problem Albus has; Albus is concerned that he won’t live up to his father’s reputation. This is a valid worry, because not only can Albus almost certainly not do that, the environment Harry (and by extension, the series) has cultivated is one where fighting a physical bad guy is the only way to become a good person. There is no more Voldemort, so are we just going to find some new villain to fight instead of dealing with the broader issues that allowed Voldemort to rise to power? Well yes, obviously, but even then, there’s a difference between facing an existing villain and running off looking for one. The Harry Potter series isn’t very experienced with plots that don’t have clear antagonists; it comes close in the third book where Harry’s literal fears are the bigger monster than any of the physical antagonists, but even that one ends by pinning everyone’s problems on Peter Pettigrew.

Silly names aside, though, the beginning part of the story isn’t bad, at least in concept. Harry is an immediately incompetent parent, but you can see that he tries to be supportive and at least his flaws make him a more interesting character than he was in the original. The happy ending from the last book, as many fanfiction writers predicted, is not as simple as it first seemed. Albus befriends Malfoy’s son (who also has a terrible but slightly more understandable name, Scorpius), is sorted with him into Slytherin House, makes enemies with Hermione and Ron’s daughter, Rose, and proves to be unskilled with brooms. These plot points come with the context of cliched school drama and a fair bit of forced dialogue, but let’s not pretend the original books never had any of that. Rose is a complete asshat, a sort of a proto-Malfoy herself. She judges Scorpius based on his parentage and shallowly decides that her lifelong friends will be made on the train to Hogwarts, so good job on that Ron, Hermione.

The scene on the train is also where the first major subplot is introduced: there are rumors that Scorpius is not Malfoy’s son, but Voldemort’s. Aside from my inclination to point out that this hypothesis can be immediately debunked by knowing Voldemort, back when he had hair, had dark hair and Scorpius is blond, and as we learned from Game of Thrones, that’s not how genetics works, I don’t particularly care for this subplot. Who gives a shit if Scorpius is Voldemort’s son? What happened to “you aren’t your blood” and “Slytherins can be good guys too?” Given the early stage of the book, though, I can accept it as something to get the story going. It presents this rumor as something to alienate Scorpius rather than something to indicate Scorpius is evil. He’s a cinnamon roll, and presented as a victim of the lasting consequences of blood-based moralizing. By making Voldemort to be the sole cause of evil in the world, rather than also combating the eugenic hatred he fueled, Harry and his friends have really just ensured that hatred sticks around to seek out new targets. This is a tricky line to walk as a writer because you don’t want to over-correct to the point where the audience starts to sympathize with the people spewing toxic waste. Scorpius, having nothing to do with wizard Nazis himself, is a decent vector to explore the consequences of black-and-white morality on neutral bystanders.

While the opening few scenes are clunky and occasionally contradictory, they actually show some surprising nuance that the rest of the Harry Potter series never explored. I don’t know that this could have been an excellent book, but it could have at least been interesting. It’s certainly not cringe-worthy. Yet.

Part Two: Those First Few Middling Pages Were the Highlight of the Book, Weren’t They? Shit.

Albus: I thought you'd send an owl. Scorpius: I couldn't work out what to say. Albus: And not I don't know what to say. Scorpius: Say nothing. Albus: Is there anything? Scorpius: Come to the funeral. Albus: of course. Scorpius: And be my good friend.

After fifteen pages and three scenes, the story skips the next three years to leave Albus and Scorpius in their third year. That’s the first point I had to stop reading and reflect on this creative choice. The argument, I imagine, is that since this is a play, it has to go far faster than a book and so we get to spend less time with the characters going through the mundane parts of their life. In the other Harry Potter books, this would involve going to classes, learning about the magical world, and getting involved in subplots like S.P.E.W. I don’t mind that; the audience has already been through characters going to their first classes and learning their first spells, so we don’t need a repeat of the main character being fascinated by the mere idea of magic. However, this isn’t just skipping through Albus’ first few days at Hogwarts; three years is a long time, and Albus is a different character than Harry was at his age. His experiences are going to be inherently different, and we see direct evidence of that thrown into the flashforward montage. And I don’t buy for a minute that he’s just going to have a normal school life — this is Hogwarts. Magical shit with no safety standards happens all of the time, with or without Harry Potter.

The tone of the story picks up as though Albus has been dealing with a tough school life for maybe a few months. Ask anyone who’s gone through similar difficulties in school and you’ll usually hear about ways they tried to address the problem by that point. By this point, I would expect Albus to be numb to his isolation, to have dropped out, to have done something reckless, to have adopted some some sort of prominent reputation, to have discovered a hidden talent to make life bearable, to have run off to live with his grandparents — to have done something, at the very least to cope with the pressure he feels. His life is less pleasant than Harry’s, so we we should at least be hearing about the difficulties of his last several years and his struggle to deal with them. Instead, we just get a vague assertion that he doesn’t like Hogwarts, he’s not a good student, and Harry’s disappointed that he’s not slaying dragons and the like. I would have loved to hear about Albus’ failed attempts to live up to his father’s reputation, like him camping out in the Forbidden Forest to capture a werewolf, only to get pneumonia and spend a week in the Hospital Wing. I would have been up to hear about Albus’ fabulous cooking skills or how he wants to become a wizarding cartoonist. However, Albus doesn’t seem to have any discernible skills, or even hobbies.

The only thing he has a stated interest in at this point is Sorpius. It doesn’t even bother to say what they do when they’re alone together, which seems to be constantly.

Unfortunately, the book dashes our hopes and dreams of having any sort of actual queer characters in the Harry Potter series by providing love interests for both of them. In fact, one of these love interests seems to be the actual reason for the time skip; Albus is interested in a young woman who is about six years older than him. Admittedly, I don’t think I would be comfortable with a story about an eleven-year-old pursuing a seventeen-year-old romantically, though I find it equally disturbing for a story to have a twenty-year-old who’s open to the idea of a fourteen-year-old boyfriend. Evidently the book sees no issue with this, though, because it just charges ahead. It also claims that Rose is the perfect fit for Scorpius, whom she hates. That’s how much the Harry Potter series is afraid of making any of its characters even remotely gay.

However, there’s no use crying over spilled plot, so I’ll just be unhappy with this development and accept the rest of the story for where it goes. And where it goes is not good.

The story is set up to be a reflection of Harry Potter through his son’s eyes, and the central plot is therefore about the pressures Albus experiences having to live up to his surname. However, the immediate problem is that his character is poorly defined and his motives are incoherent. I would say that he’s one of the more complex individuals in this book, but that isn’t saying much when what few character traits he does have shift around constantly.

From the introduction of the character, we learn that he’s gullible and self-conscious, but ultimately a considerate person who judges people based on how they act, not what their name is. This is how he wants people to treat him, but it seems to be a subconscious part of his personality and not something he goes out of his way to do. His rejection of Harry’s attempts to comfort him are not done out of malice, but because Harry is being a dick (we’ll get to that soon, I promise).

Albus’ perspective is one of the more sympathetic, at least initially, but he becomes less relatable as the story progresses. After he has a fight with Harry in which they each say things to the effect of, “I wish you weren’t my dad!” and, “I wish I weren’t either!” Albus has a paradoxical shift in character. He devises an incredibly stupid plan to escape the train to Hogwarts, find a time-turner, and go back to the year of the Triwizard Tournament when his father was a student and save Cedric Diggory.

This makes little sense for many reasons, but I’ll address it from a character perspective for now. Albus feels like the black sheep of his family for being in Slytherin and not being good at the things his parents and siblings are good at. Or good at much of anything, for that matter. His only and closest friend is distrusted by his family, especially Harry, simply for being the child of someone they dislike. These are superficial things that shouldn’t hold much weight if Albus’ family were supportive of him, but he doesn’t seem to have much of a relationship with his mother or siblings. His father, who he clearly wants to be close to, doesn’t empathize with his troubles or even understand what they are. Albus is embarrassed to have so much attention on him all the time, and his father’s only advice is to ignore it. Harry thinks he had trouble with the exact same thing as a child, but it was his reputation, not his family’s reputation, that made him famous. He had close friends, adventures, and natural talents that helped him cope with it during his years at school, and he lived up to his reputation repeatedly. His only advice to Albus is that Albus should be more popular, which is shit advice under any circumstance.

I wanted to explain this dynamic, which leads into the melodramatic argument Albus and Harry have, because it’s not the father-son relationship anyone who decided to go back and fix their overachieving father’s one mistake would have. Albus doesn’t feel bad for Harry, nor should he; he has enough difficulty dealing with all of the people Harry did save without adding someone who would heap more praise on Harry. Albus doesn’t even feel bad for Cedric, and Cedric’s the one who fucking died. Even if Harry had told him all about his one great shame (which is unlikely considering the character of Harry presented in this book, or the others if we’re being brutally honest), Albus has no reason to want to correct that for him. The book’s argument seems to be that Albus wants to prove himself by going on an adventure of his own and one-upping his amazing father by accomplishing something even he could never do.

This I would understand, except that’s not how time travel works (even in this book which seems to have trouble making up its mind on the matter). In the best-case scenario, Albus saves Cedric without affecting the rest of the timeline, and he comes back to the present to find that Cedric had always survived anyway, so nobody gives a shit that Albus saved him because it’s not some grand accomplishment. Albus’ life still sucks and Harry’s still the belle of the ball. It would not make an ounce of difference to Cedric’s father, to Harry, or to anyone else, whether Albus was involved or not. Sure, they’d be grateful if they knew, but saving Cedric would only be a change from Albus’ own timeline, unless Cedric were hidden away until the present day and presumed dead, something I don’t think he, his father, or Harry would be especially happy about. And as we’ve established, saving Cedric is personally important to Harry, not Albus.

So what exactly was he hoping to accomplish? Well, at this point logic and coherency go out the window, and I assume that’s because one of the writers decided that Albus and Scorpius needed to go on an adventure that could bring up references to the most exciting parts of the previous books. From here, the story becomes a time-travel romp like a special episode of a sci-fi series where fun and ridiculous things happen, but none of them have any lasting consequences. Except that it’s not especially fun, either.

Part Three: Okay, Actually, Harry Gets the Worst Dad Award

Albus: No. It's just - you're you and - and I'm me and. Harry: It's just people looking, okay? People look. And they're looking at me, not you.

I have some numbers for you. Out of nineteen scenes in the first act, eleven feature Harry Potter and twelve feature the adult versions of the original main characters, leaving seven scenes exclusive to the new protagonist and his friends (friend), one of which isn’t even two pages long. There are nearly as many scenes, six in total, of just the original protagonists, all of which include Harry, and one of which is a dream sequence retelling events from the first book. Several of the scenes with both Harry and his son only give his son two or three lines total. This means that despite Albus and arguably Scorpius being the two new protagonists introduced as such in the beginning, the story diverts from their narrative to dote on Harry for long and exceedingly tedious stretches of time.

The book is of course called Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, so he might be expected to play a part. He parallels his son, albeit clumsily, and the story was always going to be about Harry Potter and the wizard world, just told from a new perspective. That Harry is in so much of the book isn’t itself a problem. It becomes a problem when his scenes don’t contribute to the main plot and only run on repeat.

If you want to set a story with your characters now considerably older, the ready justification for telling that sort of story is to explore how those characters have changed. This is somewhat true of the original characters’ jobs; Hermione is Minister for Magic, Harry is an auror, and for some reason Ron owns his brothers’ joke shop, or at least co-runs it with George. However, in terms of personality, the only one who has changed considerably out of those three, plus Malfoy and Ginny, is Ron.

Ron has been written as the bumbling comic relief, and while I won’t pretend I was a huge fan of Ron initially, his role in the group was never just as comic relief, certainly not in the awkward always-telling-a-pathetic-joke sort of way. Ron was Harry’s best friend and gateway to the wizarding world, someone who had grown up in it and had a better grasp than Harry or even Hermione of the way magic functioned in society. He had plenty of faults that would lead to him being the butt of jokes or making wrong decisions, but beyond his carefree façade, Ron was ultimately a loyal friend with a fair sense of right and wrong, and an occasionally cunning mind that let him think or talk his way out of tense situations. I could accept him developing into awkward uncle character around his nieces and nephews, and I could even accept him coming to work at his brothers’ joke shop, if only he showed any amount of depth when alone with his adult friends talking about serious matters. But he does none of that. He’s basically been turned into a weak facsimile of his twin brothers, neither of whom have been mentioned at all in the book at this point. Ron’s not central to the plot, nor is this change narratively meaningful.

I don’t mind Malfoy’s character continuing to be a bit of an ass because he’s responding fairly to the circumstances at hand — his son being bullied, his son’s friend convincing him to run away from school, Harry asking rude questions about Malfoy’s dead wife. in the few scenes we see him in, and he’s actually undergone a small amount of growth since the original series, becoming a loving, concerned father who still dislikes Harry and his friends, but this time for somewhat valid reasons. He’s not shown to be sympathetic to Voldemort, at least in the present timeline, and in fact he seems eager to prove his family’s name.

Ginny is bland as ever and passed off as “the housewife,” and Hermione is essentially the same person she was when she was twelve, though she and Harry do get one especially awkward scene involving toffee and innuendos that I’m not sure how to interpret. In general, the female characters don’t get much to do, and even Hermione seems to have little volition in her own life. Harry, of course, is the most central to the plot among the adults, and boy does he contribute next to nothing.

The only addition to Harry’s character in this book is his more negative qualities. I actually kind of like the idea that Harry is an imperfect specimen, but it doesn’t work very effectively as a plot contribution if A) he doesn’t change over the course of the book, B) his faults aren’t framed as his faults, and C) little of the story actually concerns him confronting or dealing with these faults. This book is more concerned with re-living the glory days again than it is with exploring Harry’s ignorance and short-sightedness. By establishing faults and presenting an external perspective, the book signals that Harry is not the exclusive protagonist, but a character of interest. By giving Albus his own plot and personal issues to work through, some of which are directly related to Harry but others of which are only tangentially related, the book further signals that this story is going to be about Albus and how Harry impacts him. The first several scenes are not written to be about Harry, but Albus.

Harry is a side character in this book, at least as it’s established from the start. This is what makes his chapters and the indulgence in Harry Potter nostalgia without critical analysis so distracting. Most of the scenes involving Harry on his own, especially him having flashbacks and his scar hurting, could be cut entirely and affect the plot in no way at all. The two attitudes the book takes toward Harry are that he’s a flawed individual who shouldn’t be idolized, and that he’s awesome and absolutely should. These perspectives do not compliment each other very well.

Harry was never an especially compelling character to begin with, only defined by two main traits – angst and bravery – but he was at least at the center of events throughout the series and so interesting things happened to him. In this story, the writers seem to keep bending the plot to revolve around Harry Potter, either to scrutinize or adore him. A lot of his actions just repeat familiar beats from the original series. Hermione coming into his office to tell him to do his work might as well be the half-dozen times Hermione came into his dorm to tell him to finish his homework. Replace the word “Albus” or “son” with “D.A.” in his conversations with Ginny, and they might as well be back in the fifth book again. The subplot about him worrying that Voldemort is back is especially frustrating because it has been thoroughly resolved. Like, we even had a little book and film series about resolving the issue of Voldemort being back. It was called Harry Potter.

Even Harry’s interactions with his son almost always focus back to Harry and how bad he feels that his middle son isn’t the person he wants him to be (why he doesn’t seem to invest his time in James, who’s basically Harry Potter Jr., I have no idea). What really gets me is something that he says to Albus in the scene where they have their big fight. I’ll set the stage: a grown man has given his bullied younger son a crappy non-magical baby blanket that only has sentimental meaning to the father himself, while he gives the other children functional, thoughtful gifts. His son is understandably disappointed. At that point, they get in a heated argument and Harry complains to Albus that he never had a family.

This, despite the litany of people who have supported Harry throughout his life, and who have served as surrogate parents or siblings over the years. Albus has Scorpius, and possibly his mother, Ron, and Hermione (his relationship with them is little explored). His father doesn’t really like him, he doesn’t get well along with his brother, we have no idea how he interacts with his sister or cousin Hugo, Rose doesn’t like him, and both families seem to have lost contact with the other Weasleys. Harry, in addition to friends at school, had for surrogate family members: Ron, Hermione, Hedwig, Ginny, Ron’s parents, Fred, George, Percy (sort of), Bill, Hagrid, Sirius, the Dursleys (yes they were a shit family, but Dudley turned all right in the end, and Harry seems to remember Petunia fondly for some reason, so they count), Lupin, McGonagall, Fake Mad-Eye Moody, Real Mad-Eye Moody, Tonks, Dumbledore, Slughorn, Nearly Headless Nick, and arguably Snape. Counting adult male characters, that is at least eleven – eleven – father figures in Harry’s life, not including his actual father. So screw the statement that he never had any parents, he had a huge fucking family. What on earth should it matter that most of them weren’t related to him by blood?

And if we want to mention characters that don’t have family members, blood relation or otherwise, shall we mention Teddy Lupin? You know, Harry’s godson? The one whose parents died at the battle of Hogwarts? The one who presumably lives with the Potters, or at least did in the end of the seventh book? Because he’s not even in this one. Harry never addresses him, or where he went, whether he graduated from Hogwarts or is just aimlessly wandering the countryside in search of better parents. How good of a father was Harry to Teddy? Because if Albus is any indication, I’m guessing not a very good one. Considering how heavily this book focuses on parenthood and the relationships between fathers and sons and sons not having fathers to support them, one might hope orphaned Teddy Lupin might at least be mentioned, but alas, we have more important issues to attend to. We need to see exploding pastries and Albus trying repeatedly to kiss his aunt on the lips.

Series Breakdown Rating:

Characters and Character Development: 3
Aesthetics and Style: 2
Creativity: 1
Overall Plot: 2
Subplots: 3
Sum: 11/50

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