Warning: Spoilers ahead & these views are entirely my own.
The ‘eighth’ and alleged final book in the Harry Potter series was released last week. While the production of Jack Thorne’s Harry Potter and the Cursed Child has received critical reception, the printed script highlights the flaws and inconstancies in the writing, showcasing exactly why the play is the worst thing to happen to the series.
The play continues immediately from Rowling’s Nineteen Years Later epilogue, which sees now grown-ups Harry, Ron, Hermione, Ginny and Draco as they send their children off to Hogwarts. The focus is set entirely on Harry and Draco’s sons Albus and Scorpius who travel back in time, leading to a chain reaction of catastrophic events.
Time turners made their first appearance in Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban when Hermione was given one to help her study through the school year and in their fifth year during Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, all time turners were destroyed.
Rowling set the rules of time travel in place during the third book and it follows the single timeline principle, which means that any action taken by a time traveller was part of history all along. An example of this is Harry managing to conjure his Patronus in the forbidden forest after realising he already had done it in the future.
Those rules were thrown out for Cursed Child however when Albus and Scorpius decide to travel back in time to save Cedric Diggory. Not only was a new and advanced Time Turner found, but Albus and Scorpius’ actions in the past change their present, leading to an alternate timeline where Harry Potter is dead and Voldemort rules the wizarding world.
Immediately this goes against the rules established in Prisoner of Azkaban as Albus and Scorpius have created multiple alternate timelines by going back in time more than once and which, in the Harry Potter universe, shouldn’t have happened. If Cursed Child followed the canon of the original novels, Scorpius and Albus were always meant to interfere with the past leading to the present they know where Voldemort IS dead.
The loveable characters in the Harry Potter universe also suffered due to the time travel plot. Cedric Diggory becomes a death eater in the alternate timeline after being humiliated by Albus and Scorpius during the second task of the Triwizard Tournament. Diggory wouldn’t have turned a death eater; he was the epitome of ‘good’ in the Harry Potter universe. But it wasn’t just Cedric that suffered.
The trio are portrayed as their movie counterparts rather than their book counterparts. Most notable, however, are Harry, who becomes a complete jerk and threatens people with “the force of the Ministry” and Ron whose only use in the play is an act of comic relief. Rose Granger-Weasley, the daughter of Ron and Hermione, acts like a know-it-all snob as the play attempts to recreate Hermione’s personality from the first film, but it fails. Cursed Child also later attempts to humanise Voldemort by making him the father of Delphini, a child he conceived with Bellatrix Lestrange shortly before the Battle of Hogwarts.
In the original seven novels Rowling made sure to strip Voldemort of his humanity, so why would Voldemort, whose only mission was to become immortal, decide to have a child? Voldemort was overconfident and foolish in his Horcrux plan, he was certain he would succeed and take over the wizarding world so the idea that he wanted an heir, someone to pass his power onto, is ridiculous. Voldemort wanted immortality; he would never want to ‘pass’ his power on. It was for him and him only.
The plot of the play feels convoluted as it jumps backwards and forwards in time more than needed. The appearance of a second Time Turner at the end of the play is nothing more than a deus ex machina and the homosexual subtext between Albus and Scorpius should have been realised and instead, readers were treated to a forced scene in which Scorpius boasts about his crush on Rose Granger-Weasley. The play does read like a terrible fanfiction, the writing is, at times, terrible and Thorne lacks an understanding of the characters.
Fortunately what I did enjoy was Scorpius, which actually surprised me. He was a rich character with all the right qualities and, in my opinion, a far better protagonist than Albus could ever be. It was enjoyable reading about the characters once more, and returning to Hogwarts was a great feeling, as well as reliving certain memories from the original series, but through the eyes of a different protagonist.
Cursed Child tackles the themes of parenthood, struggle and, as always, death. I’m sure the play is extraordinary to watch and experience live however the plot and characters lack in coherence and the story suffers from it. I am a huge fan and lover of the original series, video games, films and even the colouring books but I just expected more from the play. Rowling just confirmed that the Harry Potter series has now ended; I just wish she said that before Cursed Child was released.