If you thought we were done talking about the nonsensical second chapter of the Harry Potter prequels, then think again! We’ve reviewed Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald; we’ve bemoaned the Colin Farrell-lessness of it; and we’ve even unpacked just how under-served every single female character in the film is, especially our beloved Queenie Goldstein. All that’s left is to talk about the climactic twist nobody saw coming: the secret origin of Credence Barebone (Ezra Miller).
Credence was the abused orphan and powerful Obscurial who nearly decimated New York City in the first film, before seemingly dying before the wands of MACUSA’s Aurors. A telltale wisp of evil power-smoke wafted away though, so naturally Credence survived — and by the time the second film starts, he’s working with a magical freak show in Paris while he tries to figure out where he came from. It’s unheard of for an Obscurial to survive so long or to harbor an Obscurus so vastly powerful. The reason must be that Credence himself possesses an incredible magical power, and The Crimes of Grindelwald spends a lot of time toying with our expectations regarding his lineage. It all seems to be building toward the revelation that Credence is Leta Lestrange’s long lost half-brother, believed to have died as a baby — until Leta herself dispels that notion. It turns out that Corvus Lestrange really did die as a baby, drowned as his lifeboat capsized. However, Leta had swapped babies with another woman on the ship because she wanted a break from her brother’s incessant crying — so when the boat sank, the real Corvus was with another family and Leta was left holding a stranger’s child. Which was Credence.
For Credence, this appears to be a dead end as Leta never knew whose baby she had grabbed in the confusion. But naturally Grindelwald had the answer all along, and uses it to get Credence to join him during the climactic
Nazi rally in the Lestrange family tomb. So, who is Credence really?
His name is Aurelius Dumbledore — the heretofore unheard of younger brother of Albus, presumably.
Sure, we could write this off as another Grindelwald lie. After all, Grindelwald has spent two films manipulating poor Credence in order to control the power of the Obscurus. However, there’s the small detail of the baby bird Credence has been caring for… which turns out to be a phoenix. And phoenixes, apparently, appear to any Dumbledore in need. But presumably phoenixes are seen by people who aren’t Dumbledores (like, say, Harry Potter, or probably Newt Scamander for that matter) so I’m not sure that’s as watertight as a DNA test. Complicating matters is the fact that we already know quite a lot about Dumbledore’s siblings, and all of his family drama. His sister, Ariana, was tormented by some Muggle boys, and his father wound up in Azkaban for retaliating against them. Then his mother was killed in an accident caused by Ariana’s suppressed, out-of-control magic. Ariana herself was later killed during a three-way duel between Albus, his brother Aberforth, and Gellert Grindelwald himself — who up until this point had been Albus’s intellectual (and romantic?) partner, as the pair planned for a wizard revolution. All of this had been established in the Harry Potter series, and nowhere is there mention of another Dumbledore brother (or son, or distant cousin) that worked with Grindelwald. Did Albus simply not mention Aurelius? Did he never know about the boy to begin with? Who knows.
Of course, there’s some timeline issues that don’t really line up either. For example, we learn in The Crimes of Grindelwald that the pendant Grindelwald carries is a symbol of his blood pact with Albus — an agreement that neither would fight the other. This pact is supposedly why Grindelwald needs Credence, as Credence has the power to stand against Dumbledore when Grindelwald himself cannot. Despite the fact that there should be no need to fight Dumbledore, as Dumbledore himself can’t fight Grindelwald either. BUT ANYWAY. If the pact was formed when Dumbledore and Grindelwald were still friends, it should have prevented the duel that killed Ariana. And if it happened afterward, then… why would Dumbledore have made the pact at all?
Also, the film takes place in 1927 — and in the film Newt’s niffler steals the pact pendant, which is then given to Dumbledore so he can destroy it. Yet it’s already been established that Dumbledore doesn’t defeat Grindelwald until 1945. So either it took Dumbledore almost 20 years to figure out how to destroy the pact, or he just… chose to wait things out? Dumbledore told Harry that the reason he was so reticent to face Grindelwald was because he was never sure which of them had dealt the killing blow to Ariana in that duel — but eventually the shame of his past was overshadowed by the shame of sitting back and doing nothing while others died because of Grindelwald. But we’ve already seen Dumbledore working behind the scenes to stop Grindelwald, doing everything he can not to fight him directly (in accordance with the pact) — that’s why he asked Newt to go to Paris in the first place.
None of this seems to add up at the moment — but since there are more sequels planned, there’s plenty of opportunity for everything to be explained. Or, barring that, I’m sure Rowling and co. can throw some more nonsense at this timeline and see if that’ll make these zigs zag in a believable direction. Maybe Dumbledore’s mom never really died, or his dad had conjugal visits with a stranger while in Azkaban. Maybe the solution lies in that barely-mentioned prophecy, or maybe Grindelwald really is just lying through his teeth. Maybe that bird wasn’t even a phoenix, but some honking duck chick that Gellert set on fire.
Anything is possible. After all, it sure looked like Professor McGonagall was working at Hogwarts in 1927, despite the fact that she wasn’t even born until 1935. So, you know, maybe time is an illusion. Or maybe these films aren’t even real, and we’re all just shouting at shared delusions.
Header Image Source: Warner Bros.