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grindelwald and the elder wand Warner Bros. Pictures

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Crimes of Grindelwald didn’t answer Fantastic Beasts’ biggest Potter-verse question

The sequel leaves us with a lot of questions about the wizarding world

Austen Goslin (he/him) is an entertainment editor. He writes about the latest TV shows and movies, and particularly loves all things horror.

Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald is the latest major story to expand the Harry Potter universe, arriving to theaters with the potential to shed new light on some of the mythology’s unanswered mysteries. But by the end of Crimes of Grindelwald, J.K. Rowling casts a few new shadows over the original canon and creates more questions than it answers. An unanswered plot point from Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them stands out as one of the greater omissions in the sequel, and potentially a glaring plot hole. For Rowling, it speaks to the troubles of mythmaking in the age of fan expectations.

[Ed. note: This story contains massive spoilers for The Crimes of Grindelwald.]

The first Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them ends with Newt and the Magical Congress of the United States of America (MACUSA) aurors capturing the unveiled Grindelwald. Of the few things we know about Grindelwald’s history is that, for the first half of the 20th century, the political terrorist is in care of the Elder Wand, the extremely powerful and nearly sentient wand whose ownership and loyalty provides the key mystery behind the original story’s climactic battle between Harry and Voldemort.

According to Rowling’s Deathly Hallows novel, Grindelwald first gains possession of the wand sometime before the original Fantastic Beasts movie by stealing it from world famous wandmaker Mykew Gregorovitch and stunning him with a spell, thus gaining the wand’s allegiance. Grindelwald later loses the wand to Dumbledore in a duel in 1945.

In Fantastic Beasts, Grindelwald does not have the Elder Wand, but it’s easily excused by the fact that he is impersonating Percival Graves and therefore would, of course, have to use Graves’ wand instead. However, the larger questions about the canon we’re familiar with come into play at the end of Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, when Newt disarms Grindelwald, who still isn’t wielding the legendary wand. The moment is just like when Harry disarms Malfoy to gain control of it in the original series ... but not.

The Elder Wand in Crimes of Grindelwald
The Elder Wand in Crimes of Grindelwald
Warner Bros.

In Crimes of Grindelwald, Grindelwald simply has the Elder Wand at the beginning of the movie without any mention of how he got it and no explanation of how he has control of it. Rather than adding new depth to the Elder Wand, this feels like it suddenly opens up a giant gap in our understanding of one of the key plot devices in the original series, proving wrong something we thought we already knew.

The glossing over of the Elder Wand’s history feels like a symptom of the underlying issue the film has trying to fit itself into the larger wizarding world. From issues as large and series-defining as Dumbledore having a secret brother — who was on a boat for some reason? — to strange timeline questions, like whether Albus Dumbledore and Grindelwald forming a blood pact was before or after Ariana Dumbledore’s death. Even Minerva McGonagall’s appearance in Crimes of Grindelwald raises questions: Why is she teaching at Hogwarts in 1927, when she wasn’t born until 1935? What is canon? It’s not just with the series’ original timeline that Crimes of Grindelwald doesn’t quite fit, it barely even makes sense as a follow up to Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them.

Newt Scamander isn’t a typical blockbuster hero. He’s a quiet person who’s much more comfortable with animals than he is with humans. But he was also the perfect character to guide the audience through the first film; who better to track down an obscurial — one of the universe’s least understood and most dangerous beasts — than Newt, the person whose name was synonymous with strange creatures to Harry Potter fans? More importantly, once Newt found the fantastic beast, it gave us new insight into the Harry Potter story we already knew.

For those not up on their modern Potter-lore, most fans now accept that an obscurial played a large part in the story of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. Despite the creatures never being mentioned in the original stories, most Potter scholars now believe that it was actually an obscurial that took root in Ariana Dumbledore’s heart and the dangerous power of the creature was the reason the family kept her locked away. No character in the Harry Potter universe was as perfectly situated as Newt to help learn the truth.

Warner Bros. Pictures

The sequel strays from Newt’s entry into the mythology and perspective on the early 20th century wizarding world. Far from sending Newt on a mission that requires his unique skills and compassion, in Crimes of Grindelwald, Dumbledore has him wandering across Europe as a secret agent tasked with finding Credence. Instead of the universe’s foremost magizoologist, Newt has become James Bond with a waistcoat and a wand.

Even calling it a sequel feels a little disingenuous. There are beasts in Crimes of Grindelwald and they’re pretty fantastic, but mostly exist in the background for a story about Grindelwald, Dumbledore and a brewing political conflict. Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them is all about learning about obscurial zoology and its potential role in the Potter mythos. Crimes of Grindelwald cares more about Credence than the obscurial that he hosts. Rather than a sequel to the original Fantastic Beasts, Crimes of Grindelwald is like a mini-reboot, aching to figure out exactly the way to answer big questions for Harry Potter fans. Perhaps the magic happens in part three.