(Apologies for the slightly-clickbait title.)
Through the last month of two, I watched the entire Harry Potter franchise for the first time with my brother. Only Prisoner of Azkaban and Order of the Phoenix stood as films I’d consider above average; indeed, I did not care for this series. The writing always had this simplicity to it that was almost mocking of how dark and serious its tone wanted to be after the second film, along with random twists to add to the flavor of predictable narrative formula. But this post isn’t a critique on the Harry Potter franchise. It is the result of a powerful emotional response to the final scene in the last movie of the series, a response so sudden and overdramatic that it drove my brother to fits of giggles. Only fitting that a film franchise that left me with little emotional immersion would save its most fitting performance for last.
It was the shining star that guided me to demoting The Deathly Hallows Part 2 to an instant 1/10. Also, huge spoilers ahead.
The above image made me scream. It made re-enact the worst scene in Star Wars Episode III. It made me leave the room mid-scene. I couldn’t stand it, I couldn’t help it, I couldn’t believe it. Hyperbole aside, it is among the most eye-roll-inducing ending scenarios to any story of all time… at least in my opinion. And I’ve encountered it many times, as I’m sure plenty of others have. The (normally) “Happily ever after” scenario that tells the viewers exactly what happens with all the characters and/or scenarios that matter and wraps everything up in a fancy little bow.
Harry Potter and co. have grown up, had kids, gotten married to one another, and are sending their kids (all conveniently the same age) off to Hogwarts for the first time. All is well and happy. Even Draco Malfoy, the giant dick in every film, is married and has a kid and looks relatively happy. Everything is happy. This happened to that guy, she is now this. We are given all the information we could possibly need, so dreaming and imagining the sorts of scenarios that occur after the fact are now dead.
Trying to explain this to my brother proved moot, as he wasn’t able to comprehend why I felt this was so insatiably daft. It also would have helped if I wasn’t in a state of emotional unrest, as my explanation turned into a parade of full-on mocking bravado towards this scene and any other story that employed it. In my current self, one that is hot off the heels of seeing Lady Bird, I am clearly in a reasonable presence of mind, and am confident that I can accurately explain (to those willing enough to comprehend) why these kinds of endings make me shudder.
It’s just, like, a creative handicap, man. I have always found that leaving things in the dark is a lot more fulfilling and impactful in a story than leaving everything out in the open. When everything is open and expected, the trail becomes familiar, obvious, self-indulgent. The wink from the author to the reader as though their word is the scripture with which the reader absorbs all happiness from. From my choice of words, it’s easy to digest that my disdain for this type of ending is a more personal quirk, rather than through a well-thought-out analysis of why it hampers a story. Aside from it being predictable or an easy-out. Even done in a more depressing way, dependent on how vague the future thus becomes, it still comes off as meandering to me. Or happily. I suppose the whole point is that I don’t want everything spelled out to me, like a soccer mom casually giving me hints of a surprise birthday party that I don’t want.
So maybe I’m too cynical about it. Maybe I was too expectant of a supposedly great writer in J.K. Rowling. Whatever the case, the otherwise monotonous franchise of Harry Potter ending on an incredibly sappy and conflict-less note made my skin crawl. And shriek. And produce the urge to murder—and rewrite Harry Potter in my own image, such that I can satisfy my own interpretation of what the Harry Potter franchise could explore if it wasn’t written for children. That, in and of itself, may have been the unintended consequence of an otherwise emotionally-gratifying final scene. It at least made me feel something.