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Fantastic Beasts 2's Retcons Improved Dumbledore's Backstory

Dumbledore in Fantastic Beasts and Harry Potter

Beyond the pre-release furor, Fantastic Beasts 2 contained several revelations about the Hogwarts Headmaster that have shocked many Harry Potter enthusiasts. The movie showed that Dumbledore was a more complex and active figure in the 1920s than the Harry Potter saga had previously suggested, with a final reveal that Credence Barebone (Ezra Miller) could be Aurelius Dumbledore, Albus’ secret younger brother.

Related: J.K. Rowling Is Turning Into George Lucas

Wise and witty, Dumbledore is a beloved –  yet enigmatic – staple of the Wizarding World. The Headmaster’s past remained largely untold until Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows; yet even then it was relayed through vague, conflicting, and unreliable sources, such as Rita Skeeter’s unauthorized biography. Dumbledore finally apologized for his secrecy when he met Harry in limbo near the novel's end, and the pair discussed his personal history with Gellert Grindelwald. Following the death of his sister, Ariana, Dumbledore recalls that the two wizards did not see each other until their final duel in 1945, nearly fifty years later.

During that intervening period, Dumbledore was left guilt-ridden and traumatized by his summer with Grindelwald, and feared meeting him again. As the dark wizard’s power grew, Dumbledore doubted both his talents and his judgment. Instead of thwarting Grindelwald, The Deathly Hallows notes that Dumbledore ignored the pleas of the wizarding community, and chose to focus upon his teaching career at Hogwarts. Indeed, the then Transfiguration teacher only acquiesced when the death toll had become impossible to ignore in the 1940s.

Fantastic Beasts 2 - Dumbledore in classroom

However, Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald has proven that, even in death (or Harry’s mind), Dumbledore continued to lie to his young ward. It transpires that Dumbledore was unable to face Grindelwald – not just out of fear and guilt – but because a blood pact prevented the two wizards from fighting. Moreover, Dumbledore had circumvented this magical obstacle through shadow warfare. Rather than shunning the conflict altogether, he formed an international group of spies (commonly assumed to be the Order of the Phoenix) to monitor Grindelwald’s reign. Dumbledore even strong-armed Newt Scamander (Eddie Redmayne) and his friends to tackle his former friend in his stead.

In some of these new plot developments, Rowling has contradicted her earlier writing. However, rather than damaging the fabric of the Harry Potter mythos (as the inclusion of Professor McGonagall in Fantastic Beasts 2 did) these aforementioned changes have improved this fictional universe, particularly where Dumbledore is concerned. Certainly, Rowling’s inclusion of the blood pact has solidified a key aspect of Dumbledore’s antagonism with Grindelwald. The enchanted silver vial contains drops of Dumbledore and Grindelwald’s blood, thus reminding Dumbledore of his dark and tragic past. But fans will know that it serves another narrative purpose.

Related: Fantastic Beasts Should Be About Jude Law's Dumbledore, Not Newt

Given that Fantastic Beasts 2 takes place in 1927, the thought process behind the blood pact is clear. It provides a narrative barrier to keep Dumbledore and Grindelwald apart until their final battle in eighteen years’ time that doesn't require active ignorance on Albus' part. This final battle will round off the fifth movie in the Fantastic Beasts series, and while the blood troth might be an unsubtle plot device, it craftily rewrites and emphasizes familiar parts of Dumbledore’s personality around this event. As mentioned earlier, J.K. Rowling established that Dumbledore remained scared to face Grindelwald for many years. This hesitance, borne out of past events, initially seems like a reasonable excuse. Upon reflection, though, this unwillingness to act against Grindelwald contrasts with how Dumbledore is depicted later in the timeline.

Indeed, Dumbledore is frequently presented as the most strident and tireless opponents of dark wizards in the entire Harry Potter saga. Characters undoubtedly grow and change throughout the Harry Potter series, but even so, it’s unlikely that Dumbledore would ever refuse to move against Grindelwald, especially if thousands of lives were potentially at risk. To sit back is Dumbledore's calculating, Machiavellian tendencies on an unrealistic scale like that.

Already, Dumbledore’s formation of an anti-Grindelwald network as a get around for the blood pact is a far more suitable backstory for his character than his fearful inactivity. This not only explains the delay in a final showdown, but the surreptitiousness matches the Dumbledore we know from Harry Potter; various members of the core cast became increasingly frustrated with the famed wizard when he repeatedly manipulates them and withholds vital information.

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Though Fantastic Beasts 2's various plot points have divided Harry Potter fans, Rowling has made several welcome changes to one of her most beloved creations. Jude Law’s Dumbledore was a highlight of the latest film, and moviegoers already look forward to spending more time with him before his climactic duel with Grindelwald. Whether or not Fantastic Beasts 3 and its sequels will finally shed more light on Dumbledore’s homosexuality remains to be seen, but there's definitely hope that what may at first appear to be plot holes are in fact part of a more rationalized shift in continuity.

More: Fantastic Beasts 3: Release Date, Story Details & Every Update

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