Harry Potter and the Art of the Epilogue


Erik Kain

Erik writes about video games at Forbes and politics at Mother Jones. He's the contributor of The League though he hasn't written much here lately. He can be found occasionally composing 140 character cultural analysis on Twitter.

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28 Responses

  1. Avatar BSK says:

    The epilogue was for all the teenage girls out there who wanted a fairy tale ending. Personally, I didn’t love the Potter series (way too much deux ex machina; way too many plot holes; overly simplistic); but the epilogue was by far the worst part. I haven’t seen the most recent film either but I’m not surprised to hear that it is crap there also.

    Regarding “The Giver”, I had to read it for a college level course after having not read it as a child. The rest of my classmates had read it when they were younger and were only re-reading it for the class. I was the only one in the class who read the ending as sad, believing that the lights were fake. Everyone who had read it when they were younger had believed then they were real and held steadfast to that belief now. Led to some fascinating conversations, none of which would have been possible had they tacked on a stupid epilogue.Report

  2. It would have been stronger, I suspect, if the threads were not all tied up quite so nicely, or if the characters had deeper scars.

    Really excellently and succinctly said, Erik, and I think completely correct. I’m a total Potterholic, so I loved the final book, despite the many ways in which it turned away from what it could/should have been (something that the first DH movie made some efforts to correct). For better and/or for worse, Rowling’s story and characters grew beyond her own narrative intentions and strengths; sticking with what she knew and was pretty good at–up to and including the epilogue–pressed a little too hard down on a story so loaded with emotion and celebration and hurt that is limited it, even undermined it, some.Report

    • Avatar E.D. Kain in reply to Russell Arben Fox says:

      Oh I totally agree (and I’m also a Potterholic, obviously). I think Rawling is a very talented writer, and pulled together some wonderful stories, but I wish she’d been more bloody, bold and resolute. She made some tough choices in these books, but when it all came down to it, she took the easy route. Oh well.Report

  3. Avatar DensityDuck says:

    I don’t think LOTR “botched” the epilogue. I think that the story just wasn’t what movie-going audiences have been trained to expect as the resolution. There aren’t many movies that do a victory lap the way that LOTR did; we’re used to seeing the bad guy die in a dramatic explosion, yay we all cheer, now get the hell out of the theater because we’ve got five minutes to clean up the mess before the next screening starts seating.Report

    • Avatar Plinko in reply to DensityDuck says:

      I think we’re all entitled to our opinion here but it’s important to note that the LoTR films themselves wer totally busting expectations already by spreading the story across three films without so much as a warning to the casual moviegoer, not to mention that we had to endure a thirty-minute post-denouement goodbye sequence instead of getting the actual end of the story.Report

      • Avatar E.D. Kain in reply to Plinko says:

        I wish I’d known that they’d screw us so badly ahead of time. I would have boycotted the entire trilogy. I’ve never left a theatre more pissed off before or since.Report

        • Avatar Mike Schilling in reply to E.D. Kain says:

          Denethor, a buffoon instead of a noble and horrifically tragic figure? How could anyone who claims to understand the books have perpetrated that?Report

        • Dude, that’s harsh. I’ll agree that the choices made in adapting the final film–abandoning the Scourging of the Shire completely, refusing to do something as simple as show the other Palantir in Denethor’s hand, Aragorn’s silly speech followed by the bowing to the hobbits, etc.–made for an ending which seriously mucked up all that Tolkien was about. But see here: it was made absolutely clear, in the choices made in the first film, that the LOTR trilogy wasn’t telling Tolkien’s story; it was telling a story which appropriated from Tolkien, but turned the focus of the narrative to men and their doubts rather than the history of the world; it was setting up an adventure story, in other words, with all the usual tropes and pay-offs they involve. Purists just weren’t going to get what they wanted, period. Looking at the films from that perspective, even allowing for their mistakes, and Jackson’s LOTR trilogy comes close to being a freaking masterpiece of fantasy filmmaking.Report

  4. Avatar Plinko says:

    One cannot flog the terrible ending to the LoTR movies enough. I’ve never found it to be anything short of a travesty.

    I remember seeing Before Sunrise and being so enamored of the ending, though it seemed clear to me that they (spoilers, sorta) would not come back to meet that I had a lot of heated arguments with friends over it.
    To me, if they were going to meet up again, then the story wouldn’t have been over. The same thing with The Giver, if the lights were real, then the story wouldn’t have ended at that point.
    Now, I am still so angry they made a sequel that I’ve always refused to see it out of stubborn-ness, even if it validates my contention in it’s way (or so I assumed from the synopsis).Report

  5. Avatar RTod says:

    This discussion reminds me of the movie Stranger Than Fiction. If you haven’t seen it, Will Ferrell plays a character or author Emma Thompson. In her novel his character is supposed to die; his death is what will give the book the literary quality she as an artist desires. At the end though (spoiler!) she gives him a happy ending, because she has grown to love the character and wants him to be happy.

    I think that’s what I think of when I think of the HP epilogue. After everything that they had suffered through, it feels like Rowling wanted to reward her beloved characters for sticking with everything through all of the hard times.Report

  6. Avatar David Cheatham says:

    No spoilers for the movie (If you know the book) until the end of the post:

    The epilogue isn’t ‘poorly handled’ in the movie. It’s just a crappy scene in the book to start with. The movie does about as well as you’d expect with it.

    If you want to know what it’s like, read the one in the book, add some comments so we know the names of the kids, and cut all the existing dialog except the discussion with Albus about possibly being in Slytherin.

    Which, sadly, cuts out the part about Neville teaching Herbology, and Teddy and Victoire being together, which are about the only other relevant piece of information in the entire epilogue besides who the the Trio end up with and their children. We do, at least, see Draco standing there on the platform with his wife and kid.

    I was actually hoping we’d see people than the book had…it would have been nice to actually see Teddy and Victoire (Neither whom make an actual physical appearance in the books at all.) or learn what happened to Luna(1), who is completely missing from the book epilogue.


    Spoilers for the movie:
    1) The writers slide in a hilarious Neville/Luna shipping moment near the end of the movie, where Neville, in the heat of a battle, exclaims he’s hot for her and is going right now to find her and ask her out…and then later, awkwardly, sits next to her and doesn’t. I just cracked up, because I’ve always been a fan of them, and it was a way to stay within canon (Where they end up with other people.) but at least acknowledge the shippers.Report

  7. Avatar DensityDuck says:

    Incidentally, having read the article, I don’t think that the LOTR epilogue is as superfluous as the HP one. At least the LOTR epilogue gets across the notion that you never really forget the Ring, even though you can get over it. The HP epilogue is just fanservice for the ‘shippers.Report