It’s here. Harry Potter fans around the world have now had a look at the latest film set in J.K. Rowling’s Wizarding World, Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them. As the name implies, the majority of the film is concerned with the many magical creatures that Newt Scamander keeps in his Tardis-like suitcase, their escape, and subsequent recapture. But that’s not all there is to this film. There are secrets — big secrets — which have been preserved for the moviegoing audience. We’re going to get into those Fantastic Beasts spoilers now, so be warned!
Seriously, we’re not kidding about spoilers…
Gellert Grindelwald‘s importance to Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them cannot be overstated. His actions drive the plot and set the scene for the entire future of the franchise. That’s not bad for a character who wasn’t even known to be in the film until about a month prior to release!
Grindelwald’s appearance in Fantastic Beasts, and even the fact that he was being played by Johnny Depp, were closely guarded secrets. But now that the film is out, we can see just how much the character influences the story. But what are his motivations? His goals? Let’s take a deeper look at Grindelwald’s impact on Fantastic Beasts.
Grindelwald: Hiding in Plain Sight
Throughout Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, Percival Graves acts as the antagonist towards our intrepid heroes. Credence Barebone may be responsible for the attacks that set the film’s plot into motion, but Graves is the constant threat to Newt Scamander’s plan to recapture his escaped beasts. Credence’s story arc only really intersects with Newt’s in the film’s finale, when he witnesses the Obscurus‘ attacks on New York City. Up until this point, Newt’s main “enemy” has been Graves. It was Graves who sentenced both Newt and Tina Goldstein to death, and it was Graves who sent Aurors to hunt them down after they escaped.
The reason for Graves’ hostility is revealed at the film’s climax when he is unmasked as none other than Gellert Grindelwald. And to be fair, it should have been obvious. What the audience took as signs of Graves’ support of Grindelwald’s cause – his almost pleased reaction to Newt mentioning the phrase “for the greater good” in their interrogation, his wearing of the Deathly Hallows symbol around his neck – were actually signs that he was Grindewald. Grindelwald used the convenient arrival of Newt and his magical creatures to cover up the existence of the Obscurus. Indeed, he stepped up his search for it because if it was still loose after Newt had either been killed or brought to justice, then MACUSA would know that a beast was not to blame.
One of the film’s most interesting moments is, without a doubt, the reveal of Grindelwald. Not because of Grindelwald’s appearance in the film, but because of Newt’s casting of the Revelio Charm. What did he expect to see? Did he suspect Graves was Grindelwald all along? And if so, what did he see in Graves that led him to believe that? Or is there more to Newt than meets the eye? Was his mention of the “greater good” in front of Graves earlier in the film a test to uncover his true loyalties? Perhaps that will be answered in one of the sequels.
What Is Grindelwald’s Plan?
Grindelwald’s reasons for posing as the Director of Magical Security are not fully revealed, but it is clear that he is after the Obscurus that is terrorizing New York City. And it’s easy to see why. The sheer power of the Obscurus would be a devastating weapon against his enemies if he could control it. Another reason would be the shattering of the secrecy that American Wizards hold so dear. If Grindelwald manages to break the secrecy that hides American Wizards from their No-Maj neighbours, it could trigger a war between Humans and Wizards. And if that happens, it would play into Grindelwald’s entire philosophy that Wizardkind will be better off ruling the world rather than hiding.
War between the magical and non-magical worlds would also indirectly create new recruits for Grindelwald’s cause. Even if Wizards did not unite behind his banner for personal reasons, they would unite to protect themselves from the Muggle world. Grindelwald might not emerge as a leader of Wizardkind, but he would get what he wanted; the subjugation of Muggle-kind under Wizard authority. At the end of Fantastic Beasts, Grindelwald almost achieves this: the destruction of New York City and masses of witnesses considered to be beyond MACUSA’s ability to Obliviate effectively. Only Newt’s plan to use a combination of the Thunderbird’s rain-producing abilities to dilute Swooping Evil venom to remove bad memories succeeds in removing the event from the minds of New York’s No-Maj population. This allows MACUSA to repair the damage to the city and preserve the secrecy of American Wizarding society.
Grindelwald may have failed to gain control of the Obscurus that Credence became, but he presumably does have the Obscurus that Newt took from the Sudanese girl. As far as we know, it was never returned to Newt’s suitcase, and why would Grindelwald give up something he had been searching for? One Obscurus is good. Two is better. And we know that Grindelwald will not remain imprisoned by MACUSA. So pretty soon he will be on the loose with at least one possible Obscurus.
A Graves Concern
Throughout all of this, though, one question remains – where is the real Percival Graves? Is he alive? Or did he even exist at all? Now, I know what you’re thinking. Gellert Grindelwald is Percival Graves! Why does there need to be a real one?
Fantastic Beasts implies that Grindelwald has gone missing from Europe only recently, which means he cannot have spent years in the guise of an American Wizard working his way up through MACUSA to a position of power. Graves is the Director of Magical Security. That is not a position that would be handed to just anyone. Graves would have to have proved his competence to hold the position through years of work. A previously unknown Wizard ascending to one of the highest jobs in MACUSA would have been highly irregular given the closed nature of American Wizarding society.
The possibility exists that Grindelwald used a powerful Confundus Charm to make everybody accept a previously unknown Wizard as the Director of Magical Security. That scenario is unlikely considering the sheer number of times he would’ve had to cast it. At one point in the film, a delegation of foreign Wizards arrives. Grindelwald would have had to Confund them as well to maintain the charade. Therefore, Percival Graves must have been a real, distinct Wizard before being replaced by Grindelwald at some point.
How Did Grindelwald Disguise Himself?
The question remains: Is Graves still alive and how exactly did Grindelwald disguise himself? In the Wizarding World there are two known options for changing one’s appearance: drinking Polyjuice Potion, or being a Metamorphmagus. The method that Grindelwald used to disguise himself as Graves has not yet been revealed. It could be either one, or a new spell currently unknown to us. Discounting the last possibility, either option is valid, but it is more likely that Polyjuice Potion was involved.
Metamorphmagi – like Nymphadora Tonks – are considered to be very rare as they cannot be trained, but are born. No supporting material has ever indicated that Grindelwald had such a power. If Grindelwald was a Metamorphmagi, then he would have no reason to keep Graves alive. Percival Graves could very well be dead.
Grindelwald most likely used Polyjuice Potion to impersonate Graves. One of the main ingredients of Polyjuice Potion is something taken from the person they are impersonating. Harvesting this ingredient for the potion requires the person to be alive. When Barty Crouch, Jr. impersonated Mad-Eye Moody, for instance, he kept the Auror prisoner so that he would have an ample supply.
If Grindelwald has actually kept the real Percival Graves alive, then it’s likely that he will soon be found and could set out to exact justice on the man who imprisoned and impersonated him. This approach would provide a huge incentive for the filmmakers of the Fantastic Beasts sequels to bring Colin Farrell back in further installments.
With four more Fantastic Beasts sequels plotted, we’re sure to get answers to these questions, along with answers to many questions we haven’t even begun to ask.