Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald has a massive Dumbledore twist that massively retcons Wizarding World canon. However, instead of breaking the Harry Potter timeline, it reinvigorates the series, promising a much more exciting future for the prequel series.
Ever since Johnny Depp was cast as Gellert Grindelwald and Albus Dumbledore was namedropped in Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, it was clear that the Newt Scamander prequel was going to be more about the legendary conflict between the two great wizards than it was collecting big monsters in new cities. This was particularly exciting as much of Dumbledore's past had been cut from the Harry Potter movies, making this prequel a chance to fill in some very interesting gaps.
However, this isn't just about dramatizing what was teased in the books. Fantastic Beasts 2's ending has a massive twist that completely reshapes what even Rita Skeeter knew about Albus Dumbledore, and makes Ezra Miller's Credence one of the most important characters in the whole Harry Potter canon. And even though it very easily could have been terrible, Aurelius Dumbledore may just be the most exciting thing to happen to the franchise in the past decade.
- This Page: The Problems With Fantastic Beasts 2's Credence/Dumbledore Twist
- Page 2: Why Fantastic Beasts Is More Exciting With Credence As A Dumbledore
Credence Is Dumbledore's Brother (Who We Never Heard About Before)
The big twist at the end of Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald is that Credence Barebone is Aurelius Dumbledore, Albus' long-lost brother. After spending two movies unsure of his true identity or potential Credence signs up with Grindelwald, apparating to his Austrain alpine headquarters. There, the wizard facist attempts to bring him fully around to the cause by revealing his true heritage, exemplfied by the raven he'd been caring for is actually a phoenix (probably Fawkes), a symbol of the Dumbledores.
This rug-pull is made all the more startling by the fact Aurelius had never been alluded to in Harry Potter canon before. In Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, where Albus Dumbledore's dark past was posthumously revealed, the big secrets yeased were his squib (now presumed to be obscurial) sister Ariana and his relationship with Grindelwald. Fantastic Beasts takes these two aspects as a given, and so has now unearthed something so shocking it beggars Wizarding World comprehension.
Fundamentally, it's the film's biggest retcon. Aurelius Dumbledore is so clearly concocted for the Fantastic Beasts series - possibly even after the first movie - and toes a fine line against what we already knew. It is, plainly, a very dangerous story choice.
Aurelius Dumbledore Could Have Broken Harry Potter
The problems with Aurelius Dumbledore should be immediate to any Harry Potter fan. First there's the lack of timeline logic of it all. Credence was 18 at the time of the first Fantastic Beasts film, set in 1926, which would have his birth year as 1908. Albus' mother, Kendra, died in 1989, while father Percival was sent to Askaban in 1890 (for attacking muggle boys who bullied Ariana), where he eventually died at a later date. There is no way for Credence to be Albus' full brother, and him being a half-sibling requires stretching Percival's timeline and having him conceiving a child almost twenty years into his magical prison sentence.
Then there's the storytelling cracks it reveals. Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald has already retconned Harry Potter canon in many ways, some slight - Newt's obliviate only affects bad memories - some full-on plot holes - Professor McGonagall is teaching at Hogwarts before she was born - and while none are really damaging to the point they actively break the Harry Potter timeline, they show a George Lucas-like obsession on J.K. Rowling's part. She's tying the universe together far too tightly, forcing unrelated characters in where they're not needed. And making the boy everybody's chasing, who just happened to be swapped for Corvus Lestrange and is now Grindelwald's secret weapon, also Albus Dumbledore's brother is the weirdest, most contrived of the lot.
And yet, despite all these concerns, nothing snaps. There's still the open door of how it can makes sense and, beyond that, Fantastic Beasts 2 actually does a good job of making this twist believable and the future of the franchise actually exciting.
Fantastic Beasts 2 (Just About) Earns The Aurelius Dumbledore Twist
To make the big Credence Dumbledore twist work, Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald employs the age-old narrative trick of the false flag. For much of the movie, the teased secret is that Credence is actually Corvus Lestrange, Leta's lost younger brother, leading the audience completely astray from the truth. While the delivery of this is poor - for much of the movie, the Corvus theory is teased as if it's an internet rumor, and it's immediately disproved the moment its revealed - it succeeds in the primary purpose of making the mystery of Credence's identity intriguing without giving up any of the eventual surprise.
But how the film really delivers it is the key. On paper, Aurelius Dumbledore sounds dumb. It's too illogical, too tight, too fan fiction-y. But in practice, it's a genuinely unexpected turn delivered with real gravitas by those involved that actively works to improve much of what's already been done in the movie.
The Crimes of Grindelwald is a dangerously unfocused film, with its protagonist Newt Scamander a passenger in the narrative, the center of that plot Credence barely in it, and not enough Dumbledore to really make him important either. Part of this comes from it being a novel-style story told on the big screen, but it may also be that everything leading up to the Aurelius Dumbledore reveal is entirely dependent on it. Watched with knowledge of the final reveal, however, and Fantastic Beasts 2 is a more driven movie that ties together. Everything is building to that, and it does so in a tight and satisfying way. That doesn't necessarily make it a well-told story overall (it isn't) but it gives the twist a greater sense of justification.
Why The Aurelius Dumbledore Twist Is So Exciting
What ultimately forgives the potential retcon and shoddy storytelling Fantastic Beasts 2 used to get there, however, is how Aurelius Dumbledore makes the future so exciting. If Fantastic Beasts was lacking direction before, this unification of plot threads provides a direction for Fantastic Beasts 3 and beyond that goes over ground even casual fans will be aware of, yet in a totally new light.
Indeed, there's a lot of ways this could go. His mysterious mother could be Voldemort's unknown grandmother, possibly in Azkaban at the same time as Percival Dumbledore. Or, given his name in the Arthurian legend was a knight whose actions were merged with Merlin, he may be the figure to actually defeat Grindelwald, with all note of him folded into Albus' untouchable legacy. And even if Grindelwald's lying, while it would be cheap on a level of Return of the Jedi revealing Darth Vader isn't Anakin Skywalker, it would deepen a villain whose primary trait is as a master manipulator.
Unplanned it may be, there's enough to suggest that J.K. Rowling hasn't oblviously gone against her own canon with the Aurelius Dumbledore twist. McGonagall is there for fanservice, the Elder Wand's ownership doesn't matter, and Albus' age bends for Jude Law casting, but this is so big and so tightly woven into the narrative the implications can be no accident. Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald has subverted expectations, giving new life. The journey there was rough, but the past future is exciting.