Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald was, to put it kindly, a bit of a mess. The plot was overstuffed and hard to follow. Far too many seemingly central characters ended up with far too little screen time. And the established timeline has been irreconcilably destroyed in the name of fan service. But rather than attempt to make sense of the current state of the wizarding world at large following the events of the Fantastic Beasts sequel, we are instead going to focus in on one specific twist and the underlying implication that all wizard babies may look alike.
Warning: There are obviously a lot of major and minor Crimes of Grindelwald spoilers below. So if you haven’t seen the movie and don’t want to know what happens, stay away.
First, we’ll explain what exactly happened before analyzing the events. The primary storyline that is motivating nearly every character in Crimes of Grindelwald is finding Credence (Ezra Miller), the brooding Obscurial who has ended up in Paris. Eventually, Newt, Credence, Tina, Jacob, Yusuf Kama, and Leta Lestrange all end up at the Lestrange Family Tomb, where Yusuf reveals that he and Leta are both the children of Laurena Kama, Yusuf’s mother who was then kidnapped by Leta’s father Corvus Lestrange via a love potion and died while giving birth to Leta. Everybody got that?
Yusuf believes that Credence is really Corvus Lestrange Jr., Leta’s half-brother and the child of Corvus and Clarissa Tremblay, Corvus’ second wife. He reveals that he swore an unbreakable vow with his father to kill the only person who Corvus ever loved but Leta reveals that Credence is not a Lestrange. Leta says that Corvus Jr. was the only person her father ever really loved but to protect his beloved son (perhaps from Yusuf and his father?), Corvus Sr. decided to send him to America with Irma, a half-elf who appears to be the Lestrange nanny, and young Leta to be adopted and raised by muggles.
But on the boat, Leta ends up switching Corvus Jr. with another baby who turns out to have been Credence. The boat then ends up sinking and while Leta and Credence survive, Corvus Jr. and Credence’s mother drown, meaning that Credence could not be a Lestrange because Leta switched him with her real half-brother without anybody noticing.
Confused? You’re not alone.
This “revelation” was supposed to be one of the most shocking and emotionally powerful sequences in the movie but instead, the entire thing ended up being equal parts convoluted, nonsensical, and unnecessarily dark (seriously, there’s a lot of infanticide in this movie, even for Harry Potter). And while we could spend this entire article diving into any number of larger implications caused by this sloppy reveal, including Credence’s lineage, the incredible coincidence of two magic babies on the same boat, or Leta apparently switching her brother because he cried too much, we are instead going to focus on one very specific question that we can’t help but ask: does J.K. Rowling think all babies are identical?
Seriously, let’s step back and really think about this. In Crimes of Grindelwald, Leta explains that she is able to switch her half-brother with Credence on the boat without anyone noticing, including Credence’s mother and Irma. From Leta’s perspective, this makes enough sense. She is only a child when she decides to swap her half-brother for a new baby due to his excessive crying, so it would stand to reason that in her mind, that she could pull the old switcheroo and nobody would be the wiser.
But are we also supposed to believe that two grown adults could not recognize the babies who they were put in charge of? One could reason that since Credence’s mother died shortly after the switch as a result of the ship sinking but still, in no moment did she look at Corvus Jr. and think, “Wait a minute, that’s not my fucking baby! I would obviously know if my baby was switched. I am, after all, the child’s mother.”
And let’s not even start with Irma, who even two decades later still somehow believed that Credence was, in fact, Corvus Jr. How is this even remotely possible? At no point during the rest of the journey to America did she look at this complete stranger baby and think, “Hmmm, this definitely is not the same baby that I have played a major part in raising and am currently transporting to America on the orders of an extremely powerful and scary wizard. I had better quickly ask around and see if anyone else has the baby that I would instantly recognize.”
Baby switching has long been a lazy plot device in cheesy sitcoms and made-for-TV movies but even as flimsy as those mix-ups tend to be, at least they usually take place at the hospital, before any of the parents are arguably familiar with how their baby looks. This scenario makes even less sense because everyone involved presumably had spent extensive time with their respective baby and yet somehow did not notice that they were suddenly in charge of an entirely different infant.
This is especially strange because Rowling is a mother herself, so it would stand to reason that she would have enough parenting experience to understand that most people can recognize the children they are raising. But in a fascinating display of carelessness, the usually meticulous Rowling assumed that everyone would be on board with the idea that all babies pretty much look alike and that the chances of a parent being able to tell their own baby from another is almost zero.
Is this the most egregious story-telling offense made by Rowling in Crimes of Grindelwald? Probably not but it does seem like a massive shift from Rowling’s usually delicate approach to major character reveals. In the Harry Potter series, any major plot twists (i.e. Sirius Black not being a traitor or Harry being Voldemort’s seventh Horcrux) were always earned via foreshadowing and careful crafting. Perhaps Rowling will be able to make this storyline make sense with the remaining three Fantastic Beasts movies but for now, Leta successfully switching her brother with an entirely new baby who is also magic is an extremely odd and disheartening choice that seems to be made for the immediate shock value without making a lick of sense upon further examination.