Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald has very little to do with actual crimes committed by Grindelwald. It is, instead, much more focused on the mystery of who Credence Barebone is. And when it’s revealed...holy shit.
In the first film, Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, we learn that Credence, played by Ezra Miller, is a very powerful being called an Obscurial. That doesn’t mesh with the anti-magic views of his adopted mother, though, so he breaks out and basically breaks bad. In The Crimes of Grindelwald, Credence is on the run, being chased by not just Grindelwald, but Newt Scamander via the wishes of Albus Dumbledore, because they all believe Credence is a very important person referenced in an ancient prophecy. (Oh, J.K. Rowling and her ancient prophecies.)
Anyway, that’s the setup. If you’re reading this you’ve probably seen the film by now. So, about that big reveal at the end...
Credence is actually...part of the Dumbledore family! Aurelius Dumbledore, to be specific, related (somehow) to the most powerful wizard in the Wizarding World, Albus Dumbledore. As I was watching the movie, this revelation was shocking and exciting. It’s so unexpected and sets up so many interesting questions moving forward, especially when you realise this new Dumbledore has never been mentioned in any other Rowling text (though these additions to canon have been frustrating for some fans).
The Dumbledores were mysterious and fascinating even before revealing Aurelius. Now we add in a whole new line of the family? That’s wild! You wonder how is this possible? Does Albus know? What’s he going to do when he finds out? What happens to Aurelius by the time of Harry Potter’s arrival in this world? How will this play into the eventual showdown between Dumbledore and Grindelwald? All of these questions will, most likely, be answered in future Fantastic Beasts movies and they’re fun to think about when you first hear this earth-shattering news.
Then you think about it a bit more, weaving the information into what the rest of the movie teaches us, and it becomes less shocking and more confusing. Let’s break it down.
So, for most of the movie we’re lead to believe Credence is Corvus Lestrange, the missing brother of Lita Lestrange—which would make sense because even casual Harry Potter fans know the Lestrange name. They know the family is evil, Credence is evil, and there’s tangible evidence in that he finds documentation to this effect. But Lita later reveals Credence is not Corvus because, well, she killed Corvus.
Lita’s father sent her and Corvus on a boat to the United States to give him up for adoption. However, along the journey, Lita switched out her brother for a random baby also travelling on the boat. The boat starts to sink and Lita and her maid escape, but Corvus doesn’t. Lita wasn’t trying to kill her brother, but she ends up doing that thanks to the switch, and she’s long been haunted by it.
Anyway, the baby she ostensibly kidnaps, the one who “becomes” her brother, is actually Aurelius Dumbledore. He was raised as Credence Barebone, though people think he’s a Lestrange. (Man, this shit is so confusing.) But, if you step back from that, the implication here is that the most powerful magic family in the world—the Dumbledores—a family so powerful phoenixes come to save them when they are in danger, somehow allowed their small child to be kidnapped. By another small child. And if they didn’t allow it, they at least let it happen and weren’t strong enough to know it was happening or find him again, which seems pretty weak sauce. (Or, they did allow it, which is super messed up.) You also have to wonder: Why were they going to the U.S. in the first place? Did it have to do with the other members of their family? Did they all die in the boat accident? How come they couldn’t save themselves? How does this all fit into the Dumbledore history we know?
The Dumbledore family story we already know is pretty complex, too, to be honest. It involves Albus’ two siblings (Aberforth and Ariana) and two absent parents (one in prison and another dead), lots of death, betrayal, and disappointment. However, based solely on their assumed ages (Albus in his mid-40s, Aurelius in his early to mid-twenties) and locations of their parents, there’s almost no way to logically fit Aurelius into Albus’ nuclear family. But there are plenty of other options. We don’t know about Albus’ aunts and uncles, so Aurelius could be a nephew or cousin. And since we assume his parents are dead from the boat accident, it makes sense he’d be the last of that line. Or maybe Grindelwald is straight up lying because it’s hard to explain how he would know about Aurelius and Albus wouldn’t. But, I think, that would be too big of a lie to end the movie with. Fans would be pissed.
But, honestly, I’m a little pissed now. I didn’t love The Crimes of Grindelwald but did initially think this was a cool new wrinkle in the Wizarding World. Once you break it down though, it has more holes in it than a pair of Weasley dress robes. Now, obviously, it’s put in the movie at the very end to elicit exactly this kind of speculation, and to raise our expectations for the future of the franchise. And, eventually, any plot holes will be sewed up as fast as you can say “Reparo.” The answers are coming. Presumably. Nevertheless, the way Aurelius is forced into the mythology, making us rethink everything we’ve known instead of forging forward, is simply too messy to be satisfying.