I started this post with the simple intention of speculating about Percival Graves. I wouldn’t care too much normally, but when you’ve got Colin Farrell playing a character, I will become invested. At this point, spoilers for Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them should be obvious.
At first I thought that Graves was dead, because 1) there was no way Grindelwald would be able to create a new identity and get MACUSA to trust him so thoroughly so quickly, because MACUSA takes security very seriously (see: death penalty) and 2) because when they unveiled him at the end there wasn’t that grotesque melty-slidy thing that usually goes on with Polyjuice potion, which would mean Graves is alive. So I thought the revelation about who had been impersonating Graves would have sparked some grief or something in his co-workers. But, when I was doing some research, I came across this link in a Buzzfeed article.
Yes, there was a real Graves. Yes, someone used some polyjuice potion and took their place. I don’t know where they are at the story’s end, But yes, there was a real Graves. We didn’t film him. We didn’t film the polyjuice. We just dived into the story midway through. [sic]
So: Polyjuice. Which means Graves is alive out there, which means Colin Farrell isn’t dead. Let us rejoice? But, if you look at the Official Character Guide for the movie, you realize that, as Yates said, we never see the real Graves at all. So when they say that:
- “His eyes pierce and his mind probes, showing his skills as an expert interrogator”;
- “Graves has no misgivings about manipulating others to get his way. When interrogating Newt, he tries to use the Magizoologist’s dismissal from Hogwarts to embarrass him, and shift the power dynamic between the two wizards into his favor;”; and
- “Graves has the trust of the wizarding community, and uses this to his advantage. He can play his opponents accordingly and angle for what he needs”
Or, when Rowling writes in the official screenplay that Graves is “watchful, tightly coiled, an air of intense confidence,” the person being described is, in fact, Grindelwald. So, on the surface we may be seeing a performance of Graves, but not the man himself.
What I want to know is: where is he? Have they found him? Grindelwald seems like he wouldn’t tell people what they want to know under torture (do wizards do torture? Like, officially?) Speaking of torture, Grindelwald almost definitely tortured Graves–so what does that mean for him? What is the real Graves like? And why didn’t his colleagues think he was being suspicious? How long was he pretending to be Graves? Who are the people who care about the real Graves?
Fanfiction writers, do your best. From the interview, it appears that we won’t be seeing him again, but it’s a shame to leave his ordeal unfinished. It’s like leaving Neville’s parents unseen–if we don’t see the extent of the trauma a powerful wizard can inflict on someone who was probably fairly capable and tough, how will we know he’s bad? Show us the strongest person that Grindelwald has broken, and you’ll see the upper limits of his villainy. What state does he leave people in after he’s done using them? That is how you can believe in Grindelwald as a villain, rather than as a part of Potter lore.