It might sound strange to say the most important character in Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them won’t be its protagonist Newt Scamander, but consider the Harry Potter series overall.
Sure, Harry was pretty important, but he never would have made it past Sorcerer’s Stone without Hermione, much less defeated Voldemort. And as readers, we never would have fully understood the moral grey areas without Dumbledore. From a mixture of the trailers and Colin Farrell’s comments, we can surmise Percival Graves will fulfill that role in Fantastic Beasts.
No, this isn’t to say he has bushy hair like Hermione or an affinity for socks like Dumbledore — his hair rocks a severe undercut and his sock preferences are currently a mystery. But consider what we know …
He’s on the ground where the action is
Percival Graves is an Auror who works for the American Ministry of Magic, otherwise known as The Magical Congress of the United States of America or MACUSA for short. During the Fantastic Beasts Global fan event, which featured a Facebook Live Q&A with the cast, Farrell described Graves as having a storyline that runs “parallel to the others.”
If his storyline doesn’t quite intertwine with Newt’s, that means it contains important information we can’t otherwise get through any other character. This might simply take the form of offering the audience a window into MACUSA, since the other main characters are not directly on the ground working as Aurors. It might also mean something more nefarious — as his place in the story allows him to get up close and personal with threats. It might enable him to save Newt too, just as Hermione has saved Harry.
He’s connected to Ezra Miller’s mysterious character
Ezra Miller’s character, Credence Barebone, is almost as enigmatic as Graves. He is the adopted son of a highly unpleasant woman who is crusading against wizards. Think along the lines of the Muggle version of Umbridge. If Credence is a wizard — which the trailer strongly suggests, as Graves says “we” — his place as the son of an anti-wizard fanatic holds all manner of intriguing possibility. He is supposedly “lonely” and “withdrawn”, and Graves has taken “a personal interest” in him.
What other lonely, withdrawn boys with mommy issues have we seen in the Potterverse? Tom Riddle and Severus Snape. Farrell has further suggested that Graves is “manipulating” Credence. Who could be more important than the guy influencing the American Voldemort?
He’s something of a wizard nationalist
Farrell’s most interesting comment from the global fan event was, “The segregation between wizards and No-Majs really eats at his heart. He’ll do anything to promote their well-being.”
This “segregation” he refers to is the American Wizarding world in 1926. Fantastic Beasts presents a society in which wizards are even more furtive than they were in the Potterverse. In a reversal from the Death Eater dynamic we are familiar with, wizards are hunted by Muggles, or No-Majs as they’re called in America.
Farrell added that Graves “feels they haven’t gotten a fair shake of the stick … or wand as the case may be.” This is where the comparison to Dumbledore comes into play.
Just as Dumbledore exposes both Harry and the reader to the world’s moral ambiguity — recall Harry’s discovery of his not-so-shiny past in Deathly Hallows — so will Percival Graves. When we think of phrases like “he’ll do anything to promote their well being,” and the concept of valuing Wizards over Muggles/No-Majs, we think of Death Eaters. But in this story, because wizards are being persecuted, Percival’s pro-wizard outlook will be far more sympathetic. He will be a character with Death Eater-esque ideas, and yet we’ll understand him. The Potter stories are constantly challenging our perceptions of human nature.
Dumbledore gave us a deeper understanding of the Potterverse; Hermione enabled Harry to live andd fight another day. Graves will do the same for Fantastic Beasts.
Now can it be November 18th already?