Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindlewald‘s Professor McGonagall plot hole can’t be fixed. From the Elder Wand (which no longer follows the rules of allegiance established) to the use of Polyjuice Potion (which seemingly lasts different amounts of time depending on how much you drink), Fantastic Beasts 2 is playing it fast and loose with the rules of the Wizarding World. But there’s one that’s frustrating Harry Potter fans more than any other – because it’s just so impossible to explain away.
That is the inclusion of a young Minerva McGonagall in Fantstic Beasts 2, who is teaching at Hogwarts in 1927 (and a flashback to the 1910s) when Dumbledore was teaching Defense Against The Dark Arts as a young man. McGonagall appears in only a couple of scenes, herding a group of Hogwarts students around and (presumably) already a Professor at the school. On the surface, this is a nice way to include a beloved character from the original franchise (and this film is all about connecting characters to those we already know), but there’s a huge Harry Potter timeline problem: in 1927, Minerva McGonagall hadn’t even been born.
In the original Harry Potter films, Professor McGonagall is significantly younger than Dumbledore, at least a couple of decades his junior. However, even if fans wanted to believe that perhaps the strain of being one of the world’s greatest wizards simply aged Dumbledore horribly, J.K. Rowling’s canon has made that impossible.
THAT CAN’T BE PROFESSOR MCGONAGALL IN FANTASTIC BEASTS 2
Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix also puts a date on McGonagall’s career as a Hogwarts teacher; she is asked by Dolores Umbridge how long she had been teaching at the school, and replies ‘ thirty-nine years this December’. Given that the book is set in the mid-nineties, that would place her starting her career in the mid-fifties.
So how, exactly, is it possible that Professor McGonagall was running around Hogwarts telling off students in the early 20th century, if she was born in 1935 and started teaching there in the 1950s?
THERE IS NO EXPLANATION FOR PROFESSOR MCGONAGALL IN FANTASTIC BEASTS 2
Unfortunately, it’s simply not. Time travel does exist in the Harry Potter universe, of course, thanks to the Time-Turners… but these do not allow for people to wander back in time and take up teaching posts.
Another possibility is that this McGonagall isn’t Minerva at all – but a relative of hers. This would go a long way to explaining the presence of a McGonagall nearly a decade before Minerva’s birth, but that’s not what is going on here. The published screenplay confirms that this is, indeed, Minerva herself. On top of that, Minerva’s father (who gave her the McGonagall name) was a Muggle – so it’s not as though there is a large wizarding family with the same name. Her mother’s name (confirmed by Pottermore) was also Isobel, so this isn’t a Gilmore Girls style situation where mother and daughter could be confused. This is a retcon of Professor McGonagall’s age, plain and simple.
Her’s is not the only age that is twisted, either. As fans have pointed out, Dumbledore is meant to be in his 80s at the time of Fantastic Beasts, having been 150 at the time of his death – yet Jude Law is a stunningly attractive young Dumbledore (in a suit, which means that wizards also forgot how to wear muggle clothing somewhere between the 20s and the 90s, but that’s a whole other plot point). The simple, and disappointing, answer is that this isn’t a carefully chosen plot twist, journey through time, or relative of Professor McGonagall’s. Instead, it is an attempt to shoehorn a fan-favorite character into a few scenes in order to pander to fans of the original franchise. This is a retcon of Professor McGonagall, plain and simple.
Of course, what Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald forgot is that Harry Potter fans are devoted to the details, and this casual disregard for the lore of the Wizarding World is hardly going to endear them to the new franchise. Instead, we’re left wanting to obliviate these particular scenes from our collective memories. Hopefully Fantastic Beasts 3 sheds some light on the matter.