" The Oriental doesn’t put the same high price on life as the Westerner. Life is plentiful. Life is cheap in the Orient. And as the philosophy of the orient expresses it, life is not important. "
— General William Westmoreland, Hearts and Minds

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In Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, boys and girls pair off into couples. The pains of jealousy and rejection are both sharpened and overridden by millions of years of evolution that tell us all to make out with this girl but not that girl, or to view this male as a rival and that male as a friend.

It’s also the penultimate story in a long series, which means it’s doing the expository bookkeeping to set up the final conflict.

The Prince and the Potter

Draco cuts a tragic figure in what would make a good spinoff
Draco cuts a tragic figure in what would make a good spinoff

Harry (Daniel Radcliffe) returns to Hogwart’s as a minor celebrity and partial pariah. Jim Broadbent (the last great modern British film actor not to have already landed a part in the series) plays Horace, the new professor of potions. Early in the film Harry gets the very last textbook for the potions class, a beat-up old copy that nobody else wanted. Luckily for him, the book was once owned by “The Half-Blood Prince,” apparently a good student at Hogwarts, because his margin notes correct grammar and typos, helping Harry succeed where his classmates fail.

The mystery of who the “Half-Blood Prince” was leads Harry to dig into Hogwarts history. With the help of Dumbledore and the reluctant help of Horace, Harry discovers the history of another student, Tom Riddle, who would grow up to become Voldemort. Harry discovers that Riddle tried to gain immortality by shattering his soul into seven pieces, then hiding those pieces around the world.

There is much magic, and an important development (the death of one of the main characters), but it boils down to Harry understanding what he must do to finally defeat the being who killed his parents.

Who’s Who in Hogwart’s

The whole crowd returns, starting with Ron Weasley (Rupert Grint) and his clear-skinned sister Ginny (Bonnie Wright). Ron is shamed by a fitter, handsomer competitor for his position on the quidditch team, but a little help from Harry makes Ron a hero, all the more attractive to those screaming teens.

Hermione (Emma Watson) returns as well. She assumes that she and Ron are an item, but nobody ever says it out loud. Of all the girls at Hogwarts she’s the best and the brightest (which we the audience know), but for now she mostly has to let her emotions simmer as Ron deals with his teenage fan club.

Draco appears again, tall, thin, strikingly blond, and surprisingly subdued. As played by Tom Felton, he is a very intriguing character worthy of a spinoff in my opinion. His clothes seem just a little too big for him, and he’s pictured early on with his mother, less a figure of malevolent power, and more like an awkward sociopath. His brash, outgoing spoiled-brat persona has been crushed by recurring defeats by Potter. Now he’s a brooding loner full of resentment, a pushover for the bad-seed older kids. One can see him growing into a Dahmer or Bates in his own tragedy. You almost feel sorry for the kid who believed he was destined for greatness and instead finds himself an unimportant bit player in someone else’s heroic journey.

Dumbledore’s Perspective

None of the adults are nearly as interesting as the kids, although Dumbledore comes closest. He knows treacherous times are ahead and seems truly concerned about the future. He wants to leave his world in as good a condition as possible so that Harry and his friends can make their own way.

Maybe he’s the character I’m supposed to connect with. In this sixth episode, as in all but the first one, the magic for me lies not in the creatures, special effects, or haunted countrysides, but rather in revisiting these likeable kids (and the actors who play them), watching them grow up, and wishing them the best.