Were you one of the millions of people who saw the much-anticipated, Harry Potter–adjacent Fantastic Beasts 2: The Crimes of Grindelwald this past week? Were you confused by it? Maybe even a little irritated? Are you interested in knowing what happens but don’t want to sit through the movie’s nonsense? Don’t worry! I have all the answers for you right here. (This should go without saying, but yes, massive spoilers ahead.)

Can you briefly summarize the movie?

A bunch of wizards run maniacally around Paris until Johnny Depp gives a TED Talk.

Okay, how about a longer version?

Credence Barebone (Ezra Miller), the teen Obscurial who can turn into a deadly ball of black mist, has gone to Paris in the hopes of finding his real mother. Grindelwald, now in full-time Johnny Depp mode after briefly being Colin Farrell in the first film, escapes from magic jail by killing a bunch of people, then heads to Paris with an unnecessarily dramatic scheme to get Credence to join him.

Why is Grindelwald so hot to trot to get Credence on his team?

Because he believes the Obscurial is the only person who can defeat Dumbledore, who is the only wizard who can stop Grindelwald from his plan of conquering the nonmagical world.

Welcome to the Wizarding World of Harry Potter, the beloved kids’ franchise where babies are in constant mortal danger!

Okay, let’s simplify things even more. What’s Newt Scamander up to?

Noted fantastic beast–lover Newt Scamander (Eddie Redmayne) has been guilted by young Dumbledore (Jude Law) into breaking the law and going to Paris to find Credence before Grindelwald does. This is illegal, because Newt has been banned from international travel after he and his fantastic beasts nearly exposed the secret world of wizards and witches to the general public approximately 18 billion times in the first movie because he couldn’t get around to fixing his damn suitcase. He brings the same suitcase to Paris, of course.

How do the other main American characters from ‘Fantastic Beasts 1’ get involved? Because they’re back too, right?

They are indeed. Tina the Auror (Katharine Waterston) has gone to Paris to track down Credence herself. Newt’s nonmagical pal Jacob (Dan Folger) and Tina’s sister Queenie (Alison Sudol) visit Newt in London before he leaves for Paris.

Hey, wait. Didn’t Jacob get his mind obliviated in the last movie? He shouldn’t know anything about magic or wizards anymore, yes?

Yes and no; yes because that was the intention of the Obliviate spell, which has been used throughout the world to keep nonmagical humans from knowing about magic, but it’s explained that Obliviate erases only bad memories, and most of what Jacob experienced in the first movie was good, so he never forgot it. This seems to me to be a huge liability for the spell and a problem that should have come up in the many centuries wizards have been hiding from humans prior to 1927, when the movie takes place.

I have to agree.

Anyways, the sweet, dimwitted Queenie has enchanted Jacob, so he has no control over his thoughts, feelings, or actions.

That seems problematic.

It’s so creepy. She cast a love spell on him and dragged him to England, where it’s legal for wizards to marry Muggles. Her plan is to marry him and have a big family… all while he can’t consent.

Oh my god. Did Queenie do this because Jacob doesn’t love her anymore?

Not at all. Jacob explains in the movie that he does love her, but since it’s illegal for wizards to cohabit with humans in the United States, he wasn’t going to endanger her by doing so. Queenie decided to take matters into her own hands.

Wouldn’t coming to England fix both of their problems, no enchantment required?

It would! Except that Jacob is the teensiest bit upset at being enchanted — he’s not horrified or traumatized, but he is exasperated enough to call the situation Queenie has put them into crazy, which offends her so much that she storms off to Paris to find her sister Tina.

Let me get this straight. Her plan was to marry and presumably be impregnated by Jacob without giving him a choice, and she’s the one who gets upset?

Right-o. Anyway, Newt and Jacob head to Paris to find Credence and Queenie. They’re eventually followed by Newt’s brother Theseus (Callum Turner) and Leta Lestrange (Zoe Kravitz), who are engaged. Theseus is an Auror, so he’s come to capture Grindelwald, while Leta searches for a dark family secret that she, uh, already knows.

This seems like it’s getting a bit overcomplicated.

We’ve barely begun. Pretty much everyone in the movie seems to think that Credence is really Corvus Lestrange, Leta’s half-brother, who was taken to New York City and given up for adoption.

Well, at least that seems straightforward.

It’s not, although it would have been helpful if all the people who think this had told the main characters, because it would save everybody a lot of time. Most of this movie is about people trying to find proof that Credence is Corvus, despite the fact that pretty much everyone is already convinced he’s Corvus anyway. They just need notarized paperwork, apparently.

What does it mean if Credence turns out to be a Lestrange?

Funny you should ask! Absolutely nothing.

Wait, what?

Credence cares about learning who his parents are, understandably, but for Newt and Tina, the issue should be that Credence is a massively powerful, deadly Obscurial who can’t be allowed to connect with the most evil wizard in the world. And all the time Newt and Tina spend trying to confirm that Credence is Leta’s half-brother is meaningless. Actually, most of the movie is kind of meaningless.

What do you mean?

I mean characters do lots of things, but very little of it moves the story forward. Significant chunks of the film are devoted to Queenie trying to find Tina and failing, Jacob trying to find Queenie and failing, and Newt trying to find Tina and succeeding, but this involves lengthy scenes with a new character named Yusuf (William Nadylam), who has made an Unbreakable Vow to kill Corvus Lestrange. While this sounds like it might be important, let me assure you that Yusuf doesn’t end up mattering to the plot in the slightest. Really, most of this movie is just killing time until the dramatic final act.

Can we skip to that?

Sure, but there are a few things you need to know first: 1) Grindelwald secretly frustrates Credence’s search for truth, then hands him a map to the Lestrange family tombs, where he can find out his real name; 2) Queenie ends up getting taken to Grindelwald’s house; and 3) Grindelwald also announces that he’s holding a big rally in Paris, coincidentally right next to the Lestrange family tomb, so people can hear his message. Oh, and 4) Credence isn’t Corvus Lestrange anyway, so it was all an enormous waste of time.

WAIT, WHAT?

Yeah, Leta reveals this to all the protagonists, including Credence, when they coincidentally meet at the same time in the Lestrange tomb. Okay, there’s no simple way to explain this, but I’ll try. As previously mentioned, Corvus Sr. decided to give his kids Leta and newborn infant Corvus Jr. to an orphanage in New York City because he is a monster. (Seriously, the movie makes it explicitly clear that Corvus Sr. magically enslaved and impregnated Leta’s mom, and it’s just the grossest.) On the kids’ trip across the Atlantic, Leta is so traumatized by her baby brother’s crying that she swaps Corvus Jr. for another random baby. Almost immediately, their ship sinks, and while Lela and Fake Corvus Jr. survived, Real Corvus Jr. very much did not.

Is… is this one of those things where it seems like the baby died, but it’ll be revealed later that he was rescued?

Last shot of the baby is about 10 feet below sea level, sinking like a stone, as a woman frantically swims to reach him.

So there’s a chance —

She’s way too far away. Dead baby.

What the hell?!

Welcome to the Wizarding World of Harry Potter, the beloved kids’ franchise where babies are in constant mortal danger!

Then who is Credence?

We’ll get there in a second. It turns out that not only did everyone meet next to Grindelwald’s rally, and not only did they meet at the same time Grindelwald’s rally started, but they also met right next to a secret door that opens directly into the rally!

[Smacks head in frustration.]

This has all been been an impossibly elaborate trap by Grindelwald… somehow… that everyone immediately and knowingly walks into. And then it’s time for that TED Talk, which you might be surprised to learn is nearly standing room only, as hundreds of non-plot-relevant wizards and witches thoughtfully wait to hear Grindelwald’s message.

Isn’t his message just “kill all Muggles”?

Not exactly. As he tells the crowd, he just wants wizards to be able to live in the open, alongside the Muggles — with the side benefit that then Wizards love who they want, which is why Queenie gets into it.

Isn’t Grindelwald a criminal?

Big time. That’s why he was imprisoned after Fantastic Beasts 1. In fact, the Harry Potter wiki says he and his followers “committed mass slaughter” across Europe for many years before the first movie began. Also, the movie is called The Crimes of Grindelwald, which is probably a clue.

Then why are any of these people listening to him?

Well, mostly because the story requires it, but also because J.K. Rowling cast “Metaphorio” over the whole damn movie, as Grindelwald’s demagoguery feeds into some wizard prejudices against Muggles and/or their beliefs that wizards are more valuable than those without magic powers. Does this sound like something that could have some resonance in the real, non-Wizarding World of Regular People?

If you weren’t an internet column, I would punch you so hard right now.

You’re not the first person to say that to me, and you won’t be the last. Back to the story: Grindelwald gets the crowd riled up against the Aurors there to capture him, one lady tries to attack one and gets killed, everyone’s upset, and Grindelwald calmly tells all of his new followers (which now include a few of the Aurors) except the main characters to teleport themselves away.

What do you mean?

I mean the movie wants to give Queenie her own special scene… because she’s decided to join Grindelwald. Take your time processing that.

Okay. Queenie wants to be allowed to marry Jacob so badly that she abandons Jacob to go with a mass murderer even though she could literally zip back to England and get married in about half a day?

Yup. Oh, and Leta sacrifices herself for no discernible good. And then, later, Grindelwald finally tells Credence his real name: Aurelius Dumbledore.

Well, that’s definitely interesting. What’s the story there?

We don’t know.

They’re obviously saving it for a future movie.

Sure, but it makes no damn sense. While a super-secret Dumbledore brother that no one, including Jude Law/Dumbledore, knows about is strange, it also seems completely impossible based on the canonical Wizarding World timeline. When Credence is born in 1908, Dumbledore’s mom had been dead for nine years, and his father had already been imprisoned in Azkaban — wizard jail, if you don’t remember — for 18 years, and he stayed there until he died.

Well, this movie sounds like a total mess.

Hey, did I mention the other dead baby?

[Makes strangling noise.]

I guess not. When Grindelwald picks a home in Paris, his crew murders the couple who lives there, and then a few minutes later, they find a baby. Grindelwald stares at it, tells one of his minions to take care of it, and the door closes before we visibly see the murder, but we do hear the magic that murders it.

So that’s two dead babies.

Are there even any Fantastic Beasts in this stupid movie?

Well, there are a few beasts. Their fantasticness is debatable.