Jacob Kowalski is a Muggle and a crucial part of the Fantastic Beasts Universe. After watching Fantastic Beasts: And Where to Find Them, I realized that Jacob is our entrance into the Magical world of the film. Seeing magic, fantastic beasts and a suitcase that contains a zoo through the eyes of someone who is laying eyes on it for the first time is a great way for the audience to work themselves into this world. Jacob is our proxy. This is also the role that Harry Potter plays for us in the first book/film. Take a moment to see the wonder in Jacobs eyes when he’s inside the suitcase or just watching dishes fly around a kitchen. It’s fun to see the magical world unfold for someone new as it once did a kid named Harry.
Early in FB: AWTFT, we learn that Jacob is a WW1 veteran who is seeking a small business loan to open a bakery. He’s denied by the bank which is a harsh reminder of the poor treatment veterans have received during all points in history. Now after WW2 some fixes were made to give returning veterans help with buying homes and pursuing their education, the GI Bill for example. All steps in the right direction that exist today but there remains a huge hole in meeting the basic needs of veterans like proper health care; both physical and mental. I know that the medical professionals that work with veterans are doing their best with an underfunded and poorly managed system, so no disrespect to them. It’s a pity that we can’t see the story of Jacob and think ‘Oh too bad he wasn’t alive today to enjoy the perfect systems in place now to help veterans.’
Jacob also offers a very early lesson in self defense in the film. He’s taken out of bank by Newt via a nifty transportation spell. Dazed and confused though he is after being transported, Newt tells him to stand still, and he doesn’t do as he’s told. We know our hero only seeks to perform a spell that will wipe his memory of the magical events. Jacob doesn’t know that and when told to stand still he stuns Newt with a big swing of his suitcase and then runs like the wind. Basic street-smart stuff. Safety first and stranger danger. Daylight and being a man doesn’t mean you hang around to find out to see what happens after the strange man with the blue coat tells you to stand still.
At the end of the film Jacob’s memory is erased and it’s heartbreaking on many levels. He’s found and is now going to lose a romantic interest and he won’t remember the friends and adventure that he has been on. This triggered me as a Doctor Who fan who had seen a similar storyline unfold on that show. The Doctor must erase all memory of his friend’s adventures with him in order to save her life. It’s a noble reason but still so sad for someone to forget not just an adventure but a good friend. At the end of FB: AWTFT we see the new pastry creations that Jacob has made based on the trace memories of what he’s seen, but we also see the recognition in his eyes when Queenie enters his shop. I don’t even care what the explanation is for how Jacob has recovered his memories after the spell. I’m just happy that he’s going to be stepping back into the Magical world for the next adventure. He can’t cast spells but he sure can whip a suitcase at someone if called upon.
Oh Jacob, these are the reasons we love you.
Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald is scheduled to premiere on November 16, 2018.