Synopsis: After their father is murdered under mysterious circumstances, the three Locke siblings and their mother move into their ancestral home, Keyhouse, which they discover is full of magical keys that may be connected to their father’s death. As the Locke children explore the different keys and their unique powers, a mysterious demon awakens — and will stop at nothing to steal them.
Format: 10 episodes streaming on Netflix simultaneously.
Cast: Darby Stanchfield, Connor Jessup, Emilia Jones, Jackson Robert Scott, Petrice Jones, Laysla De Oliveira, Griffin Gluck, Thomas Mitchell Barnet, Steven Williams, Aaron Ashmore, Bill Heck, Sherri Saum, Coby Bird, Genevieve Kang, Felix Mallard, Hallea Jones
Directors: Michael Morris (1-2), Tim Southam (3-4), Mark Tonderai-Hodges (5-6), Dawn Wilkinson (7-8), Vincenzo Natali (9-10)
Writers: by Joe Hill (Based on Comic by, 1), Gabriel Rodriguez (Based on Comic by), Carlton Cuse (Developed by, 10), Aron Eli Coleite (Developed by, 1), Meredith Averill (Developed by, 3, 9, 10),Liz Phang (2, 9), Mackenzie Dohr (4), Andres Fisher-Centeno (5), Brett Treacy (6), Dan Woodward (6). Michael D. Fuller (7), Vanessa Rojas (8),
Provided something drastic doesn’t happen between this review posting and the show’s scheduled release on the 7th of February, Locke and Key’s long road to a live-action adaptation has finally come to its end. After many different incarnations and attempts to adapt this acclaimed comic series, Netflix has finally got the job done and delivered a fun series that as someone who hasn’t read the comics I enjoyed a lot.
Based on the comic series by Joe Hill and Gabriel Rodriguez, it beings Nina Locke (Darby Stanchfield) moving her three children, Tyler (Connor Jessup), Kinsey (Emilia Jones) and Bode (Jackson Robert Scott), from Seattle to the small town of Matheson after the murder of her husband, Rendell (Bill Heck). As they are moving in Rendell’s ancestral home, Keyhouse, Bode comes across a woman in a well (Laysla De Oliveira) who tells him that his new home is filled with magical keys. Dodge soon tricks Bode into providing her with the keys to help her escape from her well-prison and soon sets her sights on obtaining more of the keys. The majority of the season sees the Locke children discovering keys, learning how to use them and finding out more about their father’s time in Matheson.
Based on what I’d heard of the comic series, I was expecting the show to be scarier or to have more jump scares or horror elements. Instead, the show is more of contemporary fantasy with some horror themes and tropes weaved in. It definitely feels more family-friendly than I was anticipating which isn’t a bad thing, but if you were drawn in by the fact it’s from one of the people behind The Haunting of Hill House and were expecting something more like that, you may be disappointed. It also appears to have streamlined certain elements of the comics, like a couple of the keys, have been combined, and have played around the order of events, all of which work to serve the series better.
Locke and Key does a solid job of balancing its many storylines and mysteries, and there are a lot. Each member of the core Locke family has their own storylines as they deal with moving to a new town, as well as processing the death of Rendell. These are all on top of dealing with Dodge and her plan to get all of the keys. The show does drag at various points with a number of exposition dumps and over-explaining certain things. This is understandable to a degree due to a large amount of lore and set up for this world and its rules. The mysteries are spread out well with each episode giving just enough of a tease to keep you watching to find out more. The romantic storylines are probably the weakest aspect of the show, with me not really invested in any of them and want the show to get back to the mysteries surrounding Rendell, Dodge and Keyhouse.
The core Locke family are all very good although Nina often feels on the outer and separate to the main plot of the season with the kids. Her most interesting character story is quickly dealt with and while it did and will have repercussions, I wish it had been given a little more time. Emilia Jones was the stand out performer for me with Kinsey the character that I was most invested in throughout the season. She makes a decision that results in an important change in an early episode and it was fun to watch the repercussions of that ripple out as the season progressed. She also had the more interesting friend group out of her and Tyler with the Savini Squad a fun addition to the show.
Jackson Robert Scott is great as young Bode, never becoming annoying while playing the naive younger sibling who doesn’t want to be left out of their older siblings plans. I particularly liked his friendship with Rufus (Coby Bird), the son of one of Rendell’s childhood friends, Ellie (Sherri Saum), who has been a groundskeeper for Keyhouse in the Lockes’ absence and who has autism. One of the first things Rufus does is give Bode a bear trap to protect himself from Dodge so he quickly became one of my favourite characters on the show.