Now Streaming: LOCKE & KEY, Netflix's Adaptation of Joe Hill's Horror Fantasy Comic Book
The Locke siblings, Tyler, Kinsey and Bode, pack up their lives and move into their ancestral home Key House after their father is murdered. They discover within their new home hidden magical keys, each with their own special power or ability. With these keys they can do all manner of wonderful and magical things. But out in the wellhouse there is an evil creature who wants the keys and their powers.
After a handful of failed attempts to adapt Joe Hill’s 2009 dark fantasy comic book series Locke & Key to television showrunners Meredith Averill (The Haunting of Hill House) and Carlton Cruze (The Strain, Bates Motel) have finally Locke’d down (chortle) season one on Netflix. The purpose here is to offer commentary on the integrity of the series. This is not a comparison to the original comic book by Joe Hill. Still, after finishing the series we went to look up more information about the comic books and found out this series could have gone darker.
Jackson Robert Scott as the youngest Locke, Bode, gives the show its wonder and levity though sometimes he channels his character from IT Georgie’s “you’ll float too” volume a bit too much. He does have the best line in season one, about bacon. Things appear to be picking up for Canadian actor Connor Jessup after five seasons of guilty pleasure Falling Skies. Slightly broody as older brother Tyler he deals with self inflicted guilt about his father’s death while still trying to control use of the keys. UK actress Emilia Jones brings up the middle as Kinsey, struggling to forgive herself for hiding in fear during her father’s murder.
Darby Stanchfield plays their mom, Nina, who has her own personal demon to deal with while learning more about her husband’s life at Key House. And Canadian genre royalty Aaron Ashmore fills in the role of Uncle Duncan and to the show’s credit there is a very subtle point of inclusion about his character that you will have to listen to. Kudos to the showrunners for at the very least hinting at it through the dialogue. Lastly, Canadian actress Laysla De Oliveira is delicious as the evil Dodge.
Oh. There is a nice cameo at the end of this first season, if you know who to look for.
Moments of discovery and wonder are where the show excels but those moments feel fleeting because the Locke kids do something weird after they discover a key. They hide them. They find out what each can do, by way of experimentation, then they sit on them. Sure, part of the reason is that Dodge is out there looking for the keys as well and her intentions are of course nefarious.
But even when the series comes to its climax they’re not using the keys they have against her. We do not know if it is a case of ‘absolute power corrupts absolutely’ or that old standard ‘with great power comes great responsibility’ but the Locke children, to Bode’s dismay, would rather hide the keys and just hope that Dodge never comes back.
The show also appears to be struggling to decide who its target audience is. It is not necessarily safe territory for pre-teens with some suggestive scenes, scenes of teenagers being teenagers (sex, drugs and rock n’ roll) and the occasional swear word. Nothing they have not seen or heard before but conservative households be warned. And it’s not necessarily for anyone looking for something as dark and violent as the original material (as we are led to believe).
Locke & Key achieves a nice middle ground, we guess. Some neat magical stuff with the keys happens. Some neat, dark stuff happens when Dodge uses the keys she gets. Averill and Cruze have worked on decidedly horror types of shows in the past. Perhaps trying to appease everyone was not the way to go this time around.
In the end Locke & Key is passable entertainment. With the predictable twists at the end there is an opening for a second season. However, Netflix is a fickle mistress and if the numbers do not show then we may never know the fate of Key House and the Locke Children. We are not too torn up about that.