Maybe you noticed it, but a new show popped up on Netflix last week. It’s a television adaptation of a graphic novel that we’ve written about before: Locke and Key.
I went into the show completely blind, armed with nothing but our primer article. Generally speaking, I’m not a fan of the horror genre. I’ll stick through them for my wife, but usually she has to convince me for several days straight before I cave.
While watching Locke and Key, I found myself eagerly wanting more of the story. The show does several things well, and struggles in other areas. This is a spoiler-free review, so I’m going to be speaking in broad strokes so you can experience the show for yourself.
Locke and Key Overview
The show follows a family as they move from Seattle all the way to their father’s childhood home, Keyhouse, in Massachusetts. As you can expect, the three siblings aren’t too happy about being transplanted to a new place.
As they live in this gigantic mansion, the children start finding these amazing, magical keys. They each grant a different effect, and there’s no telling to how many keys there really are. Where did they even come from originally?
Anyways, the graphic novel is classified as ‘horror’, so you can expect some creepiness. Without spoiling anything, magical keys are bound to attract some attention from those who wish to harness their power.
It’s up to the kids to find and protect the keys before it’s too late. Sound interesting? That’s because it is!
What the Show Does Well
With the seemingly unlimited options for shows nowadays, I only want to spend time on shows that really grab me. If the premise of the show isn’t enough to draw you in, here are some other beats that might appeal to your fancies.
Classic Teenager Tropes
With any story centered around teenagers, you’re guaranteed a certain amount of drama. You get a sprinkling of budding romance, bullying, and general angst. The characters are quite varied and interesting, and the relationships between the kids in the show feel genuine.
The mystery of the keys is a huge part of the show. I often found myself just itching for the kids to find another key, just so I could see its effect. A lot of the story is built around introducing the next key. It’s one of the more original bits of world-building that I’ve seen. Lots of mystery in this one.
With a story like this, the events of the past are just as important as the events in the present. Things happening now often allude to the past, but the writers make sure that you get the full picture of what went down through flashbacks. Telling stories in this way lets the audience feel smart when their guesses are confirmed.
You know when a character starts doing something in a horror movie and you want to just scream through the screen and tell them NOT to do that? The characters in Locke and Key are often impulsive, although with some built-in plot reasoning. I wouldn’t classify the show as pure-horror, but it definitely has some tense, suspenseful moments.
If you like shows where you can connect strings on a corkboard, look no further. The unique blending of the past and present keeps your mind turning with theories and ideas. Everything in the show has a purpose, even if it isn’t readily apparent.
Where the Show Feels Lacking
No show is perfect, including Locke and Key. As much as I enjoyed it, there were a few things that stuck out as mildly problematic. There’re not show-stoppers, just things to keep your expectations in check.
There are certain story beats that the audience is able to infer through the plot. I mentioned it above: it feels great to feel smart. However, sometimes the writers would just continue to pour on the plot devices, hammering home the same point that we all understood ten minutes earlier. At least they’re thorough.
That’s right, I’m going on the other end of the spectrum now. Some events in the story are almost impossible to infer until the writers show a series of flashbacks. For a show focused on the theme of discovery, I’d have liked some clues about certain things without the writers just suddenly showing off their handiwork. At times it felt like I was a bystander instead of an active detective in the story.
I thought the character development and personality choices for the kids was really well-done. However, some of the traits felt forced in other characters. Obviously, some of them are used solely for developing the story of the keys, but they didn’t all feel genuine. For example, the mom has a certain trait that is suddenly focused on just to showcase another key. It felt more forced and less organic than it could have.
My last minor qualm is that the dialogue doesn’t always feel authentic. Some of the questions between characters are pushy and come out of the blue. In a show, it’s important to keep the plot moving, but I wonder if there are some alternative ways to uncover plot than through dialogue. Again, it’s a little thing, but it stood out to me.
Locke and Key: Final Thoughts
Overall, the show is worth the price of admission. It really made me want to start searching my house for magical keys. Hey – you never know what lies beneath the floorboards!
Locke and Key is fun, adventurous, and key-ps you on your toes. It brings out the memory of being a kid and finding magic and wonder in unusual places. It’s a story about the lost, as well as the found. We definitely found a good one here.