Warning: Spoilers Ahead
Netflix’s Locke & Key is a dark fantasy that has some of the darkness of Stranger Things and the magic of The Magicians. Sometimes cheesy, yet magical enough to keep me interested; that is how I would describe Netflix’s adaptation of Joe Hill and Gabriel Rodriguez’s beloved graphic novel series. I’m not gonna sugarcoat this: I was disappointed after watching the first episode. However, I think a big part of my disappointment came from the fact that I am a HUGE fan of the comics, and there were some small details that bugged me.
I am going to admit it, this is nit picky fanboy stuff but that is what I am so I am going to speak my truth. Before I start with my criticism, I do want to say that the show really picks up at episode 3 and had me hooked after that. I liked this show. It’s more than worth your time whether you have read the comics or not; in fact, two of my friends who didn’t read the comics got super into the show. Maybe now they’ll want to read the comics. One can hope, right?
One small detail that bugged me about the show was that our main protagonists, the Locke family, are now from Seattle instead of the Bay Area. Being that I’ve lived in the Bay for the past decade and that I got really into Locke & Key while living up here, I couldn’t help but feel sad that their origin changed. I don’t really see the point of changing that fact other than for it to be different from the comics. One of the iconic looks for Tyler Locke throughout the comic is that he is always wearing his Oakland A’s hat with an obnoxious fishing lure on it. But, hey, credit to the showrunners for having a similar hat make an appearance at the very end of the show as an easter egg for comic book readers.
Then again, they may have a good reason for changing that detail. I read here that Joe Hill wanted to change the town’s name from Lovecraft to Matheson to pay homage to Richard Matheson, another influential horror writer whose legacy is less problematic than H.P. Lovecraft’s. So, maybe there’s a good reason for the change to Seattle? I’ll update this post if I read something about it.
Rant about small, personal preferences over. But I am still not done with what I see as critical feedback for the showrunners, who are obviously one hundred times more talented than me. Meredith Averill’s writing for The Haunting of Hill House was absolutely brilliant. Truly scary and heart wrenching. I also loved Carlton Cuse’s work on Tom Clancy’s Jack Ryan. However, for all the artful slow-building horror that occured in The Haunting of Hill House, I felt that the plot of Locke & Key was a little rushed. Events that didn’t occur until much later in the comic book series happened in the first season.
One could argue that the pace had to change for TV, and I get that, but I still feel like they may have revealed too much too fast. I wish that they had slowed down some of the horror scenes and given us more time to feel the murder of Rendell Locke. I also think that the well house lady could have been more scary a la The Ring. She certainly looks more eerie in the comics. Of course, what they produced here with the TV series is great. It’s easy for me to sit here behind my computer screen and write about what they could have done better. I just hope that going forward they might consider moving slower through the plot and beefing up the horror scenes. We can take it, promise.
One decision that I did come to appreciate was the introduction of several different keys in the first season. Even though it seems aggressive at first, it was a smart choice because it puts a wealth of different magic abilities in play for all the characters to use. One area where the show shines is getting viewers excited about the magic of the keys. They made some changes to a few keys and seem to have added keys that are not in the comics.
One of the keys they changed was the Gender Key. In the comics this key was only able to change the users gender; however, in the TV show it’s been recast as the Identity Key and allows the user to take on any identity. This is way more powerful and allows for the writers to create some twists and turns that are different from those in the comics. Even though they changed the key and it’s power, they still manage to stay close to the source material while still adding some nuance, which I think is no easy feat.
Another instance where the show manages to successfully change a concept from the comics in an interesting way is it’s depiction of Kinsey’s Fear. In the comics Kinsey’s Fear is a small dark goblin-like figure that they trap in a bottle. Whereas in the show it is basically another scary version of herself. It cannot be killed even though Kinsey tries to kill it and it plays a larger role in the show, reappearing in town to attack all of the people that Kinsey fears. It’s a much more interesting representation of fear because it interacts with other characters in the show. And, of course, like in the comics, it occasionally even helps Kinsey. By the end of the season, we know how important Kinsey’s Fear is and that it will definitely make an appearance in the next season.
While the show hasn’t yet been confirmed for a season two, it has been confirmed that there will be more Locke & Key comics! Hill and Gabriel Rodriguez are planning another six book series called World War Key set in the early twentieth century. It is certainly a possibility that the writers of the show could even use some parts of this new comics storyline in the future, especially since the history of the keys is still unknown.
The end of season one leaves many questions to be answered and sets up several storylines that could be explored in the future. While the appearance of the black door happened rather quickly, I think they did a fine job representing what it looked like in the comics. It felt dark, mysterious, dangerous, and magical. We are left with not one, but two demon-possessed villains by the end of season one and no real clue what they want. They also planted a perfect easter egg by showing what happens when those shooting stars come out of the door and hit the ground. They turned into a sort of black molten rock, which I’m guessing will be very important later on (hint hint). Of course, there are tons of other easter eggs I didn’t mention here but feel free to check this other article for more tidbits.
In terms of acting, I thought Emilia Jones really knocked it out of the park with Kinsey. The angst, attitude, and change after removing her fear felt spot on. However, I did feel like sometimes Jackson Robert Scott’s tone didn’t feel quite authentic for Bode. Still, I think most of the acting was satisfying. I also particularly liked the music they chose for the show. It felt modern, but it wouldn’t hurt to be a little less explicit with some song choices. For example, it was a little cheesy to have Billie Eilish’s “You Should See Me in a Crown” playing when Dodge puts on the crown of shadows.
Even though the show had a bit of a rough start and felt a little rushed in comparison to the comics, I actually liked where it ended up. The magic of the keys felt exciting and new. The darkness of the villains and the forces that possess them felt eerie enough. And the story of a family dealing with loss, trauma, and substance abuse felt real. But I hope that they don’t shy away from the horror aspects of the show and the trauma caused by what this family has to go through.
There’s a lot more that they can do with the show in the second season. Even though they moved fast, there’s still comic beats they can explore and a lot of questions about the keys to be answered. But what is most exciting about the fact that they blew through a lot of the source material is that maybe now they can explore new areas not in the comics. I just hope that Joe Hill is involved in that process and that they don’t shy away from the darkness of the source material. Maybe exploring new storylines will give the writers more ownership. Maybe it will help them remove the fear in their heads so that it will come alive and scare the shit out of me. One can hope, right?
What did you think of Netlix’s Locke & Key? Have a favorite key? Please share your thoughts with us in the comment section below! And, be sure to keep following us for more reviews, news, and more.
Side note: @skkaw, AKA Skkawlord and founder of SKKAW.BLOG, binged the show the first weekend it came out. He never read any of the comics and loved the first season! In fact, he liked it so much that he decided to use his technical prowess to 3D print some of his favorite keys. Please do yourself a favor and check out how he created his own set of magical keys in our next article. If you’re lucky you might be able to get him to forge you one 😉