Locke and Key is the new, high-concept, spooky fantasy show from Netflix and is based on the comic book series written by Joe Hill and illustrated by Gabriel Rodriguez. The show revolves around the Locke family who have moved from their native Seattle and into their ancestral home, an old pile known as Keyhouse that resides in the remote town of Matheson. The Locke family have moved all this way following the murder of husband and father, Rendell Locke (Bill Heck). As his wife, Nina (Darby Stanchfield), puts it, she needs a project to work on, the fixing up of Keyhouse, while her children, the teenagers Tyler (Connor Jessop) and Kinsey (Emilia Jones), along with her youngest boy, Bode (Jackson Robert Scott), need a home. But they soon find out that Keyhouse takes its name rather seriously. In short, it’s a house full of magical keys.
Locke and Key is a show with a lot of very different things going on. It is at once a fantasy show, a show about teen relationships, and a show about the hidden past coming to light. Yet impressively it never feels over-stuffed or cobbled together. But let’s start with the show’s biggest hook – the magical keys. These keys whisper to Bode, coaxing him to find them, which he does, picking them up one by one in a house-wide treasure hunt. They have special powers, such as allowing the holder to travel anywhere they wish, or to become a ghost and fly about unseen. This thread of the story is very much in the realm of children’s fantasy classics such as The Chronicles of Narnia and the Alice books, only the tone is tinged with rather more menace here. Bode’s adventures are wonderful and dream-like, but they could very easily tip over into nightmare, and do so. This element of Locke and Key delivers a series of cleverly rendered flights of fancy, perfectly balancing enchantment, wish-fulfilment and danger.
Bode’s older siblings, Tyler and Kinsey have their own adventures with the keys, but their minds are on bigger things. Namely, trying to fit into their new school. Tyler is more of a jock. He plays for the ice-hockey team. But he can’t bring himself to sleep with the hot girl who feels sorry for him. He’s a man with depth. Kinsey, on the other hand, falls in with a bunch of movie geeks who call themselves The Savini Squad, after the legendary special effects and make-up artist Tom Savini (who appears in a small role). The Squad, under the direction of their leader Scot (yes, he spells his name with one T), are trying to make a horror movie – “The Splattering” – and Kinsey has been asked to join the production. Scot (Petrice Jones), who is improbably attractive and well-groomed for a hard-core horror movie nerd, and who has a slightly street British accent, really likes Kinsey. But she’s not sure. Maybe he’ll hurt her. Will they? Won’t They? Could they? Should they? And do we care? Well, yes is the answer. Locke and Key may be primarily a fantasy show, but it also provides the kind of glossy, acne-free teen drama that viewers will gobble like ice-cream.
Their Mum, Nina Locke, knows nothing about the keys. She’s a grownup and the keys aren’t for grownups. Instead she spends her time looking out for her kids and making friends in the new neighbourhood. However, in doing so she uncovers some surprising details about her deceased husband’s strange and tragic youth in Matheson before he moved away. Yes, Locke and Key is also a mystery show and rather a good one. It’ll keep your curiosity engaged throughout, thankfully without over using the sort of gratuitous tease and reveal structure employed by Netflix’s previous spooky hit, The Haunting of Hill House. Locke and Key is more about the journey than making you feel you desperately need to get to the end.
As we’ve said, there’s a lot going on here and all of it great fun. As for what holds all of these disparate elements together – grief. Each of the characters, whatever they’re up to, is working through the trauma of losing Rendell Locke. He’s in their memories, their dreams and their magical adventures. This is the special ingredient that binds the show together, giving it just enough in the way of emotional heft.
Locke and Key is a rich blend of elements that shouldn’t fit together, and yet it works incredibly well. It’s a teen-centric, creepily inventive show, full of fantastic adventures that are tinged with darkness and danger. Netflix may have unleashed one of their most binge-worthy shows yet. Enjoy.
Film ’89 Verdict – 9/10
Locke and Key is available on Netflix from February 7th.