Locke & Key Season 1 Episodes 1-5 (Review)

Feb 1, 2020

Locke & Key

Season 1, Episodes 1-5

The latest comic book adaptation to hit the streaming giant is the beloved, award-winning horror fantasy series Locke & Key. Written by Joe Hill and illustrated by Gabriel Rodríguez, the ambitious IDW published tale span six novels ranging from 2008 – 2013. An adaptation of the source material has long been in the works, taking more than a decade to make it to our screens following two failed TV pilots and a film trilogy, with Star Trek‘s Alex Kurtzman and Lost co-creator Carlton Cuse previously attached. So does Netflix’s long-awaited ten episode series live up to the hype?

Following the mysterious and violent murder of their father, the three Locke siblings return to their ancestral home of Key House and quickly discover there’s more than meets the eye to the old manor. A collection of magical keys and locked doors call out to their new keepers, with unique powers awaiting to be unlocked. Dark connections to their father’s past quickly unravel though, as the Locke children uncover the fact that they’re not the only ones searching for the keys…

Adapting such a richly dark and creative world was always going to be a tough ask, so apart from the explosive opening, I was pretty surprised at the direction the creators took the first half of the series. Other than the odd violent turn, it seems that they’re aiming this at a more YA audience, which is a little disappointing. There’s a definite magical/fantasy vibe, reminiscent of The House with a Clock in its Walls, weaved into a high school, coming-of-age tale similar to early Stranger Things. The pacing of the show is also a lot quicker than the slow burn feel of the novels, with the discovery of the numerous keys occurring much quicker than expected. Unfortunately the series so far feels as if it’s missing the essence of the graphic novel, with the scares and mystery of the past seemingly pushed to the latter half of the show.

The real standout so far has to be the sheer scope and intricacy of the production and set design from Rory Cheyne and David Blass. The detailing and dressing of Key House manor was remarkable, with a repeating key motif cleverly featured throughout. The imposing family portraits, shadowy, expansive halls and numerous ornate doors, coupled with creepy, slow pans created a perfectly atmospheric stage. The way they brought the head key to life for each character who used it was also particularly creative and I definitely wanted to see more of this element! The score from Torin Borrowdale nicely captures the adventurous motifs inspired by 80s Amblin adventures, quickly weaving in horror elements in the darker moments.

The casting has also been particularly impressive, most notably Jackson Robert Scott’s portayal of Bode, who definitely has to be the stand out of the Locke children! The young actor has nicely captured the wonder and awe of the key collector, who is the main heart and soul of the novel. Connor Jessup and Emilia Jones are also well cast as siblings Tyler and Kinsey, with the actors quickly creating a natural bond. Possibly the weakest link of the series so far though is villains Sam Lesser (Thomas Mitchell Barnet) and Dodge (Laysla De Oliveira). The pair just don’t elicit the same fear as their literary counterparts, particularly Dodge who’s time in the well house felt very underdeveloped. 

So far, Locke and Key is proving an intriguing fantasy/action adventure that definitely fills the gap for the Stranger Things demographic. However, with the main narrative taking a bit of a back seat for a more high school drama in the first half of the series, I’m not sure the fans of the graphic novel will be too impressed…

The full Netflix series premieres on Feb. 7.