The first season of this Netflix supernatural drama has some great individual moments, particularly in its portrayal of grief, but doesn’t quite manage to maintain its strength in villain and focus.
The central premise of this season, based on the comic book series of the same name, is that a mother (Darby Stanchfield) and her three children (Connor Jessup, Emilia Jones and Jackson Robert Scott) move from the city to an old family house on the coast after the murder of the father at the hands of one of his students. Within the house there are several keys that have magical properties and can be used to do incredible things. The potential within this premise is huge and I think that this first season barely scratched the surface of what the keys could have done. Some, such as a key that allows the spirit of a person to escape their body and speak to spirits of deceased people, and a key that allows people to walk into the mind and see the memories of someone else, come off brilliantly well. A key is used in the opening episode, which projects a sinister version of the user onto a mirror and then proceeds to trap the unfortunate soul within it, and left me with high expectations. I had hoped that more of the keys would have led the three siblings and their friends into a series of terrifying scenarios but only a couple of times does the desired effect get reached.
The usage of keys is limited to finding one new one per episode and even this isn’t the primary focus. The main antagonist of the season, Dodge (Laysla De Oliveira) is revealed from the first episode and, whilst it does make for an explosive opening, does mean that they come across as increasingly one-note and cartoonish as the season progresses. The true nature of the antagonist switches several times before settling on being the embodiment of an inter-dimensional demon. This all felt very abrupt in the way that it was explained, not helped by a season finale that didn’t seem to wrap up anything but completely switched the focus of the show. Twists and shake-ups are a good thing, but the supernatural strength of the show pales in comparison to other television shows within this genre, and I am not sure that the change of focus benefits a show that seemed to be more about magic keys than demons.
The third focus of this show is probably the least unique on paper but comes across the best on screen. Having the siblings lose their father to murder before the series allows the writers to explore the impact grief has on people. One could say that the mother being unable to feel the magic within the house is a metaphor on how individuals can black out grief. The differing reactions of the three siblings, from Tyler feeling personally responsible for the actions of the murderer, to Kinsey wanting to literally remove the crippling fear she felt during the murder from her head. That is why the episode featuring the ‘head key’ is such a good one; it takes the focus away from the menacing plans of Dodge and humanises the three siblings in a way that viewers will be able to relate to – as all of us have lost someone in our lives. The acting of the three is very good in these moments and is far more watchable than the seen before romances and friendships within the school setting.
Ultimately, Locke & Key tries to stand out in a genre market that is becoming increasingly crowded and does so with its portrayal of grief in the great acting of the three siblings. However, both the strength of the lead villain and the concept of the magic keys starts to fall away as the season progresses and the focus of the last episode suggested a new direction which I am sceptical will suit the show at all. Writing for the second season has already begun, even if the series has not been recommissioned on Netflix yet. Ultimately, it may be a show that I will return to, but it will have to regrab my attention in a way the opening episode did.
Star Rating: ⭐⭐⭐
Have you had a chance to watch Locke & Key yet, and if so, what did you make of it? Leave any thoughts you have on the show in the comments section below and don’t forget to like this post and also subscribe to my blog to get notified when new posts on TV shows and literature are released.