Spoilers locked themselves out of the house.
I started this as a regular Viewer’s Cut feature where I talk about the show based on the first episodes with no spoilers, but I ended up on a binge of the whole thing. Since I need to discuss some key elements (oh the puns are starting already), I’ll give you my thoughts on the whole thing. Full disclosure, I have read the original graphic novel. I’m going to compare them a little bit, so be prepared for that. Obviously the styles will differ. I just have a few issues to bring up.
Locke & Key was created by Meredith Averill, Aron Eli Coleite and Carlton Cuse for Netflix. It is based on the IDW Entertainment graphic novel of the same name written by Joe Hill and illustrated by Gabriel Rodriguez. Aaron Eli Coleite and Joe Hill wrote the first episode of the show. I feel like in essence, the elements of the novel are there and usually go from serviceable (that will do) to decent (that was well made) with some instances of bleak writing. Keyhouse looks like Keyhouse should look. It’s not exactly the same look of the comic, but the spirit is there.
The casting is quite decent. Tyler (Connor Jessup) looks stoic and troubled, although he’s more of a hockey jock. Kinsey (Emilia Jones) starts withdrawn and experiences a change later on. Bode (Jackson Robert Scott) has all the energy and innocence expected. Nina (Darby Stanchfield) has that good/evil smile that works great when you need someone ambivalent. The jewel in the crown is probably Laysla De Oliveira as Dodge, our main antagonist. She exudes malice from the very beginning and might be the closest to her comic equivalent in character.
The events have been rearranged in a different fashion. Don’t worry, the main keys are present. The weirdness is there. But you can feel that the focus has shifted a bit to the point that the teenagers lives are bit more in the center of the plot than the magic itself. Yes, we’ve added quite a bit of teenage drama into the equation as well as texting. The horror of the original source material has been damped down considerably. We do get the encounter of the psychotic Sam Lesser (Thomas Mitchell Barnet) with the unfortunate Rendell Locke (Bill Heck) in a bloody outcome told in flashback and visual memories, but in general the show dials back the intensity of the graphic novel. The gore is absent.
I wasn’t crazy about the way the show has changed to be more character driven, but I was glad the main elements were preserved. We still get Rufus (Cody Bird) and his mother Ellie (Sherri Saum). We don’t get Lovecraft. The town is called Matheson instead. Some of the ancillary characters, specially the teenagers, match the names of the graphic novel but are used for different roles. Fortunately, the dynamic between the Locke children is good, although some of the decisions characters take are atypical. The writing varies from good to bad with some strange turns.
The issue I had the most trouble is the way that twists are handled. This happens in the later episodes, but there’s a tendency to revisit every single past point affected by the twist. In other words, if a character’s true allegiance or identity is revealed, the show makes a point to literally stop the current story and expose all the plot points where ulterior motives were present. It’s basically spoon-feeding you all the explanation to explain why things happened. This gets extremely annoying when you’re getting close to a climactic showdown and the showrunners seem to believe you don’t have enough brainpower to figure it all out. Unfortunately this ruins what should have been an ambiguous ending that might have been better left unexplained than blatantly exposed. I don’t entire dislike the end product, but some of the flaws are hard to ignore.
Lightly recommended as a much lighter adaptation that still uses some of the concepts introduced by the graphic novel. Casual viewers might like it while hardcore fans of the source material will find it bland. I would love to see a sequel that puts back some of the intensity. The show leaves a few loose strands that could be picked up, which is the reason why it should’ve never done all the exposition during reveals and twists so that it could later on elaborate and even course-correct when necessary. Unfortunately, the opportunity to really bring something interesting had a bit of a lackluster execution. I’m still curious to see if they can turn the key back and make whatever lies beyond the door a little more interesting next time.
That will do for now.