March 2, 2020

Unlocking Trauma - Locke and Key Season One Review

Unlocking Trauma - Locke and Key Season One Review

"These keys, they're our legacy..."

Based on the comics written by Joe Hill and illustrated by Gabriel Rodriguez, Netflix's new series Locke and Key follows the three Locke children (Tyler, Kinsey, and Bode) as they find and use reality-bending keys within their recently deceased father's childhood home. 

After the murder of Rendell Locke, his wife Nina moves her family from Seattle all the way across the country to Matheson, Massachusetts, where her husband's childhood home, Keyhouse, waits. This small-town coastal setting in the Northeast pays homage to many of Stephen King's settings (i.e., Derry, Maine). It feels familiar and realistic. 

When we meet the family, they are broken and trying to deal with the loss of Rendell and this drastic change in their lives. The children struggle to adjust to a new school and home when their peers already know about their father's murder. Things begin to change when the youngest sibling Bode (Jackson Robert Scott), talks to an "echo" that he hears coming from the well on the property. With her soothing voice, the echo tells Body of the magical keys hidden within the house, and he begins a quest to find them.

The magical keys themselves are intricate and reflect their specific powers. They appear at various points in the show and help unlock the plot of Locke and Key. Bode reveals his knowledge of the keys to his siblings, Tyler and Kinsey, and tells them about the "Well Lady" played by Laysla de Oliveira. 

Throughout the season, the children realize that these keys can be used on various doors, objects, and people in magical ways. They also discover that the Well Lady is a demonic entity named Dodge that is also searching for the keys for its own malevolent plan. The children use the various keys to alter aspects of reality, which enable them to fight Dodge as well as face their respective traumas surrounding their father's murder. 

"Locke and Key's" main villain for Season 1, Dodge.

Apart from the overall story of trauma and recovery, the show immediately pulled me in with its gorgeous production design. The visuals in each episode are stunning, whether it be in the design and layout of Keyhouse itself or the various keys and their supernatural effects. 

In Locke and Key's first episode, "Welcome to Matheson," the mirror key leads their mother, Nina, through a mirror. Within the mirror, Nina's reflection, which is not at all what it seems to be, intends to trap her within, forever. The entire sequence is eerie and claustrophobic, as Tyler (Connor Jessup) goes in to save her, and is reminiscent of Eleven's sensory deprivation scenes in Stranger Things

The Anywhere key allows the user to use a door to transport themselves to any other door they've seen before. Visually, scenes where a character uses this key, are virtually seamless. Bode first uses the key to innocently get ice cream in town, whereas Dodge uses this power for darker purposes. Later in the season, Kinsey (Emilia Jones) and Dodge use the same door at the same time but do not see each other as one teleports to another location, and it was expertly shot as well as a great example of the seamless visual effects.

 There are about a dozen keys that pop up in the first season of Lock and Key that the children race to collect and keep away from Dodge. Some keys and their designs are straight out of the graphic novels, while others were specially made for the show. If you have any trouble keeping up with all of the keys and their magical properties, there is a great article HERE.

Tyler and Kinsey discover the Music Box Key.

Keyhouse itself is gothic in design and feels too large for the Locke family, which reflects the dark nature of the story and mystery they are trying to solve. Camerawork within the house adds to the tension in scenes where Dodge could (and does) show up at any moment to try and steal a key, or when the teen responsible for killing their father pays them an unexpected visit. 

There's a sort of hollowness and emptiness reflected within the house, and in many scenes, you're waiting for something terrible to happen. Towards the end of season one, the large house feels much more like a home as you have explored it with the children and have witnessed the family growing back together and healing.

Locke and Key's first season is entertaining, and the episodes usually end on a cliffhanger, leaving you ready for the next, and the next, and the next. Unfortunately, like any freshman show, Locke and Key is a bit slow at points, and some episodes are stronger than others. This may be the nature of 10-episode long series that are available all at once for bingeing versus weekly releases, which seem to be making a bit of a comeback. The pacing of season one suffers at points due to this, and the plot feels like it drags from time to time.

The excellent cast picks up what the writing or plot has left untouched, much like a game with world exploration that still requires you to be a certain level before accessing a specific area. All the Lockes are unique and handle their own trauma in different ways. 

Tyler tries to be someone he's not as he attempts to be accepted by his peers and struggles with the guilt of not being strong enough to get in the house to save his dad. 

Kinsey must hide from the murderer with her brother to keep him safe, but her guilt has led her to believe that she was to afraid to fight back.  

Bode is often left to his own devices and, at first, wasn't believed at all when he was experiencing the supernatural effects of the keys. He trusts the Well Lady immediately and searches for the keys to experience a childhood like his father and uncle had growing up in the house.

Bode with the Head Key in "Locke and Key" Season 1.

 The actors are strong in their roles and realistic. Tyler and Kinsey are typical teenagers, and their actions are believable as they stem from internal conflict. It's a slow build until they act either selfishly or selflessly. As much as I hate the trope of miscommunication causing more problems, this show has the characters do so in a realistic way. It is the kind of interfamily squabbling you would expect to happen given the circumstances and the trauma that they have endured. 

If you came looking for terror in Locke and Key, you might be left disappointed, but the show is both eerily entertaining and fascinating. It has its thrilling moments but is ultimately a story about family. As a huge Stephen King fan, I've found that his son Joe Hill has followed in his footsteps by creating the same kind of complex characters and otherworldly elements. Of course, he manages to retain his own style of storytelling which is refreshing. Season one is extremely binge-able and sets the tone for the narrative to come. I can't wait until we unlock more of this story! 4 out of 5 Keys.

If you're interested in checking out the comics, you can find the trades at your local comic bookstore or online! Given the recent success of tv shows based on comics and books, Netflix may be the way to go for comic and graphic novel adaptations.