Reviews

LOCKE & KEY – Season 1 (spoiler-free review) – Wyrd & Wonder 2020

 

Even with a lot of time on one’s hands – and recently we all have more of it than we thought possible – it’s not easy to find interesting shows or movies on the various streaming services: partly because the so-called algorithms that should learn from the users’ choices are far from perfect, and partly because the blurbs for any given offering are rarely worded in an appealing way. For these reasons I might have missed this show, based on a series of graphic novels created by Gabriel Rodriguez and Joe Hill, if not for the mention of a fellow blogger (thanks Lashaan!!), which prompted me to learn more and to take a look at this intriguing and entertaining series.

In short, after the murder of Rendell Locke his widow Nina and their three children – Tyler, Kinsey and Bode – move back to Rendell’s old hometown of Matheson and relocate in the family home, an old mansion called Keyhouse.  If younger Bode is entranced by the big house and the possibility to explore it, the teenaged Tyler and Kinsey are far less sanguine about being uprooted from everything familiar: on top of the trauma for their father’s death they are starting over in a new school and have to deal with the dynamics of a small town and the gossipy hints of a past involving Rendell and his friends – events that no one seems inclined to openly talk about.  Still, these problems go on the back burner once Bode starts finding some strangely-shaped keys all over the house, keys that exhibit weird properties and set in motion unsettling and even scary events that will require all of their wits to be handled.

Where at first this show looked like your classic teen drama, something that almost drove me to stop watching there and then, it soon became clear that there was much more to it and that’s when I became invested in the story and was able to sit down and enjoy the ride. The first element that drew my attention was the house itself and I have to compliment the show’s creators for bestowing on the Keyhouse set a fascinating blend of haunted house and treasure trove and giving it its own personality, almost turning it into a character. I was fascinated by the mystery of the appearing keys that seemed to become visible only when it was the time to manifest themselves and I was strongly reminded of those online “hidden object” games where you have to find a certain number of items, some of them plainly visible while others are disguised in the background and require a sort of… viewing gymnastics to be found.

The keys that the Locke siblings find are hidden in a similar way, and they reveal themselves slowly, masked by other items of furniture or decoration, which gives the story its game-like quality, where each new level brings the players closer to the goal.  These keys also offer the first elements of dread in the story, because where some of them are used in the conventional way, others are inserted in the body of the person wielding them, and if there is no evidence of pain in such act, it does nonetheless elicit a shiver of apprehension in the watchers: you don’t need blood and gore to experience body horror, after all…  Visuals – eerie, disturbing and sometimes downright ghastly visuals – are one of the best elements of this series, establishing its overall tone that goes from the purely magical to the dreamlike, and to the totally chilling as well.

The characters form an interesting mix, starting from the two older kids, Tyler and Kelsey, who have to deal with many difficult emotions on top of the natural transition toward adulthood: they are often at odds with each other but at the same time it’s easy to see the bonds of love and care underlying the surface animosity; I like the way they have to be more adult and responsible than their age warrants because their mother seems absent at times (and along the way we see the reason why), and they feel the need to protect her from further worries. Nina is indeed a character that annoyed me at times: if I could sympathize with her pain for the tragic loss of her husband, I could not condone her obliviousness to what was going on literally under her nose, or the fact that she often left her children to fend for themselves while she was out searching for clues on her late husbands’ past.  Bode is portrayed as a smart child, and I liked the mix of innocence and wisdom he projects, but at times he’s too… perfect, for want of a better word – not “childlike” enough, and that seems contrived rather than natural, but I want to reserve my judgement for now. And then there is Dodge, the supernatural villain of the story, trying with every means to gather all the keys in the house for some as-yet-unrevealed purpose: the actress portraying her possesses a great interpretative range and moves from friendly to deadly with terrifying speed, while appearing to have the time of her life as she’s doing it.

The story alternates between the present and the flashbacks to the past, slowly uncovering the events that changed the life of Rendell Locke – and ultimately must have driven him to leave his home – and that brought on his early demise: in the end I thought I saw some sort of parallel between what happened to him and his circle of friends and what the three siblings, and their newfound friends, are facing in the present, which lays the foundations for what will probably be the continuation of the story. Still, the mystery and the uncanny situations that involve the Locke family, while important, don’t overshadow the themes of coming-of-age and dealing with loss that are at the roots of the story, together with the strengthening under pressure of the family bonds that acts as its core subject.

This first season of Locke & Key might not be perfect, but it’s an intriguing beginning which will surely drive me to see how the story progresses in the next seasons.

 

 

My Rating:

 

Image by Tanantachai Sirival @ 123RF.com

21 thoughts on “LOCKE & KEY – Season 1 (spoiler-free review) – Wyrd & Wonder 2020

  1. I haven’t read the comic books, now I’ve seen first six episodes… and it starts well, it’s a kind of YA paranormal show I like to see every now and then. Thanks for the review!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I am on the lookout for new series to watch but seem to be struggling to find something to settle down to. I watched the first one of these but didn’t continue, it did feel like it was going to be very YA focused but perhaps I should give it another shot.
    Lynn 😀

    Liked by 1 person

    1. While I usually tend to run for the hills wherever YA themes are concerned, this one was handled well and I ended up being invested in the kids’ journey. The first few episodes are somewhat touch and go, granted, but it gets better. 🙂

      Like

  3. This is on my list to watch, and because I’m unfamiliar with the books, it could be a fun experience to see it with fresh eyes. I’m so glad you reminded me to watch it!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I know the comics, so I’ve always been curious about the show, but I guess none of the promotional stuff I’ve seen for it has really pulled me in. This is actually the first review I’ve seen for it by someone I trust and you and I have similar tastes in TV so maybe I’ll take a look 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’m happy to have helped you take interest in this one 🙂
      From what I saw online, the story is slightly less gruesome than in the original material – probably more focused on psychological horror than anything else, so it’s probably quite different from what you saw in the graphic novel. Let me know what you think!

      Like

  5. Immense thanks for the shoutout! I’m really glad that my constant bombarding of comic-based news/reviews has worked like a charm in this case! I have read the first volumes but didn’t get around to finishing it, simply because I forgot to hunt down the remainder of the series hahaha When the show’s trailer was released, I was a bit skeptical for all the reasons you’ve mentioned here. It really looked like they dumbed down the story to target a younger audience, while the comics were a whole other thing!!! 😮 But this review has revitalized my hopes in this adaptation. I will actively try and complete the comics and watch it for sure now. Excellent review as always, Maddalena! 😀

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks! 🙂
      When a story is translated to the screen from its original source material, some changes are to be expected – I remember some comments on this subject when the Walking Dead series came to TV and the graphic novel reader listed all the differences between the original and the series – still, even without knowing anything about the Locke & Key graphic novel, I think there is a good rhythm and more than decent characterization here. I will look forward to your comparison between the two!

      Liked by 1 person

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