Netflix’s new gothic mystery Locke & Key almost went down in history as one of those nebulous never-quite-gets-made projects. Its production troubles have long been legendary and that’s just part of the reason why the anticipation for this comic book adaptation is particularly high. But this reviewer and long term Locke & Key fan is happy to report that the first episode of the series promises a show that not only does justice to the source material but also hints that it might just elevate Locke & Key above the few problems of its past.
Based on the comic created by Joe Hill & Gabriel Rodriguez, Locke & Key centers on the titular Locke family who are forced to move to their ancestral home, Keyhouse Manor, after a terrible tragedy. Without getting too far into spoiler territory, the magic of Keyhouse is in its name. The three Locke children—Tyler, Bode, and Kinsey—find themselves entangled in a web of mystery linked to a series of strange and powerful keys which seem to be connected to their new home.
Locke & Key’s fantastical premise is anchored by a cast that makes the emotional heavy lifting at the center of the show feel utterly effortless. Led by Jackson Robert Scott (the only actor left over from the Hulu pilot that Netflix picked up and translated into their version of the series) as Bode, the youngest of the Locke clan, the family at the heart of the show is easy to fall in love with and we imagine will be hard to say goodbye to once the series comes to an end. Emilia Jones brings a frenetic anxiety to middle child and only daughter, Kinsey, a fan favorite character who’s just as engaging on screen as she was on the page. The struggling matriarch, Nina, lives in every fearful sidewards glance and tempered breath of Darby Stanchfield.
The breakout here, though, is undeniably Conner Jessop as Tyler Locke. The young actor not only looks so much like Rodriguez’s rendering of the character that it’s slightly uncanny, but is also the beating heart of the first episode as he fills every scene with a quiet rage, grief, and most importantly love that illuminates just what is so special about Locke & Key.
Much has been made about the IDW comic book’s horror bona fides; Hill and Rodriguez fill the pages with love for their fave genre from the name of the town—Lovecraft, which changes here to Matheson—to the dark story they craft. But what the Netflix show and those behind it do so deftly is understanding that horror is only one aspect of what makes Locke & Key come to life.
Director Michael Morris brings a warmth to the halls of Keyhouse Manor that highlights the shadows creeping in the corner to great effect. The first episode of the series focuses on the love at the heart of the story, with the family always at the core of the action. Speaking of which, if you’re a fan of the books there’s a lot to dig into here as the writers Joe Hill and Aron Eli Collete do an impressive job of introducing us to the core concept of the show whilst adapting some of the most important establishing moments to screen. “Welcome to Matheson” is atmospheric, spooky, and strangely hopeful. Which is odd for a show built on such a horrible tragedy. Speaking of that tragedy, we were very impressed with how they handled it. We will be interested to see how die-hard fans of the comic deal with some of the changes.
Adapting a beloved property like Locke & Key is always going to be tough. But from the first episode, it really feels like Hill, Rodriguez, and the team at Netflix have found a brilliant balance between bringing to life what fans love about the comic and crafting the best version of the story for the screen. We’ve fallen in love with the Locke family, Matheson, and Keyhouse Manor and cannot wait to see what comes next.
Header Image: Netflix