Locke and Key review: Good show, bad comic book adaptation

Photo: Connor Jessup, Emilia Jones in Locke and Key.. Image Courtesy Christos Kaloho/Netflix
Photo: Connor Jessup, Emilia Jones in Locke and Key.. Image Courtesy Christos Kaloho/Netflix /

Netflix’s Locke & Key is a great show – if you weren’t a fan of the comics.

Comic book shows have been all the rage for the last few years. Yet for a while there, it seemed like The CW was the only channel putting out consistently good comic book content through their various Arrowverse TV shows. Granted, Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. was a spectacular program for years, and the only comic book series on ABC that lasted longer than a couple of seasons. FX got into the game soon after with Legion and Gifted.

Netflix joined the fray with their gritty Marvel Comics shows a few years back, but even though they have since ended severed ties with Marvel, they’re producing quite a bit of comic book content – purchasing Mark Millar’s comic book line and Sandman and Warrior Nun (which will both debut later this year).

Some have questioned whether or not leaving the Marvel shows behind was a good idea because they’re such well-known properties, but after seeing the success of The Boys on Amazon, we can clearly see that the comic book company doesn’t always matter when it comes to producing successful comic-based shows. As long as the product is good, people should tune in.

This year, Netflix kicked off their commendably-heavy comic book slate with Locke and Key – a 10-part show based on the highly-popular eponymous IDW comic.

Locke and Key revolves around the Locke family. After the father (Rendell) was killed, his wife Nina moves her and her kids Tyler, Kinsey, and Bode to Massachusetts so that they can live in the Locke family house. The kids find keys that do all sorts of fantastic things like open up your mind to see your memories, go anywhere in the world, and so much more (you can check out the trailer above).

This was a series that fans of the comics were undoubtedly glad to hear was coming to Netflix, because those comics were dark, deep, and had the potential to be very scary. However, when the trailer dropped, it seemed nothing like the comic book. It seemed more Harry Potter or The House with a Clock in Its Walls than Locke and Key. Now, that doesn’t make it bad. It’s just not necessarily what some of the fans were looking for.

You can’t always judge a show by the trailer, but after watching the show, this writer’s initial conclusion was correct. Locke & Key is an entertaining show if you weren’t heavily into the comic books.

Locke and Key. Locke & Key
LOCKE & KEY – Credit: Christos Kalohoridis/Netflix /

At the very beginning of Locke and Key, it doesn’t take long to tell that some things were changed – which is to be expected.

Some of the source material has to be changed. It’s impossible to do everything the way it was in the comics. But as the show progresses, you can tell that some things were changed to keep the uninformed viewers happy. Since they are the majority, again, it makes sense. However, I found myself becoming a little more uninterested with the show as each episode ended.

Now, some things were a nice touch. For example, keeping the father’s urn red or Bode being the first one to find the Head Key. However, a lot of things were changed that just didn’t work. Nina was just there for much of the story – not good or bad, just there. In the comics, she had a big part to play. She was grieving over her husband and slowly became a worse drunk and parent – a journey that began right from the start and forced Tyler to mature in a hurry.

Perhaps the idea of having her struggles with alcohol kick off the story may have been too much too soon, but it’s an important part of the story that should have been retained – but because it wasn’t, things didn’t land quite as hard. For example, when Kinsey had the fallout with her mother on the show, it lacked the same emotion that it possessed in the comics. It wasn’t memorable. Again, it was just there.

Kinsey taking the fear out of her head was changed as well. In the source material, her fear and emotions were small representations that she trapped in a bottle. Here, her fear was a giant monster with claws. If this was a show that could be considered horror, this may have worked. However, as it isn’t your mainstream horror show, it feels like this may have worked better if the manifestations were smaller. Sure, the scene where Sam comes back would ultimately have had to be changed, but it would have been worth it.

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Now, all that aside, there are a solid amount of positives. Thomas Mitchell Barnet’s portrayal of Sam Lesser was incredible. He played the role of a kid persuaded into killing rather effortlessly; you hated him, but you also couldn’t help but feel bad for him. Sam was dealt a bad hand and Dodge picked up on that immediately. Speaking of Dodge, it’s hard to be more satisfied with just how good she was. Laysla De Oliveira was creepy, sexy, and intimidating – everything you’d want from the character.

Locke and Key was definitely a bone-chilling story, but there was nothing even remotely jumpy in season 1 – which is disappointing. There is a ton of potential for this concept when it comes to being a scary show, but the creators took the comic and turned it into something else.

That said, it’s still a very entertaining show, and has all of the qualities you’d want from a gripping series. In an era where people love to binge-watch, it can certainly be enjoyed in a ten hour binge as most of the main characters have depth and really do improve as the season progresses, keeping us engaged in their stories.

Overall, it’s definitely worth checking out, but if you’re a fan of the comic book series, it would be wise to curb your expectations.

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What did you think of Locke and Key? Is this accurate or are you a fan of the comic books series that’s still enjoying the series? Let us know in the comments below!