For years and years I have been a big supporter of the Locke and Key comic being adapted into a TV series or a movie. At one point there was going to be a version of the series on cable television, but the series was never picked up from its pilot. I remember it being announced by Netflix a while ago, but completely forgot about it up until the trailer released a month or so ago. I haven’t read the series in some time, but I do generally remember what the story is about and I remember it being one of my favorite comics that I’ve read. The quick gist is that a family moves into a new house and they start finding magical keys that link back to their father. There were some big expectations I had going into watching this series, but even I tempered them somewhat expecting it to be a disappointing adaptation. But was it?
The first thing I noticed early on in the first episode is that the kid who plays Bode is also the kid from the movie IT who gets attacked at the very beginning by the drain. When I realized this, I had a thought that this kid really needs to find better things to do than talking to evil murderous clowns or talking to mysterious voices in a well. It has nothing to do with my thoughts overall for the series, but it was an observation I had that I found interesting. Outside of that kid, I don’t know any of the actors in the show except for Aaron Ashmore who I really only know because of his brother that I’ve seen a lot of. Although now I’m wondering if half of the stuff I’ve seen is actually Aaron since I can’t tell them apart.
I don’t know if the show would have benefited from having more actors that are seemingly known, but there were some cases where I felt the acting was a little shaky, especially with their mother. I felt like she was easily the worst character in the whole series and was also performed the worst. She was annoying for most of the time and the poor acting was only saved by all of the redeeming moments that the kids had. There were moments where I felt like they could have been better, but with what they had to work with, I think overall they were pretty good. The only real standout for me was the character Scot played by Petrice Jones. I don’t know him at all outside this show, but he was a real joy to see on screen every time. He has a really likeable personality and charisma that oozes off the screen.
The two main villains Dodge and Sam were played pretty well, but again by actors that I don’t know outside of this series. I even looked them up and couldn’t find anything that I recognized them from. Dodge was entertaining to watch and really embraced the role of being seductively evil, but for some reason in the back of my mind I feel like this would have been the absolute perfect role for Cara Delevingne. I know that the show isn’t made for big names clearly but in another reality, I think she would’ve absolutely killed this role. I do give props to the actor who played Sam. He didn’t have the biggest moments to shine other than some flashbacks and an episode where he comes back to the family, but he really did perform it well. He was haunting to watch because you could feel his emotions and troubling personal issues and he showed that with each line delivered and action performed, so again I give props to both of them.
With all of the acting thoughts I had done with, we get to the actual story and how everything played out. Now look, everyone will say things like “this could be the next Game of Thrones” or “This could be the next that” and so on. People say that about every kind of property that they really like. Now, the comic was great because it had a definitive ending and didn’t stretch its story out too far. I always respect that out of comics or shows or movies. It makes it feel really tight in how its written and gives you no time to have moments where it feels slow or falls apart. Now I didn’t know that this show was going to be more than one season until I finished the season and saw that they were setting up to do more. There’s nothing wrong with that and there’s plenty of opportunity for them to do that especially with what they set up at the end. With that in mind, this show based off of its source material, had every opportunity to be “the next Stranger Things”. It just had a lot of potential is what I’m trying to say.
Unfortunately the show falls flat when it comes its execution. There are a lot of things that it does right, but really it just holds flat from start to finish with a few small peaks and a few small lows. It doesn’t take advantage of the potential it has and try to really go for something special, but rather it felt like they played it safe and only did the bare minimum. I’m not sure if they were scared to really go for it with this series or if it was just the handling of the writing or how they went about adapting the source material, but in comparison to The Umbrella Academy, it really falls flat and feels bland. I think the biggest issue leans on its handling of the keys themselves.
The show never gave itself a chance to really breathe with the keys through the first two episodes. The anywhere key of course is what allowed to Dodge to be released from the well, but that was setup so early on that it never gave us a chance to feel the kids experimenting with the keys without being afraid of some evil well lady to use them. With Dodge being released early, it also makes her able to just move around at anytime and anywhere without any kind of tension. That’s the problem, there’s just no tension at all with this show. There could have been more buildup to her being released from the well, but instead they were focused more on setting up the next season and trying to have some kind of big twist for the end of this season. The only reason she was released early was so she would have plenty of time to establish herself as being Gabe. It was a reveal that seemed obvious as we got closer to the end, but her survival could have been setup better that didn’t require her to be released so early on and to create a lack of tension for the whole season.
The only other major issue I have is with the handling of the CGI. I know that this show was likely balling on a small budget, but some of the CGI in this show was absolutely awful and extremely dated to look at. I understand if the budget was low, but I felt like some more time could have been put into certain parts like the ghost key effects or the shadows towards the end of the season. It’s a small nitpick, but it felt very cheap and took away from my enjoyment of the series as a whole. The keys though were all very fun to watch as they were being used. Some of them were forgotten about later on, and I was honestly disappointed that they weren’t used more by the whole group of kids to defeat Dodge. Also I’m not sure how deep they’ll go into the actual potential of the keys, but in the future I would love to see some experimenting with what they keys can do. Like what if you trapped someone in your mind, or used the head key while in the mirror world. I’m not sure how that would all work, but it would be interesting to see the effects and experimenting.
Ultimately, the show is entertaining and has its highs and lows, but sits steady at a feeling of being flat from start to finish. For me, it was disappointing, but not enough that I hate it. I do like the show and I do like that they are setting it up for future seasons, but there’s a lot that needs to be done going into the next season for it get back on track. The show has a lot of potential and could end up being great, but it didn’t necessarily get off on the right foot. I’m excited to see where they take the story next and if they try to fix some of the mistakes they made, but if it feels flat like it did in season one then unfortunately they may need to shelve the project.
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