X-Geeks

Locke & Key (Season One) Review

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By Ben Wright (@iamzavagno | www.xgeeks.co.uk)

If you read our Locke & Key trailer review or audiobook review, you know that Locke & Key is something very close to my heart. My passion for this world and it’s characters is on another level, so of course there was apprehension accompanying my excitement going into this. I managed to successfully binge the show in one sitting, that’s how eager I was to see what they had in store. I’m pleased to announce that, overall, I am very happy and satisfied with what they did!

The casting for Tyler (Connor Jessup), Kinsey (Emilia Jones) and Bode (Jackson Robert Scott) is fantastic! I was really impressed with the three leads and think they did a tremendous job with the material. It felt like I was getting the Locke Kids from the source material, but also there were enough subtle differences to give it a fresh feel too! I was, however, a little disappointed with Nina Locke (Darby Stanchfield). This isn’t a knock on Stanchfield – because she was really good throughout! It was more to do with the fact I think she was underused. The same could be said about a few supporting characters. As for the show’s main antagonist Dodge (Laysla De Oliveira), there were moments when Oliveira was perfect! There was genuine menace, unpredictability and a you really felt her presence. But there were also moments when she became totally oblivious, and this was a little frustrating, because the potential of this character is there for all to see, it just needed a little polishing up at times.

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Successfully pulling off a TV adaption of Locke & Key was always going to be a challenge, so it’s probably a good job that Joe Hill was involved! With that said, I do think there is a situation of ‘too many cooks spoiling the broth’ at times, and with over ten different writing credits, there was some inconsistencies in the storytelling. Going forwards I think a more streamlined writing team is the way to go, in particular the team of Meredith Averill and Liz Phang. Despite some narrative flaws, the main story arc is well executed and you feel like they achieved their goals, and achieved what they set out to do with the story and the characters. It would be easy to say that Locke & Key is a slow burner, which at times there are elements of this, but I’d also argue that they do a great job with the pacing, getting to certain story plot points in a very timely and pleasing fashion.

As for the production, there were times when you could tell that the show was given a more modest budget from Netflix to work with. But having to work on a smaller scale actually had a positive impact, especially when it came to the locations, Key House in particular. It felt like it was pulled straight from the page! The very nature of the story, surrounding magical keys, meant that they did have some challenges to overcome. There were one or two cases where they slightly missed the mark, and I’ll go into that later, but on the whole, they gave you enough supernatural fantasy moments to be satisfied with. Hopefully the show does well and get’s the green-light for a second season, as they hopefully will up the game and go even more fantastical with it.
In terms of the visuals, the contrasting colour pallet used, to highlight reality and fantasy, came across really well on screen. The score worked on the whole, but I did find some of the song choices a little strange in terms of their placement.

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Now would be a good point to talk about the not so good, and unfortunately there are a few things that the show struggles with. First of all, there is the tone, it is all over the place at times. You feel that there is no real consistency or formula that they adhere to, It can be shockingly brutal one minute, then overly fluffy and ‘tweenie’ the next! The balance is never quite right at times and can bring you out of the moment. I also feel the show pulled it’s punches when it came to showing off the different keys powers. The biggest disappointment, for me, was The Head Key. If you have read the graphic novels or listened to the audiobook, you’ll know this was a striking visual in terms of its presentation. Now, I appreciate not everything can translate over, and there would have been a significant cost in replicating it, but It was something I was really looking forward to seeing and it didn’t happen. This feeling occurred a few times, where things could have been just that more fantastical, when the reality was far more reserved.

I would have also like to have seen a lot more of Duncan (Aaron Ashmore), but they could be holding back for a possible second season. And boy does this show need a second season! A second season is needed, not only because there is plenty of story left to tell, but also because this always felt like it was trying to find it’s feet. I think a second season would allow them to come back much stronger and much more consistent, especially with a condensed writing team.

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Despite some shortcomings, I feel this is still a strong adaption, of what is not the easiest story to tell. Yes of course there were things I wanted to see presented differently, but given the obvious budget restraints and the practicality of it all, I think Locke & Key is a very enjoyable and rewarding experience.

Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed  Locke & Key, despite a few flaws. It was a very good adaption, even if they didn’t always hit the high notes of the source material. The casting is superb with only a few minor tweaks needed to take them to the next level. The blend of horror, humour and drama is a mixed bag, sometimes working, sometimes not. If they can get a tighter control of this, a follow up season could take the series to even greater heights!

Locke & Key is available on Netflix now.

What did you make of Locke & Key? Let us know in the comments!

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