I know that a lot of us are cooped up right now and we’re all looking for something to fill our newly empty days. Well friends, I have some good news…
Netflix made a Locke and Key series!
I had a conversation last year with the librarian in charge of my local library’s graphic novel collection. We discussed our mutual love of Brian K. Vaughn, I told her about my recent obsession with Bryan Lee O’Malley and she recommended Locke and Key by Joe Hill and Gabriel Rodriguez.
I’d heard of Joe Hill’s work as a novelist, but I didn’t know anything about Locke and Key, so I decided to give it a try.
I had a little trouble with it at first. The opening scene features some graphic violence and sexual abuse that struck me as gratuitous. I generally don’t like stories that are edgy just for the sake of it, but I was happy to find that wasn’t the case here. This story is ultimately about growing up and learning to cope with trauma, so that first chapter was a necessary pill to swallow as it set the tone for the rest of the series.
Locke and Key follows the Locke family as they move from Oakland (or Seattle in the TV show for some reason,) to their family’s ancestral pre-revolution home in Massachusetts in order to get a fresh start after their father was brutally murdered.
The series blends real horror, fantasy horror and young adult fantasy adventure in way that shouldn’t work together, but somehow does. It masterfully captures that transition between being a child and getting to the age where the darkest parts of the world are no longer hidden from you.
Not only have they lost their father, but the incident was reported so widely that the family has become infamous, even on the other side of the country. Each of the Locke children finds different coping mechanisms for dealing with this.
Tyler focuses all of his energy on trying to ingratiate himself into his new high school, as if being recognized by others will alleviate the survivor’s guilt that he’s been bearing. Kinsey goes through a few phases. At first she tries to be invisible, wanting to pass through high school without anyone noticing her at all. Later, she dies her hair and attempts to reinvent herself in order to overcome her crippling anxiety. The youngest, Body, seems to actually be the healthiest of the three. That isn’t to say that he isn’t having a hard time adjusting, but it seems like most of his concerns revolve around the way his brother, sister and mother have changed. Young people are constantly absorbing new information about the world and so their minds are inherently flexible. It makes sense that he would have the easiest time learning to deal with their new reality, but he’s still a kid who needs care and attention.
I think this is also why Body is the first to discover magic.
While exploring Keyhouse, Body finds a well that speaks back when he talks into it and several magic keys that can each do wonderful things in the right hands, and terrible things in the wrong ones. It takes a while for Tyler and Kinsey to come around to Body’s discovery, but in time the three of them must learn to use the keys in order to uncover the truth about their father and combat forces darker than anything they’ve ever seen.
The Netflix series takes some liberties, as all good adaptations should, but I feel like it misses the mark on a few points. It’s a much softer version of the story. It seems to have been toned down a bit for a mainstream audience. I don’t really have a problem with that except that, as I’ve mentioned, this is a story about learning to deal with trauma. All the same story beats are still there, they just don’t seem to hit quite as hard.
That said, I still had a great time watching it. The performances are all spectacular and the dialogue is clever. They use practical and digital effects together in perfect harmony, only leaning on the CGI when trying to illustrate the other-worldliness of magic.
They also merged a few characters from the source material and added a few others. I’m not sure why they chose to do that, but the new characters are interesting and fully fleshed out so it didn’t detract anything from the story. The addition of Logan Calloway and the way they reworked Scot Kavanaugh into Scot Cavendish were particular stand outs for me.
The show is really good and I hope you’ll give it a chance. The first season covers about half the story, so there’s definitely more to come. I also really hope that those of you who haven’t read the graphic novel yet will give it a chance. Its Peter Pan meets The Shining in the best possible way. The two are similar enough that I feel the show is a faithful adaptation and different enough that there’s plenty of room to love both.
Thanks for reading,