Locke and Key Season 1 Review
I definitely didn't hate watching it
Locke and Key is a decent show appropriate for mature children and teens with elements of fantasy and relationship drama that hearkens back to the late 90's and early 2000's. Three children, and their mom, move across the country to their father’s hometown only to discover that there was more to his old house than they were led to believe.
One of the biggest problems of movies and shows that try to balance fantasy and drama set in the real world is they typically execute one or both elements poorly. Sometimes the magic parts are really cool and interesting, but you can’t get interested in the human drama. Sometimes the human characters are really interesting, but the magic is very stale or unexciting.
Locke and Key doesn’t excel at either element, but it does balance them out nicely. The magic is interesting and utilized in inventive or humorous ways with lasting consequences; sometimes. The humans have interesting character development and relationship problems that they try to navigate; sometimes.
The show features a mystery and several twists and turns in the plot to try and keep the audience on their toes. However, most of the mystery can be easily guessed by people familiar with common tropes. The parts you can’t really figure out are revealed throughout the season via flashbacks which explain parts of the mystery you were missing. Thus, the show doesn’t have a mystery; it tells key plot points through retroactive exposition via flashbacks.
The performances were adequate, with a few exceptional performances and moments, and the effects were decent. There are moments when the CGI is extremely obvious and fake but not so much as to draw away from the story or action. Some of the actors have weird line deliveries that make it difficult to discern if their character is supposed to be acting strange or not.
WARNING: PROBABLY CONTAINS SPOILERS
That said, there really isn’t much to spoil. The twists are obvious, and the mystery is so straightforward that the only reason you don’t know what’s happening by the end of episode 1 is because they haven’t shown you all the flashbacks yet. If they went in chronological order, there wouldn’t even be a mystery and you would likely spend the whole show frustrated that the characters can’t figure out what’s happening.
I really can’t tell if the actors were given poor direction or if the characters are just stupid because it was blatantly obvious that some characters were lying or being deceptive or disingenuous, yet none of the other characters reacted in a way you would expect. For example, the mom finds out that her husband never told her about his group of friends he had growing up or that 3 of them died at the end of his senior year. Neither she nor anybody else even mentions how weird it is to be married to a man for over a decade and him never tell you about his childhood.
Speaking of the mother, she is entirely an afterthought in the show. If you cut all of her solo side quests scenes the show would probably get better because there would be more mystery and intrigue surrounding events in the town AND wouldn’t even affect the main plot or characters.
Sadly, the show decided to completely re-write my favorite character, Kinsey, early on. Most likely this was because she was the only smart member of her family and would have easily navigated the problems they came across if they didn’t drastically hinder her decision-making skills.
The magical elements are actually pretty fun. One of my biggest complaints about fantasy shows and movies is when they take too long to get to the fun stuff involving the fantasy elements. Thanks to the Netflix binge-model, shows don’t need to put in filler episodes to stretch out a season. Locke and Key promises magic keys and it delivers on that promise in a major way within the first episode. It then continues to utilize and expand on the magic in each subsequent episode.
However, there is one part of the show that I absolutely love because I feel it is an important thing to realize in modern times. There is a gay character, a handicapped character, AND an autistic character in the show, but none of them are given extreme focus on those parts of their identity. They aren’t stereotypes or special for the sake of being special. They’re just other characters like anybody else.
I think it’s great when someone wants to tackle a sensitive topic or marginalized group through entertainment, but I also think one of the biggest things creators can do is include characters with all sorts of differences as they would the typical heterosexual white males that usually fill the background. The gay uncle isn’t important because he’s gay, the handicapped character isn’t important because he’s handicapped, and the autistic young man isn’t important because he’s autistic. They just ARE well-written characters who happen to have those traits, and I found that extremely refreshing.
So, yeah, even though the show isn’t exceptional by any means I would still recommend watching it if you like stories like the Spiderwick Chronicles, Fablehaven, Artemis Fowl, and Inkheart.