Locke & Key Review

by Nick Devonald on February 01, 2020


Locke & Key is the latest comic book adaptation to come to Netflix. Based off Joe Hill & Gabriel Rodriguez’ graphic novel series of the same name. It follows the Locke family who, after their father Rendell is killed, relocate to Keyhouse, the Locke ancestral home. After moving in the three children find magical keys with fantastical abilities, along with an evil being, Dodge, who has nefarious designs for the keys. I defy you not to get a shiver down your spine when she’s Introduced. It falls to the three children to save the day because for some unexplained reason adults can’t remember the magic after experiencing it.

So first off, is it any good? Yes, it’s safe to say that Netflix has yet another hit on their hands. Second, is it a good adaptation? While it’s sure to divide fans a little I would argue that it’s a great adaptation. It captures the tone of the comics perfectly, characters come alive off the page onto the small screen, and this is probably as close to the source material as fans are going to get. A number of changes have been made, which were necessary to translate it onto a different medium, only die-hard purists would find cause to complain.

At it’s heart Locke & Key is about a family coming to terms with a terrible tragedy that’s befallen them. The fact that the setting is an incredible house filled with magical keys and evil creatures full of malicious intent gives the writers a different way to explore the characters hurt and pain.

Tyler Locke is suffering with the blame he puts upon himself. Kynsey blames herself for taking no action. Of all the children Bode is coping the best, resilient in the way that children are, and throwing himself head long into the mystery of the keys. It’s this suffering that helps ground the series.

There is a sense of horror and mystery throughout the first series. We know the mysterious Dodge is evil, and she’s after the keys for some heinous reason, but not much more than that. We know it all connects to events in the past, with their father, but not how. We know there are magical keys, but not their location or powers. There are enough unexplained mysteries to keep us intrigued. The Horror keeps us caring about our heroes.

In case I’m painting this series as all doom and gloom it’s far from it. There are plenty of lighter moments as well. We have coming of age stories, with all three children growing over the course of the series, several blossoming romances, mixed in with all the horror and tragedy.

The Adaptation

It’s an interesting adaptation. While watching it I loved every episode, and couldn’t wait to watch the next. I finished the series and was buzzing. The problem came after when I gave the graphic novels a little more thought in terms of how accurate the adaptation is. And this is when I found a few problems.

Fans may find themselves taking a while to warm to the first episode. Events unfold in different order than in the graphic novels and I found myself frequently waiting for X to happen and instead finding Y happening instead. Once that initial period of adjustment is over and fans understand it’s the tone rather than the sequence of events being adapted then they will find themselves pulled deep into the narrative.

And this is one of the strengths of the adaptation. With events happening in different order, new keys being introduced, familiar keys being tweaked, there’s never a sense of knowing what will happen next. It manages to keep it both familiar and new, and is sure to please the majority of fans.

A perfect example of a change necessary for the small screen is the head key. Please note there are minor spoilers ahead, although both the trailer and a featurette describing these in great detail have been released ahead of the shows release. In the graphic novels the head key would quite literally open the top of a persons head, letting you see inside. While it worked incredibly well in the comics, even with the best CGI in the world it was never going to translate from panel to screen, rather a few changes had to be made. In the Netflix series once the key is turned a doorway appears, unique to each person, where people can quite literally walk into the persons head. There are elements of Pixar’s Inside Out here, and it works incredibly well.

Then we have the changes which are sure to cause fans a few grumbles. The main one of note is the violence gets toned down. Specifically there are a couple of scenes of sexual violence in the Graphic Novels where Netflix has removed the sexual element completely. I won’t make assumptions to the reasons why but if I was to make a guess it would be to appeal to a wider market. Another instance where the violence is turned down involves to Sam Lesser. It doesn’t have any major impact on the story but it does mean some standout lines of dialogue from the comics end up cut. In the grand scheme of things nothing too important though.


Onto the casting. Casting the right actors is key to any successful series, even more so when it comes to an adaptation since nothing is going to turns fans off quicker than characters who don’t ring true to the source material. Whoever was responsible for casting Locke & Key deserves a promotion. Watching the Locke kids was like watching the graphic novels come to life. Some minor concessions have been made when it comes to their appearances, but they embodied the characters so perfectly you forget they don’t mirror the source.

Connor Jessup plays the tortured teenager Tyler so convincingly, trapped between being popular and doing the right thing. Holding himself responsible for events early on in the series. It’s a joy to watch his character grow and change over the series.

Emilia Jones looks the most like her comic counterpart Kinsey. Suffering trauma from her fathers murder, after her interactions with the keys Jones gets a chance to show off her acting chops.

Jackson Robert Scott brings a childish enthusiasm and innocence to Bode which steals the scenes he’s in.

Coby Bird playing Rufus deserves a special mention as well. Rufus is a heavily autistic character in the comics, and Bird manages to bring him to life in an incredible way without being offensive. The actor is also autistic and I think Netflix deserves credit for not letting his condition stop him from portraying Rufus. I hope he gets the recognition he deserves for his performance.

Dodge is one of the highlights of the comics, an incredible villain, and Laysla De Oliveira manages to bring her to life. Alternatively creepy, threatening, seductive, she is a villain who wears whatever face will best suit her needs.



This is sure to be another hit for Netflix. It will fill the void in between series of Stranger Things as it is sure to appeal to fans of that series (On a separate note I think comparisons between the two series doesn’t do either series justice, they’re both fantastic in different ways, although the audience for both is likely to be the same).

Fans of the graphic novels are sure to be impressed with how well this adaptation captures the feel of the comics while also managing more than a few surprises along the way.

Our Score: 10/10

Photos: Christos Kalohoridis/Netflix