Let me start by saying that I am a big fan of the comic version of this series, but I haven't read it in a few years. I also don't own a copy, but instead checked them out from my local library, which is now closed for the next month. All that to say I'm running off of memories and impressions for any comparisons I make to the comics. This may contain spoilers up through episode 4, because it's not really a review per se, it's more me spilling out my thoughts on this series after watching a few episodes.
So here: take the head key and open my brain if you're interested in my thoughts on Locke & Key. Last chance to turn back.
I've been looking forward to this series for a while, but was skeptical that it would make a smooth transition to the screen. There's something about the comics medium that often just doesn't work in other media. Not just weird superhero outfits, but the entire linear snapshot storytelling model. It forces you to connect things from panel to panel in your brain in a way that is done for you on film. You fill in the motion of expressions, the voices, the effects, etc. In film you're seeing someone else's interpretation of all these things.
I'm only a couple of episodes in, but so far it's definitely exceeded my expectations. Most of the characters were cast really well. Bode, Dodge, and Sam are especially true to the comics. Kinsey and the mom (can't remember her name) are well acted and interesting characters. Tyler is fine, but seems way different than what I remember from the comics. In the comics I recall him being a bit of a meathead. In the Netflix series they seem to be setting him up in a hero/leading man role. My recollection from the comics is that Bode is really the hero, which is one of the things I really enjoyed about it, so I hope they don't change that. But it's early yet.
The Keys (so far)
Overall I'm really impressed with the physical design of the keys. I can't recall what they looked like in the comics, so maybe they lifted this from those pages. But they definitely look cool on screen. Thoughts on individual keys below:
- Flame Key - Kind of a weird, one trick key, as far as I can tell so far. Most of the other keys exist in the realm of psychological or ethereal magic, but this one just burns stuff. I'm guessing they'll need it as a convenient plot device later. I can't think of any other reason this would exist. I don't remember this one from the comics.
- Door Key - A pretty important key, this exists much as I would have expected, allowing the user to go anywhere they've seen before. Pretty standard teleportation stuff.
- Mirror Key - This one also seems like something that exists because they'll need it later. I'm guessing they'll stick the fire key into Dodge, shove her in the mirror zone and call it good at the end of the series. You heard it here first.
- Head Key - The visualization of the head key is a little campy. Making Bode's head an arcade and Kinsey's a shopping mall seems too literal. I guess it would have been hard to have their heads hinge open and look realistic while not being gruesome, but making their heads a different physical space seems an odd choice.
- Ghost Key - The ghost key special effects are not great. I get that it's only a Netflix show, but the ghost looks pretty cartoony. I would have liked to see it be more realistic with some sort of ghostly overlay effect, rather than full CGI. The transition to ghost mode is pretty stark and noticeable, which takes me out of the story and into the realm of "I wonder why they did it like that?". This is not what you want when you're trying to keep your audience engaged in the story.
Even with my minor critiques, it's an entertaining show and I look forward to watching the rest of it. I'm very curious how they're going to handle the skin and gender keys, both from a special effects perspective and a woke culture perspective. Certainly a couple potential minefields in there. Minefields that I thought were handled as well as could be expected in the comics. Not sure how well it will work on film, or if Netflix should even try.