The Netflix show becomes less faithful to the comic book series’s plot, but closer to its tone in Season 2.
Last season Locke & Key garnered a split reaction amongst critics. Some enjoyed its faithfulness to the comic book series plot while making it lighter and more fanciful for a younger audience. Others…did not. Season 2 delivers ten episodes that will likely satisfy the former while perhaps persuading the latter to reconsider.
This sophomore effort introduces a darker, nastier vibe than found in most of Season 1. While nowhere near the level of scary or gore-strewn as writer Joe Hill and artist Gabriel Rodriguez’s four-color efforts, the tone here has ditched much of the “gee-whiz” fantasy of the previous volume.
A large part of that concerns the shift in lead characters. While always an ensemble piece, the true lead for most of Season 1 was the young Locke sibling Bode (Jackson Robert Scott) and the show, accordingly, often felt like it had a child’s sensibility. This year, the family’s teens, eldest brother Tyler (Connor Jessup) and middle sister Kinsey (Emilia Jones), are moved more front and center, Kinsey especially. The series, too, adopts a more mature sensibility. Characters use the keys with more casual recklessness while viewing them with a much smaller sense of wonder. The stakes feel more significant and more personal as well.
Villains Dodge/Gabe (Griffin Gluck) and the now demon-possessed Eden (Hallea Jones) get more screentime as well. With that comes a moderate amount more splatter and a significantly higher helping of snarling and psychological warfare. Gluck glowers fairly well but feels a bit lightweight for a big bad. On the other hand, Jones clearly has a blast with her demon self, playing Eden as a wounded id monster whose appetite for, well, everything is insatiable.
The series new characters don’t add as much, unfortunately. New teacher Josh Bennett (Brendan Hines) comes carrying an initial helping of intrigue and strong chemistry with Locke matriarch Nina (Darby Stanchfield), but Key never quite seems to hash out how to use him. Hines plays the notes he’s given well, especially a vague sense of creepiness and a couple of flashes of quick temper, but the scripts keep jerking his personality around. You never can figure out if he’s a genuinely decent guy with an intense hobby or a genuinely creepy guy who’s good at playing normal. That’s a mistake on the show’s part, to be clear.
[T]his sophomore effort does introduce a darker, nastier vibe than found in most of Season 1.
Some plotline feels similarly underdone. For example, Tyler’s girlfriend Jackie (Genevieve Kang) “aging out” of comprehending and remembering magic has potential. However, Key either doesn’t explore it at all or slams that story pedal all the way to the floor. It can’t figure out the balance to make it feel like an ever-growing inevitability so it ends up feeling more like an element that’s thrown in when the writers remember it. That said, the resolution of Jackie and Tyler’s trouble carries quite a punch.
Nonetheless, the drawbacks are slight and easily pushed past.
What it does right, however, it does better and more consistently than last season. The dark humor feels better collaborated, as when Jones devours a movie concession stand jerk who talks less like a teen and more like a Fox News host or your uncle that insists calling a woman “pretty” these days has been criminalized.
The scares come heavier this time out too. They also boast a specificity that makes them harder to shake. A scene where Kinsey and Scot (Petrice Jones) must escape a set that looks like a department store perfume counter while pursued by blank-faced mannequins isn’t the most unique, but it works. The monsters’ herky-jerky movements give the whole thing an especially chilling vibe.
Ironically, by shaking loose of the source material’s beats, this season ends up feeling closer in tone to the comics than last year’s more plot faithful interpretation. Again, that doesn’t mean it tips over into pure horror, but much of what fans decried missing last time out, including a sense of scope and a sensation of discovery, is far better deployed here. Even as someone who liked Locke & Key the first time around, I’d still call this Season out as an improvement on nearly every level.
Locke & Key Season 2 is opening doors all over Netflix now.