February 10, 2020

“Locke & Key” Netflix review: A wrecking ball to the source material

locke-key-netflix-review-a-wrecking-ball-to-the-source-material
Credit: Netflix

Locke & Key is now available to stream on Netflix. Here’s our quick overview:

  • The Netflix show is based on Joe Hill’s award-winning graphic novel series of the same name. Joe Hill, who is Stephen King’s son, also wrote the first episode of the show.
  • The creative team behind the series includes Meredith Averill (The Haunting of Hill House), Carlton Cuse (The Strain), and Aron Eli Coliete (Heroes). All are experienced and talented show creators.
  • All 10 episodes of Locke & Key are now available on Netflix in 4K with Dolby Vision.

CHECK OUT: See where Locke & Key ranked on our “most wanted shows this month” list

Two things to know about this Netflix Locke & Key review:

  1. We aim to be 100% spoiler-free, so this is all opinion.
  2. We watched the whole series, not just an episode like other websites.

This isn’t Locke & Key

Locke & Key was the show I was looking forward to watching and reviewing the most this month. With fantastic source material and an experienced creative team, it seemed destined to be in 2020’s Top 10. Unfortunately, with each episode watched, I thought, “This isn’t right.”

CHECK OUT: The best Stephen King adaptations available to stream now

Compared to the graphic novel, the show is sterile. For whatever reason, Locke & Key was downgraded from an ingenious and gruesome graphic novel to just another teenage drama. Whoever had the bright idea to make this for a PG-13 audience should be put in a corner with a dunce hat on.

My hopes were high after The Witcher, as Netflix took that source material and made a fantastic TV series without trying to make it for a broader audience. There would have been a revolution if they had messed with it. This begs the question: where’s the revolt over what was done to Locke & Key?

If you’re coming to Netflix’s Locke & Key from the fantastic graphic novels, you’ll be bitterly disappointed. It’s not the same.

Locke & Key on Netflix
Credit: Netflix

Size matters

Making Locke & Key PG-13 is bad enough, but that’s not the only problem. It is also slow. So slow, it lost my 15-year-old daughter’s interest before the end of Episode 1, and she’s a supernatural teen drama fanatic.

CHECK OUT: The best Stanley Kubrick movies you can stream right now

No matter which way you slice it, this supernatural teen drama is average at best. This isn’t prejudice against teen-driven shows — Sex Education is one of my favorite shows. The recently released low-budget Ragnarok had me hooked, too. A teen drama can be great when done well — it just isn’t with Locke & Key.

Having watched all 10 episodes of the show, Netflix could have made a better show if they had cut it down to six episodes. They could’ve trimmed away much of the school interaction, and refined it around the star of the show: the keys.

A watered-down adaptation

This is what happens when you adapt a widely beloved story: you have to cater content suitable to the audience you’re now targeting. The issue is that Locke & Key didn’t prioritize quality. Instead, we get cliche antics, with simplistic dialogue dumbing down the characters, all in the name of reaching a wider audience.

CHECK OUT: The best Netflix movies you can stream right now

It’s not constantly bad, though. There are moments when things work; glimpses of what could have been. But overall, much of the show ends up one-dimensional, oversimplified, and predictable. This just makes it worst when something clever happens with the keys. It’s nagging throughout, and heartbreaking for anyone that is a fan of the graphic novel.

Locke & Key verdict: Kill


  • Streaming on Netflix
  • Created by Meredith Averill (The Haunting of Hill House) and Joe Hill
  • Starring Darby Stanchfield (Scandal), Connor Jessup (Falling Skies), and Emilia Jones (Utopia)

Someone who has no knowledge of the graphic novels might call this binge-worthy. It has high-end production value, and the acting makes what it can with the plot. Overall, the story is coherent, but Locke & Key should have been so much more.

CHECK OUT: The 10 shows teenagers stream in secret and why it might not be that bad

The big question is, why didn’t they just make Locke & Key for TV? One thing is certain: it’s a missed opportunity for Netflix.

Check out the trailer for Locke & Key below, or let us know your review of the show on social media. The links are below.

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