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Netflix's Fantasy 'Locke and Key' Should Remain Locked Up

Janeen Mathisen

Posted on February 19, 2020 15:33

2 users

Netflix's "Locke and Key" is a bargain bin copy of one of their own greatest hits, "Stranger Things." It clearly demonstrates that a cool concept alone isn't enough to carry a show across the finish line to greatness.

Netflix’s fantasy-adventure-mystery "Locke and Key" released earlier this month and is a reminder that greatness – true greatness – cannot be copied. While the show has a unique and intriguing premise, it quickly crumbles into a mess of inconsistent characters, drab acting, poor pacing, and an unclear, boneless narrative. Magical keys alone – no matter how cool they are, or the variety of their powers – cannot carry an entire show.

"Locke and Key" take influences from the 2008 film "The Spiderwick Chronicles" as the constantly grumpy Locke family move into a drafty, spooky mansion (aptly named Key House). There are, of course, secret magic keys hiding around every corner which the siblings must try to find – if they can stop hating each other first. When the dysfunctional sibling narrative is done poorly, as is the case here, it becomes irksome to witness. Even worse, it’s a clear indicator of the scriptwriters’ lack of original conflict.

The grittiness and character drama of "The Umbrella Academy" (also by Netflix) proves itself as another influence, but merely in an attempt. The drama between characters in "Locke and Key" has neither weight nor meaning, as the Locke children flip-flop between personality traits so often that they cease being individuals and become a singular character led by the hive mind of writers. Their asinine decisions will not have viewers immersed and excited, but rather rolling their eyes. Suspending disbelief quickly becomes outright impossible. In comparison, drama in "The Umbrella Academy" remains compelling because the characters’ personalities and their actions are consistent. This invites plenty of room for fresh, original writing.  

The biggest influence "Locke and Key" draws from is clearly "Stranger Things," one of Netflix’s biggest hits. They even make a direct reference to the iconic opening credit sequence in "Stranger Things." "Locke and Key" attempts to mimic the 80s love letter by presenting an aesthetic combination of coziness and barrenness. Robed in warm colors, the Locke children wander through the corridors of the silent house, painted warmly and darkly to contrast the cold drafts, worn floorboards, and peeling sections of walls. Joyce's run-down house in "Stranger Things" had character because she had character. Aesthetic alone does not make a good show, even though the writers of "Locke and Key" might believe that to be the case.

"Stranger Things," and even "The Umbrella Academy," come from a place of excitement and passion. "Locke and Key" feels like an uninspired homework assignment that its writers didn’t care about, and tries to lazily copy from other shows to avoid doing any real work. When a story is written because people care about it – the characters and their developments, when they craft intricate plots like beautiful lacework – it shows.

And when people don’t care, it’s even more obvious.

"Locke and Key" is a bargain bin "Stranger Things." Overburdened with a myriad of problems big and small, perhaps the most disappointing thing is the gaping hole of missing potential – of how great the show could have been.

Janeen Mathisen

Posted on February 19, 2020 15:33

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Source: NME

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