Having hugely enjoyed the Locke and Key graphic novels’ series back when I read it a couple of years ago, I was simply over the moon to hear that Netflix was set to bring an adaptation to our small screens. I opted for a ‘premiere’ reminder and promptly found myself plopping on the sofa all starry- eyed and excited, popcorn in hand – to enjoy this extra special treat. My, oh my, was I to be sorely disappointed…
Let me preface what’s to follow by saying: if you have never feasted your eyes on the awesomeness that is the graphic novels, then you’ll probably find my review slightly incomprehensible and my general distaste of the series absurd or, at best, far- fetched and kind of unfair. If, however, you are a fan of the original then you will understand where I am coming from and, in all likelihood, agree.
Let me also note that when it comes to adaptations in general, I’m kind of a stickler for accuracy and staying as true to the source material as possible. I do, of course, understand and accept the notion of time constraints as well as that of things not always “translating” to the real world (especially in the case of graphic novels). Changing or switching things around for reasons other than the above, however, tends to really bum me out – and has been known to put me off certain adaptations altogether.
So, things got off to a bumpy start when at the very beginning of the show I found myself in… Matheson, Massachusetts. What? Why? Whatever happened to Lovecraft (which the whole first installment of the graphic novel series was named after BTW)? Ah well, it was “just a name” so I accepted the production’s reasons (such as they were) and kept on watching.
But then the cast started appearing… and almost no one turned out to be as expected. Nina was a “clean cut”, suburban- looking redhead instead of the raven- haired, haggard and full- fledged alcoholic version of the novels. Tyler’s bulky, rugby player build was all but gone. Duncan bared no resemblance to his skinny and slightly disheveled graphic counterpart. Scot (don’t even get me started on that!) was a different character altogether. Ellie had somehow changed race (not to mention hair color). Rufus was significantly older (albeit played by an autistic actor, which was a great choice) and worked at Key House, Rendell may have borne a resemblance to his on-screen son but none whatsoever to his original image, Sam came from some parallel universe where his face had not been smashed in with a brick by Tyler… I could go on and on. Thankfully there were also a few, pretty spot- on choices. Emilia Jones was great as Kinsey (despite the difference in dress sense and the lack of body piercings & dreads), Bode found his perfect incarnation in Jackson Robert Scott (Georgie from Stephen King’s IT), Laysla De Oliveira made for a fantastic Well Lady/ Dodge & Felix Mallard couldn’t have been better cast as Lucas Caravaggio. So, I turned my heart to stone and kept watching…
It quickly became apparent however, that changes were unfortunately not limited to cast decisions. So many aspects of the original were altered that the whole thing started feeling like a loosely based on the original, watered- down version of “what could have been” which reeked of missed potential. Some characters were forcibly shape-shifted into something beyond recognition (i.e. Kinsey’s love interest, iconic tattooed punk Scot Kavanaugh was replaced by mousy, retro Cavendish), others were seemingly arbitrarily upgraded or downgraded (i.e. Nina Locke, Duncan Locke) to the expense of the actual story, some were left out altogether along with their respective storylines and ramifications to the graphic novel’s plot (i.e. Al Grubb, Zack Wells, Jamal Saturday, Jordan Gates, Candice Whedon) and some were merely “invented” to God knows what purpose (i.e. Kinsey’s zombie like fear creature). Plot points changed. Keys were conjured up at will. Countless storylines went AWOL and the dark vibe & violence of the books were toned way down, to next to nothing. Meanwhile lots of pointless teenage drama was added, along with a fair amount of Narnia like magic (flying silver bullets anyone?) and all of a sudden I just felt like switching my TV off and giving the whole thing a miss. Instead, as homage to Joe Hill and the brilliance of the original, I suffered it all to the end.
Don’t get me wrong, I probably would have been able to happily watch Locke & Key Season 1 (maybe even love it?), if I had nothing to compare it to. The chosen cast did a decent job, locations were great (have to admit I did love Key House and the underwater caves) and the plot was tight and swift enough to keep you from getting antsy. As things were though, I am afraid it was quite the big disappointment. Being the masochist that I am, I will most probably return to watch Season 2 when it airs – mainly in the hopes of it redeeming this darned show in my eyes.
As for recommending it, I’m kind of on the fence here. For those of you who haven’t read the graphic novels yet I’d probably say “go for it”. Having no expectations, pretty much ensures you will enjoy the series – then eventually appreciate the mind- blowingness of the novels even more. For those like me, on the other hand, well let’s just say that you may “proceed at your own risk”. Do let me know what you thought, once you’re done though – in all honesty I’d be quite interested to find out.
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