While we’re still waiting for the second season of The Umbrella Academy to materialize, Netflix is about to bring another wildly popular comic book series to the small screen. After years of being trapped in development hell, Locke & Key: Season 1 is debuting on Friday, February 7.
Comic book readers are certainly excited for this new series, but what about newcomers? What makes Locke and Key so special, and why is it one of IGN’s most anticipated shows of 2020? Read on to learn everything you need to know to prepare for the Netflix series. The topics we cover here include:
- Locke & Key: The Basics
- Locke & Key’s Major Characters
- Locke & Key’s Comic Book Background
- Locke & Key: The Long Road to TV
- Locke & Key’s Stephen King Connection
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Locke & Key: The Basics
Locke and Key is a horror fantasy series centered around the Locke family. After the death of patriarch Rendell Locke, the rest of the family makes a reluctant move to Keyhouse, an old, supernaturally charged house in rural Massachusetts (a town called Lovecraft in the comic and Matheson in the TV series). There they discover a series of mystical keys that grant a variety of powerful abilities. Both the Lockes and their enemies are swept up into the search for the Omega Key, the most powerful of these artifacts. They also slowly uncover the hidden history of Keyhouse and a supernatural war dating back to the days of the American Revolution.
Locke and Key was created by writer Joe Hill and artist Gabriel Rodriguez and originally published as a comic book series from 2008-2013. After years of attempts, Netflix is finally debuting its live-action adaptation in February 2020.
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Locke & Key’s Major Characters
While the full scope of Locke & Key spans several centuries, most of the story unfolds in the present, as the Locke family works to understand their new home and prevent their enemies from harnessing the full power of the keys. Here are the most important characters to know:
Bode Locke – Bode is the closest thing to a main character the series has. The youngest member of the Locke family, Bode also takes the most easily to his new home and its many secrets. He’s the first to discover the power of the keys, and he also inadvertently awakens a dormant evil deep within the grounds. Bode is played by Jackson Robert Scott in the Netflix series.
Tyler Locke – The eldest Locke sibling, Tyler has perhaps the hardest time coming to terms with his father’s death and accepting their new home. Tyler is extremely protective of his family, to the point of being closed off and antisocial in his day-to-day life. Tyler is played by Connor Jessup in the Netflix series.
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Kinsey Locke – The middle Locke sibling, Kinsey deals with the trials and tribulations of puberty and fitting in as well as living in a supernaturally charged house. She quickly finds that the keys can help her deal with recent traumas in her life. Kinsey is played by Emilia Jones in the Netflix series.
Nina Locke – As a mother of three and a grieving widow, Nina Locke feels the weight of the world on her shoulders. She honors her husband’s request to move the family to Keyhouse, though she quickly comes to regret that choice once the house’s true nature begins to reveal itself.
Dodge – Dodge is a mysterious, supernatural being trapped within the well house on the Keyhouse property. Dodge is the main villain of Locke & Key, taking other forms and lusting after the Omega Key. But to say much more than that would be spoiling things. Dodge is played by Laysla De Oliveira in the Netflix series.
Sam Lesser – With Dodge being trapped inside a well, it helps having a human agent to carry out her whims. That’s where Sam Lesser comes in. Though highly intelligent, Sam’s childhood of abuse and neglect makes him an easily manipulable minion. Sam is played by Thomas Mitchell Barnet in the Netflix series.
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Rendell Locke – Rendell Locke was the patriarch of the Locke family, and the only one to truly understand the nature of Keyhouse and the power of the keys. Though the comic opens with Rendell’s murder, the nonlinear nature of the story means that he still has a critical part to play. Rendell is played by Bill Heck in the Netflix series.
Ellie Whedon – Ellie is an athletic coach at Lovecraft Academy, offering the struggling Kinsey a much-needed outlet in the form of cross-country running. However, Ellie is also a woman with many dark secrets and a connection to the Locke family that’s slowly revealed over time. Ellie is played by Sherri Saum in the Netflix series.
Locke & Key’s Comic Book Background
Long before the likes of Netflix and Hulu were attempting to bring the story to TV, Locke & Key was a comic book series written by Joe Hill and drawn by Gabriel Rodriguez, and released through IDW Publishing.
The series tells the story of widower Nina Locke and her three children, Tyler, Kinsey, and Bode, as they move to their family’s ancestral farmhouse in Lovecraft, Massachusetts. As is so often the case in horror fiction, they discover the house to be haunted, though not merely by restless ghosts. The house contains a portal to a demonic realm, one that can only be opened with a mystical object known as the Omega Key. The house hides this and more than a dozen other enchanted keys that bestow great power on those who control them. Over the course of the series, the various Locke family members learn more about their troubled family history and the true nature of their home and its keys, while fighting to prevent malevolent spirits from harnessing the power of the portal.
The Locke & Key saga breaks down into a three-act story, with each act being told in the form of two six-issue miniseries. It remains to be seen if Netflix will stick to that structure (perhaps telling the story over the course of three seasons) or if the adaptation will expand on the original story.
While the original Locke & Key saga wrapped up with 2013’s Locke & Key: Omega, the story isn’t quite finished yet. Hill and Rodriguez are reuniting for a followup series called World War Key. First revealed at San Diego Comic-Con in 2019, World War Key will explore both the past and future of the Locke family. World War Key is expected to begin in 2020, though no firm release date has been revealed yet.
Locke & Key: The Long Road to TV
Like fellow Netflix series The Umbrella Academy and FX’s perpetually troubled Y: The Last Man adaptation, Locke & Key has faced a very long and difficult battle in going from page to screen. Dimension Films originally acquired the rights to the series in 2008, shortly after the publication of Locke & Key: Welcome to Lovecraft. The rights have changed hands multiple times since then, with studios envisioning the adaptation either as a single movie, a full trilogy or an ongoing TV series.
In fact, there are now no fewer than three Locke & Key pilot episodes in existence. The first, filmed when the series was in development at 20th Century Fox, was actually screened at Comic-Con 2011, even though Fox had already passed on the series at that point. The second pilot was greenlit by Hulu in 2017, though Hulu also eventually passed on the series.
Netflix finally stepped in after Hulu bowed out. Though rather than use the Hulu pilot as a starting point, Netflix replaced almost all the cast (with the exception of Jackson Robert Scott) and filmed a third pilot. That seed finally sprouted and became a full-fledged series. In its new, finalized form, Locke & Key is developed by Carlton Cuse, Meredith Averill, and Aron Eli Coleite, and all three are serving as showrunners. Hill is both executive producing and writing the series. Stephen King’s IT director Andy Muschietti (who directed the Hulu pilot) is also executive producing.
Locke & Key’s Stephen King Connection
Most Joe Hill fans are probably aware he’s the son of one of the most famous horror writers of all time, Stephen King. Hill’s full name is Joseph Hillcock King, and like his brother Owen, he’s followed in his father’s footsteps. What fans may not know is that many of Hill’s stories share small connections to King’s novels, and vice versa. Father and son seem to enjoy including hidden references and cameos in their work.
These references are more apparent in Hill’s novels than in the Locke & Key comics. For example, The Fireman features a character named Harold Cross, a portmanteau of The Stand protagonists Harold Lauder and Nadine Cross. NOS4A2 is especially steeped in King references, including nods to Pennywise the Clown, Shawshank Prison and Doctor Sleep villains the True Knot. Hill has even snuck in several references to characters and concepts from the Dark Tower books, the central linchpin of King’s shared literary universe.
While the Locke & Key comics themselves don’t really reference the larger King-verse, NOS4A2 does suggest the comics take place in this universe. A map seen in NOS4A2 features the towns of Derry, Maine and Lovecraft, Massachusetts.
Will we see any of these hidden connections in the Netflix series? It’s hard to say. With the NOS4A2 TV series being on AMC and King’s various properties scattered all over Hollywood (including the mashup series Castle Rock on Hulu and The Dark Tower still being adapted at Amazon), Locke & Key may be limited in its ability to acknowledge these other stories. Still, the hope is that hardcore fans will be able to spot subtle clues this series is part of an even bigger horror universe.
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