When it debuted in 2020, it was Netflix’s live-action adaptation of lock and key got off to a pretty good start. Based on the brilliant comic series by Joe Hill and Gabriel Rodríguez, the show tells the story of the Locke family and their sprawling Massachusetts ancestral home, which is also home to some very cool magic keys. The show’s first season mixed the comic’s dark family drama and fantastical premise with some high school hijinks ripped straight out of it Riverdale. But in season two, the lack of a major villain and an accelerated pace took away what made the show so interesting — namely, the magic and mystery. Now the series is back with a third and final season trying to wrap things up once and for all. But despite some good ideas, it’s not course correction lock and key really needed.
This review contains spoilers for the third season of lock and key.
Season 3 picks up right where the previous one left off, which means the Locke family — at least initially — live life as if everything is normal. But there are some important changes. Older brother Tyler (Connor Jessup) builds homes in Montana after an aimless road trip, and more importantly, lives a simple life after voluntarily choosing to erase all magical memories from his brain. On the other end of the spectrum, Locke’s mother, Nina (Darby Stanchfield), has used the keys to restore her memory of magic so she wouldn’t feel so disconnected from the rest of her family. (In which lock and key Universe, of course, everyone forgets the existence of magic once they grow up unless you use a special key.)
Early on, Tyler returns home for his uncle’s wedding and things get pretty awkward as he doesn’t remember any of the big life events of the last two seasons. Little brother Bode (Jackson Robert Scott) and sister Kinsey (Emilia Jones) don’t have much to say, and he becomes quite suspicious that everyone is holding back something. He’s drawn back into all of that, however, because — as the season 2 finale teased — we now have a new villain in the form of Frederick Gideon (Kevin Durand), a British soldier from colonial Massachusetts who these days has been invaded by a powerful demon obsessed. The most important thing you need to know is that Gideon wants to use the keys to bring down the wall between our world and the glowing blue demon realm – for reasons that are never entirely clear.
There are a few things that the new season does well. For starters, there’s the introduction of new keys that are packed with possibilities; as in the beginnings of lock and key, it’s a lot of fun learning about the keys and what they can do. In season 3 we learn about a time travel key with some very important limitations and a key operated snow globe with the potential to trap victims indefinitely. As always, these Locke family keys “whisper” whenever the time is right for their appearance. I also thoroughly enjoyed some of the more imaginative scenes using the head button – which lets you literally venture into someone’s mind. Much of the show’s climax takes place in the brain of a hardcore theater kid, which makes it extra, well, extra. There are some great performances here too, most notably from Scott as Bode; He’s as obnoxious as ever, but he also takes a detour as a surprisingly effective villain who exudes some strong Chucky vibes.
But all of that is largely undone by the rest of the show. For one thing, despite the seemingly simple premise, things are way too complicated. At this point in the story, you pretty much need a spreadsheet to keep track of what’s going on with everyone. You have to worry about the powers and locations of the different keys, who remembers magic and who doesn’t, as well as the fact that certain characters have altered their bodies or appearance. I often had to pause the show to remember some logistical details.
More important, however, is the fact that, just like in season 2, the new villain sucks. Gideon isn’t as bad as the extremely creepy Gabe (Griffin Gluck), but that’s not saying much. When the big bad guy both looks and sounds goofy, it’s hard to ever worry too much about the Lockes’ safety. It’s particularly disappointing because Season 1 had an incredible villain in Dodge (Laysla De Oliveira) who was equal parts menacing and manipulative; Unfortunately, she only appears briefly in the final chapter of the story.
Maybe it’s a good thing that Season 3 is mercifully short. It’s only eight episodes long compared to the previous season’s 10, and some episodes are only about half an hour long. The show doesn’t take long to wrap up, which ends a little too neatly for my liking. Like Season 2, it’s not like the new episodes of lock and key are bad per se; They’re just okay – which, given the source material and its intriguing premise, means they’re quite a disappointment.
Season 3 of lock and key begins streaming on Netflix on August 9th.
Disclosure: The edge recently produced a series with Netflix.