Differences Between Season One And The Graphic Novels
Locke & Key (2020—), a Netflix series about a family that moves into a house full of magical keys, wowed audiences with its first season, despite the fact that it strayed significantly from its source material. Here’s a rundown of the main differences between season one and the graphic novels.
A few weeks ago, Netflix dropped season 2 of Locke & Key, the streamer’s adaptation of Joe Hill and Gabriel Rodríguez’s graphic novel series about a family that moves into a house full of magical keys. As a fan of the story, both in graphic novel and TV show form, I’ve been waiting for this moment for months. I’m about to sit down and watch it, but before I binge watch the new season, I want to contribute a few articles about my thoughts on season one and predictions for season two.
Before you read on, be warned that these articles will be full of spoilers for the first season and the original graphic novels!
So, how do the two compare? I’d say the main difference from novels to Netflix is the fact that the show’s writers have used almost all of the main plot points from the graphic novels, but totally repurposed and rearranged them for the screen.
There are six graphic novels in the original Locke & Key (2008-2013) series, and each of the stories can largely be whittled down into one or two main plot points. There’s the introduction of the villain and the home invasion by Tyler’s old classmate in book one, the discovery of the head key and the revelation of Dodge’s disguise as a teen boy in book two, the battle over the crown of shadows in book three, a more disjointed recounting of several smaller side quests in book four, the understanding of the backstory of the keys in book five, and the final battle with Dodge in book six.
If you’ve watched the show, you know that most of these plot points have already been used, sometimes out of order from the original storyline laid out above—the home invasion, for instance, happens much later in the TV series than in the original books, as does the revelation to viewers that Gabe is actually Dodge in disguise. Likewise, one of the main side stories in book four involves venturing into Erin’s mind, but that adventure happens fairly early on in the show. The entirety of book five, in which the kids use a key to turn back time and figure out their family’s backstory, is also rendered moot by the Netflix series, which went the route of having backstory sprinkled in throughout season one instead of saving it for later.
This choice to cherry pick and scramble the original plot points has two main effects for the TV series.
First, many secondary characters were completely reimagined for the first season in ways that don’t really make sense with their graphic novel storylines. Lots of side stories were also written out of the plot altogether, and season one generally seemed focused on the Locke children and their friends. Even Dodge, the main villain, fell somewhat by the wayside. In the graphic novels, we get to see more of Dodge’s inner workings right from the start. Dodge infiltrates the Locke children’s friend group in the form of a teenage boy early on in the series—by book two, he’s beginning to capture Kinsey’s trust. Dodge spying on the Lockes in this way is a huge factor throughout graphic novels two, three, and four, but we’re only just beginning to see this dynamic play out in the show.
The second issue is that some of the keys were changed so that their capacities are completely incongruent with the ways they’re used in the original stories, making the fight against Dodge a whole different endeavor than it was in the books. Overall, it seems to me that season one centered less on development for characters outside of the Locke family and more on the Lockes finding lots of cool keys, which may not have been the best thing for the series. In my opinion, this focus on the keys is the main problem with the adaptation.
That’s because the graphic novels are fantasy horror stories geared toward older teens and young adults. Yet, the show often slips away from that genre. It’s a little bit awkward, because for the most part, the adaptation really isn’t very scary. It falls more into the teen fantasy side of things, and the mishaps with the magic keys can sometimes run far afield of what’s actually in the books, muddling the mood of the series.
One plot point that demonstrates the strange ways these changes play out in the show is that of the mind control key—in the book, the key is used in life-or-death situations to force characters to stop killing, or even to kill one another. In the show, on the other hand, the kids use it to play a prank on somebody at school that they don’t like. I’ve always really hated that change, because it just feels so weirdly out of place and juvenile. It reminds me more of something like Wizards of Waverly Place (2007-2012), with the classic storyline of kids using their magical powers irresponsibly and learning life lessons as a result.
Changes like that might be understandable if the Netflix series stuck to the Disney vibe, but it doesn’t. It throws in scenes of underage drinking and teenage car sex, along with less-than-subtle adult humor like Bode’s Aloha middle finger joke. The result is that the series gets into this sticky situation of tonal hodgepodge, where many scenes seem like they’d be better suited to a show specifically geared toward middle schoolers, but other scenes would make sense for content that’s more adult in nature, and virtually no scenes are truly horror material, probably due to the attempt to ride that line between audiences.
Season 2 of Locke & Key is now available on Netflix.
Locke and Key (2021) Season 2 Official Trailer