Fair warning: This recap of Locke & Key “Dissection” contains more spoilers than empty threats from Sam. That is to say, a boat load.
Welcome to the another recap of Locke & Key, the show based on the comic book series by Joe Hill and Gabriel Rodríguez. Last time, Kinsey nearly drowned in the sea caves. Meanwhile, Nina investigated Joe the English teacher’s suspicious death. And oh yeah, Sam escaped from prison.
This time, we get Sam’s backstory as he eats a banana and holds the Locke family hostage.
Ready to dissect the episode?
Flashback time already! We open on Sam (Thomas Mitchell Barnet) in Science class. I can smell the formaldehyde. He’s meant to dissect a piglet, but instead he parades it around the class, to the tune of Jingle Bells. The class laughs until he slams the piglet down on the teacher’s desk, spilling its innards onto the metal surface. He gets sent to Rendell’s (Bill Heck) office.
Rendell wants to know why Sam is so desperately seeking the approval of others. Maybe because he’s human, Rendell! He says he was just like Sam, when he was his age. Unfortunately that’s probably a bit too true because Sam is soon distracted by Dodge (Laysla De Oliveira) calling out to him from an etching of Key House on the wall of Rendell’s office. Creepy.
Present timeline. Sam’s standing in front of Key House, gun in hand. Thomas Mitchell Barnet has the perfect baby face to make his character that much creepier. Sam breaks a window to get into the house.
Meanwhile, Sam eats part of a banana, then puts it back in the fruit bowl, when he notices a cell phone on the kitchen table. He climbs upstairs, where Nina (Darby Stanchfield) is still going through old yearbook photos she got from dead Joe the English teacher’s (Steven Williams) house. Sam walks past her. What does this fool want? Ah. He shuts himself in Tyler’s room and creepily changes into his clothes. Nina hears the door creak and starts wandering the halls, calling out her kids’ names.
As Kinsey and Bode come up from the basement, they see the smashed window. They quickly realize that the intruder isn’t Dodge since she can use the Anywhere Key to sneak in.
Nina’s in Tyler’s room and Sam’s got his gun on her. He politely asks her not to scream. Kinsey and Bode hear their mom and Bode decides to use the Ghost Key to spy on Nina and Sam, who can’t see or hear him. Sam wants Nina to give him the Head Key, but he doesn’t believe her when she tells him she has no idea what he’s talking about. He insists she take him to the kids, who surely will know what he’s talking about. Ghost Bode returns to his body to tell Kinsey it’s Sam Lesser keeping Nina hostage. Kinsey has the Head Key, which she sticks inside her beloved stuffed orca, Sally.
Now, all four are downstairs. Same threatens to make Kinsey and Bode double orphans if they don’t give him the Head Key. Kinsey pretends she has no idea what he’s talking about, but Bode can’t handle it. He shows him the key around his neck, taunting Sam, thinking Sam can’t take it, but apparently that’s only Dodge. Sam isn’t pleased; this isn’t what she said the Head Key looked like. They realize that Dodge sent him. Nina can’t believe they understand what’s going on. Kinsey tells him Tyler has the Head Key. Sam would like some snacks while they wait for him to get home.
That might take a while, since Tyler and Dodge are doing shots in her truck. Shots turn into making out and presumably, sex.
Meanwhile, at Key House, Sam has the rest of the Locke family tied to kitchen chairs while he gleefully inhales pasta with his gun held steady in the other hand. Yes! This is the comedy I live for. “Prison sucks, you guys,” Sam tells the unsympathetic Lockes. You killed their dad. Might want to play your tiny violin to a different audience, bud.
Another Sam flashback! The set decoration in Sam’s house tells us everything we need to know about how he grew up: clothes all over the floor, food and beer bottles all over the counters. And, he’s alone with his sister (Charlotte Tavares), serving her burnt food. Then, his dad, Randy (Thomas Mitchell), comes in and yells at him for eating his food and drinking his cola without asking permission. He sneers at Sam for not fighting back at him and failing to correctly block his punch. A knock. Tyler’s at the door and Sam has an excuse to escape his
Back to the present, where Sam’s downing a two-liter of cola with reckless abandon. Nina hones in on his omega-symbol tattoo. When she asks about it, Sam knows she’s asking about Rendell, who he still refers to as Mr. Locke. Kinsey’s Fearlessness isn’t doing her any favors here. She keeps calling Sam stupid driving him into a further heightened state. Nina insists she can help Sam if he’d just tell her why he blames Rendell. Sam just says that Dodge cares about him. Bode wants to know why Dodge wants the Head Key. She needs to get inside the head of someone who knows how to open the black door. I’m guessing that’s the omega-shaped door from last episode, considering the episode was titled “The Black Door.”
Next, we check in on a fully-clothed Dodge and Tyler. He thinks he ought to get home now. As Tyler’s grabbing their jackets from the backseat, he finds the Anywhere Key. He knows who she is! Tyler quickly runs back to the liquor store and Anywhere Keys home. To another version of Hell.
Once there, Tyler sees Sam from behind and tackles him, waling on him. He’s winning the fight until Sam uses the Fire Key to escape his hold. Sam has the gun cocked and pressed against Nina’s head; he’s screaming for the Head Key. Kinsey lies again and tells him she buried it in the woods. He says that she and Bode—his collateral—will join him on the dig. Sam takes every single one of the keys they have and ties Tyler up next to Nina. Kinsey tells Tyler that if anything happens to her, he’d better take care of Sally. Wink-wink-nudge-nudge.
Out in the woods, Bode tries to warn Sam that Dodge is lying to him, but Sam calls him a lying son of a liar.
FLASHBACK. Sam is in Rendell’s office, who says Sam’s been doing well since he and Tyler started hanging out. Then, Rendell gets a call and leaves Sam alone in the office. Ruh-roh. Dodge calls out to Sam with promises of friendship. She tells him to look at Sam’s file on Rendell’s desk. Rendell thinks Sam might have borderline personality disorder and has included feedback from Tyler. I like this backstory for Sam’s character, I do, but why, as a culture, do we want to rationalize every white teenage murderer as mentally ill? Sometimes people are just…bad and don’t need to be manipulated by evil well ladies before they kill.
Back to the present. Kinsey tells Sam they’ve reached the spot and he orders her to dig. In the kitchen, Nina’s failing to get out of her chair. Tyler rolls his eyes and gets things done by falling backwards, breaking his chair and cutting Nina free. She calls 911 and Tyler heads to find Sally.
Over in the woods, Kinsey unearths the knife she used to kill her Fear. Sam is like, girl please. But before he can shoot them, her Fear makes a comeback and attacks him. Choosing not to grab the gun Sam dropped, Kinsey takes Bode and hides in the woods.
Meanwhile, Tyler’s in the study. He quickly finds Sally and the Head Key. Nina asks him what the key in his hand is. I have to hand it to her. This is award-winning willful ignorance.
And this is why you take the gun, Kinsey. Outside, Sam shoots at her Fear. Hearing the gunshots, Nina wants to run out into the woods, but Tyler stops her. Sam runs back into the house and sees that Tyler and Nina have escaped. Expletives.
As Sam’s searching for them, Nina comes up behind him and stabs him with scissors. He swirls around and pulls his gun around her, but doesn’t shoot. Kid’s not so good on follow-through anymore, is he? This gives Tyler time to stick the Head Key in Sam’s neck.
Nina is in shock about what she’s seeing and Tyler is like Mom, do we have to do this every time? It’s magic. You see it then you never remember. Perhaps more important, the version of Sam brought out by the Head Key is the facet of his personality that is kind and rational.
He apologizes and says he never wanted to kill Rendell—Dodge made him do it, for the keys. Relief washes over Tyler—it wasn’t because he told him to kill Rendell; Sam doesn’t even remember Tyler asked him to do that. Sam screams at Tyler about their false friendship and Tyler says, yeah, maybe it started out as a bet, but I learned to love you—until you turned into a monster.
Nina tries to enter the door to Sam’s mind. As Tyler stops her, Sam takes the opportunity to remove the Head Key from his body and pocket it. Just then, Dodge walks in. She knocks Tyler and Nina to the floor. Tyler reaches out to the humanity he saw in Sam, letting him know Dodge can’t take the key from him unless he gives it to her willingly. She stabs Sam and takes it because apparently it’s only the Lockes for whom that rule holds true. Dodge takes all the keys from Sam as he bleeds and tells him that no one ever loved him because there’s absolutely nothing special about him. I can’t.
The police arrive. Sam sees the Ghost Key, still stuck in the door. Realizing his number is up, he turns the lock. But he hadn’t known he was going to turn into Casper. He can’t get back into his body before the cops shut the door and take it away.
Outside, the Locke family is reunited. Sam watches them, crying. After the kids have all gone upstairs for the night, Nina takes out that bottle of artisanal gin Ellie gave her and falls off the wagon. Everyone has a breaking point.
Phew. That was a lot to take in, emotionally. This was essentially a bottle episode, a device that when used well, as it was here, delights me. Story and acting have always been more important to me above all else and they really shone in “Dissected”. Also, I also cannot accurately capture how terrifyingly hilarious Thomas Mitchell Barnet is in his role or how on point the dialogue was, so just trust me when I say, this one is a must-watch.
What will Nina remember about the keys? Is her fall off the wagon a one-time slip-up? Do you think Sam’s ghost is here to stay? Join me next time as I recap Locke & Key, here on Geek Girl Authority.
The first season of Locke & Key is available now on Netflix.