Fair warning: This recap of the Locke & Key pilot, “Welcome to Matheson” contains more spoilers than the amount of sass Kinsey and Tyler give their mom. That is to say, a boat load.
Welcome to the pilot recap of Locke & Key! The show is based on the comic book series by Joe Hill and Gabriel Rodríguez, which I haven’t read, so I’m coming to this cold as that anachronous ice cream the Lockes keep eating. But even if you’ve read the comics, this was the first chapter of the TV Lockes’ lives.
And it’s not a very happy one. The Locke family is recovering from patriarch Rendell’s murder and has decided to move back to his familial home as a way to cope. While the two older kids, Kinsey and Tyler, deal with starting over at a new school, youngest son Bode explores the house. He meets a creature living at the bottom of a well; she lets him in on a secret—the house is filled with magical keys. One of those keys puts their mom in harm’s way and the three kids have to rescue her from inside a mirror.
Let’s “unlocke” the finer points of the episode.
We open on a guy (Ken Pak) unlocking his front door when he gets a phone call telling him Rendell Locke (Bill Heck) is dead. The camera pans over an old photo of some teenagers just before Ken Pak plunges an old-timey key into his heart, setting the whole house on fire. OK. I’m hooked.
Now it’s three months later. The Locke family is on its way to Massachusetts from Seattle. Kinsey (Emilia Jones) is drawing a bicycle while eating candy, Tyler (Connor Jessup) has headphones on and looks like he’d like the world to disappear, Bode (Jackson Robert Scott) is captioning polaroids he’s taken and mom Nina (Darby Stanchfield) seems to be barely keeping it together.
The Locke family finally arrives in the idyllic coastal town of Matheson, a perfect contrast to the hell that is bound to break loose soon. The family’s first stop? Ice cream. Kinsey gets huffy with the British ice cream hawker (Petrice Jones) because he gives them their seasonally inappropriate treat on the house when he realizes who they are. Those two are so hooking up.
Next stop on the journey: The ancestral home. You guys. It’s called Key House and it looks like as though a creepy Victorian house and a Disney movie had a baby. Their uncle, Duncan (Aaron Ashmore), comes barreling out the front door to welcome them to Matheson with party hats. Jackson Robert Scott as Bode is awesome here, totally committed to literally being a clingy nephew.
Duncan takes them on a tour of the house. The library is just creepy enough without going overboard—the stuffed fawn and music box cast a suspicious light without moving into parody, which is representative of the entire show, really.
Later, it’s clear Tyler is having a hard time when he starts to light a joint down by the water. Kinsey stops him before he gets the chance. We learn that Tyler and Rendell were fighting a lot before he died. Oh no. Together, Kinsey and Tyler text a selfie to their dad. I shouldn’t have emotions 13 minutes into this show, guys! But as someone who lost her mom fairly early in life, I get it man, I get it.
We cut to Nina deciding where to display Rendell’s ashes. Since she still hasn’t shut his phone off, she receives the kids’ text. This sends her to a flashback:
Nina’s painting a stained glass window when her husband comes up behind her. They exchange unimaginative sexy banter and then the doorbell rings. It’s Tyler’s friend, Sam (Thomas Mitchell Barnet). HOLY FRICK, Sam pulls out a gun. He shoots Nina in the leg and demands to know about Key House. When Rendell refuses him information, he shoots him in the chest; Tyler watches all of this, locked outside. Wow. I knew Rendell’s death would be tragic, but wasn’t expecting something that traumatic.
And back to the present. Bode is out in the garden taking photos when he stumbles upon a well house. The door’s locked, but Bode’s small enough to slip through the iron door. He practically climbs into the well to snap a photo, but of course the polaroid disappears down to the bottom. Never fear, the picture returns itself to the edge of the well. Because that’s totally normal. Bode calls out to the bottom of the well, asking if anyone is there. A woman’s voice replies, “Yes. I am, Bode.” He runs away.
Inside, Nina admits to Duncan that she moved her family to Key House because she needed a project to distract her from her grief. Tyler bolts in and alerts them to the fact that Bode is freaking out. The older people go to check things out and decide it’s best to laugh at the traumatized kid when he recounts his story.
The next morning. It’s eggs for breakfast. The secret ingredient? Mom’s fingernails. Or maybe egg shells. Tyler and Kinsey sass their mom the way only TV children can get away with and head off to their first day as commuter students at boarding school.
Next, Duncan gives Nina “the proverbial keys to the kingdom” and gets the heck out of dodge. As he’s leaving the kingdom, he flips Key House the bird. Bode catches him and they determine it’s a way to give a greeting. Aloha, Duncan.
Then, Kinsey and Tyler arrive at school, where Kinsey overhears two popular girls debating whether she’d be too depressing to invite to a party. At lunchtime, she eats alone under the stairs. But wait, here comes ICE CREAM BOY—whose real name is Scot—to keep her company. Scot needs to work on his game, though, because making fun of a vegetarian’s lunch is never the way to their heart. He invites her to hang out with his squad to watch horror movies.
Over at hockey try-outs, Tyler flashes back to watching his dad’s murder. He’s woken from his daymare by two bros, Javi (Kevin Alves) and Brinker (Kolton Stewart), who compliment him and tell him his trauma will help him get girls and invite him to a party. Teenagers.
Meanwhile, Bode’s at home alone and hearing voices. He heads back to the well where Echo (Laysla De Oliveira) is ready to unload some exposition. Key House is filled with amazing, secret keys that allow you to astral project, shape shift and even portal around the world, etc. But Bode can only find the keys if he listens to those voices.
Bode immediately finds a key in his sister’s bracelet and sticks it in her closet door to head to—the ice cream parlor! So, he gets an ice cream cone but when he returns home to grab some cash, Kinsey demands to know why he broke her bracelet. So, he explains, but then the key doesn’t work when they try to visit the Eiffel Tower. Hmm.
While that’s going on, Nina is sorting through a box of Rendell’s things she found in the attic…including an exact copy of the photo the fire guy at the top of the episode had. What’s this all about? Before we can even process that, Kinsey comes in to get mad at Nina again.
Wow. Things are moving fast. Bode has already found a second key! He runs back to Echo, ready for some answers. She explains that the “Anywhere Key” only lets you travel to doors you’ve already seen, which is why he and Kinsey couldn’t go to the Eiffel Tower earlier. Also, Echo is really hungry, but judging from her sinister grin, I don’t think the Doritos Bode offers up are going to suffice. Anyway, the second key Bode found lets you see dead people and she explicitly tells him to show it to Nina.
Party time. What Tyler’s hockey buds told him is true—the girls are drawn to his trauma. Tyler makes flirty small talk with Jackie (Genevieve Kang). More importantly, later, when he’s making out with Eden (Hallea Jones), he “sees” Sam who tells him that Rendell’s death was all Tyler’s fault. He bolts.
Meanwhile, Kinsey caves and goes to Scot’s where she meets the Savini Squad, which is actually just a triad when you include Zadie (Asha Bromfield) and Doug (Jesse Camacho). Unfortunately, gruesome horror movies are a bit too triggering for Kinsey. Sam tried to go after her and Bode as well; she survived by hiding. Scot apologizes for his miscalculation, but Kinsey takes off. Tyler happens upon her as she’s walking home and they drive back to Key House together.
Back at home, Bode has figured out how to use the “I See Dead People Key”, which involves following an alternate version of yourself into a mirror. He calls Nina to his room when he gets freaked out. She walks into the mirror and is confronted by a kaleidoscope of Ninas. When she tries to touch one, the glass around her cracks. Bode runs to the well.
But Echo’s no longer at the bottom of the well. And oh yeah, she lied about the key. Turns out the second key, actually called the Mirror Key, traps you in something called the “prison of the self”. She offers to help him save Nina in exchange for the Anywhere Key. Oh, Bode, don’t. But he does and away goes Echo-o-o-o-o.
The three siblings work together to save Nina. They tie a rope around Tyler before he heads into the freaky funhouse to find Mom. Upon returning to the real world, Nina goes into full denial mode after she realizes that she has a giant set of keys that may do even more dangerous things. Kinsey is all of us when she asks, what is this place?
Finally, to wrap things up with a cliffhanger bow, Echo visits Sam in prison!!!! She’d promised him she’d come see him.
I don’t know about you, but I have high hopes for this show. I’m generally a fan of comic adaptations because what is a graphic novel if not a storyboard? Sure, some things were a bit cliché or obvious, but Locke & Key has the foundation of a good fantasy show; it’s built on real human emotion and pain—grief, shared trauma and teenagers with guns. The cast is believable as a family, especially the three siblings.
Did Nina really forget about the mirror or is she faking it? Did you, too, think “it’s full of bats and tetanus. If you go near it again I’ll beat your ass” is the best rhyme of the year? Tell me, if you’re fans of the comic series, how does the show stack up against the original? 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.