Locke & Key season two arrives on Netflix on Friday, and since it’s been what feels like a pop culture eternity since its first season—it was actually February 2020—we decided a crash-course refresher for this spooky, heartfelt series was in order. This guide is most useful if you’ve already seen the series (and quite obviously, it does contain season-one spoilers), but if you just want to be prepared to dive into what looks like a darker, more complex, and gorier second season, we’ve got you covered.
First thing’s first: Locke & Key is a live-action adaptation of Joe Hill and Gabriel Rodríguez’s IDW comic that took a long time to get to TV. And, of course, there are a few—ahem—key differences between the two. The show begins with a man jamming a key into his chest which sets him on fire, and another man being murdered. The first death is a mystery that isn’t explained until way later in the season, while the second death—that of Locke family patriarch Rendell—is the catalyst that sets the whole plot in motion. Rendell’s shell-shocked wife, Nina, and kids Tyler, Kinsey, and Bode move cross-country so they can live in Keyhouse, the Locke ancestral home in fictional town Matheson, Massachusetts (in the comics the town was called Lovecraft). As the family learns, there’s a reason why their father never talked about his childhood; not only is Keyhouse infused with magic in the form of keys that open unusual doors and other objects, it’s also the nexus of a terrible tragedy that Rendell endured in his teens—the deaths of three of his best friends—which was a direct result of messing around with the keys and the malevolent entities that are attracted to them.
But the kids don’t realize that at first—especially once they get caught up in the wonder of finding and testing all the keys (and get distracted by a certain amount of high-school drama along the way). Important examples include the Anywhere Key, which lets you travel anyplace (as long as you’ve seen it before); the Head Key, which grants entrance into a physical manifestation of one’s own mind palace; the Identity Key, which lets you assume another person’s appearance; and the Ghost Key, which lets your spirit separate from your body if you go through a particular door in the house. The other keys variously set things on fire, grant entrance into a twisted mirror dimension, mend things that are broken, unlock hidden memories, bring people back from the dead (sorta), and enable the user to control another person’s movements. The Locke kids amuse themselves (for a time, though many of their experiences soon skew more toward terrifying and/or emotionally wrenching) trying out the keys—until their quest leads them to the most important key: the Omega Key, which opens the Black Door, which in turn allows demons to pass into the human world. But as the story beings, there’s a demon who’s already in the human world and they’re hellbent on getting their hands on those keys: the supremely nasty Dodge, who takes a few different forms as the season progresses.
Nina Locke (Darby Stanchfield): The mother of Tyler, Kinsey, and Bode, she moves the family from Seattle to Matheson so that they can live in Keyhouse. An artist/restorer and recovering alcoholic, she supports her kids even though she (like all other adults) can’t understand the magical predicaments they find themselves in—something that temporarily dissipates when she briefly falls off the wagon—and she spends a lot of time puzzling into the tragedy in Rendell’s past that ends up informing the events of season one. Toward the end of the season, she sparks with Detective Matuku (Martin Roach), so it’ll be interesting to see if a relationship develops there.
Tyler Locke (Connor Jessup): The oldest Locke sibling, Tyler would just as soon go about life in his comfort zone—he’s popular, plays hockey, and has a budding relationship with classmate Jackie (Genevieve Kang). But like all the Lockes, he’s still having trouble dealing with the aftereffects of his father’s violent death (Tyler, in particular, feels extreme guilt about it, since his father’s killer was a school acquaintance), and he feels an obligation to protect the family, even if it means getting entangled in the supernatural.
Kinsey Locke (Emilia Locke): The middle child, she’s an aspiring artist who’s more of an outsider than Tyler, though she does quickly befriend “the Savini squad,” a group of horror movie-obsessed classmates led by Scot Cavendish. In season one she overcomes her fears, literally, when she goes inside her mind using the Head Key and buries the Kinsey-like creature that represents everything she’s afraid of. But her loss of fear also makes her a bit of a dangerous risk-taker too.
Bode Locke (Jackson Robert Scott): The youngest by several years, he’s a curious, precocious kid whose explorations around Keyhouse and its grounds lead him to discover several of the keys, as well as stumble across Dodge’s hiding place within Keyhouse’s abandoned well. He befriends Ellie’s son, Rufus (Coby Bird), but we don’t see too much of Bode outside of his Keyhouse adventures.
Rendell Locke (Bill Hecke) and Duncan Locke (Aaron Ashmore): Rendell dies before the story begins, but we get to know a bit about him in flashbacks; he was a kind, loving husband and father whose only flaw seems to be keeping quiet about a very dark history. His younger brother, Duncan—who lives in nearby Boston, and helps his sister-in-law and her kids get settled in Matheson—can’t remember what happened in their childhoods or anything about the keys, thanks to a sort of magic-induced amnesia. And since he’s an adult, Duncan’s unable to comprehend the existence of magic when he visits Keyhouse in the present day.
Dodge (Laysla De Oliveira as “the Well Lady,” Felix Mallard as “Lucas,” Griffin Gluck as “Gabe”): A power-hungry (and food-hungry... Dodge can eat!) demon who would dearly love to get their mitts on all the Locke keys, and will stop at nothing to get them. We find out in season one that Dodge manipulated troubled teen Sam Lesser (Thomas Mitchell Barnet) into killing Rendell, but Dodge is also rather kill-crazy on their own; at one point they use the Anywhere Key to open a door to a subway platform just so they can casually shove a kid in front of an incoming train. That’s just one example. Dodge, who eventually snags almost all the keys and the sinister Crown of Shadows, takes various human forms—including that of a beautiful woman, Ellie’s high-school boyfriend Lucas, and Kinsey’s high-school boyfriend Gabe.
Scot Cavendish (Petrice Jones): Head “Savini” Scot befriends Kinsey when she first arrives in Matheson. Kinsey joins the cast of The Splattering—Scot’s creature feature about a local lobster monster—and they have a brief romance until her reckless behavior causes him to pull away. After that, Kinsey starts dating another film-club member, Gabe, who says all the right things to win her over... because he’s possessed by Dodge. Despite this, as it stands Kinsey and Scot are still friends.
Ellie Whedon (Sherri Saum): A high-school friend of Rendell’s, and one of the few people who knows the true story of the tragedy, Ellie initially befriends Nina when she arrives in town. They have a falling-out after Nina low-key accuses Ellie of being involved in the murder of Matheson Academy teacher Joe Ridgway (Steven Williams)—which she did witness, though it was actually Dodge who killed him. While Ellie is generally a good person, the secrets she keeps (especially about the mysterious return of her long-dead high-school love, Lucas... who’s really Dodge in disguise) end up sealing her fate at the end of season one.
Eden Hawkins (Hallea Jones): Matheson Academy’s resident Mean Girl. She’s struck by a demonic bullet at the end of season one, so she won’t quite be herself (presumably she’ll still be mean, but in a more supernatural way) in season two.
With Ellie’s help, Dodge gets their hands on the Crown of Shadows—which, when used in conjunction with a special key, allows the wearer to conjure powerful shadow creatures. Dodge, naturally, uses them to terrorize the Locke kids to try to get the Omega Key. The Lockes manage to knock Dodge out, then summon their pals Jackie, Scot, Eden, and Gabe to help carry the demon’s body to the Omega Door, assuming if they toss Dodge back into whatever supernatural realm is behind it, their troubles will be over.
But there’s a grander arc to Dodge’s plan than anyone, including the audience, has realized—and Locke & Key does a rewind and point-of-view change-up to fill in the blanks. But first, we also get the full story of what happened to Rendell and his friends, thanks to a repentant Ellie: when they were teens, they opened the Omega Door, and three of them were hit by demonic bullets that came sailing through. They became possessed. Dodge was Lucas’ nickname, so that’s where that came from. Things got violent; the three possessed teens were killed, and the survivors swore an oath to protect the keys. In the present day, we learn that a lonely Ellie used the Echo Key to bring Lucas back—albeit trapped for a time in the Locke well—thereby bringing Dodge into the human world, an act which brought about the manipulation of Sam and Rendell’s murder, and everything that followed. (The reason Dodge looks like a beautiful woman most of the time is because, as we’ve seen, the demon will do or say almost anything to get what it wants.) We learn that Gabe is Dodge using the Identity Key. We learn that Eden was struck by one of those bullets. And we learn that the “Dodge” the kids pushed out the Omega Door was actually Ellie.
Beautifully shot, acted, and plotted, Locke & Key tells a compelling story that straddles the line between horror and fantasy with characters you actually grow to care an awful lot about. The stakes are high enough to cause real danger—as mentioned, Dodge has no hesitation about murdering anyone who gets in their way—and season one managed to feel satisfying even with those loose threads left dangling in the event of a second season, which it thankfully received. (There’s also a third one on the way.) With Joe Hill and Gabriel Rodríguez’ comic series available for inspiration, and the show’s own talented writing team shaping things, there’s a lot of room for Locke & Key to expand its story and mythology while still staying true to the dark-fairy-tale vibes that made its first season so consistently entertaining.
Locke & Key season two arrives October 22 on Netflix.
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