Locke & Key
The Locke kids learn more about their dad in a most unusual way this episode, but it’s another chapter that feels a little bit like wheel-spinning to push us into the back of the season. Sure, we’re getting to know the Locke family a little better, and we get to see the first real mistake made by one of the kids when Kinsey Locke goes way too far with her new key, but the actual narrative is starting to drag here. The episode’s dark ending implies that the stakes are going to be raised soon and those suspicions that we can’t trust Ellie Whedon were justified, but let’s hope the pace quickens now that a beloved character has been murdered. Let’s get Sam Lesser to town, let’s start having some real fun with the keys the Lockes have found, and let’s pick up the momentum before Netflix subscribers jump ship and check out something else in the recently added tab.
“Family Tree” will be most remembered for three things: the traumatizing social torture of Eden Hawkins, the memory that Tyler and Kinsey see of their father’s violence, and the death of Joe Ridgeway. It opens with a creepy, swooping shot through Key House to Tyler in the kitchen. He senses he’s not alone. Can you imagine living in a house like this one? When would you ever sleep? Something draws him to a parlor, where he learns that Kinsey has been drawn there too. It turns out the older Locke kids now have the power that Bode has displayed all along, a power to find the keys. In the piano, they find a key that opens a music box, and appears to do nothing more than that at first. Then they realize its true power when Kinsey tells her brother to “shut his mouth,” and he’s suddenly unable to talk. It’s basically a “Puppet Key,” something that allows its user to control someone else. It’s a power that Kinsey Locke is about to abuse.
Some domestic scenes of the Locke family are followed by the first screening of The Splattering, which catches Kinsey Locke falling deep into trauma on-screen. She thinks she ruined it, but she’s actually the only real thing about it. Eden comes up and accuses Scot of sleeping with Kinsey before insulting him even further. Scot looks honestly hurt, but Kinsey gets a fire in her eyes. Remember how she killed her fear monster? Doesn’t fear keep us from doing awful things to our enemies sometimes? Look out, Eden.
At first, it’s harmless enough. Kinsey uses the Puppet Key to get Eden to fall on her face in the cafeteria, but she bounces up and gets a laugh for her “physical comedy.” Then Gabe notices what Kinsey and Scot have been doing, and he wants to play too. He has her stand up, lay on the table, and do the breaststroke, and the tone of the scene changes. How far would they go to humiliate Eden? Far enough to have her pour ranch dressing on her head, for sure, but far enough to really hurt herself? Scot says it’s enough, but Kinsey and Gabe push on. We later see they went way too far.
Nina Locke gets a call after Bode brought a blacksmith hammer to school — a big no-no at most elementary institutions — and Tyler Locke discovers how far Kinsey was willing to go. More importantly, Nina comes home to find Ellie in her house, which creates a moment of panic followed by one of anger. Ellie is damn suspicious. She claims that she was getting one of Rufus’ dolls, but the important moment comes when Nina notices a scar on Ellie’s chest that’s the same as one Rendell had. And does it look a little like an upside-down keyhole?
Gabe and Kinsey are walking through the woods, and he seems more excited about the keys and their dark potential than Scot was. He reveals that he transferred because his parents are getting divorced and his dad’s always traveling. Is a love triangle forming? And does anyone else not at all trust Gabe? They make it back to Key House, flirting a bit along the way, before Tyler kills that vibe. They fight over Kinsey using the key, not just because it’s morally wrong but because there’s something out there trying to hurt the Locke family, and perhaps it would be better to not draw its attention.
Nina comes to talk to Joe Ridgeway about the “upside down teardrop” scar that Ellie and Rendell shared — the exact same scar in the exact same place. They talk about grief and moving on from the past. Is Nina getting lost in the background of her dead husband? That’s not going to help her move on. The fact that the last thing Ridgeway will ever say to her is how he’ll always be there for her feels bitterly ironic after the episode’s closing scenes.
Tyler and Jackie flirt and finally kiss, and Scot comes to Kinsey’s window looking to talk; he always wanted to do the pebble at the window thing. They talk about what happened with Eden and he suggests that they use her powers for good. After all, couldn’t the keys produce some real magic for The Splattering? When he sees a photo of Rendell, he identifies the three kids that drowned when Mr. Locke was young.
In the middle of a heated discussion, the “magic” calls out to Kinsey and Tyler again, and they find a key in a vase on a tombstone. It has a flower shaped like a star on it, which guides them to a tree with a glowing keyhole. Kinsey puts the key in the tree and glowing jars rise from the ground. Kinsey grabs one, seeing dad flying after using the Ghost Key. They’re memories like the ones in the mall in Kinsey’s head, but they’re in paint jars. They see Rendell and Lucas when they were younger, using a key that changes appearance. And then they see something they’ll never unsee: Rendell committing an act of violence against one of his friends, one of the ones who reportedly drowned. Kinsey argues the memory was distorted; Tyler isn’t so sure.
After learning that Ellie’s story about why she was in Key House was kind of garbage, Nina gets a frightened message from Joe. She rushes to his house to find an open door, which she goes through to learn that poor Joe is dead, a bag around his head. And the camera cuts down the house to reveal a very suspicious Ellie Whedon.
• Do kids really still sit around fireplaces sharing their first kiss to Dido?
• We haven’t talked about Uncle Duncan at all. He’s been kind of a non-character, mostly designed to build up the rest of the Locke family, although with Rendell’s past secrets coming into the light, he could play a much bigger role in the back half of the season.
• Anyone else think the cafeteria looks a lot like the dining hall at Hogwarts? This is a show that often feels derivative of things you probably already like. Add Harry Potter to the list.