Locke & Key
“The Black Door” is the first episode of Locke & Key that doesn’t introduce us to a new magical key in the show’s universe, although we do get a big glowing door and a fake-out key that does little more than open a kitchen cabinet. More importantly, we see the two older Locke kids enter unique spirals, Kinsey nearly getting herself (and the rest of the Savini Squad) killed, while Tyler sabotages the best thing about his new life in Matheson, his relationship with Jackie. As Nina digs deeper into the mysteries of Matheson and what she doesn’t know about her dead husband’s past, Sam Lesser finally gets to Key House, entering the grounds as the episode comes to an ominous end. Took you long enough, Sam.
The episode opens with Nina Locke trying to convince Detective Matuko that Joe Ridgeway didn’t kill himself. He was murdered. Not only did she hear someone in the house, but he left her a worried message about something he found. What was it? Sadly, the investigation goes nowhere and Matuko eventually rules it a suicide, but it does mean that Nina gets the contents of Joe’s desk by the end of the episode, so we’ll probably find out what Joe wanted to show Nina soon enough.
Before that, Kinsey Locke has a few disturbing adventures. First, she realizes that the paint jars of memories that she found with Tyler last episode once belonged to Uncle Duncan Locke. It explains why he always gets a bit hazy when he’s talking about his childhood. One of the most disturbing scenes in the show to date comes when Kinsey shows Duncan one of his own memories and it seems to, well, break his brain. Imagine looking at your own memory, which would be weird enough, but imagine it’s one that’s been erased from your head. He feels queasy, hands her back the jar, and then it’s like it never happened. It’s a totally creepy, almost Body Snatchers-like moment. Something isn’t right with Duncan Locke, and he seemed most entranced by a memory of the kids entering the sea caves where three of them reportedly drowned. Why? What does that memory do to him, and why was it taken out of his head in the first place?
Remember how Kinsey Locke has no fear anymore? Well, that means she wants to go into those deadly caves ASAP, and she pressures her brother Tyler into going with her, but he declines. Time to sucker the Savini Squad into a potentially life-threatening location to shoot their movie! Gabe loves the idea, but everyone else is nervous. They should be.
While Nina is confronting an increasingly shady Ellie about her past and present, Bode wanders the grounds of the Locke property. When is mom going to stop letting him do that? Anyway, the Well Lady is there, and she confronts Bode again, telling him that his refusal to give her the keys is going to destroy his family. Is she just wandering the grounds, waiting to be scary? It’s scenes like this that feel just a bit off, like the show has too little internal logic. Why would she even be there with the plan she’s put in place with Sam? And why does she try to woo Tyler again? Just to scare Bode? Or to give him one more chance? Both seem unlikely.
Speaking of Sam, he finally decides to use the key that Chastity/Echo/Well Lady gave him, and it turns out that it wasn’t the Anywhere Key, it was the Fire Key that she found around a kid’s neck outside of Mark’s house. He lights the prison on fire and walks out. Doesn’t it feel like he waited a few days? Why would he do that? Again, internal logic is sometimes a problem on this show. They’re dragging out the return of Sam Lesser for the end of the season when he really would have taken that key and set his prison ablaze the minute that he had it, right?
Anyway, the Savini Squad heads into the caves for reshoots on their movie. Kinsey wants to push deeper into it, and she hears whispering down a tunnel, which leads her to a glowing door. She doesn’t have the key for this one yet. And then the tide starts coming in. As Gabe goes to rescue Kinsey, panic sets in with the rest of the squad. They need to swim to safety, leaving their equipment behind. They all make it — Doug just barely — but Scot is understandably pissed off. Kinsey put all of them in danger and ruined their film project to satisfy her own fearless curiosity. Scot may be angry, but Gabe takes his chance to move in on Kinsey, calling her a badass. They kiss. Anyone else not trust Gabe? He’s a bad influence, and it feels like something that can’t end well for Kinsey or Scot.
Meanwhile, Jackie is looking for Tyler, who is at party instead of volunteering like he was supposed to. The poor kid is spiraling, getting drunk and letting people down. It’s very CW dramatic storytelling for a bit, and then suddenly Echo is at the party, flirting with Tyler. Does he not recognize her? Did he not see her through the flames in his front yard? Isn’t he even suspicious of an older woman at a teen party given what Bode has told him? Anyway, after another fight with Jackie, he runs into Echo outside a liquor store, and, against his better judgment, gets in a car with her. She’s finally calling herself Dodge, which was this entity’s nickname in the books. As Dodge gets closer to Tyler, Sam Lesser finally gets to Key House. What will he do next? Or will he take a whole episode to get to the front door?
• Does anyone else wish that this show had a stronger visual language? Even Stranger Things has more memorable compositions. Bates Motel did, too. The visual concepts related to the keys, like Kinsey’s Mall of Memories, have been strong, but let’s get creepy and interesting around Key House too for the final run. Explore its halls and make it more ominous than it’s been so far.
• I’ve been hard on the teen drama aspect of this show — or ignored most of it — but it dawns on me that Bates Motel was heavy in that department as well, especially in the first couple of seasons, which reimagined Norman Bates in high school, complete with first loves and first murders. That show eventually settled in and found a confident voice. I’m still hopeful this one will too. There are a lot of talented people involved, and a ridiculously strong source from which to pull.
• It’s also worth noting that teen life is a part of the source, although in much different ways than it is here. Still, there are times when the CW-ization of the source material feels inspired and times when it just feels like a square peg in a round hole. Let’s hope we get more of the former over the final four episodes.