Locke & Key
Locke and Key follows its most intense episode with something of a regression, an hour that focuses heavily on Nina Locke’s alcoholism while also pushing us a bit closer to the final showdown between the Locke family and the evil entity now known as Dodge. As Dodge gets closer to finding the Omega Key, Nina reverts to her alcoholism, which actually opens her up to the magic around her in Key House. This is an interesting dramatic choice that almost suggests that sobriety puts up walls around the unexplainable, and booze makes people more open to the impossible. It also creates a dilemma for the Locke kids, who want mom on their side, but know that encouraging their mother’s disease can only lead to personal disaster.
The opening scene actually reveals something that fans of the source will know became a part of the Locke and Key mythology in the second book, introducing a modern version of Lucas. Looking just like the kid from Rendell and Ellie’s past, Lucas descends the stairs at the Whedon house, and even those unfamiliar with the source will know what’s going on here: Dodge is taking the form of Lucas. We later see Dodge use the Appearance Key glimpsed in Duncan’s memory jars to transform from Well Lady to Lucas. It’s also revealed that “Lucas” has been at Ellie’s house for two weeks, pretty much since Bode first encountered it. Is it possible that the shot of Ellie outside Ridgeway’s house after he was murdered was actually Dodge/Lucas? Can it use the key to look like anyone? And has it done so before?
That’s a question for another episode, as Dodge has a mission in this one: it has the Head Key and it’s time to get to the Black Door, that glowing thing that Kinsey found in the sea caves. She’s going back to the door with Tyler this time, and her brother is smart enough to use his phone to check the tide level so they don’t drown.
It turns out that when Nina Locke falls off the wagon, she does so completely. She’s drinking in the morning, acting a bit manic as she tries to clean the house, and already has a little trouble standing. Kinsey and Tyler can tell that something is wrong, even if mom seems happy and encouraging. As is often the case, the oldest child recognizes that the disease has returned first, reminding his sister of the cycle they’re heading into, one that ends with mom refusing to get out of bed. She may seem great today, but she’s sliding down a slippery slope. They need to stop the slide.
While looking for mom’s booze stash, Kinsey finds a photo of Erin Voss, one of the few living “Keepers of the Keys” from Rendell’s past. Is she the one who knows how to open the Black Door? Is that why she’s gone catatonic?
From here, this episode spins its wheels a bit on Drunk Nina. It’s not that the writing or performance is bad, it just feels like it has a lack of momentum eight episodes into a season. Honestly, this might work better as the season premiere of season two.
This midsection does reveal that Nina is starting to remember things, like her time in the mirror, and the trauma of Sam’s attack brings the other supporting characters to Key House, including Jackie, Gabe, and eventually Scot, who learns he’s in a love triangle. It also sends Bode to play with Rufus, leading the youngest Locke to meet “Lucas,” who introduces himself as Rufus’ cousin. Ellie comes home and is clearly scared to see Lucas with the boys. How much control does Dodge have over her? And why?
Perhaps the biggest reveal of the episode is that the cabinet key that Bode found in episode six and everyone thought was just an ordinary one is another magic item. Broken items put in the cabinet are returned to normal. Nina puts torn items in there and they come out fixed! What if she puts the ashes of her dead husband in the cabinet? Will he walk out as if nothing is wrong?
Before Nina makes that leap — and you can’t really blame her for needing a stiff drink to try that maneuver — Dodge gets to Erin Voss, exploring her head to find out how to get the Omega Key. In Erin’s head, her memories are structured like VHS cases, and Dodge learns that the Omega Key was hidden someplace very special: Rendell Locke’s head. It’s also revealed that Erin is catatonic because she’s stuck in her own head. If someone breaks her out, will she return to normal? And, arriving moments after Dodge leaves, Kinsey learns from Erin that this entity has sometimes taken the form of Lucas. This seems like information that will come in handy.
Nina gathers the courage to put Rendell’s ashes in the cabinet, but it doesn’t work. It would have been really creepy if it did, anyway. In the emotion of the moment, Kinsey encourages mom to stop drinking again. And then Tyler notices something strange in the ashes of his father smashed on the floor: the Omega Key.
• I kind of love Nina’s magic hand-wave to make the cabinet work. It’s a playful moment in a show that often takes itself way too seriously.
• Is Sam’s ghost still floating around, just watching things go down?
• On that note, do you think Tyler will ever mention that he had car sex with the entity that’s trying to destroy their family? Probably not, but that has to add an extra layer of oddity to his already strange existence.
• If you know the book, what parts of it do you think will be incorporated into the final two episodes? And if you don’t, what are you hoping to see happen? We’re clearly going to get a Black Door showdown, but the show has carved so much of its own path that it’s kind of hard to say where the final two episodes will go, especially how much closure they will offer and how much they will set up for a probable season two.