It’s always a bit unusual when a show brings back a character that hasn’t been seen in years during its final stretch of episodes. But that’s what happens in the sixth episode of the endgame of Locke & Key with the truly unexpected return of Sam Lesser.
Sam, played by Thomas Mitchell Barnet, is the troubled soul who was manipulated by Dodge into killing Rendell Locke. In the first season, a wounded Sam escaped through the Ghost Door, meaning that he has been roaming the grounds ever since, and he even helped guide Kinsey and Scot to the Angel Key — the one that Kinsey used to kind of fake her death in season two and Dodge/Bode used last episode to dispatch an echo. It felt then like his purpose was done, especially knowing that he didn’t need credit for saving the day. He’s back now, though, bringing likely some conflicted feelings to the Lockes. It’s an interesting choice to toss Sam back into the endgame here. If it’s handled well, it could provide a sort of bookend — after all, Sam helped start all of this chaos. If he just comes and goes, he could be a distraction.
The episode opens with Kinsey, Tyler, and Nina fleeing Keyhouse. They’ll come back from Bode. Meanwhile, Ellie and Rufus saw the blue light emerge on the horizon when Gideon squeezed the keys. She knows that light as what was behind the black door, where she was imprisoned, and yet she drives on to save her friends. Importantly, it appears that the Lockes still have one key, which is all that’s holding back the end of the world. Where did they run to? It’s time for the “let’s make a plan” episode of an 8-episode season!
The planning divides the good guys into two groups — Rufus/Tyler/Kinsey and Ellie/Nina, the kids and the adults. Can they get Bode into another body while they wait to get his back? It’s an idea. Bode is trying to save his own skin, and it leads to ghost Bode talking to ghost Sam in the graveyard, the very guy who killed his dad. Will the endgame of Locke & Key include forgiveness? Even redemption?
Will Josh survive it? Gideon and Bolton attack him while Jamie is in the room. At first, Josh gets the jump on them, but he learns that shooting Bolton does no good. They can’t be harmed by bullets. Josh can. He takes a slug in the shoulder and Jamie gets kidnapped. Uh oh. She will take them to the Lockes or they’ll hurt her father. It’s really a show about how kids always get in the way and almost end the universe if you think about it.
Bode goes to talk to Sam again, hearing his please for forgiveness and the wish that he had just died instead of living his pain on the Keyhouse property. Lord Chamberlin, the king of the ghosts, tells Bode that Sam helped once already, using sparrows to guide Kinsey to the Angel Key. Maybe Bode could do the same?
After a few transition scenes, Josh ends up with Nina, who explains everything to her injured beau, and he takes it all pretty well, including the idea that the demon-possessed form of one of his ancestors is trying to destroy the world. As Tyler and Kinsey figure out how to save Bode, Josh gets brought into the final showdown, understanding that the Lockes have been a part of this for years. Will he be now, too, as Nina’s new partner? It looks like he’s up for the challenge.
Before long, Gideon gets his grubby paws on Tyler and Kinsey, demanding the final key to end humanity. He can spare the Lockes if they give it to him, and the kids try to convince the big dummy that the final key is in the graveyard, only accessible by entering the ghost plane. They won’t find it any other way. Would Gideon believe such an obvious way to weaken either himself or Bolton? Did no one lie in the Revolutionary War era? Apparently not because Gideon is ready to take his place on the demon throne, but he will need Bolton to go through the Ghost Door to make that happen.
The episode reaches a climax as Bode sends a sparrow through the door and Kinsey gets the signal. She senses that he’s got a plan too just as Gideon pushes Bolton through it, ordering him to retrieve the final key. Ellie and Nina show up and it’s time for a showdown — a little more quickly than expected but it’s a tight season. Ellie tries to attack Gideon, but he’s overwhelmed when dozens of sparrows descend upon him like he’s Tippi Hedren covered in breadcrumbs. Tyler pulls the keys away from Gideon and Kinsey grabs one, running to the other room to open the door that the kids were using in the first episode to transform from animals into humans. The sparrow Bode swoops around the house and through the door, reformed as Bode himself!
Everybody rejoices, but Gideon still has most of the keys and now Ellie! He grabs her by the throat, holding her over the big blue hole in the ground that goes to someplace demonic. Rufus tries to save the day with a sledgehammer, but it doesn’t go well. He gets grabbed himself and Ellie tries to bargain just like the Lockes did with Bode. “Let Rufus go and it’s yours,” she says. Ellie reveals that the key was hidden in the head of Gordie Shaw, the classmate who has been on the fringe of a few episodes early in this season. She will take Gideon to Gordie. Why put it in his head? What do you think it does?
The final scene of “Free Bird” presents a bit of a cliffhanger. Bolton’s body lays in front of the Ghost Door when it suddenly springs to life. Who is in Bolton? Why, Sam Lesser, of course.
• Does it matter that the body that Sam is in isn’t exactly human? Probably not. There’s not enough time left to explore that concept.
• One of the strengths of Locke & Key has been the unexpected left turn or two that every season takes and if anyone tells you that they guessed that this season would culminate in Sam Lesser possessing a Revolutionary War soldier then they’re lying.
• The CGI ghost versions of Bode and Sam look kind of atrocious, right? This is a show that usually nails special effects on its clearly limited budget, but it feels like perhaps that was cut for the final stretch.
• So have we seen the last of Dodge? She disappeared in the Bode form when the hourglass ran out and Bode is back for real now. That’s too bad. Yes, Dodge kind of saved the day, but it feels like there should be another act for this major character.