By the third episode, Locke & Key’s second season reminded me why this show annoyed me so much in 2020; these children, with the survival instincts of depressed lemmings, should not be breathing. Sometimes TV characters make bad decisions to create conflict or aid plot progression. The Locke kids do it because they’re incapable of anything else and honestly, none of them deserve to live past sunrise. Some of Tori’s criticisms of the first season, like the lack of historical detail when it comes to the keys, have been answered. Others, like the often-unsympathetic main characters, are not.
Picking up shortly after the end of season 1, the Locke kids think they successfully trapped the demon Dodge, in Ellie Whedon’s form, behind the Black Door in the Whispering Caves and are content using the magical keys as toys. Kinsey uses the Head Key to chill out inside her own mind. The Ghost Key lets them fly from their bodies. The Anywhere key lets Tyler bring his girlfriend Jackie to London. And Bode continues stumbling through life attracting trouble like a magnet draws iron and writing letters to his friend Rufus, now in Nebraska. Everything is fine!
Except, of course, nothing is fine. It turns out the kids threw Ellie, the original Keeper who resurrected Dodge’s Echo, into the vast space behind the door. Oops. Dodge is still around in the form of Gabe, Kinsey’s boyfriend. Jackie’s best friend Eden is possessed by a Child of Leng’s whispering iron bullet. Jackie’s also losing her memories of magic as she approaches 18. Tyler, only a few months from his own approaching manhood, wants his girlfriend to remember their adventures and worries losing his own memories will leave Kinsey and Bode at risk. Uncle Duncan’s going crazy because being around Keyhouse so much is triggering his own missing memories. Nina’s finally ready to move on from dead husband Rendell and chooses to do so with Josh Bennet, new history teacher and shady character with a true-to-scale model of Keyhouse in his home. It’s possible that the Lockes are worse at dating than any family since the Habsburgs.
At some point, I realized the Locke children’s obsession with the keys only makes sense from the viewpoint of addiction. Any sane person would destroy the keys or throw them in the Atlantic ocean that’s literally in their backyard. Instead, they treat the keys that killed their father and all his friends like prizes at the end of a scavenger hunt. The one Keeper still alive in this universe, Erin, wakes up from her decades-long fugue state long enough to suggest magical items sought by demons and psychopaths shouldn’t be treated as toys and gets immediately shut down. She’s violently murdered soon after, which at least means she doesn’t have to see how dumb her dead boyfriend’s kids really are. The kids respond with a “clever” plot to get Gabe\Dodge back into the well house. It involves putting Eden, the superpowered demon, in a glass prison (don’t ask). Kinsey, Tyler, and Scot’s plan to shove Gabe through a magic door involves looking at one another significantly with their thumbs up their collective ass. Needless to say, Eden breaks free in a hot minute, Gabe figures it out and easily kidnaps Bode and Duncan so the latter will make him a key that creates demons. The Locke children suddenly remember that since demons can’t take keys from Lockes, it’s a handy way to confirm someone’s identity. Imagine how useful that would have been six episodes ago! Tyler’s girlfriend Jackie is turned, and he’s sad about it for a minute. Kinsey puts her fear back in her head and absolutely nothing about her personality or behavior improves. And then there’s Bode.
I want to be clear that none of this criticism is directed at Jackson Robert Scott, the 13-year-old who plays Bode. The kid’s a perfectly cromulent actor doing his best with the material provided. It’s not his fault that material is terrible. But I do not understand how Bode is still alive. His natural gullibility and complete lack of survival instinct give him the life expectancy of a popsicle in a pizza oven yet he keeps breathing our precious oxygen rather than, I don’t know, sticking a key in an electric socket to see what happens. Gabe comes to the house alone multiple times with lame excuses and wearing a smile that belongs on To Catch a Predator, and Bode hands him keys like they’re Cracker Jack prizes. The only way Bode could be freer with family secrets would be if he used his allowance to hire a sky-writer. If you told him the word “gullible” was written on the ceiling he’d spend half an hour searching for it. He’s the one who freed Dodge from the well and he learned nothing from the experience. I get that Bode represents childhood innocence and wonder but sweet secular Christmas, he’d chase a Free Candy van down the road and beg to be kidnapped at the first traffic light. It’s a miracle he dresses every morning without asphyxiating on his shirt. Kinsey and Tyler aren’t in the running for Thinker of the Year, but Bode is the spare offspring colonial families used to keep around in case something happened to one of the useful children. Maybe it’s because he only goes to school for 45 minutes every other week, or because his mother forgets he exists for days on end. But Bode’s been on borrowed time since the day he was born, and I expect his inevitable death would be equal parts tragic and hilarious if the show writers had the balls to kill him off. But they won’t, despite the violent nature of the original graphic novel. No doubt Bode will grow into a happy, blundering adult who gives America’s nuclear secrets to a pretty woman with a Russian accent because she asked nicely.
The only thing that saves the Locke children, again and again, is that Gabe\Dodge is a terrible evil mastermind. He spends most of his time vomiting exposition at Eden the dimwitted demon rather than murdering children or building an actual demon army once he’s given the opportunity. It doesn’t help that Dodge, once a manipulative and sensuous evil force when played by Laysla De Oliveira, comes across as a sullen teen when played by Griffin Gluck. Again, it’s not entirely Griffin’s fault; he’s doing his best. But he weighs 95lbs soaking wet and barely looks older than Jackson Robert Scott despite the eight-year age difference. Your main villain shouldn’t look and behave like an old-timey paddlin’ would set him straight.
I wish the Locke children’s poor life choices were at least funny, but they’re not. They just don’t make sense. The closest season two comes to levity is Kevin Durand’s highborn British accent as evil Redcoat captain Frederick Gideon during the Revolutionary War, who discovers the portal in the whispering caves that the Lockes eventually seal with the Black Door. The man’s great in many roles, usually as a lumbering thug, but playing posh isn’t in his wheelhouse.
It’s not all bad. The effects remain pretty great. I enjoyed the flashbacks to the 18th century and learning how the keys are made. Scot remains reliable and the only truly sympathetic character. Things end on a cliffhanger as one evil is defeated and another rises. Some character deaths should have more impact than they do, but since we know they’ll roll off the Lockes by the time season 3 hits, they don’t mean much. I expect that much like the first season, I’ll forget this one entirely by then. At least it means I’ll make it an episode or two before rooting for children’s violent deaths all over again.