How The Locke & Key Showrunners Approach Writing Character Deaths

With its third and final season quickly approaching, "Locke & Key" fans might be worried about the Locke family's fate. Even though Tyler, Kinsey, and Bode managed to secure an impressive victory at the end of season 2, it looks like the kids will be facing an even scarier foe soon — which isn't exactly reassuring us of their safety.

In light of this season's particularly high stakes (and last season's bloodbath), we can't help but turn back to showrunners Carlton Cuse and Meredith Averill's fall interview with Collider, in which they revealed their process behind character deaths and hinted towards their goals for season 3. And uh ... this one doesn't look too good.

Every death is calculated

Ironically, while Cuse and Averill's philosophy for character deaths may have safeguarded the Locke clan in season 2, it seems like even the most beloved characters are ripe for the picking in season 3. In the Collider interview, Averill revealed that the writers think about how a potential death will resonate with both viewers and the other characters:

"It always just comes from what the story is asking of it, and it's never gratuitous for us. It's always about, what is this death going to mean? Is it a death of sacrifice? How has that death gonna affect our characters, moving forward?"

It's never encouraging to think about deaths of sacrifice ahead of a final season, but unfortunately, things get even worse. Another key consideration in the writer's room? Whether or not a character has a place in the story's future — in this case, a story that's about to be cut short.

Is a major death inevitable in season 3?

Sure, it'd be nice for Tyler, Kinsey, and Bode to defeat any demons and live happily ever after (ideally with Uncle Duncan stepping in as a father figure), but let's be real — this is "Locke & Key" we're talking about. The show's events were kicked off by a once-perfect family shattering — father brutally and mysteriously murdered, mother spiraling back into alcoholism, children hunted by demons — and things have only gotten darker in season 2. A happy ending just doesn't seem like it's in the cards.

We don't know much about the Locke kids' scary new threat, but Averill told Collider that "[t]he third season focuses much more heavily on the family ... [and] really bonds them in a way that we've never seen before." If the Lockes rely much more heavily on each other, a major sacrifice becomes all the more likely — and riddled with emotional significance.

Plus, it seems like "Locke & Key" has been foreshadowing the necessity of sacrifice for a long time. We repeatedly see characters make selfish decisions, only for things to go terribly wrong. When teenage Duncan forges the memory key so that he and his friends can remember their adventures into adulthood, they become targets for decades to come. When Ellie uses the echo key to chat with her long-dead boyfriend, she inadvertently unleashes Dodge again. When Kinsey gets back at Eden over petty drama, she reveals a powerful weapon to the enemy. On the other hand, it's rare to see most characters act selflessly. We can't help but raise the question — are Cuse and Averill setting the stage for a heartfelt sacrifice, one in which a Locke child is able to rise above the sins of their forefathers and stop the demons completely?

Who's most at risk?

If it seems likely that a Locke will sacrifice themselves in the final season, the next question is naturally who's most at risk. Will it be Duncan, forcing the siblings to lose yet another father figure? Or perhaps Kinsey, her bravery all the more meaningful now that she can feel fear again?

Right off the bat, we feel relatively safe in saying that Bode will probably make it through the final season. Sure, he's the one who first set Dodge free. But killing off the youngest Locke just seems too cruel even for "Locke & Key" — especially if his older siblings make it out unscathed. Instead, it seems more fitting for young Bode to live with the guilt of what his actions unleashed — especially if another family member is caught in the crossfire.

While we could see Duncan getting killed off in the final season, we're not sure that it would have the level of emotional intensity necessary to truly devastate viewers. Throughout "Locke & Key," the one constant is that the children must rely on each other. Sure, Duncan has made it a point to protect them as much as possible (even going so far as to help Dodge enslave innocent people just to keep Bode out of danger) and his death would be sad, but it wouldn't rip the siblings from their one constant.

Like Duncan, Kinsey could go either way. She's made a number of poor decisions (dating Dodge, anyone?) so her sacrifice could be tied to a redemption arc. Plus, her newfound willingness to feel fear would make the sacrifice all the more meaningful. That being said, we just aren't sure that she'd be the most devastating (or fitting) sacrifice.

Sacrifice as penance

Throughout "Locke & Key," no one has been riddled with as much pain or guilt as Tyler Locke. From the very first season, he's haunted by an exchange where, in a moment of extreme frustration, he makes an offhand remark that if his abused friend decides to fight back and kill his father, he should do Tyler a favor and kill his dad too. The exchange comes shortly before his friend does indeed kill Rendell Locke due to Dodge's influence, turning Tyler's brief, hotheaded comment into a never-ending pit of regret.

In response, Tyler feels an immense amount of guilt. He also tries to shield his family from dangers as much as possible, taking on a protector-like role as they are targeted by Dodge. Eventually, as he realizes that his father's death was not his fault, he finds a new source of happiness: Jackie. But good things just don't seem to last for the oldest Locke sibling.

As Jackie gets closer to adulthood — at which point she will lose her ability to remember magic — she decides to willingly give up her memories, a decision that upsets Tyler. But when she passes away (another devastating blow), Tyler decides that he too doesn't want to keep his memories — a decision that Averill said will have "consequences and ... change his relationship to his family" in season 3 (via Collider).

In light of his trajectory, it seems likely that Tyler will make a major sacrifice in season 3. Rendell died because Dodge wanted freedom, Jackie died to stop him. Sacrifice will allow Tyler to honor two devastating deaths, in addition to freeing him of survivor's guilt. Plus, it will allow the series to come full circle, starting and ending with the Locke family shattering.