Locke & Key Season 3 Review: A Disappointing Mess

The third and final season of "Locke & Key" encapsulates all the successes and failures of this adaptation endeavor. There are many good ideas in dialogue with the acclaimed comic series by Joe Hill and Gabriel Rodríguez in interesting ways and some heartfelt character moments. Sadly, these are bogged down by poor execution and a mismatched tone and pacing that makes the characters look nonsensically dumb. The result is a disappointing season that brings to mind the worst moments of the last season of "Game of Thrones."

The new season of "Locke & Key" picks up shortly after the events of season 2. We left things off with Tyler having created a new key that could destroy demons (but killed his girlfriend), Dodge dead, and finally some peace. Except not really since at the eleventh hour the show introduced a brand new villain, a British soldier from the revolutionary war named Frederick Gideon (Kevin Durand).

It is with Gideon that the problems of this third season begin. Durand is a force to be reckoned with, a towering demon that marvels at the sight of cars and other technology and still acts like a Disney cartoon villain (together with comic relief henchmen). As the first person infected by a demon, Gideon offers a fascinating interrogation of the keys and their connection to the Lockes — the keys are quite literally made from the corpses of Gideon's demonic kin, after all. This echoes the way Dodge was used to interrogate the legacy of Rendell Locke in the eyes of his children. 

Ahoy, captain

"Locke & Key" has always been a story about how the present is directly influenced by the past, and about reckoning with the sins of our forebears. But the show only explores this at a surface level, hinting at a long and important history while keeping things rather limited in scope on screen. 

Sure, we got a couple of flashbacks last season showing how Gideon killed one of the Lockes and got infected by a demon, but he was a general during wartime, and we never really get why he is so obsessed with the Lockes. And because the Locke children never seem to learn or care to learn about their family history and the history of the keys beyond superficial details, we don't have a reason to care about Gideon's vendetta or why his past matters to the present.

Gideon's goal is to use the keys to somehow open a new and bigger portal between our world and the demons' world, and break the barrier between the two. Making it a slightly different version of Dodge's plan is clever, but it comes too close to Vecna in "Stranger Things" territory. Worse yet, since we don't really find out how Gideon is capable of even trying such a thing, it ends up as wasted potential.

A problem of tone

This seems to be the bane of this adaptation of "Locke & Key." It feels the need to add to the source material, but the original ideas are never fully baked. Ultimately, the concepts — from the addition of the incredibly useful but never really used ghost of Chamberlain Locke, to having Eden as a second demon last season, to the new powers given to the Timeshift Key — end up breaking what little verisimilitude there is to the story before the show abandons those ideas.

Not that this season is entirely new material, mind you. Despite a new villain, "Locke & Key" continues to remix and rearrange events from the comic. This means that some fan-favorite moments and plotlines are brought back — keep an eye out for a flock of birds and a key with a paw shape. The problem is that the rearranging fails to make an impact most of the time.

A big reason why is that this adaptation always had the wrong tone for the story — not only for the story it was adapting but even for the story it was telling. Changing a Stephen King-like horror tale with adult themes and an overall sense of doom and melancholy for a whimsical "Harry Potter"-approach deflates the tension of the stakes and danger that are in the script.

This season, in particular, the villains act like Disney cartoon characters, the Lockes constantly make dumb choices and don't act according to the situation, taking breaks in the middle of a fight to meander and chitchat while knowing perfectly well that an all-powerful demon is right around the corner. You never really get the feeling that the Lockes are in any danger, let alone that this is meant to be the climax for the entire show.

A disappointment

Another unfortunate side effect of rearranging events from the adaptation while still pretending to be telling the same story is that many things from previous seasons are suddenly forgotten — from the existence of certain keys, to events, and even to characterizations. The worst that can be said about "Locke & Key" season 3 is that all the main characters act like Daenerys forgetting about the Iron Fleet in "Game of Thrones," only that happens every single episode.

"Locke & Key" always had big shoes to fill, not only because the comic series is so beloved, but because of the many attempts to bring it to the screen built up expectations. Though the show at least tried to do interesting things, this third and final season shows that this approach was never the right one.

"Locke & Key" season 3 premieres August 10, 2022 on Netflix.