[Warning: The following contains spoilers for Locke & Key Season 1 and the comic book series of the same name. Read at your own risk!]
It took a decade for Locke & Key to finally be adapted for the screen, but for long-time fans of Joe Hill and Gabriel Rodriguez's comics they might be shocked at the end result. While the Netflix drama follows the same basic premise as the books — three kids discover a series of magical keys at their ancestral home and must protect them from the demon Dodge (Laysla De Oliveira) — the show is incredibly different from the source material.
"The best way I heard someone describe it is like a remix," Connor Jessup, who plays the eldest Locke child Tyler, told TV Guide. "If you're a fan of the comics and you know how they unfold, almost all of the main events are there, and the main characters, and the keys — it's all in there. It's just reconceived and rearranged."
Star Darby Stanchfield, who plays Locke matriarch Nina, added that while the series does take liberties with the books, all the changes made received the author and illustrator's stamps of approval. "We're very blessed because Joe Hill and Gabriel Rodriguez were huge supporters of [executive producers] Carlton [Cuse] and Meredith [Averill] and of us," Stanchfield said. "They came to set to visit us a couple of times and they've just been very vocal about supporting what they've seen in the dailies and scenes they've watched. That feels good creatively as an actor, that you have the creators' support."
Whether fans of the comic books will share Hill and Rodriguez's excitement over the changes remains to be seen, but here are the 10 biggest differences between Netflix's Locke & Key Season 1 and the comic books.
1. The comics are A LOT darker. We really can't emphasize this point enough; while the Netflix series is very much a YA take on the story, the comics are much more of a horror story featuring tons of supernatural scares and some pretty graphic violence. Although it's understandable why a lot of the darker elements of the comics didn't translate to screen (seeing something play out in a live-action series versus static illustrations on a page is a very different experience), there are definitely some fans of the source material who wish the Netflix series didn't play it so safe and found more ways to embrace the comics' creepier elements.
2. There are a few new keys. Throughout the first season, Tyler, Kinsey (Emilia Jones), and Bode Locke (Jackson Robert Scott) discover 12 keys in total. Two of those keys — the Matchstick Key, which allows you to start a fire, and the Mirror Key, which grants passage into the hard-to-escape prison of the self — are original inventions for the series. All the other keys were featured in the comics, although the Identity Key was known as the Skin Key originally.
3. Dodge goes undercover as a high school student — but not as Gabe. While fans of the books might have guessed that Kinsey's friend and love interest, Gabe (Griffin Gluck), wasn't who he seemed, there was no guessing necessary when it came to Kinsey being manipulated by a demon in disguise in the comics. Dodge does go undercover as a love interest of Kinsey's and a friend of Tyler's in the comics, but Dodge uses Lucas' original appearance and pretends to be Ellie's nephew, Zack Wells. Readers are aware of Zack's true identity the entire time, which might explain why — unlike Gabe, who is able to fake being a harmless, friendly human — Zack is always a total jerk, even in front of the Lockes. Because if the creators aren't trying to throw us off the scent of Zack's true identity, why not provide constant reminders of how truly awful Dodge is every other page? And speaking of horrific things Dodge does...
4. Ellie's fate is very different in the comics. In addition to being a general jerk while masquerading as Zack, Dodge is much more of a violent villain in the comics, and no one suffers more at Dodge's hand than Ellie (Sherri Saum). In the books, Dodge emotionally, physically, and sexually abuses Ellie and prevents her from being able to fight back by having a remnant of Dodge implanted in Ellie's head to control her. In fact, it's this piece of Dodge in Ellie's head that is actually what makes Ellie use the Echo Key to bring Dodge back to begin with, rather than solely her love of Lucas (Felix Mallard) as seen in the show. In the end, Dodge brutally murders Ellie in the comics after Tyler figures out Zack's real identity. This is very different from Ellie's equally tragic fate in the show, wherein Dodge tricked the Locke kids into throwing Ellie through the Black Door, believing they were imprisoning Dodge.
5. A second demon never gets through the Black Door. One of the biggest deviations from the comics so far is the fact that a second demon gets through the Black Door and possesses high school mean girl Eden (Hallea Jones), an original character in the series. Although we get a glimpse of previous demonic possessions through flashbacks to Keyhouse's history, the comics have Dodge being the only demon wreaking havoc in the present day. Of all the changes the series made in the first season, giving Dodge a demonic accomplice will definitely create the most ripple effects moving forward, meaning fans of the books should prepare for even more new developments in Season 2.
6. Nina is in a much darker place in the comics. While Nina is six years sober when the show starts, in the comics she is still deep in the throes of her alcohol addiction. The Nina in the comics is also struggling to cope with the trauma she endured during the initial attack by Sam Lesser and the accomplice he had in the books, a young man who sexually assaulted Nina during the home invasion and whom she wound up murdering with an ax. As a result of her internal struggles, Nina's relationship with her children is much more strained in the comics and she largely doesn't get directly involved in any of the ongoing mysteries. This is very different from Nina in the show, who investigates Rendell's (Bill Heck) past, Joe Ridgeway's (Steven Williams) death, and who develops a somewhat uneasy friendship with Ellie — all still despite being unable to see or remember magic.
7. Kinsey removes her fear and her ability to cry. While Kinsey removes her fear in the comics, that isn't the only thing she removes; she also removes her tears as a way of avoiding coping with her grief over the death of her father. But unlike in the show, where Kinsey's fear is a literal monster, the comics portray her fear and tears as small creatures, which she temporarily contains in a glass bottle. It's a fun visual, but definitely not as scary as a twisted, life-size Fear Kinsey terrorizing town!
8. Things with Sam were a lot more twisted. Although the show paints Sam (Thomas Mitchell Barnet) as more of a tragic figure who was manipulated by Dodge and never really wanted to harm anyone, the comics portray Sam as a much more violent individual who not only lacks any qualms about killing on Dodge's orders, but also seems to enjoy it. Sam actually goes on a gruesome murder spree while making his way to Keyhouse and appears eager to kill the Locke family once he arrives, which is nothing like Sam's second invasion of the Locke home in the series, in which he tried to avoid violence and wound up questioning his loyalty to Dodge. And while Dodge winds up killing Sam in both the show and the comics, in the books Sam never betrays Dodge; she kills him simply because he outlived his purpose.
9. The supporting characters are very different. While Tyler, Kinsey, and Bode are relatively faithful to their comics counterparts, their friends and relationships are wildly different. In the books, Scot (Petrice Jones) was more of a punk anarchist who wound up dating Jackie (Genevieve Kang), while Kinsey had a romantic relationship with Scot's best friend, Jamal, who wasn't included in the show. Meanwhile, Tyler's love story was with another comics-only character, Jordan, who was a tortured rich girl who pushed people away — much like the way Tyler does in the series. It'll be interesting to see if the show ever decides to explore any romantic feelings between Scot and Jackie as a nod to the comics in the future, but more likely this is another way the show is going to definitively deviate from the source material, since it seems as though Scot and Kinsey and Tyler and Jackie are being set up to be endgame.
10. Duncan is a much larger part of the comics. Although Duncan (Aaron Ashmore) barely made an impression in the first season, he had his own storyline in the comics. In the books, there's an entire subplot in which Dodge has to go to Duncan's home to remove his memories of Lucas and winds up attacking Duncan's boyfriend, Brian, who falls into a coma as a result. As a child, Duncan also played a huge role in how Dodge wound up possessing Lucas in the first place as well (all by accident, of course). Given all this — and the part Duncan plays in the final showdown with Dodge down the line — we'd be shocked if the series didn't flesh out his role more in future seasons.
Locke & Key is available to stream on Netflix now.
Additional reporting by Lindsay Macdonald