Locke & Key is marred by lazy writing and a lack of focus in its final season

As Locke & Key enters its third and final season, it’s coming off the back of a big improvement in season two. That season was thrilling and immensely entertaining, and featured a great villain in Griffin Gluck’s Gabe/Dodge to hinge the central conflict on. This time around it struggles to find a narrative strong enough to carry the season, leaving us with a few episodes of genuine tension, but not much more.

As much as I loved season two, it didn’t start off on a high note – the first two episodes felt aimless and unfulfilling, but it picked up greatly from that point on. Similarly, the first couple of episodes of this season are underwhelming – lacking tension and direction. The difference this time around is that things stay that way until the half-way point. There’s not much of an engaging narrative unfolding in the first half of the season, meaning there’s nothing locking me in and making me want to continue bingeing it. I took breaks after almost every one of the first four episodes because I didn’t feel that drawn-in to the story. The central conflict felt dull and uninspired, and it wasn’t clear what we were working towards besides “the end”. There’s individual moments of tension, instances where it looks like it could get really good, but it only occasionally capitalises on those beats.

The highlights of these early episodes, and honestly the entire season, are the moments focused on further developing the characters. Any small-scale scene where members of the Locke family are working through their conflicts and difference is infinitely more interesting than anything else going on. Kinsey (Emilia Jones) and Tyler (Connor Jessup) have some great emotion-driven conversations that carry much of the show. Getting into the latter half of the season, it started to get a little more streamlined and tense, but it’s let down by rushed and lazy writing. It’s clear that the writers tried to cut corners to get the series to wrap up in under eight episodes, but they just did too much. Most of the things they gloss over are small, but they all add up and make our heroes seem stupid. Rather than coming to a natural conclusion, a lot of the conflict comes across as forced, ruining the spectacle of it all. So what I’m saying is that there are more enjoyable moments in the latter half, just not enough to catapult it back to its best.

This season as a whole suffered greatly from not having a compelling, interesting or menacing villain. The absence of both Griffin Gluck’s Gabe and Laysla De Oliveira’s Dodge is felt almost immediately. Frederick Gideon (Kevin Durand) takes over as the central villain, and there’s just no time dedicated to fleshing him out or making him interesting. He just appears here and there and starts doing bad things at inopportune moments. What he’s trying to accomplish isn’t clear until later on, and by then I just didn’t care about him. Honestly, I’m not even mad at the state of the season, I’m just disappointed. It set itself up for something big, and I was continuously let down.

As much as it seems like I’m completely railing on this season, it did close out quite strong. The last couple of episodes did have a few more tense moments to keep things interesting, but even then they weren’t the highlights of their respective episodes. Speaking on the ending – the climax does really well to close out every character’s arc in a fulfilling manner. Being the end of the series, you don’t want lingering threads and unfinished arcs to be left behind. Thankfully, the emotion-packed finale doubles down on the family dynamic that has made the characters so loveable, and ends things on a high. It really is the saving grace for a season that was misguided from the get-go.

It goes without saying that Emilia Jones, Connor Jessup and Jackson Robert Scott are fantastic together. Scenes with any combination of the three of them clashing and problem solving are some of the most enjoyable of the season. I’m really going to miss seeing them interact, so here’s hoping they all get cast in another series. Jackson Robert Scott steps up a little in this season, despite the writing of his character not being all that great. He shows a sliver more range for a young actor, which is always promising. Emilia Jones of course is incredible, carrying the bulk of the season with a committed performance. It’s also as if the writers watched CODA (2021), as Emilia gets to sing a couple songs early on in the season. Connor Jessup also pulls a lot of the emotional weight, following a strong appearance in the second season.

In the end, Locke & Key’s final season wasn’t what I hoped it would be. Rather than continuing its strong form and going out with a bang, it sits at a pretty mediocre level for most of the season before closing out with a couple of ‘stronger’ episodes. The villain has hardly any positive impact on the series, coming across as pretty goofy in comparison to the more menacing Dodge, and the conflict is only occasionally thrilling. The character-centric moments take centre-stage, closing out an overall great series in a way that is at least fulfilling for each of their respective arcs. Fans might be disappointed that this season isn’t better, but there’s enough in here to make it a worthwhile watch!

6.1/10

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