Locke, Key, and Magical Kid Adventures for Grown-Ups

Les Bads Big

Just because the Murder Ghost who lives in your well is pretty doesn’t mean you should listen to her.
Image: Netflix

So I was saying something about Locke and Key and Titans linking up in this department. Okay. So. I’ll describe a plot, you tell me which show you think I’m yeah it’s both you already know it’s both, don’t you.

A group of youngsters move into a new home, only to discover that they are now caught up in an inherited blood feud they don’t understand with an enemy they’re no match for. Their own issues split them up, but to overcome their enemy they will need to master (or at least stop misusing) various powers and abilities, unravel the sins of their father (figure)’s past, let go of secrets, and come together as a family.

All that changes is the details. Key House vs Titans Tower, individual superpowers vs magic keys… and our central villains. First, Dodge/Echo.

The weird thing about magical kids’ adventure stories is that the villains aren’t exactly soft-balling it. The Goonies were trying to stay one step ahead of notorious criminals, The Monster Squad fought Dracula, the Wolfman, the Mummy, and The Creature From the Black Lagoon, the Time Bandits fought the literal embodiment of evil… but the Fratellis are largely foiled through slapstick, Dracula is brought down by a pre-teen, and the embodiment of evil… I have not watched Time Bandits recently enough, I should have used Labyrinth for this section…

All of that said… Dodge feels really dark for this sort of thing. Yes, the Fratellis kill two FBI agents off screen; yes, the monsters from Monster Squad kill a bunch of nameless, faceless cops, sure the embodiment of evil… I feel like that one doesn’t need examples. Like, you get it. But Dodge straight up throws a child under a subway train, the way you might toss away a bottle cap, just for being a mild inconvenience. She chokes a man to death during foreplay for funsies. She combines the casual cruelty of Mama Fratelli, the supernatural evil of Dracula, and the uncomfortably overt sexuality of the Goblin King (well, sort of, it’s hard to live up to David Bowie), and Laysla De Oliveira plays her so scary that her spending several episodes menacing a child without result doesn’t hold her back.

What Dodge actually wants is kept secret for most of the season, as it’s all tied to the history of Key House and the tragic teen years of Rendell Locke, but it seems certain she can’t want anything good.

On the flip side is Esai Morales as Slade Wilson, aka Deathstroke, on Titans. Is he the best Slade Wilson? No, that’s Will Arnett in Teen Titans GO! To The Movies. Is he the best Slade Wilson who’s actually allowed to call himself Deathstroke? No, that’s Manu Bennett from season two of Arrow. I miss that guy. But damn this Deathstroke is still hell of menacing, brings a lot of power to the role, and the fact is that Deathstroke started as a Titans villain, so there is so much more lore to dig into. Like, say, “TheJudas Contract,” the single most iconic Deathstroke/Titans story, in which a member of the team was revealed to be a plant Slade inserted into the team to destroy them. Don’t know why I bring that up, it’s probably not relevant to a season of TV in which Slade Wilson is actively trying to destroy the Titans.

See, years back, when Dick was still Robin, and was on less shaky ground with fellow heroes Hawk, Dove, and Wonder Girl, they were a super-group called the Titans, but when they came into conflict with the high-end assassin Deathstroke, mistakes were made, blood was spilt, and lines were crossed, and now as punishment Slade is willing to do whatever it takes to ensure that no group called the Titans exists ever again, especially with Dick Grayson at the helm. So now that Dick’s restarted the Titans with Gar, Rachel, and Kory (Beast Boy, Raven, and Starfire to those in the know), Deathstroke’s vendetta is back on.

And that absolutely would have been enough villainy to last a season, but the producers clearly didn’t think so, because they also brought in Lex Luthor henchwoman Mercy Graves (who, in fairness, is far less grating than the version of the character from season four of Supergirl) and DC’s cloning-obsessed mad science factory Cadmus Labs as co-villains for the back half of the season. I’m not typically a huge fan of splitting focus between two villains, but a) it did bring us Superboy, who worked well, and b) at least both villains were capable of holding up a season, unlike Punisher season two. Also there just wasn’t room for everyone to be in the Deathstroke plot.

Still, though… gotta give the points to the more focused Locke and Key, if we’re ranking these things. And we both know I am.

Next page: Closing thoughts

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