I was delighted to find that hobgoblins had left a copy of the pilot script for Fox's Locke & Key series under my pillow. By hobgoblins, I mean mysterious sources, and by desk I mean my G-mail inbox. But by pilot script for Locke & Key, I do very much mean that.

If you'd rather not be spoiled by the details, I'll deliver the verdict up front. It's great. It's truly an echo of Joe Hill's comic scripts for the original IDW mini (Welcome to Lovecraft), but it also features some cool additions. The pilot seems to benefit from the fact that Hill has a three-act structure in place for the comic (right now, readers are plowing through Act Two) and knows how the major conflicts will be resolved. That said, I'm sort of astonished at how much of the "Welcome to Lovecraft" arc is included in this pilot.

Let's break it down. 67 pages by show-runner Josh Friedman, dated October 18th, 2010. The script is titled "Ghost Key." A bit long for an hour-long, so it'll be interesting to see how it's cut, or if it will garner some kind of limited commercial interruption broadcast or extended premiere slot.

The story. We open on that faithful day when everything went so horribly wrong for the Locke family. The day Sam Lesser came into their lives, a gun tucked by the small of his back. The day Rendell Locke–husband of Nina, father to Tyler (16), Kinsey (15) and Bode (6)–was murdered. But this is all the then, a tragedy witnessed in flashbacks parceled throughout the episode. Things only start getting hairy in the opening teaser.

And then we're treated to the title sequence, which looks something like this: 

Following the title sequence, we rejoin the Locke family (sans Dad) as they travel to their new home in Lovecraft, MA. Everyone's a little bit punchy after a long trip, but Bode drops an "Arkham Asylum" reference, and in all his enthusiasm, endears himself to us instantly. This is an ensemble series with meaty roles for the entire Locke family, but a lot of the success of this show is pinned to young Bode. This is the Calvin to the supernatural elements' Hobbes, and if we don't like this kid, his adventures could grate to the point of canceling the show's subscription from your DVR. He's written wonderfully though, so there's just as much opportunity for this kid becoming a breakout star. As for everyone else, they read precisely like the kids from the book. That is to say intelligent and relatable without coming across as Juno-esque precocious. They speak candidly to each other, operate like the deeply wounded family they've become, but don't slip into the angst-ridden archetypes that have become all too familiar in primetime. The best compliment I could probably bestow upon Friedman, and by extension, to Hill, is that they read like families do on Showtime dramas. Sometimes they get a long. Sometimes they don't. And when they fight, it makes sense. Not because teens are supposed to be miserable. 

Right, so they got the dynamics. How about the spooky? Oh, it's spooky alright. If you're not familiar with the series, the pitch can be pretty simple. They live in an old house with a lot of room and a lot of secrets. And there are keys. Each key offers a bit of magic. The eponymous Ghost Key for example. Turning that key in the proper lock will allow you to leave your mortal body at the door and take an astral projection tour of the grounds. Come back, and you can meet up with your body later. No penalties. No blood shed. And no obnoxious old caretakers to ruin it all with exposition and speeches. Bode discovers the key in the first act and figures it all out for himself. All show, very little tell. And it works because we see it all through the eyes of a little kid who takes everything at face value. The other Lockes will confront all this weirdness later, but as an introduction for viewers, it's perfect. 

As I mentioned, I'm surprised that the big confrontation from the end of "Welcome to Lovecraft" actually takes place in this pilot. I would've expected the writers to draw that out until the end of their first 12 episode season. But it's here, and I think it works just fine. Especially because this involves Sam Lesser, whose first act of violence against the Lockes serves as the backbone of this story. We get to see these two conflicts in parallel, and structurally, that's pretty cool. 

We already know Miranda Otto (Lord of the Rings) and Sarah Bolger (The Tudors) are set to play Nina and Kinsey Locke respectively. And it looks like Nick Stahl (Sin City, Carnivale) will appear as Rendell's brother Duncan Locke. I imagined these actors performing as I read through the script, and it really gels. Anxious to see Otto's portrayal of Nina in particular. This is a damaged woman, but hardly a victim. And we get to see a little of that teased in this jam-packed pilot: 


The spooky supernatural stuff sounds pretty impressive, including a lot of play with the Ghost Key and that creepy scene in the well introducing the villainous Dodge. But as cool as all that is, the magic takes a backseat to the real horrors of murder and a family's attempts to regain their footing after a grisly loss. That might be the most impressive aspect of this whole adaptation. With all that ghost story stuff in the background, this doesn't feel like Goosebumps. But it also doesn't feel melodramatic either. Friedman found the right balance. 

I'm excited. 

I'm really excited to see the final product. By all accounts, they're filming right around now in an estate on Hartwood Acres in Pittsburgh. Here's what it looks like.


We'll keep you posted on the developments. 


  1. Where’s David Accampo?   David and Paul love Locke and Key, so if they’re in, so am I.

  2. This is very exciting stuff! Was late coming on to Locke and Key, but I think it will translate well to the small screen and knowing the talent they have lined up makes me more eager!

  3. Great review, Paul! This looks really cool.

  4. @stuclach  – Heh, Paul speak for me in this case. I’m excited! The only thing I wonder about is: Hill’s done a great job of using storytelling language that’s unique to comics. The show would have to lose that, likely focusing on a more straightforward style of dramatic storytelling. That isn’t really a negative, just — it’s one of the things that will always keep the comics series unique. 🙂

  5. Avatar photo Paul Montgomery (@fuzzytypewriter) says:

    @daccampo  A very good point. But I think they have the potential to make up for all the comic-exclusive elements they’ll lose by doing some cinematic things unavailable to comics. 

  6. Definitely watching this!

  7. @PaulMontgomery  Very true. I’m down with it. I think good performances and a nice cinematic storytelling approach could give us a nice alternate version of the world that Hill created.

  8. I love Locke & Key, I love Hill’s novels, and I’m really impressed with what I’m seeing here. I’m just waiting to see who gets cast as Tyler.

  9. Avatar photo Paul Montgomery (@fuzzytypewriter) says:

    Worth noting: Sarah Bolger (Kinsey) is great on The Tudors. I can absolutely see her in this role. 

  10. I’m in.

  11. Wow. Love the location.


  13. I’d rather see the next installment instead =p.

  14. Would a 6-year old really be dropping knowing reference pop culture references to Arkham Asylum? That’s just one step removed from a pre-schooler using the correct pronunciation of Cthulu.

    I’m excited about this being made and getting a much wider audience, not least because it will propel Joe Hill deservedly up to the next level but I really worry how it will pan out dependent on how well they manage to get Bode right. In the early stages at least, more than half the story is focused on Bode and his exploration of the house and how he’s not yet at that age (below 8, I would say) when he properly realises that these things he witnesses are not or should not be physically possible or necessarily sinister.

    I guess the best way to surmise that sense is to say that what you really want for the character is a non-actor child to play the part rather than a child actor, although I realise that creates a production nightmare considering the number of scenes that would have to revolve around the character. What I mean is that you are looking for something more like Elliot’s little sister Gertie in ET than Elliot himself, someone who would question what he’s seeing, try to reason it out and say “But that’s impossible!” an awful lot. His sister Gertie, on the other hand, while she does scream in surprise the first time she sees the alien in her house, quickly rationalises him as being “The Man from The Moon” and that explanation is perfectly sufficient for her understanding of the situation. Bode’s encounters with the lady in the well, the ghost key and the head key need to be just like that.

    I will be watching, but the first three volumes have set the bar pretty high for me. 

  15. Avatar photo Paul Montgomery (@fuzzytypewriter) says:

    @Spike1138  Arkham Asylum is featured in Lego Batman, which Bode would certainly have played. And in Batman: Arkham Asylum, which his brother might’ve played. It’s also featured in cartoons. The reference in question involves Bode wanting to draw postcards from places that never get postcards. It’s a cute idea. 

    Bode’s reactions do seem very Gertie like, to use your comparison. He first understands Dodge to be “an echo.” But then he rationalizes what that might mean by using a knock knock joke. It’s a little complex to describe here, but it works. And it felt age appropriate to me. 

  16. @PaulMontgomery   In a round about way, I was involved in the filming of this pilot. The actor who plays Bode is very good.  I’m excited to see the finished project because the scenes we watched were awesome.  All of the principal actors seemed to really connect and the director was meticulous.  I think L&K fans are going to be very happy with Bode.  Skylar has serious talent.  Miranda, Jesse, Sarah, Nick… great chemistry, great cast.

  17. Avatar photo Paul Montgomery (@fuzzytypewriter) says:

    @memyselfandI  Well that’s great to hear!

  18. Sarah Bolger role on The Tudors was by far my favorite. When she started down the road to Bloody Mary i was utterly terrified! im so happy she is on this show! 
    Jesse McCartney is an unsettling choice to me, can he really portray Ty’s misanthropy? but still  im sure he’ll do fine.
    also the house looks how i would picture it. i hope its creepiness comes through.
    locke and key is the comic that solidified my love for the medium and i know they’ll do it justice, but will the show have the same magic?