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[This story contains major spoilers for the first season of Netflix’s Locke & Key, as well as major spoilers from Joe Hill and Gabriel Rodriguez’s comic book series on which the show is based.]
For American Vandal fans who once suspected Griffin Gluck’s Sam Ecklund of committing the crimes at the heart of the Netflix mocumentary series, Locke & Key brings some measure of roundabout justice.
Gluck appears in Carlton Cuse and Meredith Averill’s adaptation of the IDW Publishing comic book series as Gabe, a new character created specifically for the Netflix show. Much like the rest of the Locke family, Gabe is new to the sleepy town of Matheson, Massachusetts — or so he claims. In the final twist of the season, it’s revealed that Gabe is actually yet another of the secret identities of Dodge, the demonic force who otherwise appears in the form of the Well Lady (Laysla De Oliveira) and the late Lucas Caravaggio (Felix Mallard). The Locke children and their friends exit the season believing they have vanquished Dodge once and for all; tragically, Dodge remains at large in the form of Gabe, one of Kinsey’s (Emilia Jones) romantic interests. What’s more, Dodge boasts a new ally: an unnamed creature in the form of Eden Hawkins (Hallea Jones).
How will Gabe and Eden terrorize the Locke family and the others in Matheson as Locke & Key looks toward a second season? The show-only viewing audience’s guesses are as good as the comic book faithful’s, as the first season of the Netflix adaptation has already chugged through so much of the source material’s storylines. If the show followed the comics’ structure exactly, it would be hard to imagine Netflix’s Locke & Key lasting longer than one more season at best — and even then, it would be stretching the material. Hence Cuse and Averill have opted for a “remix” approach to tackling the comic, with assistance from creators Joe Hill and Gabriel Rodriguez, both of whom boast cameos in the season one finale that pay direct homage to the original.
Ahead, Cuse and Averill speak about the final twist of season one, what it means for a second season and the collaboration alongside Hill and Rodriguez, plus some speculation for the future based on the events of the comic books.
To reiterate, major spoilers from the comics are below. Proceed with caution.
How did you develop the final twist about Dodge? As a character, Gabe is unique to the show, and now we see he’s actually just another of Dodge’s forms.
Meredith Averill: We loved the story in the comic of Lucas coming back and Zack Wells going to high school. But the issue with it is that [in the comics], Zack still looks like Lucas, so people are constantly recognizing him, and he has to kill them because of it. We reimagined it as, well, what if Dodge was hiding in plain sight this whole season? What if the audience and our characters both didn’t know it? It serves the same function. Dodge is trying to embed himself/herself into the Lockes’ world, specifically Kinsey’s world. For Dodge, it makes a lot of sense to do that. We knew right away from the beginning of the writers’ room that Gabe would be introduced in episode two, because that’s after Dodge has been released from the well, and we would lay in all of these subtle clues: Gabe is also new to Matheson, Gabe seems to be hungry all the time in the same way as Dodge is. There are all these subtle clues throughout. It was a fun challenge when we were breaking the episode. We had to be careful to never cut from a scene where Dodge appears in the form we call “Well Lady” directly into a scene where Gabe is already there. We need to play fair with the audience, and we need to allow there to be time for Dodge to leave a scene, use the Identity Key, and go back to turn into Gabe. It was really fun to craft that montage at the end that basically shows you how he/she did it.
It’s a Kobayashi mug moment…
Averill: Exactly. We referenced that quite a bit. There were some Voldemort references, too. Harry Potter was referenced in the room all the time, specifically with that part. The moment where Griffin as Gabe is riding his bike and he has this devilish grin, he really sells it. It’s such a great moment when you realize he’s been Dodge all along.
In the comics, there’s a storyline where Bode’s [Jackson Robert Scott] spirit becomes separated from his body, and Dodge proceeds to pose as Bode. In that storyline, when one of Bode’s young friends catches him, Dodge pushes the friend in front of a bus. It seemed like you were winking at that story turn early in the season when Dodge uses the Anywhere Key to push a kid in front of a train. How much was that on your mind?
Carlton Cuse: We spent an enormous amount of time looking at the comic and deciding what we wanted to be faithful to, what we wanted to expand upon and what we wanted to remix. It felt really important in the first season of the show to first and foremost establish the audience’s deep bond with these three kids. That influenced a lot of our decisions on how things would play out. Also, because we anticipate and hope that Locke & Key will be around for a few different seasons, we felt there was time to do some stuff now and some stuff downstream. I’m being purposely ambiguous about that. (Laughs) Hopefully everyone’s seen season one by the time they read this, I don’t want to spoil what we’re working on. I will say that sorting through the rich mythology Joe and Gabe created was job number one in the writers’ room. It was fun to pick and choose what we wanted to do for season one and what we could wait on for further downstream.
The pace of season one feels in tune with the pace of the comics, covering a lot of ground in a relatively short period of time: ten episodes in the case of season one, and less than 40 issues in the case of the comics. Was there any concern about going through so much of the comics’ story in the first season?
Averill: I’m always a big fan of the idea that if there are stories you’re excited to tell now, tell them now and let yourself have the challenge of topping it later. Right now, as we’re breaking season two, I feel pretty confident that we’re rising to that challenge. We love these characters and stories so much. I didn’t have any reservations, and still don’t have any reservations, that we’re going to run out of story. The world Joe and Gabe created is so rich, with so much potential for places to go, that I feel like we have many stories we want to tell. The stories we tell in season one are launching points for many of the stories that have yet to come.
Hill and Rodriguez created Locke & Key and know the world better than anyone. How much were they involved in the adaptation process for season one, and how much are you continuing to consult with them, given potential changes from the original text moving forward?
Cuse: We consulted with Joe a lot. There wasn’t a major decision made in season one that we didn’t consult with him about. He’s brimming with great ideas and is the most wonderful collaborator in that he’s always throwing out ideas, but he’s not precious about the material. I think he and Gabriel both believe that the material they created in the comic exists in its perfect form in the comic, and they’re both very open in their attitude about how the TV show needs to be its own thing. They just wanted to be helpful in making it its own thing. Joe contributed story ideas, but for Gabriel, his drawings were literally our blueprints for the show, from the house to the keys to the overall look. It was so inspiring and such an incredible asset to have not just the story, but also to have someone who’s already brought that story to life in such a visual way.
Plus he lends his name to Gabe, who is clearly a fundamental character moving forward…
Averill: And I imagine you saw [Hill and Rodriguez’s] cameo in the finale…
Right, they appear as paramedics. How did that come together?
Averill: When we were breaking the finale, we were discussing how fun it would be to have a cameo for them, but only if it made sense. We knew we had the scene where Rufus [Coby Bird] was knocked out, and Bode was going to call the police. We recalled that Gabe, in this very meta way, had drawn a panel in which he and Joe played paramedics in the graphic novel. So, how much more meta can we get? Let’s have them show up here as paramedics in the series! That was so much fun, having them on set. It was such a great moment.
Carlton, you mention the need to put the Locke siblings front and center this season. What were your core goals with each character, both for the season and for establishing their journeys moving forward?
Cuse: With Bode, he’s described in the pilot as a Pop Tart in human form. Jackson Scott is the perfect embodiment of that character. He’s the one actor [of the Locke siblings] who carried forward from the Hulu version into the Netflix version. He has this incredible energy. What we loved was this idea of Bode as an explorer, the guy driving the investigation of these keys and all things supernatural. That was his main role in the story: he was our lead protagonist on the mystery of the keys and the discovery of what they were and what their powers were.
Averill: When we were looking to cast Kinsey, we were looking for someone with a quiet strength to them, and Emilia Jones was one of the first actresses we saw. Almost immediately, we felt like she was our girl. She’s so great. She popped off the screen to us. One of my favorite stories from the comic, which we told in the first season, was her decision to remove her fear and what that does to her, learning to live fearlessly. It’s a great wish fulfillment moment for anyone who has anxiety. How great would it be to live like that? Of course, she then has to learn that actually, fear has a place in our lives. We needed an actress who could hit all of those beats and find all of those colors. It was a challenge, but we think Emilia knocked it out of the park. She’s such a star. She’s wise beyond her years.
Cuse: Then there’s Tyler [Connor Jessup], and for us, this was a case of us falling so in love with an actor that we were willing to deviate a bit from the comic and tailor the character to fit the actor. In the comic, Tyler is a bit more brutish and thuggish. He’s a huge guy. When we saw Connor, we really fell in love with him. He’s smart and thoughtful and soulful. He’s such a good actor. We felt we could maintain the essence of what Tyler is but also change some of his personality attributes and characteristics to fit Connor, who was such a tremendous performer. We just couldn’t not put him in the show. We walked away incredibly happy with that decision. For us, his casting really drove the further evolution of how the character developed.
Season one ends with the kids believing they’ve conquered Dodge, but Dodge actually still being on the loose. How will that conflict play out in season two?
Cuse: Things are not ideal at the start of season two. That’s how one should want it [as a storyteller]. Dodge has turned out to be even more formidable than they could have imagined. But by the same token, across the first season, our kids have come to learn that they are the new keepers of the keys, and that they have the responsibility that goes with that. Both sides have stepped up their game for what’s going to happen in season two.
This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.
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