Thursday, April 7, 2011

Pilot Script Review - Locke & Key

Network: FOX
Written By: Josh Friedman
Draft Date: October 18, 2010
Pages: 67

Disclaimer: I have not read the comic books upon which this pilot is based. I have no idea how closely they track together, how faithful the series will be to the comics, where the plots are going should the series be very faithful, etc. There are a few references to the comics for specific visuals, so I assume there's at least some adherence to the source material.

Even though it took me a while to get through this script (67 pages is quite long as hour-long TV scripts go... and you typically need to cut that down to below 55 pages for the shooting version to get a 42-43 minute long pilot), it wasn't a bad long read. I think I was savoring it. Here's a project with a very visual, mythology-laden story about people. About a family. About pain and grief and the different ways we handle it. And it's told in a way that keeps you wanting more as it peels the layers back, eventually exposing the inner demons of its key characters while simultaneously and continuously expanding the world.

It's also a series that, really, rests on finding the right child actor to play the youngest character, Bode Locke, though not quite to the extent that Thomas Wheeler's Captain Cooke's Extraordinary Atlas relied on Jodelle Ferland (and, while I wasn't in love with the script, I thought the pilot as filmed was an improvement, but financial considerations kept it from being picked up). Whereas CCEA was a teenage fantasy world, Locke & Key is pretty much gothic horror (but fear not, there are no vampires). So this is a pilot that I'll need to see filmed before I fully give my blessing.

We start before (literally, there's a subtitle). Before what?

Rendell and Nina Locke are a loving married couple painting the walls of their summer house in the California farmland. Their three children, Ty (16, male), Kinsey (15, female), and Bode (6, male) are playing in the lake, Bode and Kinsey are having a breath-holding contest and Bode wins (though his ability to hold his breath for a long time doesn't come back into play in this pilot, there is a visit to a cave where people have drowned when the tide rolls in, so if this all checks out with the comics, I suspect there may be some important sequence involving Bode, holding his breath, and said cave).

Then everything changes. Before tragedy. Sam Lesser, one of Rendell's students (he is a guidance counselor) and supposedly a friend of Ty's shows up. He says he's there to help. And he has a gun.


Rendell is dead and the teenagers, once carefree, are locked in their grief and guilt as Nina drives them to Rendell's family estate, Keyhouse, in Lovecraft, MA. Here's hoping there's someone in the town named HP. Bode is still somewhat cheery, perhaps masking his inner pain with incessant joke-telling. Nina has changed, too, having lost her husband. They meet Rendell's younger brother, Duncan, at the house and the question "why is it called Keyhouse" becomes readily apparent. There is a clear key motif to the place and, while exploring, Bode finds a peculiar key with a skull carved in it. He tried various locked doors (the mansion is full of them), eventually finding the "right" one.

He walks through and his body drops dead. His spirit rises. He's a ghost.

Don't worry, he's not dead-dead. In fact, he gets to have quite a bit of ghostly fun (including but not limited to popping into the bathroom while Ty is taking a hot shower and causing the water to become freezing cold).

Keyhouse is a place of mystery and Bode has only cracked the surface.

Meanwhile, Ty and Kinsey are headed to their new school for the first time. People are going to be staring at them. Presumably because they're Lockes. The name seems to carry considerable weight and history around Lovecraft. Kinsey was apparently good at track and eventually decides to join the team. She can't hide forever (she hid with Bode as her father was being shot)... but she can run. Ty's issue, which we presume is grief, turns out to be guilt. After a squabble with his father, he flippantly asks Sam to kill Rendell. And he's been carrying that around with him ever since Sam went through with it.

But Sam, not the best-looking kid and clearly the victim of abuse, didn't do it for Ty.

He did it for some woman-creature (sorry, it's the best I can come up with) named Dodge. Dodge is mystically trapped in the wellhouse at Keystone and all she wants is to be set free. She can, apparently use mysterious powers over great distances to pass messages and even objects, but can't physically leave. To leave... she needs Bode's help.

There's a lot of fun and mystery here, and I haven't talked about, pretty much, the back half of the script where the action really amps up. I'm semi-concerned at how much is achieved in the pilot story, not knowing what's to come it feels like a lot, though I'm sure in the grand scheme of the comic book, it's all set-up.

There's a curious mystery set up in the final pages involving a keyhole in the trunk of a special tree. Within the tree there is a set of stairs that leads down to a room where there is a collection of jars or various shapes and sizes that seem to hold... tiny people, small monsters, a tiny Dodge (curious given we do see her in the wellhouse and events transpire from there), and... a tiny, younger Nina with a tiny, younger Rendell. What are these things in the jars? The story barely implies and answer and my best guess is memories... possibly and more specifically stolen memories (Dodge claims to have been best friends with Rendell when he grew up at Keyhouse, but can't remember much of it, and Nina has a familiarity with Keyhouse that strikes her as odd since she's never been there before).

Bottom line: I'm intrigued. I want to know more. I hope it all comes together on screen.


Anonymous said...

oooooo love the thing about the tree trunk

Anonymous said...

From your description, it seems to stick really close to the comic series. At another place I read that the script covers the first six issues of it, which is quite a lot of stuff to cover. Alone the Sam Messer-storyline could have dragged on for multiple episodes. I started reading the comic series, because I heard about FOX having cast Nick Stahl and was curious. I agree with you that a lot will depend on the right actors being cast as the child/teen characters. But since I loved the comic series, I'd kill for FOX to pick it up. What do you think are its chances with FOX's already packed schedule and other high-profile-projects like "Alcatraz" or "Terra Nova"?

Also, eagerly awaiting your Weekend Of Bellevue review. I love Lauren Ambrose and would really like to see her on tv again as well, though this project seems like the one project that is already certain not to be picked up, with all the other promising, more high-profile shows and FOX's schedule.

Anonymous said...

It seems to me that this series would work best as a cable style 12-14 episode season, preferably ran in the spring/summer. What do you think?


Anonymous said...

Sounds like a good start.

I hope the cast is good enough and Fox will not drag the scenes out. There are very few good child actors and most are stone-faced kids who have yet to grasp acting.

I have not heard of Skylar Gaertner and he has only played a tiny role. He has got to be really good or Fox is casting him based on his looks. Looks cute but can he act?

Tom said...

Hey! I know Sarah Bolger from The Tudors. She spent most of her time as hot eyecandy. Her acting was bland but she had a very nice butt and bosom. Bet Locke and Key will put in a few shower scenes to keep the viewers going.

Anonymous said...

i want to watch the pilot at least and cant find it anywhere. can someone email me a page, site or link to view it? zcarter803 is my gmail address. thanks