Based on the hit YA books by acclaimed fantasy writer Jonathan Stroud — the creator of the Bartimaeus books — this glossy adaptation from writer-director Joe Cornish (Attack the Block) introduces a supernatural world infested with phantasms and spectres, where staying out after dark can be fatal.
Opening on the aristocratic teenager Anthony Lockwood (Cameron Chapman) and his associate Lucy Carlyle (Ruby Stokes), Lockwood & Co. is like a gothic Kingsman crossed with Ghostbusters.
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Approaching the suburban pile with its turrets, porticos and ominously overgrown façade, our intrepid duo advances armed with sabres and salt bombs. In a carefully conceived set piece, which showcases their combined powers, it hits the ground running, and audiences are instantly clued in effortlessly.
Following on from a scrap with an ethereal presence and some slick back story flashbacks, our dynamic duo jumps from the burning building straight into an encounter with DEPRAC.
The Department of Psychological Research and Control are a governing body who oversee every so-called paranormal agency, enforcing penalties, and admonishing offenders accordingly. Unfortunately, with a client’s house in ruins, operational oversights self-evident, and an uncertified employee in tow – Lockwood & Co soon find themselves in hot water.
With a fortnight to find thousands or face closure, our ingenious duo — rounded out by an IT Crowd-inspired turn from Ali Hadji-Heshmati as George — must think fast or face ignominy.
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Battling bureaucracy and perceived prejudice from more successful agencies, the two begin getting to know each other in the process. It's a situation which allows audiences an opportunity to watch gifted actors bring this elaborate world to life.
What first impresses about this Netflix original series comes down to aesthetics, as production designer Marcus Rowland (Last Night in Soho) mixes gothic steampunk invention throughout Lockwood HQ, with more brutalist architecture as audiences move into London. Around the house on Portland Row there is a real sense of history which feels similar to 12 Grimmauld Place from Harry Potter, without the homely overtones.
Competing agencies and the headquarters of DEPRAC all feel inherently corporate, even though this entire series is thankfully free from any social media influences. Part of the charm in unpacking this alternate take on modern society is seeing how these changes influence the story telling. In the case of Lockwood & Co, that means there are fewer distractions and more focus on character, which in turn enriches everything as a whole.
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Nobody in this show puts a foot wrong, as intriguing twists and turns fall into place and new character flaws are subtly revealed. Between Ruby Stokes, Cameron Chapman, and Ali Hadji-Heshmati there is barely a hair in terms of performance since they complement each other so well.
Other welcome turns in this supernatural tour deforce, include Nigel Planer as Sir John Fairfax and Ivanno Jeremiah’s Inspector Barnes.
Neither advocate nor wholehearted detractor, Inspector Barnes represents one prong of a triple threat which includes DEPRAC of individuals and organisations who would all benefit from seeing Lockwood & Co. dismantled permanently.
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Which in itself makes this series more interesting, since motivations are inherently painted in shades of grey throughout. Giving this opening season a real sense of reality, as these fresh-faced newcomers try to compete with agencies using only their wits.
With this first season featuring an intriguing mystery with threads which run throughout, fans of the Jonathan Stroud books are in for a real treat. There are hints of old school Spielberg, as Cameron Chapman gives off some serious Young Sherlock Holmes vibes, while Ruby Stokes excels as his resourceful partner in crime.
Beyond that, Joe Cornish — who also directed The Kid Who Would Be King — has proven himself to be adept at drawing out performances from his young central trio that imbue Lockwood & Co. with a real sense of maturity.
Tonally similar to Locke & Key, which saw Emily Jones rise to prominence, this teen driven supernatural series may yet spawn some stars of its own. With an exceptional supporting cast who really seem to understand the objective in bringing this material to life, it is unlikely to be the last time audiences see Lockwood and Co.
Lockwood & Co. will streaming exclusively on Netflix from 27 January. Watch a trailer below.