Starring a charismatic cast, Netflix’s new fantasy series Lockwood & Co – streaming January 27 – proves that quantum realms and alternate dimensions are old-fashioned stuff.
Based on the bestselling YA books by acclaimed fantasy writer Jonathan Stroud — the creator of the Bartimeus books — this glossy adaptation from writer-director Joe Cornish (Attack the Block) introduces a supernatural world haunted by ghosts and sunset can be fatal.
Opening on teenage aristocrat Anthony Lockwood (Cameron Chapman) and his business partner Lucy Carlyle (Ruby Stokes), Lockwood & Co. is like a gothic Kingsman crossed with Ghostbusters.
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Approaching the suburban mound with its turrets, arcades and menacingly overgrown facade, our intrepid duo advance armed with sabers and salt bombs. In a carefully conceived set design, showcasing their combined powers, he hits the ground on the run and the audience is immediately effortlessly engaged.
After a scrap with an ethereal presence and some brilliant story flashbacks, our dynamic duo leaps off the burning building straight into meeting DEPRAC.
The Department of Psychological Research and Control is a governing body that oversees every so-called paranormal agency, enforcing penalties and reprimanding offenders accordingly. Unfortunately, with a client’s house in ruins, obvious operational oversights, and an uncertified employee in tow, Lockwood & Co quickly finds itself in trouble.
With two weeks to find thousands or face closure, our ingenious duo – topped off with an IT Crowd-inspired twist from Ali Hadji-Heshmati as George – must think fast or face ignominy.
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Battling the bureaucracy and perceived bias of more successful agencies, the two get to know each other in the process. It’s a situation that gives audiences the opportunity to watch talented actors bring this elaborate world to life.
What’s first striking about this Netflix original series comes down to the aesthetics, as production designer Marcus Rowland (Last Night in Soho) mixes gothic steampunk invention throughout the Lockwood HQ, with more brutalist architecture as the audience moves to London. Surrounding the Portland Row house is a real sense of history that feels similar to 12 Grimmauld Place from Harry Potter, without the homey overtones.
Competing agencies and DEPRAC’s headquarters all feel inherently corporate, though the entire series is thankfully free from any social media influence. Part of the appeal of unpacking this alternate version of modern society is seeing how these changes affect the telling of the story. 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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No one in this show puts a foot wrong, as intriguing twists fall into place and new character flaws are subtly revealed. Between Ruby Stokes, Cameron Chapman and Ali Hadji-Heshmati there is hardly a hair in terms of performance as they complement each other so well.
Other welcome turns in this supernatural deforce tour include Nigel Planer as Sir John Fairfax and Ivanno Jeremiah’s Inspector Barnes.
Neither supporter nor outspoken detractor, Inspector Barnes represents one pole of a triple threat including DEPRAC of individuals and organizations who would all benefit from the permanent dismantling of Lockwood & Co.
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Which in itself makes this series more interesting, since the motivations are inherently painted in shades of gray throughout. Giving this season opener a real sense of reality, as these fresh-faced newcomers try to compete with the agencies using only their wits.
With this first season featuring an intriguing mystery with threads running through it, fans of Jonathan Stroud’s 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 to be adept at pulling off performances from his central young trio that imbue Lockwood & Co. with a real sense of maturity.
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Tonally similar to Locke & Key, which saw Emily Jones rise to prominence, this teen-led supernatural series could still spawn some stars in its own right. With an outstanding supporting cast who seem to truly understand purpose in bringing this material to life, it’s unlikely that this will be the last time audiences will see Lockwood and Co.
Lockwood & Co. will stream exclusively on Netflix from January 27. Watch a trailer below.