Lockwood & Co. coming to Netflix just six weeks after the streaming service cancelled its last solid adaptation of a British fantasy YA book series in The Bastard Son & The Devil Itself, feels a bit like getting a new puppy after your last one was run over. You’re happy it’s here, obviously, but there’s a tug of wariness about getting too attached.
It’s very easy to get attached to this eight-episode ghost story about three teens running a supernatural detective agency. The cast is charming, the characters are likeable and their world – in which a nightly curfew and platoons of rapier-bearing teens protects London from spectral attack – is solidly conceived.
There are ongoing mysteries plus episodic encounters and an evolving Scooby Gang dynamic between its young leads. It has a touch of Harry Potter plus a touch of Being Human, and families who enjoyed Wednesday together could happily schedule it for a post-school and work Friday binge.
The series comes adapted by writer-director Joe Cornish (Attack the Block, The Kid Who Would Be King) from Jonathan Stroud’s novels about Lockwood, Lucy and George – a trio who row against the tide by operating their broke indie (or as Lockwood prefers, “rogue”) ghost-hunting agency in competition with corporate giant Fittes. It’s a David and Goliath deal. Fittes has all the budget, scale and access, but Lockwood & Co. has their own assets – guts, brains and… Lucy.
Ruby Stokes (who left a supporting role in Netflix mega-hit Bridgerton for this part and you can absolutely see why) plays Lucy Carlyle. Lucy’s a Listener with a psychic ability to connect with ghosts through objects and places. After a traumatic experience in her hometown, she runs away to London and joins forces with wealthy orphan Anthony Lockwood, a talented sword-fighter played by newcomer Cameron Chapman, and George (Ali Hadji-Heshmati), the agency’s bookish researcher.
Together, the three take on client cases and solve supernatural mysteries, with regular interludes of swordplay stunts and explosive weaponry. The ghosts – who roam around after dark fatally attacking the living with their touch – are scary but not too scary for younger viewers. (The books are marketed at 9-12 year olds and this series skews towards the upper limit of that, depending on parental tolerance for the odd swear word or bottle of beer.)
Stokes is great as Lucy, warm, tough, well able for the scripts’ emotional demands, and the undeniable star of the show. Chapman carries himself with preternatural maturity, delivering Lockwood’s lines with the world-weary suavity of a much older actor. And as George, Hadji-Heshmati handles deadpan comic relief like a pro. It’s a mix of energy that works, so much so that it shows up some of the more cartoony performances from the supporting adult cast, which includes Nigel Planer, Ben Crompton, Alice Lowe, Luke Treadaway, Louise Brealey, Ivanno Jeremiah, and Morven Christie as the mysterious Penelope Fittes.
The action and special effects are energetic and frequent, there’s a light-touch romantic element that won’t embarrass anyone in front of mum and dad, and even if the odd moment of quipping humour falls flat, the whole thing has bags of British fantasy charm. Speaking of mum and dad, the soundtrack is an 80s goth treat. This parallel London is brought to you by Siouxsie, The Cure, Bauhaus…, all the big-haired, mohair jumpered greats.
Plot-wise, there are ongoing mysteries left unsolved by the end of the series to draw us back for a second series and perhaps a third (there are five books total and these eight episodes cover events from only the first two). What lies behind Lockwood’s mystery out-of-bounds door? What really happened to his parents? What explains Lucy’s rare psychic ability? And most of all – what caused the euphemistically titled “Problem” that made dangerous ghosts spill out into the world, leaving supernaturally talented children to clear up the mess?
If you think you’d like answers to those questions, or to see more from this trio and this YA fantasy world, Netflix, apparently now more than ever, needs convincing. If Lockwood & Co is likely to end up on your family to-watch list, why not put it at the top.
Lockwood & Co. is available to stream now on Netflix.