‘A Fun Supernatural Teen Procedural’
Lockwood & Co reviewed by Jennifer Ariesta
Lockwood & Co is Netflix’s latest teen supernatural show that is a perfect mixture of Harry Potter, Ghostbusters, Doctor Who, and Sherlock. The show is adapted from Jonathan Stroud’s Young Adult book series of the same name by Joe Cornish, the man behind British modern sci-fi cult classic Attack the Block. With that pedigree behind the show, Lockwood & Co boasts a better-than-average quality than recent supernatural titles (Fate: The Winx Saga, Warrior Nun, First Kill, the list goes on). Upon its release on January 27, 2023, the show immediately burst into Netflix’s Global Top 10 list. With its distinctly British flair and its blend of supernatural and detective procedural format, Lockwood & Co shows that the increasingly paint-by-the-number genre can still conjure surprises.
Lockwood & Co takes place in an alternate modern-day London where deadly spirits freely roam the world, threatening humanity on a daily basis. In the effectively informative opening credit, we’re informed how the ghostly outbreak - called The Problem - started, how to fight them, and that the only ones with the supernatural gifts to fight them are teenagers.
Since The Problem began, myriads of ghostbusting agencies have sprouted all across Britain. One of them is Lockwood & Co, the scrappy three-person agency where our lead trio - Anthony Lockwood (Cameron Chapman), Lucy Carlyle (Ruby Stokes), and George Karim (Ali Hadji-Heshmati) - belongs. In the 8-episode first season, the three embark on a series of paranormal investigations involving everything from vengeful spirits to mysterious forces from the underworld. All the while, they must also contend with bigger agencies with sinister motives of their own, threat from regulators looking to revoke their license, and opportunistic people out to capitalize on the outbreak.
On paper, the show can easily be brushed off as yet another paranormal series with all its cliches. And it may appear like that at first glance. The two boys and one girl configuration definitely calls to mind the Harry Potter, Ron Weasley, and Hermione Granger combination. Their episodic supernatural missions might remind you of The Doctor and his companions. Thankfully, Jonathan Stroud is a master storyteller who can craft originality out of banality. In his hands, these familiar elements get an edgy revamp, something that show creator Joe Cornish is able to capitalize further with his signature grungy, gritty sensibility.
First off, the cast of characters really jumped off the screen. You can truly feel that every one of them has experienced collective trauma over the ongoing plague. There is a bit of cynicism hanging in the air, as well as gritted persistence to keep going no matter what. As a society freshly coming off of the pandemic, this feels especially relatable.
Each main character is drawn vividly as teenagers with realistic responses to the predicament they’re in. Lucy despises her paranormal abilities because her mother forced her to work at such a young age. Later, the ghosthunting enterprise costs her a friend, furthering her complicated relationship with her power. Anthony (though everybody calls him Lockwood in the show) lives his life as one giant daredevil act. Though a charismatic leader, he’s also reckless, often endangering his team due to his impulsiveness. He lost both parents at a young age, and there’s so much mystery shrouding his past that might explain his tendency toward early grave. Meanwhile, George is the brain of the group who handles all sorts of research and scientific work. Solidifying his position as the Ron Weasley of the group, he’s also frequently feeling like a neglected third wheel for being the only one in the group without supernatural powers. Despite their differences, the three’s chemistry comes together beautifully. It’s really fun watching this ragtag bunch of misfits slowly become not just colleagues, but also family.
Another highlight of the show is the world surrounding these characters. They establish the rule of the world as quickly and efficiently as possible. There’s also something intriguing about the visualization of Lockwood’s universe. The show is clearly made with a modest budget, so they cannot afford fancy shmancy flourishes. However, they get around that by making smart, indie-flavoured choices. Joe Cornish’s touch is very evident here. The spirits-ravaged London is dowdy looking because the economy has stalled since the 70’s when The Problem began, so we see lots of gray, blocky 1970s architecture. The colour palette also carries through with the depression theme, with lots of earth tones in costumes to props. And the music! The choice of 1970s-esque Brit-rock soundtrack is not only apt but perfectly suits the kids’ status as an underground, misfit operation.
Yet, dour it is not. Thanks to well written characters and its engaging case-of-the-day format, Lockwood & Co feels more vibrant than it looks. Here’s hoping it survives Netflix’s recent unforgiving exorcism of new shows.
Published on March 20th, 2023. Written by Jennifer Ariesta for Television Heaven.