Film Editor Emily Wallace praises Lockwood & Co as a fresh take on young adult fantasy
Based on the book series by Jonathan Stroud, Netflix’s Lockwood & Co introduces the audience to an England 50 years into a deadly ghost epidemic known as ‘The Problem’, but the only people capable of seeing (and thus fighting) these ghosts are children. Agencies of children are formed to spend their nights hunting these ghosts with rapiers and flares while they search for each ghost’s source to contain and destroy. The series follows Lucy Carlyle (Ruby Stokes) who, after an unfortunate encounter in her Northern hometown, moves to London and joins the Lockwood & Co agency, run by the charming but enigmatic Antony Lockwood (Cameron Chapman) and his friend George Karim (Ali Hadji-Heshmati). Away from the control of unhelpful adults, the group begins to take on a number of cases to varying degrees of success.
Lockwood & Co manages to avoid many of the typical YA fantasy show cliches. The world-building is carefully considered – the audience is guided through the world without any clunky exposition, and the show takes time to examine the effects a long-term ghost epidemic would have on the world. This ranges from small details like rooms having salt-sprinklers instead of water, and how it does not shy away from examining how children are exploited as workers within this universe, particularly alongside class issues.
While technically being set in the present day, the lack of technological development since ‘The Problem’ means there is a retro feel to the show, with the absence of mobile phones and computers, and of course, an excellent 80s soundtrack to go along with it. The London setting also provides a refreshing change from the typical American setting of shows in this genre, and also creates a particularly spooky atmosphere that might not have been achieved elsewhere.
The three central characters are all layered, with excellent performances given from the relatively unknown cast. We follow Lucy’s journey finding her place within Lockwood & Co after her traumatic experiences at a previous agency, while also grappling with her unusually strong psychic ability to hear ghosts. Lockwood puts on a charismatic front, but it is clear he is still haunted by his mysterious past, meanwhile the show avoids leaning too much into George as a comic relief character with his deadpan humour by also exploring his feelings of being left out as Lockwood and Lucy bond and take on much of the physical aspects of ghost-hunting while he is left to do the research.
The relationships between all three of the leads are developed well and are centred as the driving force of the show through their found family dynamic. There is also a host of intriguing supporting characters, with a particular standout being Flo Bones (Hayley Konadu), a relic girl who finds and sells ghost sources on the black market and an old friend of Lockwood’s, who ends up helping them with a case.
Alongside compelling characters, Lockwood & Co also offers an engaging plot packed with mystery. The threat offered by ghosts that can kill with a touch means tensions are high in the dramatic action sequences, yet Lockwood & Co also considers the human side of ghosts, seeking to understand what their unfinished business is and whether they can help them. Their quest of researching and containing ghosts also sees them fall into competition with the corporate, well-funded Fittes agency. The rivalry between the two agencies adds some lower-stakes drama to the series, reminding you that these characters are still teenagers with petty disagreements despite all their ghost-hunting antics.
There are two main arcs to the show, with the first three episodes serving as an introduction to the world and following the plot of the first book in Stroud’s series, and the remaining five adapting the second. The second arc in particular begins to open up wider questions around the causes of ‘The Problem’ and the differing natures of ghosts and children’s psychic abilities to see or hear them, which sets up plenty to be explored should the show be renewed for another season.
There is no shortage of YA fantasy shows currently available to stream, but Lockwood & Co stands out from the rest with its quick wit, intriguing mysteries and character-driven storylines. It provides plenty of suspense and action to keep you hooked, without being too scary for its target teen audience, although there is much to be enjoyed by people of all ages. Whether you’re looking for ominous ghosts, heart-warming friendships (not without plenty of bickering), or even just some really cool sword fights, Lockwood & Co has something for you.