By Naomi Roper
What do you get if you cross Young Sherlock Holmes, Tennant/Smith era Doctor Who and Ghostbusters? The result is Lockwood & Co – a delightful family-friendly tale of ghosts and skullduggery currently streaming on Netflix.
Adapted by Joe Cornish (Attack the Block) from the young adult novels by Jonathan Stroud, Lockwood & Co is set in a world (more specifically London) in which ghosts are real and go around murdering people. Which probably counts as a fun Saturday night activity for a ghost. After the death toll around the world skyrockets a night curfew is put into place & everything is miserable until adults realise that children have the ability to see and listen to ghosts. So in a Dickensian move that never ceased to appal me throughout the entire series children, actual children are trained up by adults as “Agents” to go fight the ghosts with nothing more to protect them than salt bombs, iron rapiers and blind hope. The biggest agency is Fittes, a glossy behemoth headed up by the glamorous Penelope whose headquarters are clearly the Barbican. It’s an oddly melancholy world in which to set a family-friendly tale of spooky shenanigans. The ghost issue (or The Problem as it’s called in the series) stalled the British economy so Lockwood & Co is essentially set in the London of Thatcher’s Britain. There are no iphones or sparkling tech and everything is a bit grim.
The heroine of our tale is Lucy Carlyle (Ruby Stokes). Lucy is sent off to be an agent at the age of 13 by her hard-nosed mother. After tragedy strikes Lucy’s bestie/girlfriend she jumps ship to London where after being turned down by every agency in town she makes her way to the esteemed Lockwood & Co – an agency which consists purely of Anthony Lockwood (Cameron Chapman) and George (Ali Hadji -Heshmati). Lockwood is brave and charming and has the survival instincts of a suicidal lemming. George is adorable and the tech/brains of the outfit. And Lucy? Well, she’s the most talented of them all. And together they get up to adventures.
With only 8 episodes to pack in two books worth of material, the pacing is all over the place. In the beginning, it’s too swift. Lucy shows up, George gets jealous and wants her fired and 30 seconds later everyone trusts each other with their lives. It’s very lovely but it does mean you have to go with it that George and Lockwood would trust and accept Lucy as quickly as they do as the pace of the script doesn’t allow time for George and Lockwood to get used to the new addition to their lives. Towards the end, the pacing starts to flag as the series takes too long to reveal a twist that was signposted from the start. Every episode (including the finale) ends with a cliffhanger making it one of the more binge-able shows to date.
Joe Cornish once again demonstrates his knack for discovering talent with his three leads – all of whom are brilliant.
Ruby Stokes is brave, warm-hearted and fierce as hell as Lucy. I loved her within 30 seconds of meeting her. Ali Hadji -Heshmati is hugely likeable as George with a killer dry delivery. Cameron Champman’s Lockwood is basically Tenant’s Doctor by way of Bruce Wayne if Bruce Wayne didn’t have Alfred or several billion in the bank. Lockwood is an orphan that never remotely got over the death of his parents and now lives in their house, dressing up in suits that make him look like a little boy in his father’s outfits and chasing death at every opportunity. I would have liked to have seen more of Lockwood’s talents (the show basically drops that after the first episode and just focuses on Lockwood’s skills and suicidal bravery – see I told you he was Batman). Chapman’s performance is a fascinating mix of charm, bravery and melancholy.
I am the wrong age demographic to be smitten by Lockwood and Lucy’s furtive glances at each other or the really lovely way that the very broken Lockwood beams like the sun every time Lucy is nice to him. But I’m sure if I was a teen I’d be all over it. I did love that Lockwood accepts Lucy as being more talented than him without question or resentment. More of this, please. Still, there’s plenty here for the adults to enjoy too including a bleach-blonde Alice Lowe exuding domme energy as a terrifying relic dealer and a very fun leather-clad Luke Treadaway giving a performance that veers wildly between glowering malevolence and utter camp. Something for everyone!
While aimed at the teens this is a series with a threat level higher than your average Doctor Who episode. The world Lockwood & Co inhabits is a dangerous one in which adults have no qualms about hurting children. I have never been as worried for two characters as I was in a sequence where Lucy tries to drag a hyperventilating Lockwood to safety after witnessing something deeply unpleasant. In this series, the living are every bit as terrifying as the dead.
At a scant 8 episodes, you should make Lockwood & Co your next binge if only because I will be completely furious if Netflix cancels it. There are so many hints here to a wider conspiracy that have no resolution. Where did the ghosts really come from? What is Fittes up to? Were Batman, sorry Lockwood’s parents murdered? And what does Lucy’s talent mean? I NEED the answers to these questions and this is the sort of show Netflix loves to cancel (I am hoping that the fact it was clearly made on 1000th of the cost of Stranger Things catering budget might save it).
So go watch Lockwood & Co – a charming tale of found family, teen romance and supernatural skullduggery – you won’t regret it.
Lockwood & Co is now streaming on Netflix worldwide.