Netflix YA Series Adapts the Teen Books in Thrilling Fashion


YA is more popular than ever, but what does that term even mean, beyond being an acronym for ‘Young Adult?’ Roughly 55% of people who purchase YA books are older than 18, and 28% of all YA books are bought by people between the ages of 30 and 44. The boundary between YA and plain old A is simply disappearing. The box office is dominated by PG and PG-13 movies about superheroes, CGI dinosaurs, and wizards, and animated movies about anthropomorphic toys and animals, while television is teeming with dragons, elves, and ’80s kids fighting supernatural entities.

The grimmest diagnosis of this phenomenon is that culture has been infantilized to a disturbing degree; a more optimistic reading, though, might consider the imaginations and childlike wonder of people to no longer be stifled by growing up. In this happier mindset, the YA genre is really just the YAHA genre — Young at Heart Adults.


30 years ago, it might have been safe to assume that Lockwood & Co. would be a great series for teenagers and middle school kids, as it’s an imaginative, vibrant, and thoughtful show about ghosts, talent, authority, and friendship. Today, the Netflix series about teenage ghost hunters may very well be adored by 40-somethings. Who knows anymore? Regardless, Lockwood & Co. is a thrilling series for young people, though it may be a bit silly and predictable for older people. Young at heart adults, however, will likely still be thrilled.

Lockwood & Co. Is About a Haunted Alternate Reality

A ghost in Lockwood and Co. series on Netflix

Lockwood & Co. joins the ranks of numerous other YA series of recent years, but bests many of them (except the sadly canceled Paper Girls). That’s because it has such interesting and yet surprisingly simple world-building, thanks to the books by Jonathan Stroud.

The series takes place in an alternative timeline where something known as ‘The Problem’ first occurred roughly five decades prior. In this version of reality, ghosts have begun haunting the world at a rapid, dangerous, and clearly visible pace, and there’s no debate about their existence anymore. They’ve become a massive economic and political problem, but oddly enough, children began to develop psychic abilities to detect them and fight back.

Related: How the Lockwood & Co. Trailer Explores the Paranormal

This has resulted in what’s essentially a booming business model based around child labor, with international conglomerates and smaller businesses competing to bring in, train, and employ young people to exorcize ghosts. Unfortunately, it’s a job with a high mortality rate, but The Problem has created a seismic upheaval in the world economy, and the employment offered by ghost hunting agencies provides decent money for the families of these kids.

Ruby Stokes’ Lucy Leads Lockwood & Co.

Ruby Stokes as Lucy with Skull ghost in Lockwood and Co. series on Netflix

Since The Problem disrupted the timeline decades ago, technology hasn’t progressed too much since the 1980s. There are no smartphones, hardly any personal computers, and few modern comforts and contrivances. The world of Lockwood & Co., set mainly in London, looks like the perpetual gray days of Margaret Thatcher’s reign. Like some steampunk titles, the series feels simultaneously very old and somehow in the distant future. The world these characters inhabit almost feels timeless, which makes sense — when the afterlife is a proven phenomenon, time kind of loses its meaning.

Of course, the adults control the child ghost-hunters, but the adults don’t have Talent, as it’s called. Many kids naturally develop this psychic ability to detect ghosts through one of three sensorial Talents — sight, listening, and touch. Lucy is a listener; more than that, she’s a prodigy. Incredibly talented but vastly underappreciated, Lucy (Ruby Stokes) receives the blame when a mission fell apart, resulting in the deaths of several colleagues. Of course, the adults blamed her, and even her mother, a nasty piece of work, doesn’t believe her. So one night, Lucy Carlyle climbs out her window in north England and heads to London.

The Kids Are Alright

Lockwood & Co cast of Netflix series

The big ghost-hunting groups are in London, such as the prestigious Fittes Agency, the first of its kind. Without finishing her fourth year of training, Lucy is rejected everywhere she goes until she reaches the tiny agency of Lockwood & Company, which is just Anthony Lockwood (Cameron Chapman) and his friend George (Ali Hadji-Heshmati).

The lunatics are running the asylum here — Lockwood is 18, living in his deceased parents’ home, and runs his own agency, the only one without any adult supervision. They continue to operate despite being looked down upon by other agencies, and interfered with by DEPRAC (Department of Psychical Research and Control), which is a subsidiary of Scotland Yard.

Lucy joins these two misfits, who are much more arrogant than they have any evidential reason to be, and the three attempt to make a name for themselves. Unfortunately, at the end of the day, they are just kids, and so mistakes are made, feelings are hurt, buildings are burned down, jobs are ruined, etc.

How Old Is Lockwood’s Target Audience?

Lockwood & Co cast of Netflix series

Similarly, at the end of the same day, Lockwood & Co. seems like it’s for kids. This isn’t a bad thing, as there needs to be exciting, imaginative, anti-authoritarian shows like this for young people to enjoy, and if viewers are the kind of ‘young at heart adults’ who watch SpongeBob SquarePants and still talk about Harry Potter or Transformers in their 30s and 40s, then they’ll probably enjoy it, too.

Lockwood & Co. seems to strike a compromise between the fun supernatural kids show Gravity Falls and the classic sci-fi horror drama The X-Files; it’s the PG-13 of spookiness and excitement. Again, there’s nothing wrong with that at all, and it allows some of the series’ contrivances, annoyances, and weaknesses to make some sense.

For adults, Lucy is really the only likable character here, with everyone else being varying degrees of obnoxious. Kids, though, will probably find George’s anti-social bitterness to be funny, and think that Lockwood’s vagaries and smugness is super-cool. Adults will likely recognize a lot of the major storylines and dialogue beats; for kids, these might allow easier access into the show’s world and its characters.

Lockwood & Co. Is an Audiovisual Treat

Annabel & Lucy in Lockwood & Co. Netflix series

The center of this Venn diagram, the thing that both kids and adults can likely agree upon, is that Lockwood & Co. looks and sounds fantastic. The series contrasts the dusty, monochromatic melancholy of an almost Dickensian London with the baroque, elaborate devices, houses, artifacts of a ghost-obsessed world. In fact, if H.G. Wells and Charles Dickens collaborated, it may have produced something close to Lockwood & Co.

The large makeup, costume, editing, and visual effects departments all work well together, and even though the series has some different writers and directors, it all visually coheres. This is mostly thanks to filmmaker Joe Cornish (Attack the Block, The Adam and Joe Show), who ran much of the show; he wrote and directed the first episode, setting the tone for everything to come. Several of his projects have involved kids having to fight off threats that the adults couldn’t remedy, and his themes fit Lockwood & Co. like a glove.

Lucy & Lockwood in a Burning House in Netflix series

Cornish has a wonderful and eclectic taste in music, and the soundtrack and sound department is magnificent here. Relying on post-punk cuts for the first half of the show (Bauhaus, The Cure, Siouxsie and the Banshees, This Mortal Coil), the soundtrack evolves to include some more emotionally resonant pop. The score seems like a constant deconstruction of the Bauhaus song Bela Lugosi’s Dead, and the sound design uses its scratches and stretching sounds to create a truly supernatural aural palette.

It’s hard to say who anything is for anymore. Everything Everywhere All at Once might win Best Picture, and a sequel to Top Gun was the second-highest-grossing movie of 2022. Adults like Stranger Things, a show about children becoming teenagers and fighting monsters. It’s a weird world, and it’s hard to know who’s young and who’s an adult. Maybe for a show like Lockwood & Co., which looks and sounds great and has some exciting world-building, it just doesn’t matter.

Lockwood & Co. is a Complete Fiction production and its eight hour-long episodes will be available to stream on Netflix beginning January 27.

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