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Who you gonna call? Lockwood & Co!

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As YA shows can be rapidly cancelled if they are not popular, CONSTANTINOS PSILLIDES says engage with Netflix’s latest

 

Fast on the heels of the massively successful Wednesday, Netflix enters the second month of 2023 with yet another YA series, Lockwood & Co.

Based on a series of books written by Jonathan Stroud, Lockwood & Co might not have the brand recognition of the Addams Family but is definitely on brand when it comes to YA entertainment: edgy, dark and with a heap of defiance to authority and a middle finger raised against the status quo.

Also, ghosts.

Lockwood & Co is set in an alternate reality, mainly in London. While it is supposedly taking place in our time, there’s a noticeable absence of modern technological advancements. No mobile phones, computers are few and usually found in libraries and no social media. I believe we can all agree that the latter is an improvement.

It seems like a time permanently stuck in the 70s-80s era, like people stopped caring and innovating, and the great tech boom of the 90s never happened. This is precisely what would happen if one had irrefutable evidence of an afterlife, especially if that afterlife looks bleak and monstrous.

Fifty years ago, an event called ‘The Problem’ took place, an unleashing of psychic energy that resulted in ghosts, apparitions and other otherworldly beings becoming a reality. These hauntings varied from the nuisance of a disembodied voice keeping you up at night to the nightmarish prospect of being ripped apart by a highly violent entity.

Much like in our world, though, capitalism finds a way. Gradually people got used to this new, spectre-heavy reality and carried on with their lives, presumably in a world where Ghostbusters is now a documentary narrated by Sir David Attenborough.

Going about your day, though, becomes extremely difficult when you must always dodge murderous spirits. The government needed a way to deal with the ghosts and found it in the most unexpected place. Children.

Shortly after ‘The Problem’, children started developing psychic abilities, allowing them to see and hear the ghosts. As those powers diminish with age, children became the world’s only defence against otherworldly forces, thus becoming the only ones who could deal with them. In a move that would bring tears to the face of Adam Smith’s ghost, many independent “ghostbusting” agencies started popping up to deal with the demand for ghostbusting, employing almost exclusively children. Seriously, there’s so much child labour in this series, it’s a wonder is not sponsored by a sneakers company.

Anthony Lockwood runs one such agency, the titular Lockwood & Co, along with his good friend George but they are looking to expand and bring in more talent. In comes Lucy Carlyle, an exceptionally gifted Agent (that’s what the ghostbusters are called) who can converse with ghosts. As with all similar series, everything is not what it seems, and soon the trio find themselves in the middle of a conspiracy.

The eight-part series is directed by no other than Joe Cornish, director of the cult classic Attack on the Block, so you can trust him to bring to life children who live outside the purview of adults.

Will this be the streaming platform’s next big hit? Remains to be seen. Netflix has a lousy track record with YA series. Fate: The Winx Saga, First Kill and more recently, Warrior Nun were all unceremoniously cancelled without concluding their respective plotlines, leaving fans hanging.

That’s not a trend limited to YA series. The twisted 1899 was also cancelled earlier this month, leaving its plots unresolved.

Netflix’s goal is to force fans to engage with the content early on, lest the sword of Damocles hanging over each series drops, but people can only be pushed so far. While Netflix might believe this strategy will help the platform identify moneymakers and moneysuckers and stop investing in projects that don’t bring in the required revenue, letting down fans will return to haunt (ha!) them. With this tactic, Netflix takes a significant risk, as angering fans is a first-class ticket to the unenviable location of Rings of Power.

Lockwood & Co is a test balloon for this tactic to see whether fans can actually be made to engage with the content under the threat of cancellation. Will it be successful? Only time will show. For now, enjoy the show!

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