‘Locke & Key’: Why Can’t Adults Remember the Keys? The Comics Call It ‘The Riffel Rule’

Locke & Key leaves all the magic for the kids. In season 1 of the Netflix series, viewers learn that most adults can’t remember any of the keys of Keyhouse or the magic they produce. However, the show doesn’t quite explain why that is. Perhaps the answer will arrive in season 2, but in the meantime, a possible explanation lies in Joe Hill and Gabriel Rodriguez’s Locke & Key comic books: The Riffel Rule.

[Spoiler alert: The following story contains some spoilers for Locke & Key Season 1.]

'Locke & Key' stars Emilia Jones as Kinsey Locke and Darby Stanchfield as Nina Locke
‘Locke & Key’ stars Emilia Jones as Kinsey Locke and Darby Stanchfield as Nina Locke | Amanda Matlovich/Netflix

Rendell Locke and his friends took Duncan Locke’s memories

Locke & Key Season 1 follows Nina Locke (Darby Stanchfield) and her kids, Tyler (Connor Jessup), Kinsey (Emilia Jones), and Bode (Jackson Robert Scott), on their move to Matheson, Massachusetts, after the death of father Rendell Locke (Bill Heck).

Their new home, Keyhouse Manor, has been in the Locke family for generations. Rendell and his brother, Duncan Locke (Aaron Ashmore), grew up there. However, the house has a secret: it’s filled with magical keys that give the kids the power to do virtually anything.

Throughout season 1, the Locke kids find several keys. They also learn that Rendell, Duncan, and Rendell’s high school friends (known as the Keepers) used the keys when they were younger until an accident led to some of the Keepers’ deaths. Tyler and Kinsey discover that Duncan witnessed the accident, but the Keepers took his memories to keep it a secret.

Kinsey tries to show Duncan his memories involving magic, but he still doesn’t understand because adults cannot comprehend magic.

The ‘Locke & Key’ comics use ‘The Riffel Rule’ to explain why adults can’t remember magic

In the Locke & Key comics, adults’ inability to remember the keys can be traced back to Hans Riffel. As a spy sent to the Locke family in the 1940s, Hans knew about the keys and used them to harm Germans during World War II.

The Lockes never intended for the keys to be used with malice. So, they created the Riffel Rule. When Keepers turn 18 years old, they lose the ability to remember magic to ensure they can’t abuse the keys’ powers.

Locke & Key Season 1 didn’t mention the Riffel Rule, and it’s unclear if future seasons will. The Netflix series has made some changes from the comics, including an overall shift in focus from horror to young adult fantasy. Hill and Rodriguez adapted character storylines, including Tyler and Dodge, and invented a few keys for the show.

So, season 2 might introduce an entirely different reason for adults not remembering the keys. As the oldest Locke child, Tyler is approaching 18 years old, so that could become an important detail in season 2 or 3.

Why can Ellie and the other Keepers remember?

In season 1, Rendell’s friend, Ellie Whedon (Sherri Saum), revealed to Kinsey and Tyler that the Keepers did something to remember the magic after they turned 18. However, she didn’t specify what it was. In the comics, the Keepers forged a new key that would bypass the Riffel Rule to bring magic into adulthood. The Locke kids may need to find their own way to keep the magic in order to keep Tyler in the loop.

Locke & Key Season 1 is now streaming on Netflix. Season 2 arrives on Oct. 22.

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