‘The Changeling’ challenges one’s perception of reality with its supernatural fairytale twist

LaKeith Stanfield as Apollo Kagwa with baby Brian in a scene from ‘The Changeling’. Picture: Supplied

LaKeith Stanfield as Apollo Kagwa with baby Brian in a scene from ‘The Changeling’. Picture: Supplied

Published Oct 17, 2023


Curiosity got the better of me when I spotted “The Changeling” on Apple TV+.

Shows that blur the lines between fantasy and the supernatural realm are often fascinating offerings.

And if you’ve ever watched “Midnight Mass”, “The Other Black Girl”, “Shining Vale”, “Servant”, “Locke & Key” or “Nancy Drew”, you will understand what I mean.

The eight-part series flits between different time periods, drawing parallels with stories from the past and how they affect the present.

At the heart of the story is Apollo Kagwa (LaKeith Stanfield), a used-book dealer, who finds himself drawn to Emma “Emmy” Valentine (Clark Backo), a librarian.

At first, she rejects his advances, but his charms wear her down. Their date snowballs into something more but Emma then drops a bombshell – she’s leaving for Brazil.

However, he waits for her. On her return, she has a bizarre story that she shares with him and it involves a strange woman trying a red string to her hand, granting her three wishes that will come true when it falls off.

Clark Backo as Emma ‘Emmy’ Valentine in ‘The Changeling’. Picture: Supplied

Apollo doesn’t think much of it and to prove it, he cuts the string.

Not long after the two are exchanging their vows and preparing for their first born.

And this is where the fairytale romance turns ominous. After the birth of baby Brian, who is named after Apollo’s estranged parole office father, sleepnless nights leave the couple exhausted. They have all the signs of first-time parents.

But Apollo copes with the demands of a newborn much better than Emma.

Despite the help of Apollo’s mother Lillian Kagwa (Adina Porter) and Emma’s sister and only surviving relative Kim Valentine (Amirah Vann), Emma is at her wit’s end.

She starts to resent baby Brian, referring to him as “it”. Even after seeking help from a therapist, she struggles to connect with their son, who refuses to latch on during breastfeeding and, when he eventually does so, Emma pushes him away, claiming that he bit her.

At first, Apollo tries to be supportive, brushing off her behaviour as post-partum depression. And he spends most of his time with baby Brian, even taking him to work with his best friend and fellow book enthusiast Patrice Green (Malcolm Barrett).

But the more responsibility he takes on, the deeper Emma slips into paranoia. The situation turns deadly when she decides to kill their baby and injures Apollo in the process.

Shortly after that, she goes missing.

Apollo is left with so many unanswered questions and is treated like a social outcast by everyone but his best friend and mother offers small solace.

He is determined to find his wife and get the answers to why she did what she did.

Apollo’s investigation leads him down a few paths, one of which involves his mother’s past and his father’s role in the nightmares that have haunted him since he was a kid.

The other is to a man named William Wheeler (Samuel T Herring), who claims to understand what Apollo is going through and promises to help.

And the third path leads to Cal (Jane Kaczmarek), the leader of “The Wise Ones”, where he learns of witches and the role they played in Emma’s actions.

LaKeith Stanfield as Apollo Kagwa with Jane Kaczmarek as Cal. Picture: Supplied

As he tries to digest all the information he is given, he starts to piece together how Emma’s strange behaviour, claims of receiving disappearing messages and delusions contributed to the current situation.

Throughout the episodes, the viewer questions whether baby Brian is alive. And that is where the writers have the most fun as they almost gaslight you into a state of indecision.

The fairytale and supernatural aspect aside, the series also delves into parenting, fatherhood and abandonment issues.

In this world of smoke and mirrors, the outcome is really what the audience makes of it as perception and reality seemingly defy logic.

∎ “The Changeling” is streaming on Apple TV+.