Hot Show Alert: The Changeling on Apple TV+

[L-R]: Lakeith Stanfield as APOLLO, Clark Backo as EMMY

Disclaimer: This show alert was written after watching three out of 8 episodes. Episodes 1-3 air September 8th, 2023. The following five episodes air one at a time on Fridays.

The Changeling comes to Apple TV+ on September 8th, 2023. Based on a dark fantasy novel by Victor LaVelle, who serves as narrator, The Changeling is adapted for the screen by Kelly Marcel (Saving Mr. Banks; Venom). The series stars LaKeith Stanfield, Clark Backo, Adina Porter, Samuel T. Herring, Alexis Louder, Jared Abrahamson, and special guest star Malcolm Barrett. A rotation of directors take the helm, most notably Melina Matsoukas, who directs the pilot episode. Matsoukas knows how to create compelling visual storytelling featuring Black couples experiencing all the stages of love (Beyonce's Lemonade, Queen & Slim).


What's it about?

It's an urban fairy tale brought to life, spun with multiple narratives and perspectives, spanning continents and generations. A book collector and appraiser named Apollo (LaKeith Stanfield) falls in love with librarian Emmy (Clark Backo) in 2010. Although, she initially spurns his advances, her defenses eventually melt, moving them from marriage to parenthood. Besides his love of books, Apollo only wants to be a good father and husband -- a desire he comes by genetically. Apollo and Emmy's story interweaves with the tale of how his parents met and fell in love in the 1960s-70s, combining races, cultures, and traumas into one household. These stories mirror and inform one another, although to what extent is to be determined. 

All seems perfect for Apollo and Emmy until their new son Brian arrives. Emmy's lack of sleep begins to wear on her, as well as the baby's relentless crying and the mysterious photos that keep popping up on her cellphone. Someone appears to be watching their family, and Emmy has a growing suspicion that Brian is not her baby. And then the real nightmare begins. Now Apollo must navigate the hidden underworld of the city to reclaim his abducted son and missing wife.

Christina Catechis as MOTHER

Showrunner Kelly Marcel concocts a seductive genre blend of sweeping family drama, horror, romance, fairy tale, and mythology.

The love story of Apollo and Emmy, as well as Apollo's parents Brian and Lillian, lures us in. Their sweet romances allow us to drop our guard. We root for these couples. Yet the rosy tinted glow of love is grounded by the reality of the baggage each character brings with them. We learn their stories as the fairy tale unfolds, bit by bit. These characters survive trauma, and trauma always simmers under the surface, even during times of joy.

The world building also creates a strong sense of place. Even before we meet Apollo, the show opens with a story about immigrants traveling from Norway to America in 1825. We then move to 2010 and then to 1968, during a garbage strike (an event that actually happened in Memphis). Marcel uses these historical markers to vividly bring the setting to life.

The Changeling is a book lover's feast. Apollo and Emmy both exist in a world where books are revered. Apollo uses these books to find clues that aid him on his journey, but we may want to read them after to further enjoy this world. The books also help us navigate the story and serve as Easter eggs as to what will happen next.

Clark Becko as EMMY
Apollo himself feels like a myth made real. Everything about him, including the origin of his name, comes to be for a reason, making him feel larger than life. He is the god Apollo.

But is it worth watching?

The Changeling is destined to become another impressive Apple TV series. For this uninformed, changelings haven’t shown up in too many films, probably because they are so darn creepy. Supposedly, if you leave a baby unattended, the fairies or goblins kidnap the baby and swap it out for a decoy. You may remember that in the movie Labyrinth, David Bowie the goblin king instructs his underlings to kidnap Jennifer Connelly's baby brother.

I recommend this series to anyone who loves dark fantasy like Sandman, Mortal Instruments, or The Golden Compass, or if you like family sagas that make the characters seem mythological and larger than life: The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, Three Thousand Years of Longing, Pan's Labryinth Curious Case of Benjamin Button, or the Mike Flanagan Haunting of TV-verse.