The Changeling Review

The Changeling
Apollo (LaKeith Stanfield) and Emma (Clark Backo) fall in love and have a baby. Everything's perfect, until suddenly it's not. Bereft and alone, Apollo journeys through the dark underbelly of New York City for answers.

by David Opie |
Published on

Streaming on: Apple TV+

Episodes viewed: 8 of 8

The Changeling, Victor LaValle's well-received 2017 fantasy-horror novel, was inspired by the fairies in folklore who steal your baby and leave a fake in its place. But Apple TV+'s small-screen adaptation of that book takes this conceit to places you'd never expect.

The Changeling

At first, the relationship between Apollo (LaKeith Stanfield) and Emma (Clark Backo) feels like its own kind of fairy tale come true — but fairy tales can be monstrous. Even when the couple first meet, there's an underlying sense of dread that permeates their joy. Through off-kilter framing and eerie lighting, directors Melina Matsoukas and Jonathan van Tulleken constantly suggest something sinister lurking just out of frame. When that horror does come into the light, three episodes in, the nightmares that unfold are just an extension of a world that never felt right to begin with.

Series creator/writer Kelly Marcel has created a haunting, beautiful show that shifts and morphs at any given moment.

That's not to say The Changeling is only concerned with things that go bump in the night. The early stages of Apollo and Emma's relationship are romantic, even humorous at points. You root for Stanfield and Backo's characters, whether they're flirting in a café or screaming at strangers after everything unravels — because even the show's most surreal moments are expertly grounded in their hands.

That's vital, because without their skill, The Changeling's mercurial story could easily fall apart completely. The riddles and mysteries that intrigue to start with become increasingly perplexing and hard to follow, especially in the bloated middle third that threatens to derail things, before Adina Porter as Apollo’s mother Lillian rescues the show with a moving showcase in the penultimate episode.

With input from LaValle himself, series creator/writer Kelly Marcel has created a haunting, beautiful show that shifts and morphs at any given moment, much like the monster who disrupts the natural order of things at the heart of this story. You'll just need the patience of a first-time parent to fully enjoy it.

The Changeling still resonates, despite its flaws, because it taps into something raw and primal — much like the fairy tales of old that inspired the original book.
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