The first three episodes of The Changeling chronicle how Apollo and Emma’s lives fall apart, with witchcraft possibly playing a major role in it. The episodes are now streaming on Apple TV+.
Episode 1 recap
In 2010, in a library in Queens, Apollo Kagwa is taken by a librarian named Emma Valentine, who knows how to deal with different kinds of individuals.
Apollo asks Emma out, but she says no. However, he isn’t willing to give up. After all, he is the son of Brian West, who never stopped persuading Apollo’s mother, Lillian Kagwa, until she said yes to a date.
Apollo knows some people call this stalking, but for him, this is persistence. He never gives up and keeps asking Emma out, and eventually, she says yes.
On their first date, Apollo learns that Emma lost her parents when she was five. Her elder sister, Kim, adopted her. Apollo has a sad story too, but he likes to think one sad story is enough for the first date.
Before Apollo can go to the next step, Emma lets him know why she said no to him several times. She is moving to Brazil, and she doesn’t know for how long.
Much like Apollo and Emma, both of Apollo’s parents had dark pasts of their own. Brian grew up watching his parents fight, while Lillian saw her cousin getting shot right in front of her eyes by a soldier.
Lillian was determined to never let anything happen to Apollo. Apollo’s family lived happily after his birth for a few years until Apollo’s father, Brian, abandoned them. Apollo’s mother had to raise her son on her own. Apollo’s father only once sent Apollo a box when he was a teenager.
Apollo often dreams about when he was four. He hears his father knocking on the door. He opens the door, and his father appears in a mask. Brian removes the mask, and black smoke comes out of his mouth as he growls. This dream haunts Apollo to this day.
Emma returns from Brazil and has a lot to tell Apollo. In Salvador, she stayed with a family in a neighborhood called Itapuã. There is a lake there, a lagoon, called Lagoa do Abaetè. They warned her about going there, but she didn’t listen.
Near the lagoon, Emma met an old woman who already knew her name and how she came here. The old woman grabbed Emma’s hand and asked her to make three wishes before she finishes tying a thread around her hand.
The woman warns Emma not to cut this thread. Once this thread falls off Emma’s wrist, those three wishes will come true. Emma and Apollo ridicule this idea. Apollo himself cuts the thread and promises Emma that he will make her wishes come true.
Emma does feel something, but she believes in Apollo and his promise. Apollo and Emma get married and are soon pregnant with a baby.
During dinner with Emma’s best friend, Michelle, Emma goes to the washroom, and Michelle grabs the chance to inform Apollo that there is a nude picture of Emma in an art gallery in Norway.
Michelle talks about the adventures Emma had in Brazil and tells Apollo that he made a bold move by cutting that thread. Michelle lets Apollo know that he has made two of her wishes come true: a good husband and a healthy child.
Coming back to the nude picture, Emma took that herself, and it is displayed in Norway. The point is that Emma is looking into the camera lens like a sorceress; it’s frightening.
Michelle is trying to tell him Emma’s third wish in a way that won’t break her trust because it’s the only one that hasn’t come true. Emma immediately goes into labor after this conversation.
There is a lot of traffic on the road. When Emma and Apollo enter the subway, even that stops midway, and Emma ends up giving birth to their son on a train.
Episode 2 recap
Emma is struggling to take care of their little Brian. Lillian points out how Emma’s breasts are wrong, making her uncomfortable. Kim assures Emma that she is going to be a great mother. Emma agrees; she says she learned from the greatest.
Emma and Apollo get to spend time together, with Lillian taking care of Brian. Emma has grown to understand what motherhood is. At this point, if anything happens to Brian, she will die.
Emma begins receiving pictures of Brian and Apollo whenever these two are out together. It looks like someone has captured these pictures from afar, unbeknownst to Apollo.
These pictures disappear from the chat seconds later or whenever she tries to show them to Apollo. Apollo, on the other hand, dreams of introducing Brian to the things his father left for him in a box.
Things change for the better when little Brian finally starts drinking milk from his mother and Apollo finds a book that will help them earn good money.
However, little Brian continues to keep Emma up all night. She feels that someone is watching them, she is forgetting things, and the images of Apollo and Brian from an unknown sender continue to show up on her phone.
Seeking help, she joins a social media group called the Wise Moms. She checks Apollo’s phone for the pictures she has received and fails to find any. Clearly, Apollo isn’t sending her these.
Emma wonders if she is imagining all of this. At the same time, she isn’t wrong. Whatever Apollo and Brian were doing in pictures, it happened for real.
Apollo suspects that Emma is growing paranoid. Emma’s relationship with Brian deteriorates. Brian once again refrains from drinking his mother’s milk. He won’t stay quiet in Emma’s arms at all.
Later, Kim comes to meet Emma, who is now a mess. They discuss their parents’ deaths. Emma believed that they returned home as kids to find their house on fire with their parents inside.
Kim discloses what really happened. They were all at home. Their parents were having problems, and their mother intentionally set their house on fire. Their mother said they should all go together.
However, their father rescued both of his daughters, and Emma herself voluntarily told her mother to let her go. Their father went back inside and didn’t come out.
Kim decided to tell her this now because, right now, she has the same look on her face that their mother had on the day of the fire. Emma claims that sometimes she feels Brian isn’t her son. Kim tells her that she is exhausted and comforts her.
While Apollo continues celebrating his progress with Brian, Emma makes the decision to baptize Brian. Apollo no longer trusts Emma with Brian. Emma is trying to do what the Wise Moms say, and Apollo doesn’t agree. He lets her know what the problem is; according to him, Emma is the problem right now.
Episode 3 recap
Apollo is tied with chains in his own apartment, which is now a mess. Emma, who looks like she is possessed, walks in. Apollo begs Emma not to hurt his son and tries to remind her who she is. Emma hits him near his eye with a hammer. Before leaving the room, Emma claims that Brian is not a baby.
Time passes, and Apollo is now out on parole and trying to get his life back together after losing his son and wife. Apollo’s friends, who have babies of their own, don’t want him around them for a scene he created.
Apollo begins going to a support group. It turns out that everyone knows his story; it was all over the news. He tells them what made him break into the library with a gun.
He searched for Emma, only to be told that she had disappeared. Apollo claims that if he had found her, he would have killed her and then killed himself.
Apollo’s father’s dreams haunt him again, and his friends have to encourage him not to take his life. Back home, Apollo has his mother, Lillian, by his side. She wants Apollo to go and see Brian’s grave.
Apollo’s apartment still reminds him of the day it was a crime scene. Lillian finds him wandering in the middle of the night. The topic of Apollo’s nightmares comes up, and Lillian tells him the truth about his father.
Apollo’s father did visit him when he was four. What Apollo is dreaming about are not just dreams; they are memories.
Lillian was away at work, but once she found out that her husband was visiting Apollo, she came on time and sent him away. Lillian reveals that Apollo’s father never abandoned them. She had filed for divorce because marriage was not the thing for her husband, Brian.
Apollo confronts his mother and questions why she didn’t co-parent with his father. Lillian never answers and leaves after giving him the card of the person who will show Apollo his son’s grave.
Apollo meets a father who is going to sign his parole. The father makes him sit for a meeting. During the meeting, Apollo comes across another woman who is going through what Emma went through.
She talks about receiving photos that disappear and a group called the Wise Ones that guided her. When Apollo tries to warn her, she gets up and claims that her baby is not a baby.
Apollo runs away. He is chased by an attendee named William Wheeler. He is interested in buying a book Apollo is selling. They sit down for coffee. Wheeler has recorded the confession of the woman who went mad during the meeting at church.
Apollo hears her confession carefully and focuses on the Wise Ones group that guided her. A quick internet search reveals that it’s a family of witches.
- The Changeling brings a New York Fairytale that has so far managed to surprise a viewer through generic twists. The lore quickly makes a viewer turn their head, as the revelations are bone-chilling and keep one wondering what the lead characters are dealing with.
- The show definitely has a captivating plot and creates a spooky atmosphere. However, the way the story has been told can be overwhelming. The viewers have to keep up with four different stories in the first three episodes.
- The extremely slow pace that favors building the characters is another part to worry about. In an attempt to make the characters familiar, the show often deviates from its selling point, which can be a turn-off for viewers.
The Changeling season 1 episodes 1, 2, & 3
Melina Matsoukas, Jonathan Van Tulleken
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