'The Changeling' Adds an Edge to the Modern Fairy Tale

Created by Kelly Marcel

Starring LaKeith Stanfield, Clark Backo, Adina Porter, Samuel T. Herring

Photo courtesy of Apple TV+

BY Marriska FernandesPublished Sep 6, 2023

There is nothing more powerful than the lingering gaze of a heartbroken parent. In an adaptation of Victor LaValle's fairy tale horror novel The Changeling, LaKeith Stanfield channels this rage with intensity as the camera pans in on his face, revealing the character's unparalleled range. Across eight episodes, the Apple TV+ series paints a portrait of parenthood with such raw emotion that nothing can truly prepare audiences. 

In 2010, Apollo (Stanfield), a rare book dealer, finally meets librarian Emma Valentine (Letterkenny's Clark Backo) in New York after seven failed attempts and manages to take her out on a date. Simultaneously, we see another storyline of Apollo's father attempting to ask his mother out on a date, and eventually leaving his family when Apollo is a young boy.

As Apollo and Emma fall in love, Emma shares she's going to Brazil for a few months. Once there, she runs into a strange woman who the locals call a witch. This mysterious woman ties a thread around Emma's wrist and says that, when the thread falls off, her three wishes will come true; however, she warns that the thread is not to be cut off.

Upon Emma's return to New York, she shares this incident with Apollo, who cuts off the thread promising to make all her wishes come true. They soon get married and baby Brian is born. But it's not long before Emma is haunted by the birth of Brian and does something horrifying that sends Apollo into shock and rage. 

The series immediately draws viewers into the mystery, as the premise is layered with riddles and puzzles about the whereabouts of Emma and what's happening with the family. Is it supernatural or something in plain sight? The lines between reality and nightmares are blurred, demanding everything be questioned.

Equal parts eerie and captivating, The Changeling excels in large part due to Stanfield's compelling performance. He goes from a nurturing and loving father to an enraged and traumatized victim, keeping us on edge about the family's impending future. For her part, Canadian actress Backo is just as tough in her icy and nightmare-ridden portrayal of a woman seeming to battle postpartum depression. 

Halfway through the show, The Changeling threatens to lose its edge. The show feels overstuffed and overly ambitious, adding moving parts to the story that don't seem to connect and could have been edited down. However, because the series unpacks the grim and macabre so fearlessly, the beauty in this story prevails. 

Aptly described as a "fairy tale for grownups," in a time of sequels and reboots, The Changeling is an original, character-driven horror series that gives a twist to the modern day fairy tale with central themes reaching far deeper than its counterparts.
(Apple TV+)

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