This review contains no spoilers for the debut of The Changeling on Apple TV+. The show will premiere on September 8 with three episodes, followed by weekly releases until October 13.
The Changeling, set to debut on Apple TV+, is a captivating and multi-genre show that defies simple categorization. LaKeith Stanfield stars as Apollo Kagwa, opposite Clark Backo as Emma “Emmy” Valentine, in a love story turned mysterious odyssey through a hidden version of New York City. The Changeling is a masterclass in suspense, withholding crucial information to keep viewers on the edge of their seats.
A Captivating Love Story Turned Mystery
Initially, The Changeling presents a charming romance with the birth of Apollo and Emmy’s son, Brian. However, things take a dark turn as Emmy experiences depression and paranoia, causing tension and suspicion between the couple. The show progressively unravels, leading to its most captivating episode, which delves into deep psychic dread.
The Changeling bears resemblance to other Apple TV+ shows, like Severance and Servant, which also thrive on keeping viewers in the dark. The mood of the show is crucial, enticing audiences to embrace the unknown and accept that answers may not come easily. While Severance strikes a successful balance between humor, pathos, and secrecy, The Changeling falls slightly short in achieving the same level of skill.
A Magical Realism Genre Experiment
Showrunner Kelly Marcel aims to create a magical realism experience in The Changeling, drawing inspiration from the novel of the same name by Victor LaValle. However, translating the humanistic terror and modern-day folklore onto the screen poses challenges. The show struggles to establish a consistent mood, leaving viewers unsure of how to interpret the unfolding events and characters. Despite these challenges, the score and direction, particularly in episodes directed by Melina Matsoukas, offer delightful surrealistic elements.
Impressive Performances Amidst Shifting Narratives
Stanfield delivers an excellent performance as Apollo, effortlessly grounding the story in moments of quiet introspection. However, the supporting cast’s reliability fluctuates, with Samuel T. Herring’s portrayal of William Wheeler as one of the most notable, oscillating between loner and plot driver. The constant shifts in narrative and uncertainty surrounding character motivations create a perplexing experience for the actors.
The Changeling is a show that comes close to greatness but falls short due to its constant rug-pulling. As the protagonist grapples with the mystery, viewers may eventually lose the motivation to find answers themselves. Nevertheless, The Changeling remains an intriguing and suspenseful addition to Apple TV+.