The anchors of the past slow the present, and make sight of the future an impossibility.
Apple TV has brought to life The Changeling, a novel by Victor LaVelle, into a series about parenting, immigration, modern fairy tale, and, sadly, watching the clock waiting for a more positive future to materialise.
When trawling the various streamers of an evening to find a show to watch, you inevitably lock on to certain styles that generally appeal.
With its high budget production and emphasis on fantasy elements woven into (almost) modern life, The Changeling stood out from the jostling crowd.
Yet as each episode laboriously dragged itself towards some murky future, this reviewer’s enthusiasm was replaced by a doppelganger of duty.
What Is The Changeling About?
New York used book dealer Apollo (LaKeith Stanfield, Judas and the Black Messiah) seems to be getting his life together.
Married to Emma (Clark Blacko) and with a new baby, he strives to shake off the hangups of having an absentee father, and a recurring dream of a monster that came to his door as a child.
But when Emma’s mental health frazzles, Apollo’s new family face all too familiar threats.
Thematically The Changeling has a rich texture to draw upon. Apollo’s mother, Lillian (played by Adina Porter and Alexis Louder for her much younger self) showcases the powerlessness of an immigrant to America, having escaped Idi Amin’s Uganda.
In addition, the mania experienced by Emma leans into post partum depression, and her own backstory is steeped in mental health and trauma.
The Changeling Official Trailer
Is The Changeling Worth Watching?
When taking five steps back to overview, The Changeling is an accomplished piece of television.
Yet on a moment by moment level the show is like a fish constantly slipping from your grasp.
Fantasy elements are picked up and put down with frustrating inconsistency and even if you are on board with the amorphous plot then the overwritten nature of the characters causes a lack of connection.
Stanfield portrays the vulnerability of Apollo with tangible presence but his muted delivery undercuts other scenes; it never rings true when he yells “I am the god Apollo!” in a show of mock confidence.
The ‘persistent man’ trope rears its tired head in his wooing of Emma, followed by scenes that move the plot but not the people.
Why does Apollo immediately cut the ribbon around Emma’s wrist that apparent *witches* told her never to cut? Because the script needs to move on, that’s why.
And yet the first three episodes are an exercise in how long the apparent intrigue can hold your patience.
Come the half-way point, where Apollo discovers an apparently hidden island in the New York East River in search for his absent wife, that patience has become broken.
Central to The Changeling’s problems is that it treats its mystery like a beautifully crocheted quilt: it’s hard to enjoy the artistry when you are covered in darkness.
The characters stumble about rarely taking the time to seriously think (who is taking and sending pictures of them that immediately delete when they try to show someone?) leaving the audience to try to piece it together.
Yet despite gorgeously framed shots that hint at witches, babies switched for changelings, and cursed broken wishes, the show provides so little to go on.
The Changeling is a thoughtful social drama with fantasy scattergun embroidery, to the detriment of both.
Unfocused, but strong, performances combined with high budget production make for a glossy mirror; it will reflect right back at you what you put into it.
Words by Mike Record
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