The Changeling has been one of the weirdest viewing experiences. Those first three episodes were golden because they perfectly set up the stakes of Emma and Apollo’s journey. Emma was supposed to find out who or what had exchanged baby Brian with the titular creature. Apollo was supposed to find out why Emma underwent a drastic transformation and allegedly killed baby Brian. Both of them, at different points in time, visited an island where they realized that everything that they had experienced was happening in real time.
Up until the third episode of The Changeling, everything seemed perfect. The visual storytelling was on point. I was hooked. And then the show kept going in circles. It would be unfair to say that the show didn’t make any progress after setting up its basic premise. Instead, it always reiterated the same information twice, thereby making it seem like it wasn’t going anywhere. During the penultimate episode, the showrunners decided to go into abstract territories. Porter and Louder were excellent as always, but it was too confusing for the mortal mind. Anyway, we’ve reached the final chapter.
The Kinder Garten Attacks Cal’s Island
The Changeling Episode 8 opens with a recap of the entire season. I’m not even kidding. This is a 30-minute episode. The plot, the themes, the characters—pretty much everything is undercooked. Yet, here we are with a recap before the credits (yes, there’s a different text on the phone that states that the end is near). When the episode gets to the plot, we realize that it hasn’t moved a lot. Apollo is right where we left him, conversing with William (or Kinder Garten), talking about a legion of 10,000 men who are called the Kinder Garten. Now, here’s my theory (and this has been my running theory throughout the show): It’s all a metaphor for sexism. The Kinder Garten represents abusive men, and Cal and the witches represent abused women.
The Kinder Garten is literally capable of gaslighting women as well as men who are in happy relationships with said women. The show leans heavily on the notion that everything is literal. The Kinder Garten is an actual monster; Emma has superpowers; witches are real; and so on and so forth. If everything is literal, then my theory has no meaning. If everything is a metaphor, with some aspects being literal, then my theory has some meaning. Anyway, Apollo tries to warn everyone about the incoming danger, but he’s too late, and the Kinder Garten destroys the buildings and kills a lot of people. The powers of the Kinder Garten apparently involve setting off explosions. We don’t get to see how it does that. So, we have to accept, for the time being, that the creature can do all that. Gretta is killed during the attack, which seems odd because William is her abusive ex-husband, and she’s the one who got killed. Can we assume that William is the one who placed some kind of explosive all around the compound with some help from an insider or something like that? If not, well, I have to say that William telepathically told the Kinder Garten to nuke the building that Gretta was in. Cal gathers the survivors and takes them to the edge of the island, where a trawler is waiting for them to take them to the city.
Cal gets everyone off the island safely
Cal, Apollo, and the survivors are forced to rappel down a cliff to get to the aforementioned trawler because the easier route has been cut off by the Kinder Garten. While everyone gets down safely, Cal and Apollo fall from a great height because the Kinder Garten cuts the rope, thereby injuring Cal and Apollo. Everyone boards the trawler, except for Cal and Apollo. Cal says that Apollo has to take the creek boat to get to the mainland, and she gives a very weird reason for it. She refers to the time Emma used the same boat and started glowing. So, she probably wants Apollo to take a similar endurance test so that he can realize what he’s willing to do for Brian and Emma.
The man has a broken shoulder! He has been through hell and back. And the whole thing about getting to Emma and Brian seems time-sensitive. Is this really the moment where Cal needs to get philosophical about Apollo’s “journey”? I think Cal even says that “the big one can swim.” We see the monster hurling trees at the trawler. But, oh yes, Apollo has to row all the way to the city because it’ll make him realize that he truly loves Emma and Brian! Does this make any sense? Well, maybe it’s not supposed to make any sense. Maybe it’s supposed to be a fairytale for self-serious fools. Anyway, Cal suddenly decides that she is done with this “helping women realize their self-worth” shtick, and she wants to die and reunite with her son in the stars. So, she stays on the island and faces Kinder Garten. Not the entire Kinder Garten, just William. Out of nowhere, Cal begins to climb back up the cliff, free solo. If my memory is serving me right, the woman hasn’t shown any athletic abilities. Maybe her urge to go to her son has activated her wall-climbing powers and is allowing her to do the impossible.
Did Emma and Apollo get to Brian?
While Apollo rows away from the island, Cal fights William and defeats him. When she senses that the rest of the Kinder Garten is coming for her, she dives off the cliff to her death. The Kinder Garten drags away William’s body. I guess this sacrifice is supposed to help or motivate Apollo in some way.
During The Changeling‘s ending, we see that Emma has reached the fabled Forest Hill in Queens. She sees a glowing carousel and walks towards it as the narrator says that the fairies are not going to give back the baby. Apollo reaches the shores of NYC and lies down to get a breather. We get a glimpse of someone who looks like William viewing some kind of CCTV footage from a dark dungeon. It looks like a virtual meeting because there are others present on a separate monitor. Apollo opens a coffin and apparently finds a changeling, which obviously looks like a baby. And then we see Apollo again, making his way through a dungeon and hitting a dead end. Except, it’s not a dead end; it’s the eye of a dragon-like creature. And that’s how the showrunners conclude this chapter of Apollo and Emma’s journey. So, no, Apollo and Emma didn’t get to Brian. They are still in pursuit. I don’t know what led Apollo to that coffin or that monster. I don’t know what Emma is going to find beyond that carousel.
Are the fairies actually the Kinder Garten? What is the Kinder Garten? Is it literally a group of 10,000 men, a monster made of 10,000 men, or an actual monster that is controlled by 10,000 men? At this point, your guess is better than mine, especially if you’ve read the book. I haven’t because I want to watch a show on its own merit, and if it interests me, I’ll check out the book. Based on the aimless and repetitive storytelling of The Changeling, it hasn’t piqued my interest enough to pick up the book. At the time of writing the article, I didn’t know if the show was going to get a second season. If it does, I hope we get some answers. If you have any answers about the meaning of that frustratingly vague ending because you’ve read the book, please feel free to share your thoughts with us. And while you are at it, please tell us about the case with the Norwegians, because that whole arc went nowhere. We got brief mentions of the Norway Maple, the Norwegian ship, William’s connection to the Norwegians, and the picture of Emma at a Norwegian art gallery. Is the Kinder Garten of Norwegian descent, or did it help the Norwegian immigrants escape the storm, and since then, the Norwegian immigrants and their descendants have been doing the Kinder Garten’s bidding? At this point, I’m just hoping this isn’t an anti-immigrant story.