The first three episodes of The Changeling were premiered on Apple TV+ last week. They told the story of the whirlwind romance between Apollo and Emma, as they went from being book lovers to romantic lovers and eventually got married to each other. They experienced a pretty random and adventurous childbirth on a subway train. But things went downhill from there. Initially, it seemed that the two of them were just exhausted because they were hardly getting any sleep after taking care of baby Brian. Eventually, it became evident that Emma was suffering from postpartum depression. Since Apollo didn’t pay a lot of attention to that, it ballooned into a horrific incident that concluded with Brian’s apparent death and Emma’s disappearance. Apollo was sent to prison as he had threatened Emma’s colleagues. When Apollo was released, he was physically and emotionally scarred. He tried to make a new start by giving the first edition of To Kill a Mockingbird to his friend Patrice. However, a member of the Survivors’ Club, William, shows interest in the book, and that leads Apollo to the revelation that witches might be the reason for Emma’s sudden change.
Apollo meets Kim
The Changeling Episode 4 opens with a young Lillian standing on the docks with a red suitcase, and when it cuts to the present day, we see Apollo standing at the same spot. The credits roll, and, just like the first three episodes, there’s a different version of the text message on the phone. This time, it has a warning to the reader that they shouldn’t listen to the witches. After the credits, we learn that Apollo and Patrice have decided to meet William at the docks to sell the aforementioned book. While waiting for William, Apollo learns that there’s a fan page on social media for baby Brian and that Patrice is a part of it. This annoys Apollo because it’s irresponsible to create a “tribute page” for a dead child and then support it by being a part of it. Anyway, before things get heated between Patrice and Apollo, William arrives and, weirdly enough, takes them to a rented boat to complete the transaction. William makes an out-of-the-blue Airplane! reference that amuses no one.
Actually, everything after this point is extremely awkward because William keeps going on and on about Gretta (his ex-wife) and his daughters, and then he starts crying about how this is his last chance to reunite with Gretta. And while he sobs uncontrollably, Patrice and Apollo just leave. Later on, Apollo has a nightmare about Emma being tortured. He wakes up and starts going through the “tribute page,” and that worsens his situation. The following day, Apollo meets Kim at the diner where he used to come with Emma. The details of their conversation aren’t that important. What’s important is that they both assure each other that even though Emma is gone, Apollo is there for Kim, and Kim is there for Apollo, just in case either of them needs any kind of help. It’s clear that both of them are suffering, but it is important for both of them to know that they are not on this journey alone. That said, just when Apollo thinks that he has closed his chapter with the Valentines, a message from an unknown sender pops up and states that Emma is actually alive.
Apollo is captured on the island.
The sender of the message about Emma being alive graciously sends his location to Apollo so that he can track him, and it turns out to be William. He starts rambling about the power of technology and willpower, or something like that. So, Apollo brings back the focus on Emma and asks William to reveal what he knows about her. William says that she’s on an island on the East River. He claims that the Wise Ones have Emma in their custody and that they need a boat to reach there and get her. Before embarking on this preposterous mission, Apollo asks Patrice to do a little background check on William. While Patrice decrypts a file that serves as evidence of Emma’s existence, he talks a little about William. Apparently, he served as a programming specialist for the Air Force in the early 80s, worked for the Medical University of South Carolina, and after that, he has been working as an app developer, i.e., the app that helps you book boats like Airbnb.
When the file is done decrypting, Apollo sees Emma in her demented and jaded state for the first time in a long time. For a moment, it seems like he is going to puke due to the overwhelming nature of this information. Don’t worry, he does that when he’s on the boat with William and heading towards the island because he remembers spending a lot of romantic moments with Emma near the East River. Anyway, the duo soldiers on and reaches the island. They find a building that looks like a discarded hospital. William hangs back in the bushes while Apollo rushes towards the building and loudly shouts Emma’s name. He is attacked by a group of ladies, and they try to drown him in a pond. However, Apollo fights back, and he asks the women why they are protecting Emma. They say some vague stuff about Apollo acting just like Emma did, and they decide to take him to Cal, a name uttered by the hysterical lady at the survivors’ meeting.
What Does William Want From Apollo?
Okay, things get incredibly unclear from this point on. So brace yourself. Apollo meets Cal, and she talks about dolls and whatnot. She says that her name is short for Calisto. I am not very sure, but it can be a reference to Callisto from Greek mythology, who was sexually harassed by Zeus and cursed to be a bear. But since Calisto doesn’t provide any form of explanation and nothing about her appearance hints at her true nature, I’ll refrain from making any parallels until I have more evidence. By the way, Calisto starts talking about arranging a performance for the people in her team, but the only thing that Apollo wants to know is the whereabouts of his wife. Calisto talks about running an all-women camp on the island and how men are strictly prohibited from entering there because men ruin everything. She also talks about “old fears” and “new fears.” I can only guess that she means to say that regardless of the era one is living in, the concerns of a parent never change. Then she talks through the puppet that she has been making for the kids, and the puppet starts to talk. I mean, its lips and eyes actually move. When the process is over, even Apollo utters the words, “It’s not a baby,” just like Emma did. Before they can dwell on this bizarre turn of events, William gets captured and brought to Cal.
At the end of The Changeling Episode 4, Cal brutally beats up William after recognizing him as Gretta’s husband. I want to reiterate that the reasoning isn’t very clear. William keeps begging Cal to let him see Gretta, and Cal just refuses and messes William’s face up. When she’s done, she throws both William and Apollo into jail. As soon as William realizes that they are in the clear, he reveals that his meeting with Apollo wasn’t a chance encounter, and he did all this in the hopes of helping a family that has the chance to be whole, i.e., something that he didn’t get when it came to him and Gretta. William says that he can still help Apollo if Apollo helps him and agrees to meet with Gretta. At the cost of sounding repetitive, I’m not sure what that means.
My best guess is that The Changeling is a show about men thinking they are the victims of postpartum depression. They think that they are suffering more than the women who have been diagnosed with postpartum depression. That’s why these men are imagining going on these over-the-top and unrealistic missions to deal with the women who enlightened their wives. The phrase “it’s not a baby” can be seen as a reminder for women that the child that they give birth to isn’t just a child but an entity that restricts their lives and reimposes gendered roles. The final shot of an older Lillian standing where her younger self stood furthers that notion because it shows that even though Lillian has literally moved from one continent to another, patriarchy continues to follow her. I know how all of this can sound like I am reaching, but given how vague the show is, I have to make some grand assumptions to make it make sense. Please feel free to share your theories and inferences about The Changeling.