In the fourth episode of The Changeling, Apollo and his friend, Patrice, met up with William, the person interested in buying the unique edition of To Kill a Mockingbird. He said that he wanted to give it to his wife, Gretta, and make things better again after the death of their daughter, Agnes. This whole conversation eventually led to William and Apollo traveling to a hidden island in search of Emma. When they landed there, they encountered an army of women and their leader, Cal. William was beaten to a pulp, while Apollo was roughed up a bit. Cal talked in riddles, and then William talked in riddles. Apollo became confused, and hence, I felt confused. It was a really weird follow-up to the first three episodes. I think the team did a good job of walking the line between fantasy and reality to explain everything that was going on between Apollo and Emma, but then they went in a puzzling direction. And let me tell you something: today’s episode is even more puzzling.
Apollo Is Given Another “Chance” By Cal
The opening moments of The Changeling, episode 5, are dedicated to the moments leading up to the nude photo of Emma in a Norwegian art gallery. The way Michelle described this moment in the first episode, I thought it was going to be a surreal, mind-boggling scene. The way it actually unfolds is a little underwhelming. You see Emma going through the jungles of Brazil. She is warned about the witch, who she meets anyway. She gets the thread. Then she hitches a ride, and the two of them randomly go to an abandoned place. The photographer asks if he can take a picture of Emma because the lighting is amazing, but she refuses. So, the photographer goes away to relieve himself, and Emma uses that opportunity to set the timer, get naked, and take a picture of herself in this deity-like pose. The Norwegian gallery manager finds it on the photographer’s website and buys it immediately for his gallery. He is absolutely mesmerized, but here is the big question: Is Emma’s expression like that of a sorceress’s? No, I don’t think so. It’s a good picture, and Clark Backo looks gorgeous. But I think it was more mystifying in my head, based on Michelle’s description alone, than in real life. And that’s why art is subjective!
Anyway, the credits roll, and there are slight variations in them again. We return to the island and see that Cal is ready to let Apollo get out of the cage, but William is not free to go yet. This apparently irks William, and he reveals that he knows about Cal’s past. He says that her actual name is Pearl and that she’s a criminal. Cal and William get into a verbal spat, and it’s revealed that William is the one who killed Agnes (William and Gretta’s daughter). This makes Apollo doubt everything around William because, until now, he has been telling Apollo and all of us that he isn’t responsible for Agnes’s death; Gretta is. William has portrayed himself as a distraught father. However, that is probably false, and these doubts are only increased by William breaking into some kind of Norwegian rant. What does that mean? I don’t know. I know that it has something to do with the recurring theme of the immigrants from Norway. Maybe the natives of Norway are looking for immigrants, and they want to continue the persecution that they couldn’t do all those years ago. Maybe it is a generational battle. You are free to speculate until we get a concrete answer. By the way, Apollo is released from the cage while William is kept in his cage.
Glimpses of Emma’s Post-Marriage Life
You’d think that Apollo’s release from the cage isn’t going to be literal, but metaphorical as well. As in, he’s going to gain knowledge about everything that is going on on the island. But Apollo and the audience are treated to more vague stuff. To be honest, I’m not against vague storytelling. However, if the nature of the vagueness isn’t interesting, it begins to bore me. I don’t really care about the logistics of the island or the parallels to Themyscira, especially when Cal contradicts everything she says. Things are already so confusing. Why Cal is trying to make things even more confusing is beyond me. What I also don’t like is the practice of filling the gaps that don’t need to be filled. Emma’s transformation from a relatively normal human being to a paranoid mother was apparent in those first three episodes. Anything that happened between her first breakdown and her final breakdown doesn’t have to be detailed if it has already been properly insinuated earlier on in the show. Cal does talk about Emma’s visits to the island where they are currently residing, but we only get glimpses of that.
I’m sure The Changeling will get into Emma’s trips later on, but I genuinely dislike this style of storytelling. This repetition of plot points just shows that the showrunner and the writers don’t have confidence in themselves. They think that repetition gives more weight to the emotion, and, in some scenarios, I am sure that can work. However, in this case, it doesn’t. What am I supposed to feel after learning that Emma saw Brian as a monster, and that was why she got in touch with Cal? I know that already, and I know how that ended. I even saw it unfold from Emma’s perspective. There’s a lot more to be explored. Why is it being kept for later episodes? Why is the runtime being padded with information and emotions that have already been established? By the way, I think Jane Kaczmarek’s performance is also an issue here. She has this self-important vibe that doesn’t have a lot of substance. It’s just words that don’t mean a lot. Her character design also doesn’t help because it seems like she’s in a post-apocalyptic show. Maybe once it becomes clear why they are living like this on an island, things will become tolerable.
Is William actually a Monster?
Cal gives Apollo the book that his father, Brian, used to read to him, and she says that it’s an apt summary of the ugly fairytale that Apollo and Emma are a part of. Apollo seems to understand what Cal is saying, but since it’s not very clear what he’s understanding, I have to assume the hell out of their conversation. So, the island is a refuge for women suffering from postpartum depression. All of these women have apparently killed their children because they thought they were changelings. All the children running around were the ones that weren’t killed because some of these women had more than one baby. I don’t know if these changelings are real in the world of the show or a figment of the women’s imaginations. When Apollo questions it, Cal reacts in a way that makes it seem that everyone is supposed to take it at face value. So, is it postpartum depression, or is it supernatural devil stuff? It can’t be both because that’s irresponsible. Postpartum depression is a real thing that women suffer from. You can’t draw a thin line between real and unreal aspects of the story and call it a day, especially when it comes to mental health issues. The line has to be thick. As of now, the line in the show isn’t thick enough.
At the end of The Changeling episode 5, on Apollo’s request, Cal sets up a meeting with Gretta, i.e., William’s ex-wife. Gretta reveals that William is the one who murdered Agnes. He apparently stole a lot of money from Gretta’s account to buy the book, To Kill a Mockingbird, and then mailed it to Gretta. What’s worse is that William defaced the one-of-a-kind novel by writing “Agnes” on every page. Apollo is really disturbed by all this. So he goes back to William’s cage and asks him to confess. William says that that’s not his actual name. He talks about “finding his people.” He says that he “took off William’s face.”
As William, or whoever the hell he is, steps out into the light, we see that his face has fully healed, and he starts talking in a British accent. He says that Apollo already knows who he is, and even though Apollo says “Kinder Garten” and we see William seeing Emma’s photo in the Norwegian gallery, I am having a hard time figuring out what that means. My best guess is that William is a fairy, like the ones mentioned in Brian’s book, who eats babies. Again, I have to assume that it’s a show about the war between men and women. Women are forced to conform, and every time they break out of these stereotypes, they are called “witches.” Men are the ones who oppress women and take everything that’s near and dear to them. They feed off the miseries of others. Apollo’s father had some level of self-awareness, and he was afraid that Apollo would grow up to be a toxic man since it was in his blood. That’s why he gave him that book. Is that enough to make Apollo a better man? Well, we’ll have to wait for the next few episodes to know that.