The Changeling definitely started off well. It promised an ugly fairytale set in the heart of New York, centered around two people who were destined to be with each other. And it delivered on that promise in the first three episodes. We are on episode 6, and it seems like the Apple TV+ series is going in circles. The characters aren’t getting deeper. The plot isn’t progressing. It feels like a case of “one step forward, three steps backward.” Previously, in episode 5, we spent a lot of time on the island, understanding how it works and whatnot. It ended with the interesting revelation that William isn’t actually William but some kind of monster who is waging a war against the witches, i.e., the women. And then, in today’s episode, the show has taken things back to the night of the incident to detail everything that happened after Emma allegedly murdered baby Brian.
Emma Escapes from the Island
The sixth episode of The Changeling starts with the day Emma did something to her child. She did go into the baby’s room with a kettle full of boiling water, but we didn’t get to see what she did. Emma throws the kettle through the window to make her escape. She finds a piece of twig in the cot instead of the baby. When she was picking it up, honestly, I thought it was a piece of bone. Sadly, it wasn’t. It was just a twig. Anyway, Emma takes that and runs. She gets a text that reads, “They bathe at dusk; they hide it with guile, at home in the forest, forever lost in the wild.” Going by the voice narrating the text, it’s from William (or whoever is pretending to be William). Emma ditches the phone and then proceeds to float out of the alleyway. When she is in public, making her way onto the ferry, she seems to be walking again. Kim spots Emma and follows her all the way to the ferry. Kim flags down someone in the distance and then throws Emma into the water after saying that this is the only way Emma can learn whether the things she is experiencing are real or not. By the way, does this mean that Kim is in touch with Cal and the witches? Is she a part of their group? Did she need their help, too, at some point in their lives? Has she gotten in touch with Cal and her people after Emma started to see things? I don’t know, and I am guessing that the show is going to clarify it later on.
Emma is carried to Cal’s island, and they have a very vague conversation about the consequences of Emma’s actions, something that Emma has done because Cal has told her to. My best guess is that, through the forum, Cal told Emma to perform the ritual, which will help her get rid of the Changeling that was pretending to be Brian. Emma trusted Cal and went with the process. I think she expected the Changeling to disappear and her biological child to reappear. But that obviously didn’t happen. All Emma got was that twig. Now, Emma suspects that the kid is actually on that island. Cal tells her that that’s not the case and that her baby is truly gone. She also says that Emma wasn’t deluded. Was what she was experiencing all real? So, that means that Changeling was real, and Emma hasn’t killed her actual baby? I have no clue, and before we can get any answers, Cal imprisons Emma until she calms down. She dreams about stuff and then inscribes the aforementioned phrase into a wooden cupboard in her cage. Cal comes to meet her. She talks about a lot of stuff, but the main point that she makes is that there’s no way to get back one’s child once it has been replaced with a Changeling. After the conversation, Emma searches for the tree that matches the twig she has in her possession. Before going on her little expedition, Emma does call out Cal’s weird way of talking, something that I had blamed on Jane Kaczmarek’s performance. I think it’s intentional.
Emma Finds a Tree
While dining in the dining room, Emma asks one of the women (who has two children and has lost one) how she can escape from the island. The woman feigns ignorance, but as soon as she realizes that Emma is desperate and angry, she tells her the location. Emma goes to the spot and gets the boat out of its shed. One of the security guards notices that Emma is absent. The woman who gave Emma the directions to the boat tells the security guard to ignore Emma’s absence because both of them are aware of what Emma is going through. She thinks that once Emma knows about the new reality she is living in, she’ll stop reacting violently. Emma’s voyage nearly goes downhill as she begins to drown while trying to push the boat into the waters. But as she is about to pass out, she finds the strength to get into the boat and row all the way to the mainland without stopping or getting detected. The first place that she visits is her workplace, i.e., the library. She dries off. She collects the book that Apollo’s father used to read to him, To The Waters and The Wild, along with a few other books for the library on the island. While venturing outside, she sees the news and learns that Apollo has been taken to the hospital because of the injuries he has sustained from Emma’s brutal attack. And then she returns to the island.
Do you see what I mean? Haven’t we been over this already? Why are we going in circles about this? I think the stupid answer is that the showrunners are reserving all the answers for the ending. If that’s the case, why have they made a show? They could’ve just made a movie. At least then, the most amount of time they could’ve wasted is 30–40 minutes instead of wasting 45 minutes every single week. I know I’m saying this for the umpteenth time, but everything doesn’t need to be a show. Anyway, coming back to the “plot,” Cal and Emma have a pretty redundant conversation about finding one’s place in this world. Once that’s over, Emma puts all her focus on the twig. She researches books. She asks the woman who directed her to the boat. The woman gives her a drawing of a leaf that she found when her baby disappeared into thin air. Emma matches that drawing of the leaf with the one she finds, and it’s a Norway maple (bringing back the references to Norway again), which is considered to be an invasive species. Emma asks Cal to get her a device that has an internet connection so that she can look into this tree, I suppose. Cal refuses. So Emma goes back to the mainland.
Does Emma actually have superpowers?
Emma meets a guy in the sewers of New York called Wheels. Steve Zissis is the guy playing the character. I am sure he is a good actor and is just acting as he has been directed. But it’s just so tonally jarring. It seems like the show has suddenly turned into a whimsical Roald Dahl adventure where the underground of the city is full of quirky and offbeat characters from “all walks of life.” Are these people supposed to represent the ignored, downtrodden, and homeless sections of society? Are we supposed to take this seriously, or is this also a fantastical thing that may or may not exist? Isn’t this show supposed to be about postpartum depression? In any other series, I think I would’ve loved this detour through the underbelly of a well-established city. However, if a series hasn’t put in the effort to make the characters interesting and has spent a major chunk of its running time trying to be taken seriously, I can’t really support its swings at the fences. I’m not saying that a show or a movie has to be a monolith, but if your base isn’t solid, the only reaction you’ll get from me when you try to be eccentric is irritation. Thankfully, Emma doesn’t spend a lot of time in this place and goes on her mission to find the connection between the tree and Brian.
Emma goes back to the library and searches the NYC Tree Map (is that really a thing?) for the Norway maple tree. She gets a general idea of where it can be found. She prints out the map and runs to hide in the bathroom because her former colleagues have arrived early to work. While waiting in the bathroom, she hears Apollo come in there with a shotgun and harass them because of her. She doesn’t intervene, obviously, and that’s why her colleagues get traumatized, and Apollo goes to jail. She makes her way back to the subway, where Wheels is waiting for her, and they get away from the slowest police officers in the world while being excruciatingly slow. It’s truly hilarious how the show wants you to think that Wheels’ cart is really fast.
During The Changeling episode 6’s ending, Emma and Wheels proceed to have a conversation about the Norway maple, and Wheels directs her to Forest Hill in Queens. Apparently, it used to be called “Little Norway” because of the Norwegian immigrants who arrived there in 1825. Emma delivers the books to the island library and gives Apollo’s book to Cal so that she can give it to Brian if he comes searching for her. Then she rows away into the distance while glowing blue. If you are wondering whether or not Emma has real powers and if everything she perceives is actually happening or not, I have news for you: I am confused as hell, too. I am also wondering whether this is some kind of anti-Norway propaganda. The show hasn’t yet fleshed out the whole Norway connection, and there are just two more episodes left. Is it going to make a statement against immigrants from that country? If so, the show should be careful because, regardless of your show’s tone or genre, xenophobia isn’t a good idea. Ask Marvel’s Secret Invasion. They’ll tell you all about it.