‘The Changeling’ Episode 7 Recap & Ending, Explained: What Did Lillian Do To Brian?


The Changeling spent two whole episodes on the island that was inhabited by Cal and the women she had rescued. Instead of delving deeper into the fictional lore of New York City and the themes of immigration, it further blurred the line between the reality that Apollo and Emma were actually experiencing and the reality that the estranged couple thought they were experiencing. And instead of furthering Apollo’s revelation about William or Emma’s newfound powers, the penultimate episode of the show focuses on Lillian Kagwa, i.e., Apollo’s mom. I am not ashamed to state that I didn’t understand a lot of what went down in a span of 58 minutes because Lillian kept oscillating between her objective history and her subjective history. Yet, I’ll try to dissect everything and find the meaning in it.

Spoiler Alert

Lillian Laments About Bringing Up Apollo in an Abusive Household

Episode 7 of The Changeling apparently takes place a few days after Apollo’s disappearance, and we see Lillian trying to get a hold of her son while walking through a pretty shady place because she wants to get to the Elk Hotel. To be clear, I don’t know if Lillian is actually going to this place, if it’s a representation of the state of her mind, or if it’s a literal doorway into the past. As soon as Lillian steps into the place, her face becomes scarred and bruised. That can be an indication of the circumstances under which she visited the hotel as a younger woman or a physical manifestation of how she’s feeling currently due to the disappearance of her son. Here’s another weird thing: the guy playing Lester seems to be played by the same guy who played Lillian’s boss, i.e., Albert Jones. The Elk Hotel is a hub for prostitution, as evident from the hourly rent rates and the nature of Angelica’s (a woman roaming inside the building) job. Is the episode drawing a parallel between abusive working hours and physical abuse? I am not very sure. While going to her room, Lillian comes across a man with black scars all over his body caused by some kind of contagious disease. And that guy is played by the actor who plays Brian. Is this how Lillian chooses to remember her husband and sees his mental health issues as a physical affliction? Probably. The episode then begins to jump between Lillian’s past and this imaginary space that she is in, and we see glimpses of Brian trying to drown Apollo and Apollo, finding out about Lillian’s stay at the Elk Hotel from a box full of Brian’s stuff.

Then, the narrative shifts to Lillian’s survivor’s guilt and how her freedom doesn’t truly feel like freedom because of everything she has lost along the way. Apparently, this has led to Lillian’s crisis of faith, which is why she refuses to pray to any god. That’s when she sees a creature in the mirror. I don’t know what it is, but it definitely shocks Lillian so much that she drops to the floor. As she looks down at her legs, she notices that scars are starting to appear on them, which can be an indicator of the literal scars she has endured or those that are metaphorical in nature. To get a hold of herself, Lillian starts recording a message for Apollo where she laments about trying to live life like a true American and straying away from her roots so that Apollo’s future can be “great.” But that clearly hasn’t worked out for anyone, and Lillian believes that’s the case because she has passed on her “diseases” and insecurities to Apollo. By the way, we get glimpses of Apollo conversing with a really distressed Kim. I am not sure what’s going on there, but it’s possible that Apollo is back on the mainland and has confronted Kim about Emma. Then there’s some talk about an upcoming storm, which seems to be a hint at Lillian and Brian’s tumultuous marriage, and that’s followed by Lillian wondering about the way pointers on how to handle men are transferred from one generation of women to another. However, it’s easier said than done because, in a patriarchal world, a man is something you need to rely on to live even a straightforward lifestyle. At the cost of sounding repetitive, I don’t really know if that’s actually the case or if it’s just my interpretation.

Lillian Talks About The Aftermath Of The Hotel Bill

The second act of the seventh episode of The Changeling starts with someone delivering a golden dress in a red suitcase to Lillian’s doorstep. There are beautiful scenes of Lillian performing on a stage, in front of what seems to be a packed audience, and whatnot. But I don’t know if that’s something that has actually happened in Lillian’s life or if she is imagining some phase of her life as a performance in front of the general public. She reminisces about Ben’s award ceremony and all the stuff he used to keep in his possession. He was a hoarder, essentially, and Lillian used to dislike this habit of his. She used to dislike a lot of what Brian represented, but she also knew that he’d love Apollo. Here’s where I’ve to pause and comment on the hole that people dig themselves into by trying to achieve an idyllic, family-centric lifestyle.

The fact that Lillian stuck around with Brian because she knew he’d love Apollo while also being aware that he wouldn’t love her is weird. Why would anyone put themselves in that situation after narrowly averting genocide? I don’t know. Maybe that’s what people were conditioned to do, and we are hopefully avoiding that trope and learning how to fly solo. Anyway, the metaphorical electricity in the metaphorical hotel, which is probably a real place because there are receipts, goes out, and Lillian (in her golden dress) goes out to meet the ailing dude down the hallway who looks like Brian. They talk a little about families taking care of each other when someone gets sick, witch-burning, and an offbeat metaphor about using the fear of being eaten by sharks to fall asleep. And then they talk about how this dude, who happens to look like Brian, got the disease he’s suffering from, while a doppelganger of the guy stands over Lillian. They both talk about not sending a letter to their mother and spending all of their cash on the hotel room they are currently in.

The guy requests Lillian sing “Stormy Weather” because that’s the last thing he wants to listen to before he dies. A little cursory history lesson time. The 1933 song was written by Ted Koehler and Harold Arlen. It was sung by Ethel Waters as well as by Elisabeth Welch in the same year. Over the years, famous artists like Frank Sinatra, Judy Garland, Etta James, etc., have covered it as well. Lillian does her own version, which is shot spectacularly, as it features a semi-submerged Brian (or a guy who looks like Brian) inside the floor of the stage, rain, and dynamic lighting. I genuinely do not know what to make of this. It’s all very hypnotic and surreal. I assumed that at some point in this tiring conversation, the guy who looks like Brian is going to reveal that the real Brian went through all of this at the Elk Hotel. But he dies. Is it the metaphorical death of the last of Brian’s humanity? Is Lillian’s singing emblematic of how she catered to Brian when he was at his lowest? Maybe. I can’t say for sure. I don’t know if the showrunners and the writers want us to reach a concrete conclusion because, right after all this, they throw us into a scene where Angelica gets abused by a customer and then gets rescued by Lester (the guy who looks like Lillian’s old boss). Given how that is followed by a scene where Brian casually reminds Lillian that she was trapped in that relationship because she had no one to go back to, I’m guessing the stuff with Angelica and Lester is supposed to represent Lillian and Brian’s cycle of abuse and support. I can be wrong because it seems like the showrunners want us to be wrong. So, there’s no way of saying what any of this means. Anyway, this segment ends with Brian giving death threats to Lillian after learning that she had spent a night at the Elk Hotel and assuming that she was cheating on him. Then, is the hotel real? Your guess is as good as mine.

What Did Lillian Do to Brian?

At the end of The Changeling, episode 7, it’s revealed that Lillian killed Brian. Or did she? Look, if the showrunners are purposefully withholding information just because they can, all we can do is speculate. Yes, blood sprays out of Brian’s head when Lillian strikes him in order to save Apollo from being drowned by his own father. But do we see a dead body? No. What’s the cardinal rule of TV shows? If there’s no dead body, then the character isn’t dead. However, we do see the dead body of a guy who looks like Brian. Is that supposed to indicate that the real Brian is actually dead, and his ailments are supposed to signify the rot that’s taking over his body after Lillian got rid of him? For the umpteenth time, I don’t know. We see Lillian trying to kill herself by jumping out of the window of the Elk Hotel and then being saved by the older version of herself. Is this real or a manifestation of Lillian’s internal struggles? Maybe both! 

By the way, the younger Lillian treats the older Lillian like she’s some kind of goddess who has come to punish her for her sins. And she promises her that she’s going to start praying again. Is this whole episode about how people rely on religion to get through tough times? Probably, yes. Given how the older Lillian talks about baptism and whatnot, it’s possible that this transformation actually happened. During the concluding moments, Lillian promises to be a good mother, no matter what comes along the way. Here’s another guess: maybe she spent one night at the Elk Hotel to decide if she wanted to stay in the marriage with Brian, and she spent one other night at the Elk Hotel when she couldn’t decide if she wanted to turn herself in for murdering Brian. What about the red suitcase? I am going to go out on a limb and say that it had Brian’s remains. What about the monster in the water that comes to claim the suitcase? At this point, if the show features a Kaiju fight, I won’t be surprised. At the very least, I will be excited and not bored out of my mind because of all this cyclical blabbering!

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Pramit Chatterjee
Pramit Chatterjee
Pramit loves to write about movies, television shows, short films, and basically anything that emerges from the world of entertainment. He occasionally talks to people, and judges them on the basis of their love for Edgar Wright, Ryan Gosling, Keanu Reeves, and the best television series ever made, Dark.

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