The AppleTV+ series The Changeling began by introducing us to the couple: Apollo and Emma. This was their story. But not the story they had dreamt about. Somewhere in the middle, both of them crossed over into a horrific fairy tale, both literally and figuratively. This world was associated with the name ‘Cal’. There were many references to it, and it seemed he or she was the mastermind behind brainwashing Emma and destroying Apollo’s dreams of being a good father. Who was this mysterious Cal? Before that question could be answered, William Wheeler came into Apollo’s life, and things started unfolding. Both of these characters belong to the New York City that ‘we never knew existed’. Oh, but it does, according to the show, and we have neglected it to our peril. Let’s take a look at these two characters that represent good and evil in a twisted way:
Jane Kaczmarek As Cal
When Emma found ‘The Wise Ones’ online, the leader of that group turned out to be a woman named Cal. She was the one who had guided Emma to do the deed that almost killed Apollo. Brian was dead, and so was their marriage, it seemed. How did a person from an online group affect Emma so much? Because Cal had lost her own baby and knew the women’s suffering when nobody believed them and their child didn’t seem to be their own. When Apollo found out about Cal, he thought of her as a witch. And they are never of the good kind, are they? That’s the first impression he got. In Emma’s pursuit, he found the island where she was last seen. William had helped him locate Emma’s last sighting. He had his own motives, but more on that later.
Apollo reached the island and met Cal in person. This is where it became clear who she really was. She wasn’t the harbinger of evil that Apollo thought her to be. She was, in fact, the exact opposite. Cal, or Callisto, had built the only sanctuary for women like Emma, who would have been jailed in the normal world. The mystery island was the last safe haven for mothers who were thought of as having gone mad and murdered their babies. Cal had lost her own baby to the fairies.The ‘Changeling’ is the creature that replaces your baby. It looks human-like, but only a mother knows the difference. Cal had set up a community on the island for mothers whose babies had been stolen and replaced by the changeling. ‘The Wise Ones’ was her online forum to guide women into finding out the truth about their baby.
Cal behaved very calmly and talked in a manner that was very authoritarian. Emma didn’t pay heed to her and broke the rules of the island. She wasn’t allowed to leave the place and risk being caught, but Cal understood her pain. She made an exception for her case and helped her in her journey to find her son, whom she thought was still alive. The clues were there. When Apollo came with Wheeler to the island, Cal wasn’t sure that her life was in danger. But soon Wheeler showed her true colors. Cal got the women together, tried to escape from the island, and fought Wheeler herself. Apollo saw her fight valiantly with him, but the unseen creature called by Wheeler was too great for her, and she decided to commit suicide rather than get mauled by it. In Greek mythology, Callisto and her son were both turned into constellations by Zeus. Apollo ( a name related to Greek mythology) saw that after Callisto died, the stars in the sky shifted, taking the shape of the Ursa Major, which represents Callisto, and the Ursa Minor, which represents her son. It symbolizes that Cal, after helping so many women escape, had finally reunited with her son.
Samuel T. Herring As William Wheeler
‘’We are the kindergarten’’, said William Wheeler when he was kept in captivity on Cal’s island. He had one motive for contacting Apollo. That was to let him find the island where the women were. Hailing originally from Norway, William was with his family when he saw Emma’s nude portrait. What fascinated him enough to follow the case and come to New York is a mystery, but their destiny was connected. An assumption is that he wasn’t totally human and worked for the creatures that had helped his Norwegian ancestors cross the ocean and come to America. The Norse mythology mentions ‘Trolls’ who replace human babies with their own. Wheeler mentioned his Norwegian ancestry to Apollo. The ‘Kindergarten’ he mentioned was a network of 10,000 men who preyed on babies. They had mastered the art of scanning through CCTV footage and could send disappearing messages, as they did to Emma. An efficient surveillance system, all for abducting babies.
William may have been given this task of locating Emma by the creature, but he had to have his closure with his own family. Gretta, his wife, came to the island, that’s when Wheeler, who might be a troll himself, asked for the ‘cavalry’ to come. These must be the monsters hiding in the forest his Norwegian ancestors had set up when they first came to New York in 1825. Apollo cannot be blamed for trusting Wheeler. He was in a lot of pain when Wheeler came into his life. He came as the buyer of the book ‘To Kill a Mockingbird,’ and defaced it before gifting it to Gretta. He proved himself to be of great use as he helped Apollo find Emma’s trail. Wheeler gained his trust, only to then take a 180-degree turn. He had killed his own daughter Grace and had lied to Apollo all along, begging for Gretta to take him back so he could see Grace. He destroyed the island and would have succeeded in catching the rest of the women as well, if it hadn’t been for Cal’s bravery. Cal did stab him in the end, but he was dragged away by the mysterious creature. Maybe he is dead, but if he isn’t, it’s possible that the creature might revive him. Now that the women and kids had lost their sanctuary and were vulnerable, Wheeler’s ‘Kindergarten’ was coming after them. If Wheeler is alive, then he will certainly come after Apollo, as he did not help him gain his freedom.