‘The Changeling’ Episode 3 Review/Recap: What Was Emma’s Third Wish?

The third episode of The Changeling finally revealed what Emma did to Brian and Apollo, and it is terrifying. The series seems to be coming into its own, and in the third episode, we got a hint about the ‘fairytale’ aspect of the series, which up until now had just been lurking in the background. The incident with Emma gutted Apollo, and he found a few things in the aftermath. He was told a secret that his mother, Lillian, had kept hidden from him right from the beginning. It demystifies Apollo’s childhood to a certain extent, but Lillian’s secret may not reveal the entire truth to Apollo about Brian, his father. There is a lot to unpack, so here is a recap:


Spoilers Ahead

What did Emma do to her son, Brian?

In the previous episode, Emma was on the verge of doing something drastic because no one seemed to understand her anxiety. She had started to see Brian as the devil, and even after getting warned about her condition by Kim, her sister, her derangement continued. Kim had told her about their mother, who had committed suicide, and Emma had the same look in her eyes. She had bought chains, which was alarming enough. Those were not to cage Brian, but Apollo. One day, Emma had enough, lost all sense of good and evil, and proceeded to beat Apollo with a hammer. She tied him up with those chains and even murdered Brian. Apollo begged and begged, but Emma was not in a state to comprehend. Insanity prevailed, and helpless Apollo couldn’t do anything to save Brian.


How did Apollo end up in jail?

Apollo almost died after being hit with a hammer. He was saved by a janitor who came into the apartment after sensing a weird smell. He was hospitalized, and while he recovered, Brian was given last rites, and Lillian oversaw that in Apollo’s absence. Apollo must have recovered and immediately started to look for Emma. She had mysteriously disappeared after committing that horrifying crime. No one had seen her since the incident. Apollo looked for her everywhere, and when he did not find a single trace of her, he began to lose his mind. He walked in with a shotgun and threatened the workers in the library where Emma worked. He didn’t know what else to do. They understood Apollo’s turmoil, even though they were threatened by him to reveal Emma’s location. Apollo was arrested, but due to the testimony of the sympathetic workers, he was released.

How did Patrice save Apollo’s life?

If you’re thinking Lillian knows where Emma is, that’s not what the secret is about. Apollo was released from jail, and an existential crisis had now set in. He went to see his friend Patrice, who had helped him find the signed copy of Harper Lee’s novel ‘To Kill a Mockingbird.’ Apollo wanted to give the copy to him, as he had only taken away the novel, hoping it would sell for a lot and Apollo would be able to move with his family into a bigger apartment. He had no family anymore, so he helped his friend Patrice instead. This was a great gesture from him, but it felt like a final goodbye, and Patrice sensed it. He saved Apollo’s life by bringing his love for books into the picture. He told Apollo that he was going to put the book online for sale, and if Apollo committed suicide, he would never get to know for how much the book finally sold. Apollo was indeed desperate and had lost all hope in life. Books had been his first love. He wanted to read ‘To the Water and the Wild’ to Brian, but that dream couldn’t see the light of day. Some silly moments with friends are sometimes enough to not go over the edge. Patrice being vulnerable enough to discuss suicide with Apollo may have helped him get a handle on things and actually saved his life.


What Secret Had Lillian Kept Hidden From Apollo?

Apollo didn’t see his mother before seeing Patrice. She was surprised by this fact but ultimately happy that he had come back home. Lillian wanted the best for him. She had seen some horrors on her own. Her cousin Arthur was shot, and she had to flee Uganda to save herself from the dictatorship. Lillian was a woman of remarkable mental fortitude. She wanted Apollo to be the same way. She wanted him to move on and look ahead to the future, so she gave him the address for Brian’s final resting place. Hiding away did not ever do anybody any good, but Apollo was not ready to visit Brian’s grave. It was too much for him. Here, Apollo told Lillian that the nightmares had begun again after Brian’s birth. She realized that it was time to tell Apollo the truth.

Apollo always had nightmares about his father coming to take him away. In these nightmares, Brian always had a blue mask on and sprayed green fog out of his mouth. Apollo was under the impression that Brian had never returned to be with him, and these nightmares were just manifestations of the fantasy of seeing him again. Lillian told him that Brian had indeed come back once, when she was busy with her job. She could have asked Brian to stay, but she didn’t want him in her life anymore. She had already filed for divorce. Apollo was livid with this revelation. All this time, Apollo had thought that his father had abandoned him, but it was Lillian who had forcefully removed him from his life. Growing up without a father was a source of so much self-doubt and emotional turmoil for Apollo, and it was also a motivating factor for him to be the father he never had. This truth changed everything.


What Did Apollo Learn About Emma’s Third Wish?

Apollo must have been assigned a mandatory period of group therapy for people who had lost family members. Apollo reluctantly went there and saw a woman who gave exact descriptions of the kind of horror Emma had gone through. The anonymous photographs, the sense of paranoia, and the growing distance from the baby. Was there a flu going around affecting mothers where they all had the same hallucinations? It couldn’t be. Apollo, for the first time, realized that perhaps Emma was indeed telling the truth. Somebody was sending her disturbing photos, which is how she lost her mind. The woman in the therapy session screamed that the baby in the photographs was ‘not her baby.’

Apollo met a man in therapy who had come on behalf of Patrice. He was a potential buyer of the Harper Lee book. Apollo was visibly disturbed by the woman’s description, and when he paid close attention to her video, which the buyer had recorded during the session, a name popped up that sounded familiar. Emma, too, was part of an online mother’s group called ‘The Wise Ones’, and this woman, too, mentioned the same group that was giving her instructions. There was the mention of somebody named ‘Cal’, who was guiding Emma as well. Apollo searched online, and it turned out that ‘The Wise Ones’ referred to a family of witches.


Apollo realized that the old woman Emma had met in Brazil may have been a witch who brought devastation into their lives. Apollo realized that Emma’s first two wishes must have been – marrying him and having his baby. Her mysterious third wish was coming true in harrowing fashion. Apollo had no idea where Emma was and what her third wish actually was. Had she been tricked by that old woman, the witch? Apollo didn’t know who ‘Cal’ was, but at least he now knew about this online group which was his first clue.

Episode 3 Review

The Changeling Episode 3 is by far the best of the bunch. The disorientation it made me feel in the beginning is unparalleled to anything I’ve seen recently. Something seemed to have been skipped, but the outcome was indeed shocking. Brian’s death was not revealed to us. Everything happened offscreen, which saved the series from getting too gory. It’s not just the shock value of this episode but the attention to Apollo’s existential crisis, which has been wonderfully portrayed, that make the episode stand out. Clark Backo was absent for most of the episode’s runtime, but the impact she made in the beginning lingered throughout.


The mention of ‘witches’ introduced us to the fairytale the series has promised to be. There weren’t any ‘portals’ just yet that were mentioned in the trailer, but the feeling is that soon the series will shift more towards the fantastical. The series has managed to be very sensitive in dealing with the challenges of parenthood, and it will have to maintain that in upcoming episodes. LaKeith Stanfield is an outstanding performer, and he was very well complemented by the other actors. He carried this episode, and there wasn’t a false note in his performance. The Changeling Episode 3 felt like a mini-film unto itself, revolving around the tale of a father who had lost his family and was struggling for meaning and identity. If that’s the way the series’ remaining episodes are, I can’t wait to watch what happens next.

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Ayush Awasthi
Ayush Awasthi
Ayush is a perpetual dreamer, constantly dreaming of perfect cinematic shots and hoping he can create one of his own someday.

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The Changeling Episode 3 is by far the best of the bunch. The disorientation it made me feel in the beginning is unparalleled to anything I've seen recently. 'The Changeling' Episode 3 Review/Recap: What Was Emma's Third Wish?