LaKeith Stanfield’s The Changeling is a unique modern-day fairytale told from the point of view of black parents. It’s an early parent’s nightmare in a story that will keep you on the edge of your seat at all times. I feel like Episode 5 is a wicked insight into the minds of new parents. While Apollo wants to smother Brian with love and shower him with all things wonderful, Emma is stuck wondering what her baby really is. While this may not be something real parents experience, there’s a sense of misunderstanding between Apollo and Emma that can feel relatable. In episode 5, it is made clear that the thing that hurt Emma the most was the fact that Apollo didn’t believe her. Emma shows symptoms of postpartum stress and anxiety, but instead of supporting her and showing her the right path, Apollo tells her to stop acting crazy and take some pills. The Changeling Episode 5 remains to keep the fantastical element intact, and we’re getting closer to finding out the truth about Brian and where Emma is. There are some unexpected turns here.
When Emma was in Brazil, she hitchhiked with a stranger to explore the place. He took her to some beautiful locations, and in some greenery where it looked like there was a doorway behind her, he asked if he could take a picture of her. She says no, and he goes to pee, leaving his camera set up for a picture. Emma decides to take a picture, taking off her clothes and facing the camera at the last minute, completely naked. The picture shows her standing with one hand out and one hand covering herself, a pose that some consider the pose of a witch. Emma was warned not to go to the lagoon and especially not to let the witch there touch her, but she didn’t listen, and a lot of bad things followed. As we know, the picture of Emma was shipped off to Europe, where it stands huge in a photo gallery. We see a man with a child on the opposite side of the door from where the picture is hung up. In the end, we find out that the man was William.
Apollo and the Island
Cal takes Apollo out of prison and shows him around the island. Before she can do that, though, William hurls some insolent words at Cal, calling her an enchantress, etc. She tells him that even though he killed his daughter and she really wanted to douse him in gasoline and set him alight, she decided not to so that Gretta could do it herself. Apollo decides to join Cal even though he’s thoroughly confused about who and what to believe. William calls out some strange words in Norwegian when he leaves, making him certain that William is at least a weirdo.
Emma and Brian
In a flashback, we see Emma talking to Baby Brian about how she’s changed after giving birth to him. She wishes he knew her old self, the happy and cheerful one. She has a flashback to the wedding night when she threw her bouquet, and it fell from the roof onto the roads of New York City. She proclaimed her love for the city, and that was the end of that, but Apollo’s mother didn’t love the fact that that happened. Later, she found Cal through the forum online and received a DM from the “enchantress” herself. Cal asked Emma if she was seeing disappearing messages on her phone, which shocked Emma, leaving her with no choice but to believe Cal when she said Emma must be brave to follow her instructions. Baby Brian was a changeling, according to Cal, and Emma believed so too. She was taking pills at the time, but giving Emma the benefit of the doubt, she was even bitten by the changeling. Emma didn’t want to harm the baby, even though he wasn’t her own, but she promised that she would do anything for Brian—take her own life, Apollo’s, and even that of the creature who replaced her baby.
Emma then tried to baptize Brian like Apollo’s mother said, to save him from the dark creatures, but Apollo wouldn’t believe her and called her a crazy person who would rather have her son get an exorcism than be baptized. He doesn’t like the idea that she would listen to virtual strangers and make decisions about their son.
To the Waters and the Wild
The book that has fascinated Apollo all his life comes to haunt him again. Cal hands him the same book his father used to read him since he was a child and wonders why he read that particular story to Apollo. She tells him that it’s all true, and Apollo and Emma are entrapped in this dark fairytale that they can’t get out of. In the book, the baby is supposed to be a fairy’s favorite meal, and when the parents are asleep, the fairies steal the baby, never returning it. Cal tells Apollo that he crossed into a different world when he crossed under the bridge on the East River. The island, which used to be North Brother Island, is now remade by Cal and her witches into a magical realm. Apollo notices that the kids on the island are actually happy and going about their lives like normal. They’re going to school and have a library. Apollo talks about wanting to see Brian go to school too and being the dad who would spy on him. Cal finds this subject touchy because she fears everyone has already spied on their kids via social media. Cal tells Apollo that the contents of the book are real and that somehow Apollo was willed by Emma to come to the island and find his way to her in the fairytale place. Cal also admits that they’re witches, but she also warns Apollo that William is not a good person, and he consorts with monsters and dark creatures of the night.
Apollo’s search for answers
It’s obvious Apollo was meant to be a father when he meets with some of the kids on the island and befriends them. He reads the story To the Waters and the World to them too. At night, when it’s time for the puppet show, the kids all rush together, but Cal stops Apollo, who finally gets to meet Gretta. Gretta tells Apollo that William cleaned her blank account and stole seventy thousand dollars from her (the same amount he paid for the book). He sent To Kill a Mockingbird to her doorstep, but he ruined the book by writing “Agnes”, the name of their daughter, on every page of the book. In the end, Apollo finds William to ask him why he killed his own daughter, but William tells a story of his own. It turns out his real name isn’t even William. He was an outcast until he found his people, and they gave him his real name “Kinder Gartan”. William was the one who wrote malicious comments on Baby Brian’s support page on social media. This was the name he used there. In the end, we see William looking at the photograph of Emma through the window and smiling to himself.
Episode 5 Review
This episode of The Changeling was littered with a lot of flashbacks of Apollo and Emma’s relationship. That’s the main focus of this story—how Apollo broke Emma’s trust and left her to deal with a fairytale all alone. Except that this fairytale is not one with unicorns and pink skies but something sinister with monsters that steal your babies. Nothing is quite clear just yet, and as we come closer to the end of the series, we hope all our questions are answered. It’s still not clear why Emma took such a picture or what the pose is supposed to represent. What is William? Is he not human? Is he one of those monsters Emma was afraid of? What if he has something to do with baby Brian being stolen? LaKeith Stanfield and Clark Backo give marvelous performances in The Changeling Episode 5, and we can really feel their emotions seep through the screen. It’s especially devastating to watch him realize his mistakes and learn that he could’ve saved his marriage and kept Emma happy if he had just believed her.