September 21, 2023
TV Review | The Changeling Season 1 (2023)

Overall, The Changeling is a gloriously intense slice of adult fantasy. One that will appease the appetite of every horror and fantasy lover in the crowd.

With so much supernatural horror floating about on the other rival streamers these days, it was only a matter of time before Apple TV+ threw its hat into the ring. The streamer may be more limited in its content, but that doesn’t detract from the overall quality of the shows it produces. And with THE CHANGELING, the streamer has crafted one helluva tense and emotional ride. One that will pull every heartstring, wrap you up in a veil of intrigue, and cast you out with pieces of a mystery that deepens with every passing episode. It delivers a compelling supernatural drama that literally thrusts the viewer into a grown-up fairytale of witches and monsters.

TV Review | The Changeling Season 1 (2023)


Set across eight engrossing episodes, The Changeling is based on Victor LaValle’s novel of the same name. The series has been written for the screen by showrunner Kelly Marcel. After setting the tone with the captivating opening salvo of a supernatural mystery, the series gets down to business by introducing us to the players who will carry this bold series forward. Leading the charge is Apollo Kagwa (LaKeith Stanfield), a rare book dealer who falls head over heels for New York librarian Emma (Clark Backo). However, any chance of romance is curtailed when Emma jets off for a fateful month of self-discovery in Brazil. While exploring one of the many jungles of the area, Emma stumbles across a secluded waterfall. But what awaits her there is far more sinister than the idyllic paradise that it appears to be.

Thankfully, Emma manages to return to New York relatively unscathed, or so we think. And no sooner has she returned to reality, than she is reunited with Apollo, and their romance blossoms into a fairytale marriage with a newborn baby boy, Brian.

The Changeling Apple TV
Episode 1. Clark Backo in “The Changeling,” premiering September 8, 2023 on Apple TV+.


However, their fairytale soon turns into a nightmare when Emma endures a grueling episode of postpartum depression. This leads her to a dark place where the lines between reality and fantasy become blurred. And soon, she finds herself pondering the unthinkable. All the while, Apollo and baby Brian are enjoying the bonds of parenthood. But things take a drastic turn for the worse when Emma snaps and follows through on her intentions before disappearing from the face of the earth. From that point, the mystery begins with Apollo searching for answers and desperately trying to find his wife. All the while following the trail of breadcrumbs about his lineage and the layers between the real world and the supernatural.

What follows is a mystery on multiple fronts; with one leg in the past and one in the present. It’s a bold choice, but not always a welcome one. The flashbacks to past events are often jarring and take you out of the mystery, however, these tidbits of information are pivotal to the events of the present as they begin to unfold. It’s a necessary trade-off. But the rewards are more than worth it. Each flashback is carefully crafted to drop enough pieces of the puzzle to keep us guessing. And by the time the season finale rolls around and the eureka moments arrive, they are enough to have you pondering the deeper meanings they might possess.

The Changeling
Episode 2. LaKeith Stanfield in “The Changeling,” premiering September 8, 2023 on Apple TV+.


Guiding us through this maze of speculative horror is the comforting narration from LaValle. While it isn’t constant, the soft narration helps to guide us along the journey as the pieces of the puzzle begin to fall into place. These small monologues are enough to tease a bigger mystery, all the while serving as our soft landing point for each episode. More in tune with a first-hand account of his life, LaValle helps to nudge us in the right direction without revealing all the juicy details. And this approach allows us to unravel the mystery one episode at a time. Believe me, this isn’t a series that lays everything bare after a handful of episodes. This series will keep you tethered to the edge of your seat for eight thrilling weeks. And it is all the more rewarding for it.


For the most part, Marcel’s scripts are intricately woven layers of a deeper and wholly beguiling mystery. Each is as enticing as the last. The opening episodes are a slow burn, but they set the tone for everything that will follow. The supernatural elements at play are never overstated and they serve as a focal point to the subtle nuances of the characters and their flaws. Despite its fantasy subtext, the story also highlights the pitfalls of life, love, loss, and grief. And the results are jarring. Marcel’s scripts even find the time to comment on the social media phenomenon and its effects on our children. Even showcasing the dangers associated with spreading images of our children online. It opens up a bigger debate. One that I will refrain from delving into. But needless to say, this commentary challenges our thinking and provokes a moment of self-reflection.

The Changeling
Episode 3. LaKeith Stanfield in “The Changeling,” premiering September 8, 2023 on Apple TV+.


Of course, the success of this series hinges on the performances of its cast. And I am delighted to report that every member of the cast brings their A-Game here. For large portions of the story, the series focuses on LaKeith Stanfield’s Apollo, and the actor leads the charge with a wonderfully poignant and grounded performance that deserves acclaim. The actor traverses through many emotional states in this series. From the lovesick hopeful to the grief-stricken father, Stanfield’s range comes to the fore in spades. The longing of the character oozes through the screen throughout the series, and we truly feel for him as we become more invested in his plight. It’s compelling stuff and a true masterclass from a seasoned actor coming into his prime.

Similarly, Backo delivers an equally weighty performance as Emma. From the opening moments of true happiness in finding love to the equally labored and subtle moments of despair, Backo slips between the layers of her character with ease. And the results are magnificent. Backo sinks her teeth into the role and sticks the landing with a grandiose performance. Her tormented demeanor is tangible and it will pull on the heartstrings of every parent. We truly feel for these characters, and their poignant and heartwrenching ordeals are enough to have us yearning for a positive resolution. One can only hope they will eventually reconnect somewhere down the line.

Episode 2. Clark Backo in “The Changeling,” premiering September 8, 2023 on Apple TV+.


Another solid piece of casting arrives in the form of Jane Kaczmarek. The actor fills the role of Cal, the leader of an island full of women like Emma. And her involvement delivers a pair of safe hands at the wheel. Her sudden emergence in the latter stages of the series helps to deepen the mystery, all the while resolving some of the open plot threads from earlier episodes. Although her role is far less intricate than that of the two leads, Kaczmarek uses her expertise to deliver the seasoned source of knowledge we so desperately crave. Her role is pivotal in connecting many of the dots, and there are many. But she becomes an integral cog in the wheel of mystery as it propels us along on the journey.


A practical series like The Changeling will inevitably require its fair share of special effects, and they are well executed here. The series is surprisingly light on its usage of CGI, but when it is required, especially in the gripping final episodes, it hits all the right notes. The effects seamlessly combine with the eerie atmosphere and take nothing away from the show as a whole. Which is a testament to the love and care the showrunners have applied to this series. And in truth, it holds true to the standards set by Apple TV+’s other tentpole series.

The eerie atmosphere is underscored by a truly tense soundtrack from composer Dan Deacon. The composer uses his score to add to the tension. And truly, his music becomes a character in its own right. It’s never overpowering, instead, the soundscape carries us away on the journey and instills a sense of dread and intrigue throughout. And this is the calling card of a composer at the top of his game. I look forward to adding this score to my playlist for those cold winter nights because it’s a banger!

TV Review | The Changeling (Episodes 1-3) Apple TV
LaKeith Stanfield in “The Changeling,” premiering September 8, 2023 on Apple TV+.


Overall, The Changeling is a glorious slice of adult fantasy. One that will appease the appetite of every horror and fantasy lover in the crowd. The series may be light on jump scares and visceral imagery, but what it lacks in this category it makes up for in subtext. Instead of bloodletting and cheap scares, we are rewarded with an intricately layered supernatural mystery that is a shoo-in to keep us riveted as we slip into the long Autumnal nights.

Led by the impressive LaKeith Stanfield, the series is a joy to watch. From the unnerving supernatural elements to the heartwrenching drama, this series has it all. So warm up the popcorn, move to the edge of your seat, and strap yourself in for a truly unique tale of witches and monsters!


The Changeling releases globally on Apple TV+ on Friday, September 8, 2023, with a three-episode premiere followed by one episode weekly, every Friday through October 13. Subscribe to our newsletter at the top of our homepage to stay up-to-date with all the latest news and reviews from Future of the Force.







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