Emma stands in the wilderness, with her hair blowing in her face. From The Changeling

Are You Watching the Best New Horror Series on Apple TV+?

5/5 Changelings

Spooky season has landed, and Apple TV+ has unveiled a treat for fans of dark fantasy and folk horror: The Changeling, a new series based on the novel by Victor LaValle.

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The Changeling, as its title suggests, is based on the enduring folktale trope of a baby stolen out of its cradle by fairies and replaced with a monster. Apollo Kagwa (LaKeith Stanfield) is a rare book dealer who’s plagued by nightmares about his father, who disappeared when Apollo was a child. Apollo meets Emma Valentine (Clark Backo), a librarian fascinated with Brazilian culture, and woos her. The two eventually get married and have a child, but not before Emma travels to Brazil and secures three wishes from a witch.

Their marriage becomes a living nightmare when Emma starts to suspect that their baby, Brian, has been replaced by something else. Plagued by menacing text messages and stymied by Apollo’s disbelief, Emma commits an unthinkable act and then disappears, setting Apollo on a surreal quest to find her.

Is The Changeling a love story, a parable of postpartum depression, a fairy tale, or a horror series? It’s all of them at once, woven into a sumptuously textured story of love, grief, and courage in the face of the impossible. The series captures all the best parts of the novel, but also stretches it into a new, expanded world, which almost breathes with danger and beauty. With Kelly Marcel (Venom, Cruella) serving as creator and showrunner, the series is a sprawling, dreamy fantasy set in the middle of New York City, filled with hidden forests, witches’ enclaves, and subterranean villages. It’s gorgeous to look at and exciting to explore, even as its darkness keeps you holding your breath in suspense.

There are no weak links in the cast. Apollo is the story’s anchor, as his odyssey takes him from his familiar home to the strange new world around him. Throughout the series, Apollo is a mosaic of different emotions—love for his family, grief and rage at Emma’s actions, amazement at the impossible circumstances he finds himself in—and Stanfield plays him flawlessly. Backo is mesmerizing as the otherworldly Emma, who gets a larger and deeper storyline than she has in the novel. Victor LaValle himself acts as the series’ narrator, giving the show the feel of a folktale. Every time we meet a new character, or dive into their backstory, it’s riveting.

Some viewers may get frustrated by The Changeling‘s meandering storylines and tangled web of characters—and here, I suppose having read the book first might help you keep the faith that a payoff is eventually coming. But if you’re in the mood for a moody, fantastical yarn, a collection of intriguing character studies, and a heart-stopping thriller, then it’s time to dive in.

(featured image: Apple TV+)

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Julia Glassman
Julia Glassman (she/her) holds an MFA from the Iowa Writers' Workshop, and has been covering feminism and media since 2007. As a staff writer for The Mary Sue, Julia covers Marvel movies, folk horror, sci fi and fantasy, film and TV, comics, and all things witchy. Under the pen name Asa West, she's the author of the popular zine 'Five Principles of Green Witchcraft' (Gods & Radicals Press). You can check out more of her writing at <a href="https://juliaglassman.carrd.co/">https://juliaglassman.carrd.co/.</a>