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‘The Changeling,’ Episode 6 Recap: The aftermath


The Changeling recap, LaKeith Stanfield, Clark Backo, theGrio.com
Clark Backo as Emma in “The Changeling.” (Courtesy of Apple TV+).

Editor’s note: The following article is an op-ed, and the views expressed are the author’s own. Read more opinions on theGrio.

Episode six of the Apple TV+ series “The Changeling ” rewinds to the immediate aftermath of Emma (Clark Backo) killing the changeling that’s pretending to be baby Brian. She finds a branch and some dirt in his crib. She breaks the window in Brian’s room and escapes from justice down the fire escape. 

On a ferry out of Manhattan, she meets up with her sister, Kim (Amirah Vann), who helps her flee to North Brother Island. Now that we know Kim was in on Emma’s escape and knew where she was the whole time Emma’s husband Apollo (LaKeith Stanfield) was suffering, it seems extra cruel that she would accept Apollo’s $10,000 payment back in episode four. 

Emma begs Kim to come with her to the island and see that Emma’s been telling the truth, that she’s not some child killer like their mother. But Kim insists that Emma go alone, just like Cal requested. Kim throws Emma overboard the ferry and screams “I love you!” to her, and man, there’s not enough therapy in the world to recover from how these characters express their love.

Emma is rowed to shore by one of Cal’s people, but Cal isn’t forthcoming with answers to where the real Brian is. Emma’s upset; she wants to go back to Manhattan, but Cal imprisons and sedates her in order to protect the other mothers who have found refuge on the island. While sedated, Emma dreams of the book Apollo’s father used to read to him about a baby, “forever lost in the wild.” She dreams of the dirt and branch left in Brian’s crib. She dreams of a giant beast coming for her. When she wakes, she carves the words from the book on the prison cell wall, which is how Apollo finds those words when he’s imprisoned in the same cell in episode five.

Cal lets Emma out after she’s been well-rested and tells her that none of the mothers who had killed their changelings and escaped to the island have ever found their stolen children– including Cal. Emma is determined to find Brian anyway. She searches the trees on the island to see if any match the one left in Brian’s crib. At lunch, she asks another Black mother where they keep the boat. Emma finds it and nearly drowns trying to escape with the boat, but she makes it back to the city. 

She steals books from her library for the people back on the island, but on her way back, she hears a news report about her being presumed dead and Apollo surviving the injuries she gave him. “No one short of a god,” she mumbles, unsurprised that her husband is still alive but also not terribly moved. An earlier scene of her daydreaming that Apollo was holding her shows that she misses him, but I’m not sure how they survive the hammer she took to the side of his face.

Emma returns to the island with new books for their library, to Cal’s surprise. But Emma has no luck using books to find the source of the tree where the branch came from. She talks to the same mother who told her about the boat and confirms that the mother also found dirt and a leaf in her baby’s crib. She draws the leaf for Emma. Emma finds the tree on the island, the Norway maple leaf. “The Changeling” author Victor LaValle narrates that this tree is an invasive species that chokes the life out of everything around it. (How many more evil things from Norway will be unleashed on this family?)

The Changeling recap, LaKeith Stanfield, Clark Backo, theGrio.com
Clark Backo as Emma in “The Changeling.” (Courtesy of Apple TV+).

Determined to go back to the city armed with this new information, Emma convinces Cal to show her a safer route to the city in exchange for bringing more books. There’s an underground railroad system underneath the subway system run by the “mole people.” A mole person gives her the tour on the way uptown to 181st — but not for free. Fortunately for Emma, the mole man also wants to be paid in books.

Back at the library, Emma searches a tree map of NYC for the Norway maple but is interrupted when one of her co-workers comes in way too early for work. Emma prints the map and escapes without being seen but not before she sees Apollo holding up the library looking for her, the scene we saw back in episode three. On her way out of the library, however, she’s spotted by the police, who chase her into the subway. Thanks to the mole man, she gets away. He takes her to his underground lair and helps her decipher the map of Norway maple trees by telling her the history of Forest Hills, Queens, which used to be called Little Norway, thanks to a group of Norwegian settlers who came there in 1825. 

Apollo’s best friend Patrice told him in episode five that William Wheeler, the guy who probably kidnapped Brian and replaced him with a changeling, is from Forest Hills. The pieces are starting to come together!

Emma drops the books off to the island and begins her search for Brian in Forest Hills. But before she leaves, she gives Cal the book Apollo’s dad used to read to him. She believes Apollo will come looking for her, and after that scene where she witnessed him holding up the library at shotgun point, she’s obviously not wrong. Emma promises Cal she’ll die by suicide if she doesn’t find Brian, then rows away, her body glowing with a mysterious and fierce blue light. “Mama’s coming for you,” she says. Whoever has Brian, beware.


Brooke Obie is an award-winning critic, screenwriter and author of the historical novel “Book of Addis: Cradled Embers.”

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