LONDON: For years, TV producers and networks have looked to the literary world for a leg up – creating brand new stories can be a lot of work, so it’s easy to see the appeal of worlds and characters that are tried-and-tested, proven and (often) beloved by a preexisting fanbase with story arcs that are already mapped out and universes already painted in vivid detail.
There can, however, be a drawback to this. At times, worlds and characters written out in exquisite focus across a paragraph, a page, or a chapter, can simply be too much to cram into a TV show – there can be too much to squeeze into an hour-long episode.
Apple TV+’s new supernatural thriller, “The Changeling”, shows shades of this. The eight-part series (which launched with a three-episode premiere) adapts the novel of the same name by Victor LaValle (who also serves as narrator), and follows Apollo Kagwa, a New York book dealer who meets the love of his life, marries and has a son, before a terrible tragedy flips his happy existence upside down in the darkest, most unimaginably horrible way.
To understand more of the story, “The Changeling” delves deep into the life of Apollo, his parents, his wife and her family – each involves a multi-layered, often tragic backstory with surprise reveals, reams of foreshadowing and acres of symbolic presaging. And while that might work hypnotically well in a novel (LaValle’s work has won a slew of awards), it’s harder to keep so many balls in the air on the small screen.
Luckily, “The Changeling” has LaKeith Stanfield (“Atlanta,” “Selma,” “Sorry to Bother You,” “The Harder They Fall”) and Clark Backo (“The Handmaid’s Tale,” “I Want You Back”) at its heart – two actors with the charisma and presence to hold the disparate narrative threads together. But it can still be hard work to keep everything straight. “The Changeling” is gorgeously shot, ominously scored and promises some heavyweight story beats to come – but it’s sure gonna make you work to get there.