TV Recaps

Switched At Birth: Drama Done Right

The winter premiere of Switched at Birth built upon the issues introduced over the summer.

Previously: Daphne and Bay were switched at birth. Bay grew up in a wealthy lifestyle with Kathryn and John, while Daphne lived modestly with Regina. The families are attempting to co-habitate, but not without issues. Daphne is deaf, a barrier for everyone in the family except Regina. Bay’s biological father, who left as a result of alcohol abuse and believing Daphne wasn’t his daughter, has returned. And Regina, Bay’s biological mother, had learned of the switch through a DNA test years ago and kept it a secret. Bay and Daphne are on the outs because Bay is dating Emmett, Daphne’s best friend, whom she wants for herself.

I was skeptic before this show began airing last summer. The commercials presented a farfetched storyline that seemed fitter for a daytime soap and also introduced deaf characters that aren’t usually seen on primetime TV. As a soap opera fan, I could look past the baby switch, but I worried about the representation of the deaf. Considering how the network’s show Secret Life of the American Teenager has butchered what could have been a realistic, educating, and thought provoking portrayal of teens today (because let’s face it, no teen thinks that their father died because she lost her virginity), I expected things to get ugly.

Instead this show does what Secret Life fails to do. It gives voice to a group of people who can’t always speak for themselves, showing how they adapt to a world that often refuses to adapt to them and putting relatable characters on TV for those who are also deaf. Since many scenes in the show use only sign language, it requires viewers to pay extra close attention and read subtitles, not something often found on primetime either. It’s different and groundbreaking, even managing to take its farfetched plot and turn it into compelling television.

And this week’s winter premiere built upon the issues that were introduced over the summer.

The parents are at the helm on the show, attempting to make sense of their situation as much as their teenage daughters. They have been giving understandable point of views through the series thus far. They’re challenged with recognizing each other as parents of both girls while terrified of losing the child they’ve raised and frustrated of the time they lost with the child that was switched. Whether they are jealous of the opposite parent, upset with the way the other raises their daughter, making spiteful comments about each other, or are downright confused, their point of view comes across.

This is why introducing Angelo has been particularly interesting. This is the man that abandoned Daphne as a child, a man who suddenly has a desire to know Bay and form a relationship with her. Daphne spent the majority of her life thinking Angelo was her father and resenting his absence. It makes perfect sense that she would have such a harsh reaction to him coming back, and while I understand Bay’s need to get to know her biological father, Regina should handle the situation more delicately. Instead,Reginafinds herself drawn to Angelo, who appears to have the same disrespect and ungratefulness for her that he had when he walked out of their lives. It’s safe to say that Angelo is bad news. I can’t find a single trustworthy thing about him, which actually has me siding with John, who wants Angelo far away from Bay. Although I enjoy John dealing with the same situation his wife is.

We spent the summer watching Kathryn learn to adapt and share motherhood withReginaand now John is being forced to do it too. I enjoy that the sides are being leveled because Kathryn definitely went on a far more emotional whirlwind than her husband did. Like she told him, she lost herself amidst all of this and now has to find her way back. Maybe this will help him understand how she felt.

The one area the adults agree on,Reginaaside considering she knew the truth about the switch, is suing the hospital. Angelo returned with a signed affidavit from a nurse who says she was overworked and may be responsible for switching the girls at birth. Kathryn sought out the nurse, worried mostly that Angelo was after money, and learned that the nurse was telling the truth. The hospital was trying to cut corners and overwork their staff, which led to an awful mistake. If you ask me, it’s lawsuit worthy, but considering how much money the family has, is it necessary? Okay, maybe I just don’t want Angelo getting his slimy hands on a single dime.

While the parents were dealing with lawsuit problems and mixed emotions, Bay and Daphne had taken off to watch Emmett, their brother, and a friend play at a musical festival. Both girls wanted to vent to Emmett, but the girlfriend took precedent over the best friend.

Unfortunately, Bay further complicated things for herself when she attempted to take care of things for Emmett when people failed to understand he was deaf. When Emmett explained that his deafness is not a defense against the world and that pointing, gesturing, and texting is how he engages with the world. It was a lesson for Bay and viewers alike on how the deaf have to figure out how to connect with a world that doesn’t always take the time to stop and connect with them.

The girls were also at odds over Bay’s relationship with Emmett. Daphne’s known him since she was a child and their deafness has connected them further. Still, I have a hard time with her sudden realization that she may have feelings for Emmett after he decided to stop waiting on Daphne and move on with someone else. It makes since that she feels territorial when A) he’s her best friend B) she feels like she’s losing him to Bay and C) she’s going through a lot emotionally and doesn’t trust anyone else enough to share it with him. This doesn’t give Daphne the right to run off and climb into Emmett’s tent in what may be the creepiest scene ever on this show, but she’s reeling emotionally and needed to be close to someone she trusted.

It was natural that tempers would flare. Daphne was the first to really break and flee the scene, noticed only by Wilke. She’s struggling to make sense of Bay and Emmett and Angelo’s return. He tries so hard to act like the tough, bad guy, but Wilke has a lot of heart. Is anyone else shipping them? He adorably stole her hearing aid and made the world that was driving her crazy disappear for a little while. She really needed that.

Despite the switch and the shuffling of parents, at heart, these girls are regular teenagers. They’re dealing with boys, friends, and hormones on top of newfound identities. As Bay explained at the end of the episode, everything is messed up for her, and it’s just as messed up for Daphne. Their struggle is a large reason I keep watching. Eventually these two girls will wake up and realize that while they couldn’t be more different and they were switched at birth, they need one another and more than that, they’re sisters.

 

About the author

Amber Cunigan

Amber Cunigan is a sarcastic mid-twenties undergrad, extreme book hoarder, Netflix addict, and reality TV aficionado. She enjoys excessive amounts of chocolate and caffeine, tweeting, and all things Ezra Fitz and Ryan Gosling. When it comes to TV, she expects to be thoroughly entertained and when not, she will slam and mock you, but still tune in next week. She's a glutton for punishment. Basically, she's awesome.