A big part of growing up is learning that your actions have consequences. Daphne’s journey on Switched At Birth has largely been about her learning this lesson over and over again, especially last season after Angelo died. This season appears primed to show a flip side to the exploration of consequences, as Bay must now deal with the consequences of her decision to take the fall for Daphne’s vandalism. It was a decision that negatively colored a lot of Daphne’s growth in the previous seasons, but if this premiere is any indication, it certainly was a storytelling decision that will reap many rewards going forward.
One decision the show gets exactly right is to pick up the action immediately following Bay’s confession, when Bay is telling Emmett what she did and Daphne is telling their parents. Their collective outrage—except for John, who seems oddly comfortable with the whole thing—is exactly how I felt at the end of last season’s finale, and it’s comforting to have that outrage acknowledged in the show’s canon. The gist of Bay’s decision-making process was this: She feels she “saved her sister’s life” and is completely at peace with the idea she now has to be on house arrest and do community service, delaying her impending move to California to be with Emmett. It’s hard to watch Bay do something so impulsive and short-sighted and feel so at peace when it’s obvious this is all going to come crashing down somehow, but the writers do a good job of giving her decent motivations for her actions, and Vanessa Marano sells it well.
It’s clear it isn’t going to be that easy for Bay, though. Emmett’s low-level anger about the situation simmers throughout, and boils over several times when the stress of leaving for Los Angeles without Bay gets the better of him. This stress is compounded when a clueless Bay accidentally delivers a sandwich full of heroin to someone on her community service detail (it’s dumb, but just go with it) and ends up getting an additional 100 days of probation and house arrest. Throughout the episode, Bay has staunchly defended both her decision and Daphne’s acceptance of that decision, but the snowball effect of what her decision actually means in the real world finally catches up to Bay in the end. Bay knows she’s not a bad person, as does her family and friends, but to anyone who sees her from the outside? She’s just another criminal, and the oppressive nature of that revelation puts Bay literally flat on her back by the end of the episode. It’s a nice little contained character arc, and shows plenty of promise to expand in an interesting way going forward.
As for Daphne, she spends much of the episode being extraordinarily accommodating to everyone around her—especially Bay—in light of everything that happened. She does the one thing that seemed missing from last season’s finale: She appears to take some sort of personal responsibility for what Bay did for her, and takes steps to actually better herself because of it. Daphne accepting she was a mess last year is important, as is her regaining some personal and emotional momentum going forward so she doesn’t repeat the same mistakes. I especially liked her admitting she doesn’t really understand why she was so out of control, because that feels honest and messy. It isn’t as simple as “Angelo died and it messed me up,” because that would be far too easy, and Daphne isn’t necessarily interested in letting herself off any easier than she already has been.
What makes Daphne’s story tolerable, however, isn’t her own admission of the lengths Bay went through to help her but the continued resistance of others around her to it. Toby’s anger is needed to buy that Daphne has any consequences at all for what she did at the construction site. It doesn’t hurt that Toby isn’t wrong in anything that he says: Daphne should have been the one to face the consequences, no matter what it did to her future. It’s basically “don’t do the crime if you can’t do the time” kicked up a few emotional notches, and both Lucas Grabeel and Katie Leclerc play the scene wonderfully.
But the big deal for Daphne in all of this is how it changes her future plan to go to Gallaudet. After all of the chaos of the previous year she decides she needs stability, and ends up staying in Kansas City to attend Melody’s new Midwest Institute for the Deaf at UMKC. This was an inevitable outcome once Melody floated the idea of the school, but the show does a good job of making it feel at least a little bit natural as a character decision. The most striking thing about the structure of Daphne’s story here is that they never let her get a full victory: She gets the chemistry class she wants and talks her way into a reluctant interpreter, but in the process Emmett essentially tells her he can never forgive her for letting Bay take the fall and ruining their future plans together. It’s two steps forward and one step back, with the consequences of what Daphne did last season still resonating in this moment and beyond, and the consequences for Bay just beginning. I may not have enjoyed what Bay’s decision meant for Daphne’s character last season, but what it means for both sisters going forward might just make it worth it.
- Carrie Wikis Some Art: And It Cannot Be Changed, Francisco Goya, 1814, aquatint and etching on paper.
- Melody’s speech to Emmett was A+ fantastic. Love it when those two get scenes together.
- While Bay’s character arc was well done in this episode, the addition of her community service buddies doesn’t fill me with a whole lot of confidence for that part of the story going forward. I would be happy to never see them again.
- Daphne’s story at college seems very promising, especially the angle that she will have difficulties in her mainstream Pre-Med classes. I would like for her new interpreter to not be a love interest, but that seems doubtful, huh?
- Kathryn asking Regina to stay at the Kennish house was so lovely. I adore the friendship they’ve built over the years.
- Programming note: Because ABC Family split up Switched At Birth and The Fosters, I have decided not to continue with the reviews. I feel privileged to have had a chance to write about Switched At Birth for so long (especially the incredible All-ASL episode) and have loved all of your smart and insightful comments along the way. Thank you for reading!