Monday, July 8, 2013

'Switched at Birth' Review - 2.15 Ecce Mono

        On a special "What If?" episode of ABC Family's Switched at Birth, Daphne has a cochlear implant, doesn't know ASL and has been spoiled by her parents to make up for the switch making her manipulative; Bay is a straight-A student compensating for being the Kennishes' non-biological daughter; and Kathryn is a successful author of bodice-ripping novels and, while still married to John, their marriage is far from perfect.

        "What If?" episodes typically are gimmicky stunts to highlight just how terrible certain characters lives would have been if one event had changed for them. It is usually triggered by one character verbally stating how much they wanted this other narrative to happen. But little do they know, that universe is even more miserable for them.
        So understandably, I approached Switched at Birth's attempt at this narrative trick with caution. Unsure of how original it could be when they're clearly is a fine-shaped formula from year's of similar episodes. Obviously, I should have had more faith in one of my favorite shows at the moment. The series was able to give a profound and insightful look at how the pivotal event of the switch - something the entire cast and the audience have agonized over - had impacted their lives. Coming together when they did has allowed them all to come together as one big family that cares for each other. Throughout the course of its two season run, we have seen interactions between all of the major characters. Their bonded history makes this hour land so well. These characters are still the same ones we are used to - only with varying attributes of their personalities more elevated. The hour is very reflective of who these people are and what their deep wants and desires are.
        This show has a rich and complex history and this episode rewards the viewers who have with it for its entire run. There are nice nods throughout the hour hinting that while the bigger landscape may have changed some have not - Daphne and basketball, Toby's gambling, Simone, Wilke (although only in a passing by conversation) and most recently Senator Coto's attraction to Kathryn.
        These characters have always been curious and upset about the time they lost sharing with their true family. But growing up together is one of the largest things that would actually pull them apart. Here, every character is isolated, off dealing with their own personal turmoils and ignoring what's really happening with every else. These characters have been in isolate plots before but the execution here makes things compelling. Everyone is unhappy because they all feel like they don't belong or they are missing something. Bay is trying to compensate for being "a charity case" for the Kennishes but her efforts largely go unrecognized. It comes as no surprise then that she finds that instant connection with Emmett - a case of him (too likely and coincidentally) being in the right place and the right time. They ride off together in the end because they are people that just understand one another and will always make them worth rooting for as a main couple. Daphne has turned into the manipulative mean girl but to cover up her own insecurities. She is shunned her past life with Regina and grown privileged with the Kennishes. She is missing something and is yearning for more but has no clue what she is missing in life. Regina was completely destroyed by losing Daphne and her downward spiral led to her tragic early death despite her constant attempts at reaching out to the girls.
        But the entire episode is based around John's recent brush with death. His heart attack closed the hour last week and here at the end he is shown just fine in a hospital bed. His anger is always the main contention for many of the rousing debates. Custody of both girls is something that he has always wanted and he's despised Regina for keeping the switch a secret. Now, he is finally given what he wanted and is able to give Daphne everything she ever wants. But his anger and thickheadedness is more off-putting than ever and has drawn a huge wedge between him and Kathryn. He has created a false sense of security and closeness. They all put on a happy face together but they couldn't be any further apart. When his heart inevitably gives out, there is no one around to help. He is left alone because that is the life he created for himself. It's quite the visceral gut punch and makes his closing remark about being glad to see Regina feel revolutionary. He has changed from just last week were he despised Regina and all that she has done for the girls. They may never see eye-to-eye on anything but in this life-and-death matter he is glad that she was there for him and that is bound to be quite the turning point for their relationship.