Monday, January 13, 2014

REVIEW: 'Switched at Birth' Returns with Strong Emotional Changes for Bay and Daphne in 'Drowning Girl'

ABC Family's Switched at Birth - Episode 3.01 Drowning Girl

Carlton receives an influx of hearing students who are hot happy to be there; Daphne begins working at a free clinic as part of her probation and bonds with a pre-med student (RJ Mitte); Bay takes an art class at a local college; Toby tries to unite a divided Carlton by coaching girls' field hockey; and Kathryn dips her toes into new territory when she meets a gregarious tap dancer (Alec Mapa).

Switched at Birth returns for its third season with a strong mix of emotional fallout from the events of the second season finale while also setting up a ton of fun and new storylines. Bay and Daphne are each sent on different journeys throughout this opening hour and each are pretty fantastic. As is the stuff given to both Kathryn and Toby.

Both are back at Carlton for another new school year - there senior year! But a lot has changed at the school. It's now only half deaf and the other half, well, is all the problem cases the rest of the school system didn't want in their schools. That reveal is initially played for the comedy of how different this new collection of students are from the ones who populated Carlton last year. But things got serious real fast. Daphne's car tires get slashed. A fight erupts in the middle of a classroom. The orchestra teacher is trying to teach art. The gym has been turned into classrooms. There's a girl named Sharee (Bianca Bethune) whose pretty opposed to whatever Daphne has to say. The show has presented this character archetype before (think of Natalie when Bay first enrolled at Carlton). So I'm hoping the show doesn't go down the familiar route of having them antagonizing opposite each other only until they learn more about the other and come to respect what they've had to deal with. That still could feel very compelling but also a little too redundant.

Toby was the stealth MVP of season 2B. His engagement to Nikki fueled a lot of interesting dynamics and questions from the rest of the Kennish clan. Now, he's left alone as Nikki has gone off on her Peruvian mission trip for the next six months. Plus, he's not in college right now. So, he's not really up to much at the start of the premiere. And yet, he finds himself directly in the middle of the two biggest emotional moments of the premiere - his two scenes opposite Daphne. He's trying to be the stable one for Daphne - to reassure her that she's a part of this family and that John would never throw her out. Plus, he finds new purpose by deciding to coach Carlton's newly formed Field Hockey team. Field Hockey is the exact kind of quirky activity that Switched at Birth loves doing. So I'm very intrigued to see where this is going especially in the context of trying to bring unity to Carlton once again.

Lastly, the show has set up very interesting new environments for Bay and Daphne. Carlton will be the unifying thread for this season while these other new surroundings will be more emotional-based for those characters. Art has been the one constant thing in Bay's life for the run of the series. This season is pushing that idea forward with her college course. Max Adler and Sandra Bernhard are fun introductions to this universe. I loved when Bay while drunk opened up to Adler's Tank about what might have went wrong in her relationship with Ty. It was completely unexpected and yet totally enjoyable. Then, there's Daphne's work at a free clinic for 100 hours of community service. That environment will likely change how Daphne sees the world. In this episode, she learns about kids getting thrown out on the streets all the time which then leads to her big moment with Toby. It's a strong emotional journey for that character even though I'm less sure on how that particular story is being told.

Some more thoughts:
  • But of course, Kathryn had to be eating some ice cream when she walked into the dancing studio.
  • And that psychiatrist was a pretty bad one. He's quick to prescribe her something - but he doesn't even tell her the name of the drug he's pushing on her!
  • So all of the Carlton classmates are back for more episodes - as is Mary Beth. But why no mention of Noah?
  • Don't panic everyone, but there's a cereal bar in the college dorm!
  • Bay's banter about trying to remember Cliff's name was very delightful.
  • I'm also really excited the show is finally talking about Angelo and Regina's money - even though that was clearly the D-story of the premiere.
  • Season two had the all-ASL episode and the What If? episode. Creator Lizzy Weiss confirms another special event episode is coming during this run of episodes as well. What are your thoughts on what the show will be doing?