Tuesday, January 31, 2017

REVIEW: 'Switched at Birth' - Bay and Daphne Return Home from China After Shocking News in 'The Call'

Freeform's Switched at Birth - Episode 5.01 "The Call"

Daphne and Bay are so enthralled with China that they stay longer than anticipated, but after 10 months, they get an emergency call and drop everything to return home. Once there, Daphne tries to integrate herself back into campus life but finds that things have changed without her. Bay is mixed up about her feelings towards Emmett who is struggling with his own problems. Kathryn and John quarrel over her job. Regina feels guilty about a secret tryst.

It has been a long wait for the final season of Switched at Birth. The show hasn't aired a new episode since October 2015. The fourth season ended with Bay and Daphne heading to China for an adventure. It also ended with the tease that their trip extended much longer than they expected and that some tragedy back home would force them to return to Kansas City. It was a mystery as to what happened. And now, all of the answers are clear. This is a moving and powerful opening episode for the final season. It shows that the series is still committed to addressing some serious and topical issues. It knows how to take a complex look at these characters' lives even though things have changed quite a bit since the audience last saw them. The premiere very deliberately makes it so most of the characters are involved at the college campus somehow. Daphne and Regina are taking classes while John and Kathryn have administrative positions. Meanwhile, Travis has rejoined the baseball team and Bay's proximity to him and Daphne puts her nearby as well. It's a lot of change to digest. But it also signals that things are about to get very complex on this campus. That becomes abundantly clear with the very final moment of "The Call."

Of course, the premiere also backs up a little bit as well. It very wisely decides to show some of Bay and Daphne's China adventure as well. It reveals that not everything was as it seemed in that glimpse from the end of last season. Their time there was extended because Bay got sick. It's a very disorientating and terrifying way to start the season. It's also very emotional and moving. It just reinforces how strong the bond between the sisters really is. Daphne was willing to fight for Bay even though she can't hear and doesn't speak the language. It's because of that strength that Bay survived and the two made some friends in the progress. It's because of that experience that Bay wants to seize the day more. She doesn't want to be stuck worrying about the future when it could all end just like that. She wants to live more. That's an energy both of them accept as Daphne gets a job at a clinic, the two get matching tattoos and Bay calls Travis to join them in China. Bay wasn't sure what to do with Travis' feelings for her at the end of last season. It was a surprising development too. And yet, the two of them really work well together. This premiere shows that they spend quite a bit of time living together as a couple in China. So now, it's a core dynamic of the show.

And yet, everything is still building to that fateful phone call. Back home, Emmett has overdosed from taking too many pills. That's such a shocking development and gives him newfound importance on the show in relation to the rest of the characters. His venture out to Los Angeles didn't always connect well with what the rest of the show was doing. And now, it looks like he'll be staying around in Kansas City for awhile. It's such a surprise too because he really did seem fine. He had changed but he seemed content with his new life. Now, it's clear that wasn't the case at all. In fact, he's been spiraling in loneliness away from home. He's depressed because nothing is as good as high school. It's terrifying to see him not take this overdose as a serious wake-up call. He doesn't think Bay, Daphne and Travis should have come home because of it. And yet, it's still a tense situation throughout the hour. Bay and Daphne readjust to being back home. They make plans for their futures that have nothing to do with Emmett. But the severity of his situation is enough to pull them back in. They are the only ones who can get through to him in the end.

However, all of this may be leading to renewed energy in a love triangle between Bay, Travis and Emmett. She has been happy with Travis for awhile. And now, Emmett is finally saying all of the things she wanted him to say when they broke up. He said he was fine with her dating Travis. And yet, actually seeing it happen has proven that he's not totally over her. In fact, he's trying to cling onto her as the last moment of happiness. That's not how depression works. And that is what Emmett seems to have right. It's okay for Bay and Daphne to be worried about him. They know where to find him when he goes missing. But it's not okay for Emmett to try to ruin Bay and Travis' happiness. The readjustment to Kansas City is already doing plenty to throw them off. And now, Travis is having doubts about Bay's feelings because they rushed home for Emmett. Her heart still leaps for him. She wants to help him. How is Travis suppose to react to that? He cares for Emmett too. They were brothers of sorts. It's just a complicated situation that is bound to only get more complicated moving forward. It's easy to want the best for Bay. She's still holding onto her sisterly bond with Daphne. It's great that they'll be sharing the apartment above the Cracked Mug. But that could come at the expense of Bay's happiness with Travis.

Things are tough for Daphne as well. She spirals a little bit because her plans for returning to college don't go as smoothly as she hoped. She was hoping to get credit for her work at the clinic in China. That didn't happen. She asked Mingo - who is now an RA - if there was any housing on campus for her. There isn't. She planned on signing up for pre-med classes. But there are already filled up for the semester. So, everything seems to be working against her at the moment. She can't even figure out what things are like with Mingo because he is already dating someone new. It's a tough readjustment for her. Regina, Kathryn and John are all happy that she and Bay are back home. It's just not what she was expecting at all. But again, everything feels like it'll work out in the end because she has Bay as emotional support. Coming back home makes Daphne fear it was a mistake to spend almost a year in China and get behind on her studies. Bay reminds her of all the wonderful things they experienced in that year. Yes, it's difficult now. But things will hopefully get better. Of course, Daphne returns home and into a new controversy on campus as well. The dorm has a costume party and Mingo shows up dressed as Lil Wayne. It's an outfit that Iris is offended by right away. Plus, it's clear the picture of the costume goes viral. So, this won't be an issue that goes away either. It could spiral up into something big that could affect everyone on campus. That's a fascinating issue for the show to tackle right now as opinions are sure to be running high.

Some more thoughts:
  • "The Call" was written by Lizzy Weiss and directed by Allan Arkush.
  • Melody tells Emmett that depression runs in his family. His uncle suffered from it too and actually killed himself when he was Emmett's age. That information adds context to the situation. But it also shows just how supportive and diligent Melody will be as they get more answers about him.
  • Emmett and Skye broke up a few months ago. She stays in the loop about Emmett's overdose as well. She's the one who points Bay in the right direction of where to find him. But she's also the one who makes it clear that he might be depressed.
  • It didn't really need to be said that Bay's illness in China could be deadly. The audience knows she'll ultimately be fine. It just underlines how serious the situation is. Plus, it's so great when she finally wakes up and doesn't want Daphne to leave.
  • After some complicated relationships since Angelo died, it's understandable that Regina would want something simple. She's now dating a college student who seemingly has more in common with Daphne than her. He thinks there's something real between them while she doesn't see a future once Bay and Daphne come home.
  • Kathryn is now in charge of the entire athletics department at the college. So that means she's now John's boss - as he manages the baseball team. This is just something the audience should accept. It creates a little conflict but mostly it just states that this is what they're doing now.
  • Toby is still living in London with Lily and Carlton. I wonder how long it'll take until they are back in Kansas City too. The why should be very interesting.