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VANESSA MARANO, KATIE LECLERC

Uncertain futures on an emotional 'Switched at Birth' summer finale

Season 3 | Episode 21 | “And Life Begins Right Away” | Aired Aug 18, 2014

Switched at Birth has always been a show grounded in realistic, beautiful family moments. It’s been a show about the bonds of sisterhood, what makes a real family, and overcoming differences inside that family and out. Quiet moments like conversations between sisters on the day of their high school graduation or plans hatched in secret between parents are what this show thrives on. In a world where explosions and serial killers and zombies and meth dealers are the norm for heart-thumping drama on TV, Switched at Birth has exceeded that kind of riveting storytelling with only two families, blended together as one.

In the season 3 finale, “And Life Begins Right Away,” it’s evident yet again why this show is so successful. It’s easy to see how a show like this could be overly saccharine or too after-school special. But it hits the perfect stride here in this finale, when the kind of hopeful future presented by graduating from high school is juxtaposed against the exact opposite.

Daphne’s reckless behavior in the wake of Angelo’s death finally catches up to her when she’s faced with the harsh reality of the consequences for her actions. Though Wes didn’t blow the whistle on Daphne’s involvement with the vandalism of the East Riverside project site, the crime did end up being pinned on Daphne, and the punishment is actual jail time. Any way you slice it, she’s going to see the inside of a prison cell. Talk about a ton of bricks.

But instead of hiring a legion of lawyers and fighting tooth and nail against the real possibility of losing anyway, Daphne decides on her own to take a plea deal that would ideally have her serve around 90 days of actual jail time. That sounds like a lot, but when you compare it to the three years she was facing, it’s a walk in the park. Everything is frantically up in the air: Daphne’s future, the Kennish-Vasquez family structure, Bay’s future. It has all the pickings of an emotional roller coaster of a graduation day.

But it’s in the finale’s final moments that Daphne’s fate is sealed for certain: In a stunner, Bay covers for Daphne and takes the blame for the vandalism charges. She takes the bullet of prison so that Daphne’s future as a doctor won’t be taken from her. It’s a real shocker, and one I absolutely did not see coming. Was it easier for Bay to do this without the possibility of art school? Surely this would not have played out the same way if she had gotten into Pratt or some other college. What will this mean for Emmett in L.A.? Will the newly confirmed season 4 give us a hardened Bay from 90 days in prison? It’s a remarkable twist, and one I am so very excited to see play out. (Also, Daphne will owe Bay forever.)

CONSTANCE MARIE, LEA THOMPSON

The rest of the episode revolves around the joyous tradition of graduating high school. Emotions run high when Daphne gives her commencement speech, a poignant and powerful ode to finding Carlton, finding friends and finding her families. Katie Leclerc knocks it out of the park in this episode, causing major waterworks on my end on more than one occasion. Daphne faces a sentence that could very well ruin a good chunk of her life, and she was still able to get up on that podium and deliver words of hope and optimism for all those around her that have supported her from day one. Carlton may be closing for good, and though these students are leaving it behind to move on and become adults, what they learned there together will stay with them forever.

Family isn’t always the one you’re given, but the one you choose. The friends you find along the way that become your family are as responsible for making you who you are as your biology. Switched at Birth is a beautiful reminder of that.

Onward and upward! Season 4 will bring many new challenges, with everyone setting off in their own direction. I can’t wait to see how it all shapes up.

Thanks for reading along this season! I’ll see you in December for the Switched at Birth Christmas special!

Oh, and by the way:

  • Travis’ mom showing up (on her own!) to see her son graduate was moving enough. But then she signed, “I am so proud of you,” and my heart exploded. She later says she has been learning one sign a day, and her ASL skills are living proof! I still don’t forgive her for the way she treated Travis, but this was beautiful.
  • Wes and Regina. Ew.
  • Can we all just take a minute to dry our eyes after the performance of “Stand by Me” by Sharee and Natalie? Oh, you weren’t crying, you say? You were weeping? Cool. Me too.

Switched at Birth, rated TV-14, airs Mondays at 8/7C on ABC Family.

Get more of Brandi’s take on all things entertainment over at ReelSnarky.com!

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