Switched at Birth Season 3 Finale Review: Nice Twist, But It's Not Enough to Fix the Show's Recent Missteps

By KateStanhope

Aug 19, 2014

Switched at Birth S03E21: "And Life Begins Right Away"

Monday's Switched at Birth finale marked the high school graduation of the show’s main characters Daphne Vasquez (Katie LeClerc) and Bay Kennish (Vanessa Marano). But while it was a time for celebration on screen, off screen, the third season of the ABC Family drama made me want to scream, not cheer, from the rooftops. 

It all started with the death of Daphne and Bay’s father Angelo (Gilles Marini) in July. Sure, his sudden demise from a brain aneurysm yielded plenty of high-stakes drama, but it just seemed too convenient. There were plenty of story possibilities left to explore in Angelo’s estranged relationship with his daughter Daphne—for whom he was just learning to sign—as well as in his growing bond with his biological daughter Bay and his roller-coaster marriage to Regina (Constance Marie). At the time, series creator Lizzy Weiss told TV Line that the idea to kill Angelo came from her own experience with the death of a high school teacher in her teen years; it was an event that had a profound impact on her. But a beloved high school teacher isn't the same as a father, and even though Angelo's last episode was wonderful, the twist felt like a lazy decision by writers unsure of what to do next. 

However, the ramifications of Angelo’s death, particularly on Daphne, were what really made me want to change the channel week after week. In the next episode, Daphne wound up doing cocaine while visiting a dorm at Northwestern, in an effort to ease her emotional despair. Sure, "angsty teenager with nowhere to turn experiments with drugs" sounds like a pretty run-of-the-mill plot point for a teen TV drama, but watching a focused, intelligent, and mature character like Daphne suddenly take such a random and dangerous turn was jarring, to say the least. Alcohol or marijuana—the latter of which she was actually looking for when a kind young deadbeat offered her some coke instead—would've seemed like a more natural move considering Daphne’s inexperience with drugs and her mother’s past battles with substance abuse. Thankfully, Daphne only took cocaine and threw a couch off the roof of a building that one time... yes, a sofa-hurling really happened, and it was just absurd watching it as it is writing about it now. 

To make matters worse, in subsequent episodes the character kissed her friend’s boyfriend (just one of many her romantic dalliances as of late), stole Oxycontin from the medical clinic she worked at, and vandalized thousands of dollars' worth of property at her mom’s design store. When Regina discovered the vandalism offense, which resulted in a felony charge against Daphne, she asked her daughter why she seemed so intent on throwing away everything that they'd worked so hard for throughout Daphne’s years in school. A visibly frustrated Daphne didn’t respond, and in truth, there’s no piece of dialogue the show's writers could've scripted for her that would've explained away her character’s sudden and drastic personality change.

As a longtime viewer of Switched at Birth, I've long been impressed by the show's unique take on the typical pitfalls of growing up. At the beginning, the switch storyline was a good hook, but once that eventually ran out of steam, it gave way to even richer and more interesting plots about the socio-economic differences between Bay, the spoiled daughter of an ex-baseball star, and Daphne, who was brought up in the far-less-glamorous East Riverside, not to mention the deaf culture surrounding Daphne and her group of friends at school. Switched at Birth truly offered a refreshing take on teenage drama that was unique from the glut of high school-centered programming on The CW, MTV, and even elsewhere on ABC Family, which is what made it even more disappointing to see the show stumble so much in Season 3. Instead of depicting interesting issues like the question faced by many deaf high school seniors of whether to attend a deaf university like Gallaudet or a hearing college, the show relied too heavily on clichéd tropes. 

At the end of the Season 3 finale, Daphne ended up avoiding jail time for the second offense on her record because Bay took the blame for her. And as Bay was led away by a detective, she joked to Daphne that she would gain “street cred” in the artistic community—a very sweet moment between two girls who didn’t know each other at all until two years ago, and probably wouldn't have met if it weren’t for the switch. But despite that brilliant cliffhanger, it’s still a struggle to muster up excitement for what’s to come in Season 4 after Daphne’s 180-degree turn. Bay, and the rest of their extended family, may be able to forgive and forget Daphne’s many indiscretions this past season, but I’m not sure I can. 

What did you think of Switched at Birth's third season?

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  • SweetMissJaye Dec 12, 2014

    I'm basically new to Switched at Birth. I've been binge watching the show on Netflix. I finally watched the season 3 finale last night and I must agree, the show was nowhere near as good in season 3 as it was in the first two seasons. The drastic change in Daphne was horrible and I hope that season 4 is better. Katherine really bugged me in the third season (acting like some spoiled brat and whining about wanting adventure) and Toby looks like an underaged porn star. I just wasn't as eager to watch the season 3 episodes as I was to watch the first two seasons' episodes.

  • shacek Dec 02, 2014

    Absolutely awful. So who's the spoiled brat after all? The one who gets away with stealing drugs, doing drugs, destroying property, and LETS someone take the blame for her. And it really bugged me that they kept saying Daphne got talked into doing the destruction, but I remember she was the one who approached Nacho. Saccharine show - supersweet and just as fake.

  • dgbrecht1950 Oct 28, 2014

    Daphne started off like "Rebecca Of Sunnybrook Farm". She was so sweet and friendly and so adorable that everyone just naturally loved her. I thought she was beautiful, but in Season 3 she turned into a really ugly person with her tantrums and laying blame and acting irresponsibly. She was so entitled and selfish and spiteful. Angelo's death was not Regina's fault and it's typical of Daphne's now-horrible personality that she blames Regina for it. She never cared that Regina and Bay were also hurting over the loss of Angelo. I was sorry that Bay took the blame for her in the Season 3 finale. A stint behind bars might have done wonders for Daphne. It certainly would have put an end to her selfish spree and made her aware that her actions have consequences and she is, and should be held, responsible for them. I was sorry that it took something like Bay's sacrifice for Daphne to finally get the two of them into each other's arms in the first ever display of real affection between the two. I'll watch Season 4 because I'm a long-standing fan of Lea Thompson (Kathryn) and I love Vanessa Marano (Bay) but I hope that the whole show improves back to what it used to be.

  • julisalazar1 Oct 16, 2014

    The guy playing Angelo was written off because he got a new show, and I just rewatched the season again and I actually liked it better and it actually made sense to me now then it did at first. To me the reason Daphne's character seems forced is because shes white (bare with me)... If you imagine daphne more 'Hispanic looking' then it wouldn't seem so odd that this ethnically raised girl lashes out in such a drastic way you would almost expect it. Idk maybe it's just me but I actually think I get what the writers were doing

  • marionstein921 Oct 13, 2014

    The storyline felt completely contrived with the end goal to keep both girls from leaving KC. It's ridiculous. I've never seen a show sink so much so fast.

  • BrittanyGraves83 Sep 20, 2014

    I have loved this show but was very put off by Daphne's behavior. She became a very unlikeable character. I just kept thinking what a little unappreciative brat. I was actually a little upset that Bay took the blame for her. Once again Daphne gets away with not dealing with the consequences of her actions. This past season just made me very disappointed especially with Daphne's character.

  • SweetMissJaye Dec 12, 2014

    It's almost funny how, when the show first began, I loved Daphne so much and could not stand Bay. I almost hate Daphne now and I love how Bay has grown and matured.

  • aritzaga Sep 18, 2014

    I just finished watching it and I couldn't agree more with the points you make. There were so many story lines that would have been more interesting, but at the end they decided to go for cheap drama.
    Angelo's death came when his character had finally taken off, so I feel we lost a great opportunity to see where his character could go. The writers did it even worse when it came to handling the aftermath. Everything seemed so forced, just there to create drama. It didn't flow...
    Anyway, I will probably give the 4th season a chance, but I don't think I will go further than 3-4 episodes if I don't see any kind of improvement when it comes to story lines.

  • Slmmy Sep 04, 2014

    I agreed that the decision to kill off Angelo and have Daphne go off the rails was not a wise one. The storyline could have bonded the sisters more.Bay could have had a confidant in seeking out whether or not she had the genetic code and deposition for an aneurysm. I kept waiting for Bay to scream this at Daphne and snap her out of the selfish and destructive attitude towards everyone because she felt that she was missing out on getting to know Angelo and blaming Regina. But Bay was missing out too. And they just left Toby in the sidelines whereas he could have been someone for Daphne to turn to and vent instead of becoming slut for a day and so out of character.
    I'm hoping that the writer Come back to reality and gets back on the track that started this train moving in the direction that had us following for it was a refreshing and different story than the other teen stories. For some reason it made an unscheduled stop and laid over a bit too long.

  • firedrakes Aug 23, 2014

    i stop watching the show this season. to much stuff was added for nothing to pull the plot forward

  • evl85 Aug 21, 2014

    I'm guessing from the comments, that I am the only one excited to see what happens next season. Daphne's downward spiral this season annoyed me at first, but the character has always been so perfect; she needed to break so that she could rise back up.

  • shacek Dec 02, 2014

    The show is silly. I only watch it because my daughter likes it. But Daphne was far from perfect. She had sex early, helped Toby cheat at poker, and has an affair with her boss.

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