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

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?


This article originally appears on TV Guide.com.

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Jun 26, 2015
A lot of people are saying that they are annoyed with Daphne's actions. I get that they might seem a bit over the top for some people, but they are forgetting that she is dealing with some serious grief. Her father just died, and she was just starting to build a relationship with him. People have their own ways of dealing with grief, and this was Daphne's. I'm not saying at these actions are okay, but people just have to put this into perspective. As for Bay taking the blame, I'm not totally in love with the idea, but it was a very noble thing for her to do. She possibly giving up her future for her sister's. I think that hearing Daphne talk about everything she was going to miss, and how her life was over, really made Bay think. Daphne has med school, and Bay has a life in California that might not even work out. I think that it was a really great plot twist, and it is going to help keep the show interesting.
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Apr 10, 2015
I'm still new to the show only started it less then a month ago but thanks to Netflix I'm all catch up. I could tell dearing the later seasons that Daphne's adituded was getting worse and honestly I would like to say I was surprised but I'm not. They took a girl that in comparasane had nothing growing up and with being deaf made her life even harder then dropped her in this picture perfect life esectiolly and not one was expecting anything to go wrong in the slittest? I understand why Bay did what she did for Daphne. She didn't want her to not be able to follow her dreams, and Bay still as unsertan about hers. So it seems like Daphne would have had more to lose. As far as this season not being able to hold up to the first two? Honestly the first 5 episodes of the series were so mindbogalling it took awhile to take it all in. To me it didn't even seem like you could watch just one episode you had to keep going to get the hole story not just some answers. And that lead to a very exiting first season but they has like 4 big bombs withing the first season alone. Every episode was like a finally and it was only 1/2 way in the first season. So in my opionan season 3 didn't tank (pardan the pun) it just didn't have as much exitmant. At lest not in the way we wanted because I think everyone can agree Daphne's selfishness and childish behavior was far from family intertanment.
To be quit freak I started watching the show as just a whim didn't think I would really get into it that much but there was one thing that keeps me coming back and that isn't the Angelo comming back just to leave, the Daphne drama, Regin, the Kennish's or anything else like that. I can honestly say I'm a huge fan of Bay and Emmett. At first I thought I liked the idea of the childhood friends finally realizing what they had infront of them the entier time but no. B&E are both artiest and obviously care about the others work. Best of all, you can tell how much Bay has matured because of him, and how much Emmett adors her throw all the art work he's done for her. It IS the only reason I watch the show. I'm a hopless romantic and if the show ends without them being together I'm disowning it.
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Apr 11, 2015
Plus if Daphne did end up going to jail it would completely change the whole consept the whole premase as a show. It would no longer be the two girls that were switched at birth. It would become an indier show, so in order for the show to continue without a significant and drastic change they had to do something about it because obviously they couldn't just leave it up in the are they had to resolve it some how.
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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.
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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.
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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.
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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
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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.
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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.
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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.
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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.
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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.
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Aug 23, 2014
i stop watching the show this season. to much stuff was added for nothing to pull the plot forward
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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.
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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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Aug 19, 2014
Honestly through the past couple of episodes I have been fast forwarding a lot mostly when it came to the scenes with Daphne. She just turned into this stubborn and bitter character that I was not a fan of but to be fair she has always been like that it just escalated to the point of no return. And even though what Bay did was noble of her I felt like she shouldn't have done it why should she suffer because of Daphne's actions. Episode after episode Daphne know what she was doing even thought she knew it was wrong but she did it anyway out of spite for her mother and she had what was coming to her.
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Aug 19, 2014
I haven't seen a episode of Switched at Birth since the end of season 2. (Not that I didn't like the show).

But based on this, I am glad I stopped watching when I did.
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Aug 19, 2014
Couldn't have said it better myself - my thoughts exactly. Nearly stopped watching as they seemed to be dragging out the Daphne petulance episode after episode - one or two would have been more than enough for that storyline. Will probably tune in for the first episode of next series, but it will have to improve big time for us to watch any more.... oh, and Lucas Grabeel, please shave off the beard!!
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Dec 12, 2014
The beard is disgusting lol
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Aug 19, 2014
I haven't watched it since Angelo died - not through any conscious decision, just because I haven't felt the urge. I knew they were going down the Daphne off-the-rails route and Daphne annoys me half the time anyway, I knew this would drive me insane. I'll probably catch up during the break though, just to see the Bay/Emmett stuff.
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Aug 19, 2014
I'll be honest, while I love this show, I have never liked Daphne. She has always been petulant and foolish and unforgiving. The stuff she has done in the most recent episodes did not surprise me - it was like the ultimate culmination of her petty little spats and just generally unlikeable character.

I am however concerned about Bay and Emmett and all the other characters who will be left dealing with the repercussions of her actions. Honestly, I couldn't let someone take the fall for me like that, especially not if I cared for them. This is an amazingly selfless thing Bay is doing but even so, it just makes me dislike Daphne even more.
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Aug 19, 2014
i know it wasn't the best story ever written but still is a lot better than what you see in teenage tv dramas, i do see the point about season 3 been a let down compared to previous seasons and i hope that for the next one they go back to basics, letting hearing people like me understand what it means to be deaf today for a high school or college kid like Daphne or been a hearing person and having a relationship with someone who is deaf like Bay, because that was what made me watch the show in the first place, because it helped me understand a culture that i knew very little about but now a have nothing but an immense respect for
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