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Switched At Birth, “American Gothic” (1.02)

Bay (Vanessa Marano) looks surprised while painting a wall.

I didn’t expect to review any Switched at Birth episodes after the pilot, and I’m not looking at adding it to The Signal‘s regular roster. That said, I came away from the episode with enough of a reaction to merit writing on it. So, a review of the episode, written by Lizzy Weiss and directed by Steve Miner, after the jump…

After the pilot, I was frustrated by the dynamic between the parents, largely because the Kennishes were acting so hypocritical: their paternalism and claims over Daphne (Katie Leclerc) despite having no real interest in Regina (Constance Marie) becoming involved in parenting Bay (Vanessa Marano). But it was only natural, coming from these two characters, and it was great to see that dynamic settle down somewhat.

It took the entire episode to resolve, but that dynamic offered some great scenes: the tense dinner party wherein Regina finally let loose, Bay’s sadness at her parents rejecting Regina and Kathryn’s (Lea Thompson) ensuing realisation that she was out of line. Watching these five characters figure out how they feel about the situation, and the others in the circle, is really enjoyable. The emotional work here is quite strong. With Kathryn coming to realise her hypocrisy, I started to feel a bit better about this family dynamic. Lea Thompson actually did lots of great work here, playing Kathryn both at her most uptight and judgmental, then realising her hypocrisy and softening, and finally panicking over the motorcycle.

It was a great, unexpected climax to the issue when Regina finally tosses the Kennishes a bone, opening up to them about her difficulty in allowing Daphne to ride on the motorcyle, only for Kathryn to still be unable to respect her decision. Both sets of parents were irrational and emotional over these issues this episode, but that scene really encapsulated why, even if they can come to an agreement, these parents will always have some level of conflict. Which is good.

The episode’s strongest scene, though, was Regina opening up to Bay about being an alcoholic. At no point did the speech feel preachy. Instead, it just felt like a really tender moment, in which Regina really felt like Bay’s mother, in the same was Kathryn has every time she gives Daphne ‘that look’ that she gets every time she’s in the room. It really hits at one of the key dynamics at the show: Regina and Daphne have a strong relationship, so Regina hasn’t felt the need to dig into Bay’s parenting or be angry about the switch up. Meanwhile, the show’s been giving clear signals since early in the pilot that Bay and Kathryn aren’t nearly as close as they wish they were, and I do think that plays into the Kennishes’ approach to this issue, as well as the idea of wealthy paternalism over the ‘poor’ Regina and Daphne. So Bay and Regina only occasionally have those scenes where Bay and Regina really connect.

I also liked that, in Daphne and Regina’s argument over the Kennishes, both were a little right. They were trying, and Regina was judging them harshly, but Daphne also needed to be able to tell the Kennishes when she’s having a problem, and to teach the Kennishes about interacting with their deaf daughter.

Strong second episode. The show’s off to a good start.

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