Switched At Birth Signs Off
Ranking the most (and least) satisfying moments as the Kennish-Vasquez clan says goodbye.
Series finales are fraught affairs. We want them to be true to everything that's come before. But that conflicts with what our greedy fan ids crave: neatly wrapped happy endings for everyone.
The Switched At Birth finale follows the first path, showing us that life will go on for these characters and they'll face new challenges, like the ones they faced when they were thrown into each other's lives five years ago. Some characters' conclusions worked for me. Others felt a little baffling. Here's my rundown of the final episode's storylines, from least to most satisfying.
I thought we had Melody's fate locked down early in the episode when she tells Regina she has a job offer from Gallaudet. That's a pretty good sendoff, right? But what actually ends up happening is that Melody turns down Gallaudet and takes in Matthew -- the guy who catfished her very own son, if you remember -- because he's homeless after his parents kicked him out for being gay. Huh. About the only enjoyable thing from this storyline is that Natalie's being assigned the task of telling Melody what's going with Matthew means we get to see Natalie one last time.
Regina is moving out of the Kennish guesthouse, which I condone, but I'm not sure why she's eyeing a four-bedroom, four-bath, 2,900-square-foot house for her next place. Luca points out that the rent will be cheaper if he moves in with her. Regina agrees, but she's still thinking about that kiss with Eric. As we all are, amirite? She admits to Melody that she might still in love with Eric, but Melody urges her to think really, really hard about running off to Belize with him. Regina dumps Luca, and -- after remembering a conversation in which her mom told her that doing hard things is worth it -- goes to the hotel where Eric and Will are staying. Instead of leaving town with Eric, she tells him to turn himself in. He'll serve "only" two or three years, and she'll take care of Will while Eric is in prison. What could go wrong? There's not a strong enough sense of the terrible cost this plan will have for Eric, who'll be the one in prison and away from his son.
But the real problem here isn't Eric and Regina getting back together. That makes sense, even if it does feel a little rushed. It's that this turn of events makes everything else that happened to Regina this season seem meaningless. Her relationship with Luca has no bearing on how her story turns out. At least she's moving back to East Riverside (inspired by Daphne's love for their old neighborhood) and not into that too-big house she was looking at.
- Daphne's Love Life
Have you ever had that feeling when at outcome you had worried about but convinced yourself wasn't going to happen suddenly becomes reality after all? No? Just me? After Daphne and Mingo compete for an internship that he ultimately gets, he reveals that he and his girlfriend broke up. And Daphne confesses she and Chris are just friends. Neither had wanted to admit to being single while the other was attached. So they get back together. I guess it could be worse -- I mean, if they brought back Matthew, then why not that British guy who helped her blackmail the senator? I understand why things didn't work out with Daphne and Chris. I had a feeling the subterfuge she committed for him -- plus the fact that it involved dropping his pee sample -- probably killed their vibe. But the fact that Chris doesn't appear at all in this episode feels a little sloppy.
- Bay's Love Life
With her career just starting to hit its groove, it's completely reasonable that Bay would opt to stay in Kansas City instead of going to Japan with Travis. But if there were going to be an improbable, giddy and sugary sweet storyline on the finale, I wish that had been it. Bay assures Travis up and down that they're rock solid, but honestly, if you knew these two in real life (and I continue to be resentful that we don't), what chances would you give their relationship? The fact that Emmett is going with Travis instead of Bay is a big "meh" for me. I think the show has maybe oversold the idea that Travis and Emmett are non-biological siblings the way that Bay and Daphne are, so this big reconciliation trip doesn't feel as important or touching as the show wants it to be.
- John & Kathryn
With Regina moving out, Kathryn wants to put together a scrapbook for her, so she's looking around in the garage for the lab tests that confirmed the switch. Along the way she finds an old underwear ad featuring John -- hello! -- but also the results of a separate DNA test John seems to have done a month earlier. It turns out that after Bay's blood test in biology class raised their suspicions that something was up, John worried that Kathryn had been cheating on him, and that Bay was some other guy's kid. Kathryn is pretty steamed at first, but then she realizes that John had seeming proof that she was cheating, but that he stuck with the family regardless. I'm a sucker for anything that shows the good heart beyond John's bluster.
I thought things were pretty sweet in the world of DJ and security system installer Toby Kennish, but he confides to Lily that he'd like to be as excited about his work as she is about hers. She encourages him to make a career change, but he reminds her of his lack of skills and education. (I'm glad Toby's sad-sack side is still in place.) Later, he's interviewing for a house DJ job at some coffeehouse. There's a guy with Down syndrome at another table, laughing loudly at something he's watching on his tablet. Eventually, an employee tells him to leave, which leads to a confrontation. Toby intervenes (he's such an intervener these days) and de-escalates. He does a great job calming the patron, whose name is Harrison, until his roommate Amelia comes to pick him up. She also has Down syndrome, but Toby is intrigued by how independent she is: she has a job, takes the bus, and lives on her own with Harrison. Toby dreams of this kind of life for Carlton, although he's also clear that he'll love whoever Carlton turns out to be. And he realizes that he wants his new career to be as advocate for people like Carlton, although he's not sure what shape that might take. Sadly, the options he throws out -- lawyer, writer, teacher -- seem like kind of a reach for Toby. But then again, he overcame that hairstyle from the flashbacks, so anything is possible.
- Bay's Career
Since Emmett's photos of her work with Ally (who's MIA) are featured in Live Ink magazine, Bay gets to go to a big party for the magazine's 100th issue and bring the whole gang. John is less than thrilled that he'll have to hang out with the tattoo crowd, and starts slagging off her career choice. That wounds Bay -- especially when John voices his pride in Daphne's plans to go into medicine -- and she blows up at him at the party. I like this callback to the earlier days of the show, when the girls could get caught up in envy of each other. But Bay gets some much-needed validation from Noelle, who talks her up in front of a possible celebrity client. And after a little nudge from Kathryn, John apologizes for being an ass about Bay's job, and expresses his support.
- Daphne's Career
Daphne also interviews for the internship with an orthopedic surgeon that Mingo gets, but it goes horribly wrong out of the gate when the surgeon realizes she's Deaf. It's hard to watch someone be so condescending and dismissive to Daphne, but I'm glad we got this reminder of the challenges she faces -- and also that some people are pretty much monsters. Daphne goes through some self-doubt and wonders if she should choose another career, but a pep talk from Kathryn lifts her spirits. So she barges into the surgeon's office, tells him off for violating the ADA, and vows that she won't give up on medicine. Iris comes along to interpret and give the surgeon looks of blazing disgust.
I appreciate how we're leaving both Bay and Daphne in a satisfying but realistic place with their ambitions -- and just how important their aspirations have been to their characters and to the show. With Daphne's plot this week and Travis's last week, the show also goes out with two final strong stories about Deaf life.
- The Family as a Whole
At the end, the Kennish-Vasquezes come together for dinner -- complete with a DNA centerpiece, courtesy of Kathryn. Regina tells Bay and Daphne she's moving out; Daphne says she wants to start calling Kathryn "Mom," too; and the girls and the parents all exchange some teary appreciation for the past five years. It's a little awkward that Toby, Lily, and Carlton are just sitting back like "um, we're here, too," but eventually they get pulled into the love fest. Then everyone goes out to the front lawn to watch for a comet that's making a once-in-their-lifetime appearance. (Did you notice that the song playing, Kyler England's "Battle Cry," is the same one from when Bay and Emmett first had sex? Or is it sad that I know that?) It's a gentle contrivance to get Bay and Daphne to re-create their lying-in-the-grass pose from the promo image, but it still gets you right there, especially when the camera pulls back to show the rest of the family. The flashbacks throughout the episode drive home how far they've come to get to this place of joy and strength as a blended family. There might be some big questions on their horizon: Can Bay and Travis's relationship survive distance? Can Regina and Eric's survive prison? How long can John go before Mingo starts riding his last nerve? But we know they'll be okay. And we know we'll miss them.