SWITCHED AT BIRTH: 2.09 “Uprising”
This week, we had something new on ABC Family. Not just a new episode of Switched at Birth, but an almost entire episode devoted to only ASL. Only the first and last scenes of the episode were devoted to voices or sound. Beyond that, it was just you, your television, and ASL (with subtitles).
It was actually a pretty ballsy move on the show’s part, and while I have a few nitpicks (I’ll get to those), I was completely enthralled. Somehow, by removing sound — including things like locker slams, chatter, cheers, and fire alarms — you were completely invested in the show’s suspense. Perhaps it was because for the first time in a long time, the show required you to put down your laptop and smartphone and actually pay attention. After all, how else would you catch all the subtitles. But somehow, seeing someone race to a window, smashing it with a rock with no sound to follow, only the sight of broken glass and a man’s expression, gave you chills. I was actually on the edge of my seat for a good chunk of the episode.
Overall, I felt it was a pretty well-done episode. Clearly, this was to make the TV-viewing audience “walk a mile in their shoes,” and for the most part, I think that was accomplished. I loved seeing Daphne’s reaction when she didn’t realize she had set off the alarm in the Kennish house. You really did struggle to catch on (though I did figure it out rather quickly).
On the other side, I particularly enjoyed the switch at the end of the episode, where suddenly we were hearing police sirens. It’s the one thing Bay had in her favor that no one else did. Suddenly, we were back in reality, and with that reality came the discovery that these kids might actually be in trouble.
My one complaint is that they didn’t go all the way with it. While I appreciated the silence, I would have loved it more if there was no music. Really give us a feeling of an hour without sound. Further, I think ABC Family could have don’t some really interesting things with advertisers, requiring all ads to be silent, too. Sure, a lot of companies would have scoffed at the idea of not being heard, but think about the opportunity to align your brand with an actual cause. That really would have struck a chord. Beyond the ads for Gallaudet, the only one that seemed to have embraced the spirit of the hour was Purple.
As for the episode itself, it handled itself well. I appreciated the spirit of the sit-in (or “Occupy Carlton,” if you want to be in present day), and at the same time, I liked that they looked at the struggle within the rebellion as well. Showing high schoolers drinking and partying — even showing off their array of condoms — isn’t going to get yourself heard, at least not by the right people. I think we’ve discovered that Travis still holds a grudge and John’s still an asshole (Really? Freezing out your own kids, just to get them out of the building?). The only thing I didn’t understand was why they didn’t just plow through the huge broken window to get the kids out of there. It’s not like they had no access to the building.
Overall, kudos, Switched at Birth. I almost wish every episode could take a stand like this one did. But you certainly got me to stop what I was doing and pay attention, which I suppose is what you were hoping all hearing people would do.