“The Sleep Of Reason Produces Monsters” S1 / E21
- B+ Community Grade
After the multiple dramatic events of last week’s Switched At Birth, I was initially thrown off by this episode’s sudden leap into something much sillier: Daphne and Bay quickly throwing together a homemade zombie movie for Emmett’s birthday. But the Dawn Of The Deaf story turned out to be a winner, both for how it reflected what was going on in Emmett’s life, and for how it left plenty of room for all the little moments that make the world of Switched At Birth so bright and vivid. It may seem piddling, but whenever Kathryn casually tosses yogurt containers into a bowl of ice on the snack table, or Wilke casually dips his fingers into a bowl of blood, or Daphne teaches Wilke how to raise his eyebrows when signing a question, it’s all a reminder of what makes this show so special.
So many fledgling dramas are too preoccupied with premise and plot to make time to flesh out the characters or their behavior. From the start, the Switched At Birth writers have filled the gaps between the melodrama with well-sketched portraits of deaf culture, the art world, suburban family life… whatever the scene, they’re clearly always thinking about where the characters fit into it. For example, when Bay and Daphne hatch their little horror show, Daphne asks Toby to supply the music, which is a natural way to bring her brother into the picture. And when Toby runs through the music options with Daphne, she reminds him that she won’t be able to tell the difference, because, well, she won’t. That little scene between the two of them is absolutely unnecessary from a plot perspective, but it’s nice and funny. It’s not a waste of time.
Switched At Birth rarely wastes time, in fact. Even in the midst of all the shambling zombie action, this episode moves forward on a couple of this season’s major subplots and finds ways to tie them together. Kathryn and John continue to bicker, this time because Kathryn has read the first chapter of Sarah Lazar’s book about her, and now knows that John told the reporter about her miscarriage, which is the kind of intimate detail that lovers share, not casual friends. Personally, I think it’s been clear since the early episodes that John’s a cheater, and at some point, that other shoe is bound to drop, but this week’s revelations ultimately don’t prove anything. It matters more how the ups and downs of Kathryn and John’s marriage shadow what Bay and Emmett may be about to go through.
And throughout this episode, Daphne is reminded of what she missed out on when Regina withheld the truth about her real family from her. During her chat with Wilke about how he should sign in the movie, he thinks out loud about what it would’ve been like if he’d grown up with her puttering around his best friend’s house. Later, Daphne looks at the aviary that the Kennishes never used because Bay didn’t like it, and she sees Bay and Toby’s handprints in the cement, and the extent of what she lost because of Regina’s choice begins to irritate her. The end result is that Daphne comes clean with her mother about how she’s feeling, which prompts Regina to agree to help Kathryn with her book, because she no longer wants to be the stubborn gal who ruins everybody’s life.
I also liked Melody in this episode. She’s unusually accommodating to Emmett now that she has him back, and she even suggests to him that maybe he should hold on to the secret of his one-off, never-to-be-repeated night with Simone, rather than telling Bay something that will upset her. It’s reasonable advice, but part of me wonders if Melody’s just telling Emmett what she thinks he wants to hear, rather than making an already emotional kid even more volatile.
Of course we all know that Bay’s going to find out eventually, right? And though “The Sleep Of Reason Produces Monsters” felt a little rushed at times—if only because it’s hard to believe that even people as rich as the Kennishes could throw a movie together that quickly—the way the zombie story shadowed the main story was clever and creepy. It wasn’t just the suspense of Simone showing up to help work the video equipment, and accidentally leaving her phone laying around (with texts to and from Emmett), but also Bay wandering through the scenes, heartbreakingly clueless. Bay even unintentionally alludes to her own situation, when she tells Emmett not to put too much stage-blood on, lest her “girlfriend” character look too stupid for not figuring out that he’s becoming zombified. And Emmett alludes to it too, when he tells Daphne that in the story he’s living through—in the movie and in real life—he’ll be doomed once his lady realizes he’s a monster.
- One of my favorite things about Switched At Birth has been the expressiveness of the actors when they sign. The sign for “zombie” is super-cool.
- Thanks to Carrie for allowing me to fill in. She’ll be back with you for the “winter finale” next week.