It was an especially emotional hour for Switched at Birth on Tuesday night when the Freeform drama revealed its 100th episode to the world.
The landmark episode was commemorated with Angelo's (Gilles Marini) return, both metaphorically and semi-literally. The show explored Daphne (Katie Leclerc) and Bay's (Vanessa Marano) father's last impressions as the girls took time to get to know Ally (Tristin Mays), the recipient of Angelo's heart on the day he died.
Bay and Daphne not only notice weird connections between Ally's new lust for life and their departed father, but being around her brings memories flooding back to them. In times of confusion or despair, they each fantasize that Angelo is there with them, talking to them and helping them find the right path. The episode goes a long way to show that even though Angelo died a long time ago, his influence is still felt in their lives and he is an integral part of the women they are becoming as they grow up.
Marini is as charming as ever in the episode, whispering French to baby Carlton in one fantasy sequence, and subtly guiding Daphne to understand the importance of second chances once it's discovered that Ally isn't exactly who she says she is. Honestly, it made us miss him as a regular part of the cast and makes us wonder if Bay and Daphne would be on the same paths if he hadn't died in a car accident.
Angelo isn't magically back from the dead, but by reviving the girls' connection to him, Switched at Birth helped show the progress that both Bay and Daphne have made since the start of the show and since Angelo died. Daphne went from a borderline juvenile delinquent to a doctor in training. Bay has learned to bounce back from traumatic setbacks and found a true calling for her art.
Most importantly though, Switched at Birth's 100th episode was a showcase of what the drama does best — think outside the box. Already this season the show completely changed perspective to make an important point about the lives of African Americans on college campuses. The 100th episode took a surreal element that could have easily turned too cheesy if not handled correctly and molded it into an emotionally impactful hour that pushes its main girls forward on their journeys.
It's easy to categorize Switched at Birth as a teen melodrama for those who haven't seen it, or as just "the deaf show" for those that are only familiar with its strong bond to the deaf community. However, after five seasons the show is so much more than both of those things. This isn't the first time that Switched at Birth has pushed the boundaries and been a bold voice in Freeform's "becomer" movement, which aims to reach out to young adults trying to find their own paths as they enter college, the workforce and marriage. Check out the silent episode that's done completely in American Sign Language, or their exploration of campus rape from Season 4. They've taken big topics and grounded them in ways that allow multiple perspectives to be heard and given a voice to many who have felt silenced for too long.
This isn't Switched at Birth's first "special" episode, but it may be the last. From here the series will begin tying up its loose ends in its final three episodes to wrap up what might be the show's strongest season to date. Luckily, creator Lizzy Weiss and her writers were given enough warning to give the series the end it deserves, because for so many it's been a welcome escape, a beacon of hope and an example of how powerful television can be when its voice is used for a positive purpose. Like Bay and Daphne will do with Angelo's memory, Switched at Birth fans can remember the impact of the show and use it to help push them forward in their own journeys.
Switched at Birth airs Tuesdays at 9/8c on Freeform.