[Warning: The following contains spoilers from Tuesday's season premiere of Switched at Birth. Read at your own risk!]
The fifth and final season of Switched at Birth kicked off with an emotional start when Bay (Vanessa Marano) and Daphne (Katie Leclerc) were called back from their year away in China to be at Emmett's (Sean Berdy) side.
Bay's ex-boyfriend and Daphne's childhood best friend attempted to overdose on anti-depressants while the girls were away and they both decided to make the return back to Kansas City to support him during a turbulent time. The news came not only as a shock to Bay and Daphne, but to fans as well because the last we saw of Emmett in Season 4, he was living his dream life at the University of Southern California and making movies in sunny Los Angeles.
It turns out that Emmett has secretly been battling demons that no one else knew about. His road to recovery will be a major part of the final season — but so will be his love triangle with Bay and Travis (Ryan Lane). At the end of the episode, Emmett confessed that the recent events made him realize he made a mistake letting Bay go, and he's ready to work to win her back. That puts Bay in a tough position since she chose to be with Travis while she was in China and the two made plans to move in together.
We talked to Switched creator Lizzy Weiss about why Emmett needed to be on the other end of "The Call" and what's in store for everyone in the final season.
Why was Emmett the right person to bring the girls back from China?
Lizzy Weiss: Emmett is incredibly important to both girls. He was Daphne's best friend throughout their childhood. Even though they've grown apart and their lives have been pretty different for a few years, they have that really strong bond and tie that you have with your best friend, that no matter what you feel that pull when they're in trouble. Of course, it could have been a parent, but it's what felt right to get the girls.
It also causes problems as you see with Travis. Travis has mixed feelings about running home early for Bay's ex boyfriend and is starting to wonder is there more there? Is there more than friendship making her run home to help him? We just thought it was really important to shine a light on depression. That is the age when Emmett is first experiencing all these feelings and he's confused, he doesn't know what doesn't know what's going on. That is the age for a lot of kids where it manifests itself around 19, 20 or 21. It's always great to have our characters go through things that a lot of people in the writer's room say, "I went through this," or "My best friend went through this in college." What an interesting experience to not know what's happening to your body? These kids are not done changing just because they're out of high school. Their bodies are going through more stuff.
I love the scene where [Bay and Daphne] comes to his rescue. Emmett has come to Bay's rescue and it's just nice to see them as friends say, "We're here for you. No matter what, we will be there for you." That is a lot of the heart of the show, the bonds that these young people have with each other. In a time of need you can call on your best friends and they will literally come across the world to be there for you, to hold your hand and say, "You're going to be okay."
What does that mean for Emmett's journey through the rest of the season? He seems to be in denial about the depression in this first episode.
Weiss: He's definitely in a tough spot. We've seen him at the top of the world at USC, thriving, new girlfriend, making movies, feeling like he owns LA. This is a bit of a stumble for him. He's going to have to figure out does he want to fight for Bay. Does he want to step back and let his surrogate brother have the chance to see if it's going to work out? He has some decisions to make. He's going to be in our world and we'll revisit with him as he goes through that journey.
He makes a pretty bold confession to Bay at the end of the episode. Is that really how he feels right now or is he just grasping for something familiar at this point?
Weiss: That's a great question, and one that I won't give my opinion on because I think you just laid out the two ways of thinking of it. That's something that I think fans can disagree on. You can either think of it as they are absolutely meant to be and he realizes he made a mistake by breaking up with her on the sand in Malibu and he's going to try and undo the damage he did — or you could see it as he's desperate and clinging, which we would all understand. I think it's sort of up to the viewer to decide what they think.
How is the confession going to complicate Bay's relationship with Travis?
Weiss: Travis definitely is a little insecure about the ghost of Emmett and wondering if this epic Bay/Emmett romance is always going to be carried in her heart and if she's privately comparing him to [it]. That's going to rear its head a little bit. It's going to cause some problems between them.
Again, we had a lot of people in the writer's room who went through very similar things. They ended up dating their best friend's boyfriend and you see how relationships either survive or don't survive. People tend to date the people right around them. Sometimes you feel like, "There's a whole world out there. How could you end up with your best friend's ex-boyfriend or your brother's girlfriend, or whatever," but you date who you see. It seems to be a pretty common experience and all of the complexity and insecurity that goes with that — we had to be realistic about all the feelings that would bring out in Travis.
The very end of the episode is Daphne taking a controversial photo that will spark the campus racism storyline this season. What can you say about how it unfolds from here and how complicated it will get for Daphne?
Weiss: Daphne sort of, unwittingly, obliviously, a little bit gets thrown into the center of this race controversy because she's with Mingo and Mingo is dressed as African-American rapper Lil Wayne in a way that Iris feels is disrespectful to black culture. We shift and we really focus on the Daphne/Iris friendship. It's, again, something that we all remembered in college and what happens when you have these incredibly strong intimate friendships in college — they're your family, you share everything in your dorm, and then something happens where you and your best friend absolutely cannot agree. it cracks the friendship. That's a really important relationship moving forward that I think is going to be hard to watch.
Switched at Birth continues Tuesdays at 9/8c on Freeform.