Well, "Uprising" was definitely different.
I completely understood what they were going for with the all ASL episode, but my biggest complaint was they didn't think we could take the installment without music. The deaf kids can feel music, but they can't hear it. My preference would have been to go full-on silent. I considered turning off the sound, but my trust issues forced me to keep it on. I regret that decision now.
Let me tell you, this was a very difficult episode to review. I normally rely a great deal on the non-verbal communication - facial expressions, arm gestures, people's actions in the background of a scene - to fully grasp the intent of the writer's meaning. Spending so much time reading the intense dialog left me feeling a bit out of sorts. But that was kind of the point of the hour, wasn't it?
The kids were faced with the fact that they would soon be "mainstreamed" back into public schools with all the other kids and treated like freaks. Are we really still like that as a society? Do we truly treat people with differences like freaks? The easy answer is yes, because there are a lot of jerks in the world, but as a whole I don't think we do.
Something that caught my attention when they were discussing their past experiences with mainstreaming was when Natalie recollected waiting for "another reject in a wheelchair to be bussed in so there would be someone to sit beside you."
The thing is, no kid holds a prize for being above considering another a freak or a weirdo for any reason. Walking around with the assumption that you'll be treated like one almost guarantees you'll receive what you're after. I have faith that by virtue of the fact Switched at Birth is on the air, we've come a long way from that kind of behavior.
On to the cool stuff about the episode.. Did you know the Gallaudet University uprising really occurred? When another in a line of hearing school presidents was hired, the university protested until its needs were addressed. Using that historical reference here was really enlightening and I'd encourage you to read up on the event.
While Daphne has struggled this season with her deafness and wondered whether she would accept the chance to hear if given the choice, it was her planning that set the uprising into motion. It was also her strength that pulled the group together when they lost focus once they had barricaded themselves to Take Back Carlton.
The immediacy of social media sent the students' message around the country in a matter of minutes. They had Tweets and emails of support, and an old fashioned pin board to keep track of their allies. Their supporters were hopping into their cars and heading to Carlton to stand beside their comrades and join in the important fight. It was really exciting seeing the kids find their stride and make headway in saving the school that was so important to them.
Like any group of teenagers that gets together, the focus can sometimes become clouded with the excitement of the moment, and in no time at all there were photos being Tweeted out of the protestors chugging back some beers and replies like "I support Carlton's right to party!"
Daphne threw down the gauntlet. Their very lives were at stake. What they started was a serious commitment to prove their education as deaf students was worth defending, and to sully it with booze and condoms would never garner the support of the School Board they so desperately sought to keep Carlton open.
The best part was the discussion between the students at the end, when they tried to decide among themselves whether Carlton should remain integrated or 100% deaf. Hearing from Travis and Bay didn't feel nearly as moving as listening to Noah, wondering just how deaf you had to be to be accepted into the deaf world. That's the problem with putting up barriers of any kind, there will always be a level that someone can't attain to fit the standard you've set.
If Carlton remains 100% deaf, should Daphne be allowed to wear a hearing aid? Wouldn't that give her an advantage over another student who may not be able to afford one, or for whom an aid might not work? Doesn't that challenge the 100% deaf standard?
If Melody is right and being deaf is a gift, then it's something they are obligated to share with the outside world. They should show those who are not able to see for themselves how being deaf can enrich life in other ways by accepting them and introducing them into their culture. To do otherwise will only keep the barriers up and prohibit growth.
Daphne was right when she told Bay it was bigger than family. It's also bigger than the deaf community. It's about time they start exploring that at Carlton.
This was a great installment of Switched at Birth Season 2 and well worth the effort put into it by the actors and crew.
Carissa Pavlica is the managing editor and a staff writer and critic for TV Fanatic. She's a member of the Critic's Choice Association, enjoys mentoring writers, conversing with cats, and passionately discussing the nuances of television and film with anyone who will listen. Follow her on Twitter and email her here at TV Fanatic.