“Switched at Birth” aired the series standout episode “The Image Disappears” on July 14. Angelo (Gilles Marini) dies following a car accident and Regina (Constance Marie), Daphne (Katie Leclerc) and Bay (Vanessa Marano) must say goodbye.
The show that already sets itself apart as one of the best family dramas on television has turned everything on its head with Angelo’s sudden and very tragic death. There will likely be all kinds of emotional fallout in the coming episodes as Regina and her two daughters reel from this devastating loss and fans continue to stream emotional messages on SAB’s Facebook page following what is easily the show’s saddest episode.
It’s simply impossible not to shed tears throughout the emotional installment in which Gilles Marini gives his strongest performance to date. It has been beautiful watching Daphne and Angelo’s relationship evolve and anyone who has grown up missing one parent post-divorce or a break up can relate with Daphne’s internal struggle and her longing to be accepted by the father she never knew.
Last week, it seemed they turned a corner with an emotional breakthrough for Angelo when he tearfully admits what a failure he’s been. Daphne’s encouragement and reassurance is so sweet, offering up the statement, “At least it brought us together.”
The entire “Switched at Birth” cast gives simply superb performances, offering up many raw and real moments that families face every day when dealing with a sudden accident or death. Emotions run high, tempers flare, blame is placed and desperation is felt on so many levels.
For anyone, particularly, that has experienced having a loved one suffer a sudden traumatic brain injury, watching Regina, Bay and Daphne’s vigil by Angelo’s bedside is especially intense and heartbreaking. Monitors become objects of obsession and the numbers displayed represent messages of hope or immense despair. When Angelo suffers a second brain hemorrhage and is declared brain dead, there is no way to get through the rest of the episode without using multiple, mass quantities of Kleenex.
Moving forward, Gilles Marini and Angelo will be greatly missed on “Switched at Birth” and life will never be the same for Regina, Bay and Daphne who must find a way to go on without him.
What Could Have Been
There are so many stunning scenes in this series stand out episode. But, the flashbacks and the flash forwards with Angelo are simply extraordinary. First, Regina remembers their breakup over the switch; obviously wishing things hadn’t turned out that way. She and Angelo are both 15 years younger and they clearly had huge trust issues even way back then.
Then Bay imagines herself giving birth to twins and it’s Angelo who takes her hand and helps her breathe through the contractions. Gilles Marini fans are treated to an aged Angelo, who is still undeniably handsome though a little more “distinguished.”
Gilles excels at delivering emotional speeches with sincerity – whether it’s love, encouragement, or anger. This one is significant because Gilles speaks beautifully and fluently in his native language, French, as Angelo describes how he felt when Bay was born. He knew she would be his most important achievement. Relaying his love and adoration in French gives Angelo’s words and the moment so much more depth and meaning. His heart is overflowing and the joy on both of their faces is priceless.
The sad irony of this episode is that Gilles lost his own father when he was just 19 – right near Bay and Daphne’s age and his emotions are so real and near the surface in every scene. He has also been very candid about his father's death and how it continues to inspire his dedication to being a loving husband and father to his own wife and kids and to giving love and compassion to those around him.
Vanessa Marano shines in this sequence and throughout the episode as Bay struggles with guilt, shock, grief and anger. Though no one wants to let Angelo go, she resists the hardest. Watching her attempt to speak French to her biological grandmother marks another intensely sad moment, as Angelo’s death is unfortunately the first time they’ve exchanged words.
For Daphne, losing Angelo is devastating on another level because she grew up without a dad and just when they’re forming a bridge and her childhood wounds are starting to heal, Angelo is ripped senselessly from her life. She imagines herself in her wedding gown on her wedding day and Angelo comes in to calm her pre-wedding jitters. She asks him how to be sure she’s doing the right thing and he explains (using sign language) you can’t see, touch or measure love. He tells her to trust what she feels for him and how he makes her feel. Again, the weight of this father/daughter moment is palpable and Gilles Marini and Katie Leclerc treat it with such beautiful reverence.
These poignant sequences represent what could have been if Angelo would have survived. Sadly, they will never happen and this fact carries a profound emptiness in the emotional backdrop of the scenes.
Lea Thompson and D.W. Moffett do an incredible job as Kathryn and John try to offer their support to Regina and the girls. However, John is carrying a tremendous amount of guilt for turning Angelo down for a loan and even delighting in his financial demise. Kathryn reminds him he’s human but when sudden death happens after some sort of contention, it’s often hard for the survivor to process feelings of guilt and remorse.
John also bears the burden of being the remaining father figure in Bay and Daphne’s lives and he’s going to have to find a way to help them cope with their loss. Bay also feels guilty for not giving Angelo more time and Regina, perhaps, may carry the biggest guilt of all in knowing anger can trigger an aneurysm and they had a terrible fight before Angelo got in the car. Constance Marie delivers some of her best work to date and the emotional uphill battle Regina faces seems unimaginable.
The Ultimate Gift
Writers Linda Gase and Terry Coli deserve recognition for penning this brilliantly written episode with such obvious care. Death is something everyone must face and when it happens suddenly due to an accident, family members are left to deal with both shock and immense grief. In Angelo’s case, he had an advance directive. He didn’t want to be kept alive on life support.
Honoring a loved one’s wishes in this case is arguably the hardest thing someone will ever do. Letting go is not easy, especially when someone appears to be breathing with a beating heart. Angelo is declared brain dead, a condition from which he will never recover and a condition too many families have to face. When Bay finally shares Angelo’s wishes with Regina and Daphne they collectively, tearfully agree they must honor his wishes and take him off of the ventilator.
The only good thing in this terrible tragedy is that in donating Angelo’s organs for transplantation, multiple lives will be saved. In this sense, Angelo gave the ultimate final gift and this is one comfort his surviving family members can have.
Overall, Angelo Sorrento was a complex, flawed husband and father and Gilles Marini brought the many facets of his character brilliantly to life. It’s obvious in recent episodes Angelo wanted to be a better man for Regina and his daughters. Moving forward, Angelo’s death will have a huge impact on everyone’s lives. Everyone copes differently with loss and Bay and Daphne are still so young to deal with losing a parent.
The resounding message in this series standout episode is clear: Time is fleeting. Cherish loved ones while they are here. Say the important things while they can be said. Life is a gift with no guarantees how long it will last. Life can be turned upside down and life can end in an instant. Take nothing for granted and above all else, love without condition or restraint while the people and the opportunity are there.