To borrow a word from the great executive producer/director/actor Rogelio De La Vega, “Chapter Twenty-Eight” of Jane The Virgin is the show’s great “fasterpiece.” Covering five months over the course of 42 minutes, it features more plot developments than any preceding chapter (for perspective: the entire first season spanned nine months), but it never feels overstuffed like some of the series’ other jam-packed episodes. That’s because the time-jumping structure—a month passes after each commercial break—isn’t just a convenient way to push the narrative forward, but tied directly to Jane’s experience as a parent and her larger character arc.
As our always-insightful Latin Lover Narrator says at the start of the episode, days feel like years and years feel like days when you’re a parent. Time begins to warp around the milestones for you and your family, and “Chapter Twenty-Eight” devotes attention to the major moments while leaving all the less significant activity off-screen. For Jane, these milestones involve four men: her son Mateo, her ex-boyfriend/Mateo’s father Rafael, her ex-fiancé Michael, and her grad school professor Jonathan Chavez (Adam Rodriguez in a very different role from his bad boy beefcake role on Empire). Starting school takes its toll on Jane, who is struggling to turn in satisfactory writing while dealing with nursing difficulties, estate planning, Mateo’s plagiocephaly (flat head syndrome), and a heavy load of romantic baggage, and over the course of these five months we see Jane gradually acclimate to the immense stress of parenting while still pursuing her passion.
Presented as framed moments for Jane’s comprehensive Baby Book, Jane’s milestones include her first day without Michael in her life, her first time getting kicked out of class and first grade under a B (a C-), her first missed doctor’s appointment for Mateo and first month of successful co-parenting with Rafael. There are also some notable lasts, like her last day pumping breast milk and throwing away her last memento of Michael (the giraffe he carved her on that camping trip years ago). Then then there are the milestones for the people around Jane: Petra finds out she’s pregnant with twins and gets Magda out of prison with Jane’s help, Rogelio ends The Passions Of Santos and tries to get a telenovela adaptation of Mad Men (Hombres Locos) off the ground, and Rafael attempts to move on from Jane by starting (and ending) a relationship with one of the mothers in their parenting class.
This episode moves away from the Jane/Michael/Rafael love triangle and commits to the building pressure in other areas of Jane’s life, bringing considerable depth to her motherhood experience. It continues to explore Jane’s tumultuous relationship with breastfeeding, and although she originally planned on nursing for an entire year, she realizes, with Rafael’s help, that taking pumping out of her schedule would be a huge relief. Her bond with Rafael develops through their connection to Mateo, and the challenges they face range from Mateo’s medical treatment for his condition (requiring the use of an adorable helmet for three months) to his multi-million dollar trust fund, which gives Jane reason to worry that her son will be spoiled and not appreciate the value of hard work.
A woman forced to choose between two men is a plot we’ve seen over and over in romance narratives, but, as Professor Chavez tells Jane, genre conceits aren’t a license to be derivative. By taking Michael out of the picture for nearly the entire episode—he’s off chasing down Sin Rostro with Nadine after getting fired—the writers are able to take Jane’s story in a different direction, building a new romantic narrative for Jane and Rafael that is rooted in their new roles as parents. It’s a fresh start for the couple, but it doesn’t come quickly, and that’s where the structure of the episode becomes a valuable tool.
Jane needs time to fully get over Michael before she jumps into a relationship with Rafael, and she gets nearly half a year’s worth in this chapter. Each new milestone that happens without Michael increases the distance between the two former lovers, and Jane is naturally pulled toward Rafael when he switches into super-dad mode during that time. There are still plenty of complications, and it’s especially great to see the show return to Jane and Rafael’s class differences through Mateo’s trust fund drama. It allows writers Corinne Brinkerhoff and Micah Schraf to explore the intersection of Jane and Rafael’s worlds in regards to how it relates to raising Mateo, and Rafael’s wealth introduces issues for Jane that she wouldn’t have to worry about if Mateo’s father wasn’t rich.
Gina Rodriguez has the huge responsibility of making the effects of the time jumps read clearly in her character, and the impact of each passing month is fully realized in her performance. One of the episode’s funniest moments shows Jane trying to follow along with the lyrics and hand gestures for a song in her parenting clas— which she’s missed 4 times over the last month—and Rodriguez’s confused facial expressions and body language keep the humor flowing through the entire song. (There are so many potential gifs in that scene.) Keeping the camera on Rodriguez for the entire song is an excellent decision by director Melanie Mayron, and she gets a performance out of Rodriguez in this episode that captures the whirlwind of emotion in Jane’s life by pushing her skills as both a comedic and dramatic performer. The most intense shift in Jane’s personality comes when she has a fever and Rafael discovers that she turns into a raging bitch when she’s sick; Rodriguez relishes this opportunity to show Jane’s not-so-nice side, and when she tells Rafael to shut up and go away, she imbues the words with an intimidating iciness.
Over the course of “Chapter Twenty-Eight,” Jane learns that parenting issues require negotiating and compromising and changing established plans, and she passes what she’s learned on to Petra, who is in desperate need of a strong maternal influence. Five months in one episode means a lot of material isn’t going to get covered, but the writers are very wise about what to include to keep the story moving quickly without sacrificing substance. Could the writers have shown Alba and Xo reacting to Petra’s plea to help release Magda from prison? Sure, but that would have needlessly complicated the plotline and pulled focus away from Jane and Petra’s relationship, which gains a lot of warmth and dimension this week. Yael Grobglas projects the admiration that Petra feels when she sees how well Jane is handling motherhood, and Jane responds to this positive change in Petra’s personality by offering a helping hand.
“Chapter Twenty-Eight” does impressive work strengthening the bonds of this unconventional family unit, leading to a heartwarming scene where the Villanueva women, Rogelio, Rafael, and Mateo gather for Thanksgiving dinner at the end of the episode. Having these characters around the table highlights the wonderful chemistry this cast has developed, and the scene becomes even more moving when Jane invites Petra to officially join the family. This episode is a “fasterpiece” because it speeds to this immensely gratifying emotional climax, delivering strong character moments with each sweeping plot development along the way.
- Next week’s episode looks like one big Target ad and I am not excited.
- Mischievous new character introduced this week: Wesley Masters, Jane’s first grad school friend who uses “the curse of the Solanos” as the inspiration for a book. I love how the episode approaches the rapid progression of their relationship.
- Our favorite former hostage Ivan is back this week! And Magda kills him with her hook hand!
- What if this show gradually turns Magda into the stereotypical pirate? She gets the hook and the eyepatch this week, maybe she’ll get a fake leg and a pet parrot and move into a boat in later episodes. That would be ridiculous, but I can see it happening.
- Professor Chavez’s book is called Tennis Shorts. I would like to see Professor Chavez in tennis shorts.
- Which is the cutest: Helmet Mateo, Oliver Twist Mateo, Baller Mateo, or Charitable Mateo?
- Twitter should have had a custom blue balls emoji for the #JaneTheVirgin hashtag today.
- “#mylastdayassantos #theworldweeps”
- “I think the Russian red haired lady in the kitchen is trying to poison me.” What if Orange Is The New Black and Jane The Virgin shared a universe? Maybe Maritza and Lena are twins separated at birth.
- “Grip number two, how could you?”
- “Health and hair. Always, health and hair.”
- “I’m pretty sure she’s on the hook for that one.”