Rafael has been a constant source of tension in Jane and Petra’s relationship, and while season 2 has done a lot of work to smooth out their dynamic and push them toward friendship, the conflict between the two women has returned in the last few episodes. Why? Rafael, of course. Petra still has romantic feelings for her ex-husband and the father of her twin daughters, and she’s jealous of how he treats Jane with the trust, respect, and adoration that Petra so desperately wants. She lied about Anezka last week because she didn’t want Jane to be right again, and Petra’s petty behavior is rooted in the inferiority she feels when she compares herself to Jane, which diminishes her in the eyes of Rafael.
The Derek drama comes to a head in “Chapter Forty-Three,” and while the actual scenes with Derek continue to be some of the least interesting in the episode, his storyline is effectively used to create more tension between Jane and Petra. They both want to help Rafael with his situation, but in very different ways: Jane insists that he do the logical thing and turn himself in, offer to work with the police, and get a good lawyer that can help him out with the whole insider trading thing. It’s pragmatic and realistic and a little too optimistic, but that’s Jane’s perspective. Petra tends to think bigger because her world is governed by sweeping telenovela ideas, so she suggests that they fake an FBI raid of The Marbella as a way of tricking Derek to confess his plot on tape, a far more risky plan that would reap big rewards if it works.
Petra and Jane are in direct competition this week, and while it’s been nice seeing them getting along this season, the chemistry between Yael Grobglas and Gina Rodriguez is at its strongest when their characters are rivals. The passion behind that rivalry is what makes the softer moments between Jane and Petra so emotionally satisfying, and the writers are wise to return to this element of their relationship to keep that contrast from fading. They have many great moments together this week, but the best comes when Petra interrupts Jane’s alone time with Rafael at a performance for The Dino-Mites, a dinosaur-themed group of entertainers for children. Having Jane and Petra’s conversation unfold in this environment is an excellent example of how this show consistently finds playful ways to approach the drama, and it subtly reinforces the maternal bond between these two women by having them in a sea of parents with their children.
In a rare victory for Petra, Rafael agrees to go along with her plan, but it ends in disaster when Derek realizes that he’s being set up, sending Petra back to step one. Everything she tries in order to regain Rafael’s love fails, but even if these plans were successful, she still has much more work to do to break Jane’s unintentional spell on Rafael. He can’t hide his affection for Jane, and Justin Baldoni is giving “please love me” puppy dog eyes for the entirety of Rafael’s time in the hospital with Jane. Mateo’s health scare is a great way of bringing the story back down to reality, and it restores a significant amount of the intimacy to Jane and Rafael’s relationship, although now that intimacy comes from their bond as mother and father rather than romantic partners.
Jane and Rafael are in the hospital when the clock strikes midnight on Mateo’s first birthday, leaving them alone together for this major moment they share as his parents. They made it through a year that started with Mateo getting kidnapped, so this is a pretty big deal, which the episode reinforces with a montage of moments from Mateo’s first year. It’s a touching sequence that highlights how well this show has addressed parenthood in this second season, and the writers understand that these are the moments that matter most for Jane, so they make them the most important part of the series.
The crime lords and evil twins are in the narrative because of the entertainment value of telenovela-style fantasy, but this show would fall apart if it relied on those elements without the emotional backbone of the honest personal moments and family dynamics. There are big story reveals in this episode—Derek chained up Mutter in The Fairwick and flew off with the money! Magda and Anezka are working together!—but none of them have the emotional impact of the simple scene showing Mateo’s family singing him “Feliz Cumpleaños” in the hospital.
Jessica O’Toole, Amy Rardin, and Paul Sciarotta have written a lot of Jane The Virgin episodes, and like last week’s chapter (co-written by Sciarotta), this week’s story moves at brisk, smooth pace and expertly juggles humor and drama while providing meaningful character development. All of these strengths are on display in a brilliant Rogelio subplot that has the actor/executive producer dealing with the consequences of his self-absorbed actions when the Tiago A Través Del Tiempo crew goes on strike. The crewmembers are overworked, underpaid, and not allowed to unionize, so they’re going to start striking on the day before Jane’s wedding if their demands aren’t met.
A lot of behind-the-scenes work goes into making a TV show, so when Rogelio demands that the lighting be changed to show his best side or has the crew build a replica of his daughter’s home for her wedding, he’s just adding more labor to an already demanding process. When a Ro-Cho (Rogelio Charm Offensive) gift basket fails to change anything, Rogelio cuts a deal with the crew’s leader, Jerry: If Rogelio can last a full week working on the crew, the strike will be delayed until after Jane’s wedding, but if Rogelio’s can’t last, he becomes the public face of the strike. Rogelio’s determination to make his daughter’s dream come true motivates him to work as hard as he can as a crew member, and he even manages to overcome his fear of heights when Jane appears on set and forces him to get over it so she can have the wedding she’s planned.
While working with the crew, Rogelio comes to respect the hard work of his colleagues, and it’s a pleasure to see Rogelio grow over the course of the episode. It’s a big event when Rogelio decides to stand with the crew on the picket line instead of letting his producers fire them, and the change in Rogelio’s mindset come through clearly in Jaime Camil’s performance. Rogelio genuinely cares about these people that he used to treat like slaves, and he takes action that could negatively affect him so that he can help his new friends.
Any time Rogelio puts another person before himself is monumental, and the script brings out an admirable new side of the character by putting him in the crew’s position. Rogelio joining the picket line on the day before Jane’s wedding introduces problems for the wedding, but Jane realizes that this sitiation is bigger than her and applauds her father for joining it. Jane can’t be selfish when Rogelio is finally being selfless, and she’s willing to accept some extra stress if it means her father fights for a righteous cause.
- The wonderful Ms. Debbie Allen has a quick guest appearance tonight, and I hope it’s just a tease of more Debbie down the line. I would love to see her in a recurring role as Alba’s bestie, which would be so fun. Now I’m thinking of Alba and Beverly taking a seniors dance class, which is something that needs to happen.
- Gina Rodriguez really captures Jane’s fear and sadness when she has to take Mateo to the hospital. The moment where she has to listen to Mateo cry while his blood is being drawn is especially strong in this regard, and her face says everything you need to know about Jane’s feelings in that moment.
- Jane goes through some book pitching drama this week, and like everything else, the script handles it very well. I love the message that you should sharpen your craft before pursuing (and potentially wasting) a big opportunity, but Jane’s going to want to sharpen her writing fast before Beverly loses interest.
- There are so many Target bags in this episode.
- Rogelio’s gift basket for the crew: Multicolored gaffing tape rolls, beef jerky, lavender cargo shorts, glamour shots gift certificate for Jerry’s wife. Rogelio ends up wearing the cargo shorts when he joins the crew. (They’re like a purse, but pants!)
- “My Full House fan fiction was voted 10 top in the ’90s sitcom category. And now everything I wrote has come true.”
- “I’ll point out now that this isn’t a competition.”
- “Huh. Guess they don’t applaud at production meetings.”
- “Strike strike strike! The wedding is ruined! Ruined ruined ruined!”
- Xo: “Where you going?” Jane: “To make sure Petra doesn’t corrupt Rafael’s soul.”
- “I work with a trainer three times a week, but I never knew true physical exertion until today.” #werk
- “All’s fair in the battle for sexiest telenovela star.”
- Anezka: “So much hair and not a single knot.” Petra: “Yes, well…shampoo.”
- “At this point I’ll remind you that Rogelio has a debilitating fear of heights. And leprechauns, but that’s less pertinent.”