There are a lot of moving parts that work together in unison to make Jane The Virgin a consistently entertaining TV series, and they’ve all been finely tuned in “Chapter Forty-Two.” Micah Schraft and Paul Sciarotta’s script gracefully weaves together the show’s three layers of reality into one cohesive narrative that embraces telenovela conventions while simultaneously commenting on them. Zetna Fuentes’ direction navigates the different levels of the story with ease and pulls passionate performances from the cast members, who do exceptional work finding the emotional truth of their scenes, no matter how heightened the situations may get.
These are all people that have a deep understanding of the mechanics of this show, and it makes for an especially smooth episode. The story is built around Mother’s Day, and the most grounded level of the episode involves Jane being invited to Petra’s Mother’s Day Brunch, an event that becomes especially fraught when Jane figures out that Petra’s twin sister placed an ad that could lose Jane her job. Anezka’s ad is one of those sweeping telenovela twists that the writers use to send shockwaves through Jane’s personal life, and it has a huge impact on both her standing at the university and her relationship with Petra.
Gina Rodriguez realizes the high stakes of Anezka’s meddling for Jane, and we see a ferocious side of her character this week when she faces off against the twin sisters. Jane’s not pulling any punches, but when she goes too hard and Anezka has a seizure, she immediately switches back into the concerned, compassionate Jane we know and love. The anger returns when Jane discovers that Petra lied about Anezka’s involvement with the ad, and Rodriguez handles all of these emotional shifts without missing a beat.
As silly as Anezka’s character is, Yael Grobglas is doing strong work making her a captivating addition to the cast by positioning her as an extreme contrast to her twin sister. It’s fun to see how far Grobglas can move from Petra’s confidence and poise with the timid Anezka, and she’s managed to create a believable emotional bond between the two sisters. After Rogelio plays an emotional Mother’s Day video for Jane featuring testimonials from her loved ones praising her heart and brain and lists, Anezka steps up to deliver some words of praise for her sister, who is clearly feeling left out from the lovefest. Of course, because this is Jane The Virgin and Anezka is a twin, there’s more to her than meets the eye. By the end of the chapter we learn that Anezka is starting to impersonate Petra, and one of the coolest moments of the episode is when Grobglas transitions from Petra to Anezka in the same shot.
The weakest element of the series continues to be Rafael’s drama with his half-brother Derek, which is the plot that occupies the second most heightened level of the episode. Unfortunately, it doesn’t get any more interesting once Derek reveals his true colors and blackmails Rafael to gain control of The Fairwick, or when Mutter appears in the final moments of the episode. What is interesting about this plot is how it affects Rafael’s relationships with Jane and Petra in this episode, and the addition of Petra to the crime drama has me intrigued about it for the first time in a long while. Petra finds out about Rafael’s situation by overhearing Jane and Michael, and she makes a good point when she confronts Rafael and tells him his big mistake was telling Jane when this is the exact kind of problem Petra is fit to deal with. “When it comes to financial crimes and blackmail, come to me!” Petra says, and I’m eager to see if her involvement will make this thread finally come together.
The most heightened plot this week involves the crossover of Tiago A Través Del Tiempo with Fernando E Isabel, the series starring Rogelio’s rival, Esteban Santiago. Jaime Camil does some of his best work when he’s paired with Keller Wortham’s Esteban, and the rivalry between these two men is taken to hilarious new heights as they fight on and off the set. That rivalry is going to get even more intense when Rogelio finds out that Xo and Esteban slept together, and it’s the exact kind of thing that would interfere with Rogelio’s current affection for Dina. He goes to great lengths in this episode to get closer to Dina, employing Jane to give him a crash course in how to be intellectual before guilting her into coming to Dina’s birthday party, but I could see all that progress being undone by a surge of jealousy when Rogelio finds out his nemesis slept with his ex.
Michael is sucked into Rogelio and Esteban’s rivalry thanks to his new role as Rogelio’s bodyguard (and later the technical advisor on Tiago), and I hope the series keeps Michael in Rogelio’s world for a while because Brett Dier fits in very well in that environment. The costuming, set design, and staging of the telenovela scenes emphasize artificiality, which heightens the humor of Michael trying to bring the reality of 15th century to a project that is clearly not aiming for historical accuracy. Rogelio reminds him that they’re working on a telenovela and things don’t have to be completely believable, which cues the Narrator to provide a rundown of some of Jane The Virgin’s morst unbelievable moments, from Emilio Solano getting killed in a wave of cement to Petra’s twin sister showing up at her door.
Later, Rogelio tells Michael that telenovelas are about general ideas rather than details, and this is where Jane The Virgin starts to diverge from the telenovela norm. This show has found strength in specificity, delving deeper into general ideas to tell honest personal stories about raising a family and the different things that entails at different points in a family’s development. The telenovela elements are there to enrich these more intimate, grounded stories without overshadowing them, and that’s exactly what the creative team of this episode accomplishes.
- More TV shows should have drinking games built directly into the story. Thanks Narrator for providing this valuable service.
- Who wins in the battle of bad wigs: flashback Alba or Anezka?
- Rogelio and Esteban’s absurdly large codpieces make it impossible to take anything they do while wearing them seriously.
- In addition to binge-watching telenovelas, it looks like the Villanueva women binged on Jessica Jones, a show that this episode’s co-writer Micah Schraft also works on.
- Rogelio’s Special Skills: Cockney Accent, Advanced Side Saddle, Blistering Stares, Tantric Sex Expert.
- Other fun facts about Rogelio: He thinks Ta-Nehisi Coates is a jacket and spent most of 1998 with Moby.
- I love how this show sexualizes Rogelio and Esteban in their post-coital scenes while keeping Dina and Xo fully clothed. Inverted Hollywood gender norms!
- Esteban: “Rogelio, lets not turn this into a pissing contest.” Rogelio: “I understand why you’d be intimidated. I have a very propulsive stream!” Camil’s line delivery is exquisite here. Hitting the p and s sounds in “propulsive stream” is very effective.
- “He’s so ridiculous. Can you carry me?”
- “As my grandmother used to say, ‘Ay, not this guy.’”
- “It’s always the twin!”
- “It felt like spank hour at the orphanage.”
- “It is not appropriate for the leader of a country to discuss the size of his sword!” #RegisterToVote. Excellent hashtag use!
- Jane: “It’s the fairytale right? Your divorced parents meet, fall back in love.” Rogelio: “Of course, that’s what makes The Parent Trap such an evocative film.” I bet Rogelio is rooting for Lindsay Lohan to make a comeback one day.
- “Weird sense of humor, Mateo.” Mateo also has great comic timing with his toy that makes animal sounds.