Jane The Virgin is a series that moves very fast, but that doesn’t mean that its title character wants her life moving at such a rapid pace. Jane Gloriana Villanueva has reiterated many times that she has a very strict plan for her life, and even though that plan has been interrupted by her accidental artificial insemination, she’d still like to stay on the path she’s set for herself. “Chapter Fifteen” dramatically accelerates Jane’s timetable when Rafael proposes to her at a book talk by one of her favorite romance writers, but is she ready to speed things up even more when everything is already happening so fast?
That’s just one of the many questions asked this week, which begins with a flashback spotlighting how much Jane loved asking questions as a kid. That impulse has stayed with her in adulthood, and is the propelling force of this episode. It starts with a question dangling from last chapter: Is Jane and Rafael’s baby healthy? The on-screen text is immensely valuable in this episode, capturing the gravity of the different questions by keeping them in the picture whenever they are on Jane’s mind. For the baby question, the text is accompanied by the anxious sound of plucking strings, which transitions into a heartbeat as the word baby begins to thump in time with the audio. That’s some very smart editing, and it’s extremely effective in showing the weight of this stress on both Jane and Rafael because they’re both in frame with the question.
The next question: “Will you marry me?” When Rafael proposes, Jane doesn’t know what to do, and responds with another question: “Can we talk in private?” That leads to another series of questions courtesy of Abuela Alba’s hilariously antiquated magazine test that she took when her husband proposed. This show’s writers are very good about committing to a specific through-line for each script and carrying that through the entire episode, and the question theme is one of the best because questions move things forward, even when they don’t have concrete answers. Is Jane’s baby healthy? Yes. Now she doesn’t need to worry about that and can go on to worry about something else. Will she marry Rafael? Maybe. But definitely not now.
Things are so complicated at the moment, and Jane needs time to sort them out before doing anything hasty. That’s not the answer Rafael wants to hear, which brings some of his bad attributes to the surface. He misinterprets what Jane says so that he can pursue his own agenda, struggles to empathize with her position after clarification, and gets jealous when he sees her being chummy with Michael. Meanwhile, Michael is just getting sweeter and sweeter, trying hard to show Jane that he can be friends.
“Chapter Fifteen” is a promising episode for Michael, fleshing out his past romance with Jane through flashbacks to spotlight how their relationship was calmer and more comfortable than Rafael and Jane’s intensely passionate one. But passion can be both positive and negative. Rafael’s excitement initially sweeps Jane off her feet, but it keeps him in the air while she’s trying to get at least one foot back on the ground. Jane and Rafael’s relationship moved fast because of freak circumstances that left her pregnant with his child, but Jane and Michael didn’t have that. Their circumstances weren’t crazy. They were wild, but 21st birthday party wild, not ripped-from-a-telenovela wild. And it was great. Michael was on the same page as her, and when the idea of marriage came up with him, there was none of this doubt that Jane is experiencing with Rafael. “You know what it’s like to be sure.” Xo reminds Jane, and it’s a wise thing to say. If there’s doubt, it’s for a reason, and Jane can’t move forward until all doubt is gone. That’s just the kind of person she is, and Xo knows it.
Jane and Michael discussed romance novels, but Jane and Rafael live them. To capture that idea, this week’s episode features numerous sequences where Jane and Rafael are transported to a romance novel cover world of bad wigs and flowing garments. It’s one of this show’s sillier forays into whimsical territory, and while Baldoni has a bit of trouble adjusting to this more exaggerated style, Rodriguez digs her heels deep into the character of Juana. It’s a joke that could get old, but it ends up working very well because the script uses it as a strong contrast point to intensify the stakes in the real world. Sitting on the beach after a confusing, discouraging conversation with Rafael, Jane dreams of being Juana and running back into the arms of her man, but, as the Latin Lover Narrator says: “That was the stuff of romance novels, and not real life at all.” In the same shot, the fantasy dies and is replaced by the lonely image of Jane sitting alone on the beach, sad, but still strong because she is standing her ground and doing what she knows is best for her.
Gina Rodriguez gets to have a lot of fun in this week’s script, and as a result, Jane comes across as a bit younger than usual. That’s a good thing. It’s important to emphasize that, at 23 years old, Jane is still pretty young, and the reason she didn’t want a child yet is because she wants time to grow up some more without that responsibility. She’s not even out of college yet, and life becomes a very different thing when school is finally out of the picture. There are also two spectacular Rodriguez physical comedy moments this week, both related to romance novelist Angelique Harper. The first is Jane’s happy dance when she finds out that she’s going to meet the author, and the second is when she’s trying to figure out what to do with Angelique’s massage. The massage scene pushes the series a bit too far into bad sitcom territory, but it’s worth it for that sequence of Jane struggling.
The part of Jane that loves The Passions Of Santos and the romance novels of Angelique Harper wants the intensity and force of Rafael, but over the course of this season, we’ve seen that the pragmatic planner part is the dominant one. A big reasons that this is so clear is because we’ve seen Jane as a child, and her responsibilities at that age forced her to grow up fast with a practical point of view. We’ve seen the fantastic side of Jane as a child (remember when she imagined everything in her room could talk?), but by and large, the childhood flashbacks focus on Jane developing the sensible, grounded personality that defines her as an adult.
I’m a big supporter of flashbacks; they allow writers to show moments in the past rather than having people recount them verbally, and open up opportunities to depict how characters change over time. Lost is my gold standard for flashback usage, but Jane The Virgin’s flashbacks have more in common with another ABC series, one that has been mentioned quite a bit in discussions of this show: Pushing Daisies. That series’ flashbacks typically focused on the childhood lives of its characters, revealing formative moments to imply that people don’t necessarily change, but grow. Like Jane, most of the Pushing Daisies characters shared a lot of similarities with their child selves, and seeing where their adult behaviors stem from creates a very intimate bond between the cast and the viewers. It’s like you’ve known them since childhood, and that makes it very easy to emotionally invest in their stories.
The relationship between the Villanueva women is bolstered by the flashbacks thanks to the great work done by child actress Jenna Ortega, who has a huge range and delivers her lines with confidence that never grates. She has wonderful chemistry with Andrea Navedo and Ivonne Coll, reflecting the dynamic the actresses share with Gina Rodriguez. One of the best scenes of the episode comes right at the beginning with young Jane and Xo on the bus. Jane asks her mother what love feels like, and Xo answers, “It’s sort of like your heart is glowing.” This adds a new layer to the glowing heart visual from earlier in the season, revealing how Jane’s definition of love was shaped by her mother on a bus just like the one they ride together to this day. The impact of these words shows in Ortega’s face and body language, impact that is heightened by the warmth radiating from her mother in that moment.
Both Navedo and Coll get a lot of great material this week, and the script highlights how Jane’s mother and grandmother have passed along their quirks. Jane and Xo both test their men in order to get honest reactions from them, and Jane has Alba’s inquisitive spirit. The scenes of just the Villanueva women have a magic to them that consistently makes them strong points of any given episode, and the quiz conversation spotlights their rich dynamic as Jane and Xo laugh about Alba’s conventional ideals but eventually see the wisdom behind her thinking. The quiz asks questions like, “Does he gives you ample allowance?” and “Does he eat what you serve him without complaint?”, but Alba explains that these just mean “Is he generous?” and “Is he kind?” These are important questions, and Coll delivers them in a way that makes them feel essential. And then there’s the big one: “Does he know you, down to your core?” Jane doesn’t believe Rafael does yet, but she wants to give him the opportunity to.
We’ve seen Jane step into the mother role often in the flashbacks, and she has to do it again this week when she finds out that Xo missed a few birth control pills this month and hasn’t had her period yet. (Another question: Is Xo pregnant?) Xo tries to say it’s an accident, but Jane isn’t having any of it. Jane being artificially inseminated is an accident. Xo missing a few pills and having unprotected sex is her being reckless. And she needs to start being smarter if she’s ever going to get more from her life. Jane uses this opportunity to put her mother on a path that will hopefully lead out of abuela’s house and on to bigger and better things, giving her the firm advice mothers are supposed to give their daughters. Xo returns the favor by helping Jane with her Rafael situation, and she takes the first steps toward a new beginning with a question for Rogelio: Can we move in together? The answer is yes, bringing Jane’s parents closer together as a wedge comes between their daughter and her unborn child’s father. All it takes is a few questions.
And oh yeah. This happens:
- Jane The Virgin reviews are coming to you from sunny southern Florida for the next two weeks, because I am down in Fort Lauderdale and Miami for reasons that actually are not Spring Break-related, but happen to coincide with that period perfectly. Since I’ve started covering this show, I’ve spent more time in southern Florida than in all the time preceding. Coincidence? I think not.
- The transition from “Does he know you, down to your core?” to Rafael’s flexing abs is hilarious and brilliant and there need to be more ab transitions on this show. Surely Michael works out.
- Justin Baldoni knows his way around a proposal. If you haven’t seen this, get ready for a toothache because it’s sickeningly sweet.
- I cannot wait to see more of Pasions Intergalactica.
- That scene of Jane and Michael getting Cubanos at the food truck did some significant work swaying me over to Team Michael. It also helps that Brett Dier’s all smiley and adorable for most of the episode.
- The Petra/Lachlan material is the weakest aspect of this episode; he holds her character back. She needs to dump him and move on to a new storyline, and it looks like that’s what happening as she gets sucked into Aaron’s web of deception.
- Xo: “Turns out this whole electoral college thing is crazy. We’re not even actually voting for our president.” Jane: “I know! We’re voting for electives who are then pledged to a candidate.” Xo: “What? Then why’d you ask?” Jane: “Because you voted in two elections. It was time you understood the process.”
- “And don’t worry. I’m very easy to dress. Everything looks good on me. Except peach. I don’t pop in peach.”
- “I will be live tweeting from the spa. Follow my feed.” #SeaweedSoakMonday
- “Oh, baby.” #PregnancyTestMonday
- “I’d like to tell you what she’d written, but I’m feeling a little self-conscious. But I will say this: she writes it very well.”
- “See, I recently watched a few episodes of a premium cable drama that touches on subjectivity.” The entire The Affair sequence cracks me up. Great stuff.
- “They were respectfully scattered.” Anyone else miss Ivan?
- “It’s hard not to get all Carrie Bradshaw.” Lots of TV references from the Latin Lover Narrator this week.
- “Petra told herself there was no need to be nervous. After all, it was just dinner with her murdered ex-lover’s identical twin brother.”
- “You’re like annoyingly smart sometimes.”