Great news: Jane The Virgin received two Golden Globe nominations last week, the first ever for The CW! The show was nominated for Best Comedy Series and Gina Rodriguez was nominated for Best Performance by an Actress in TV Series, Comedy. This is an excellent development for a freshman series with middling ratings, and hopefully the buzz of the past week will bring more people to the season’s best new network show.
Not so great news: Abuela Alba just got pushed down the stairs.
Jane The Virgin’s midseason finale ends with a moment that many have predicted—the revelation that the wheelchair-bound Magda can indeed walk—but who could have guessed it would be accompanied by a potentially fatal fall for Alba? I’m fairly certain that Alba isn’t dead, but it’s very possible that she’ll be taking Magda’s place as this show’s physically disabled character, perhaps spending the rest of her life in a wheelchair because she takes a nasty tumble this week. It’s an especially impactful cliffhanger because the episode does such great work reinforcing Alba’s relationship with her daughter and granddaughter, and making her really adorable in the process. She sings Paulina Rubio to boost Xo’s confidence! Gets drunk and talks shit about Petra! Alba is just the cutest this week, making it all the more painful when Magda tries to kill her.
Magda’s push is the final move in a series of personal attacks spearheaded by Petra and her mother this week, beginning with Petra going after Jane and Rafael’s baby by bringing up the preplanned adoption contract she and Rafael signed right after her miscarriage. Bringing Petra back into Jane and Rafael’s baby drama, even if just for the episode, is a very smart move, mostly because it gives Yael Grobglas and Gina Rodriguez more scenes together. Grobglas is just so damn good as a villain, balancing hard intensity with a sympathetic softness that makes Petra more captivating with each new episode, and it’s always nice to see her sharing more scenes with her equally talented costar.
Rodriguez’s Jane can do intense when she has to, but at her core she’s marshmallow soft. When Petra tells Jane a fabricated story about living in West Germany with her mother while her father died behind the Iron Curtain, you can see Jane’s resolve completely melt and she can’t help but feel compassion for this woman that is challenging her for custody. Jane is a total sucker for a sob story—as evidenced last week by her instant forgiveness of the escort hired to destroy her relationship with Rafael—and when that story is paired with Petra’s spot-on acting, Jane is totally pulled into the lie.
This is a Petra-heavy episode, and while the story she tells Jane is a lie, the audience learns the truth behind a key moment in
Petra’s Natalya’s life with a flashback to the day when Magda was scarred and seemingly paralyzed. It is revealed that Milos (Max Bird-Ridnell) was Natalya’s vengeful ex-boyfriend that tried to scar her with hydrochloric acid after they broke up, but because Natalya had kneeled down to pick up a koruna on the sidewalk, the acid hit her mother and sent her into a street full of moving cars. The man that helped Natalya find her new identity in the United States? Ivan, the hostage that spends this week glued to The Passions Of Santos in hopes that he’ll learn how to break free from his restraints.
“Chapter Nine” does a lot of work filling in the blanks in Petra’s past, but the cliffhanger brings up a brand new set of questions while changing the power dynamic between Petra and her mother for the future. Petra is at her weakest, her identity exposed and her marriage over, but that’s when Magda reveals her strength. Is this enough evidence for her to be Sin Rostro? Possibly, but Magda is such an obvious choice that it could easily be misdirection.
This show’s different levels of reality are spotlighted in the contrast between Petra and Magda’s storyline and Jane and Xiomara’s drama this week. The former is concerned with hostages and secret identities and sidewalk acid attacks, and the latter focuses on a short story by Jane featuring a negative portrayal of a character based on her mother. The situation in one is considerably more heightened, but it’s the combination of both realities (plus the third, ultra-heightened reality of The Passions Of Santos) that makes this show so enchanting. You get big crazy twists like Abuela getting pushed down the stairs, but you also get touching, grounded character work showing how the Villanueva women have struggled to make their family survive.
Jane’s aspirations of being a writer have been present since the start of the series, but “Chapter Nine” is when they become a priority in the narrative. The episode’s “first time” flashback shows the first time Jane wrote a short story, an event so magical that it made Jane feel like she had control over everything, a mindset reflected in her talking printer, toys, and picture of the Virgin Mary. That whimsical visual element ends up playing a significant role in capturing the thrill Jane feels in the present when her short story is accepted for publication in an online literary journal, taking Jane back to that magical place she was in all those years ago by having her printer congratulate her on her success.
As long as the show provides a strong narrative reason for those quirkier visual flourishes, they enhance rather than detract, but I can see the series going overboard with them if it isn’t careful. Ivan’s thought balloon when he sees Magda’s nail file isn’t necessary after the typewriter text points out the tool, and while it’s not the case in this week’s episode, the on-screen graphics could potentially get in the way of the storytelling if they’re not used wisely.
The intergenerational drama in the Villanueva household is the strongest part of this episode, exploring the theme of finding a window to pursue your dreams by showing how Jane and Xo are challenged in their pursuit of creative happiness. For both women, it’s been a struggle primarily defined by rejection, but when Jane gets a big opportunity, she puts an obstacle in her way because she’s worried about her mother’s feelings. If Xo didn’t look at Jane’s computer, read the story, and sign the consent form for her daughter, “Jen And Lucy” would probably never have seen publication, and because Xo reads the story, she gets an opportunity to talk to her daughter about some serious issues in their relationship.
While young Jane saw her mom with a constant rotation of men, she never realized that Xo was staying unattached for a reason, using Jane as an excuse to keep herself from becoming too invested in her romantic relationships. Xo says she doesn’t want to hurt Jane by staying emotionally distant from men, but Jane points out that she’s an adult now and doesn’t need her mother making personal sacrifices to protect her feelings. Xo shouldn’t stand in the way of Jane’s professional window, and Jane shouldn’t stand in the way of Xo’s romantic one.
At this point, the main problem with Jane The Virgin is an element that can also be considered one of its greatest strengths: the rapid pacing. This show covers a lot in every episode and doesn’t linger too long on any given plot thread, but some parts of the narrative could use more lingering. Take Michael and Nadine’s relationship, for example. The two hook up again this week, but the show hasn’t done much work with Nadine’s character, so their intimacy feels forced. It wouldn’t take much to remedy that. Michael has spent more time on screen with Nadine than his brother, Billy, but the sibling relationship is more fully formed than the relationship between the cop partners. That’s because the show has spent more time detailing Billy and Michael’s history and how their bond has changed over time, whereas we still have very little idea of how Michael and Nadine connect with each other when they’re not on the job or ripping each other’s clothes off.
The Michael and Nadine material isn’t all that’s rushed in this jam-packed episode. There’s a team-up between Michael and Billy to find out Rafael’s secrets, a wire operation uniting Michael and Jane with Rafael caught in the middle, a subplot with Xo trying to get a record deal but getting rejected because of her age (and meeting her personal idol/Latin music superstar/bad actress Paulina Rubio thanks to Rogelio’s manipulation…again), and the introduction of a professional rival for Rogelio in Esteban Santiago, an actor competing for the same award at the Palomas, a.k.a. the telenovela Oscars. There’s so much happening, and some of the threads don’t resonate as strongly because there’s just not very much time to give them proper attention.
While some of these parts may not stand out on their own, they come together to form an immensely entertaining whole that moves at a pace that makes it impossible to guess where the story will go next. And it does all this without losing sight of the emotional core that makes these stories engaging in the first place. It’s a true rarity of a show, the kind of hidden gem that is prone to fall under the radar in a crowded TV landscape, but somehow it’s managed to break out and score some major awards recognition in the last week. Rogelio may say that the recognition means nothing and the award is all that matters, but Jane The Virgin’s Golden Globe nominations are huge for the series, and the fact that they are firsts for The CW suggests very good things for the future of the show. Could this series maintain this momentum and quality of storytelling past a first season? I hope we get the chance to find out.
- There’s not a new episode of Jane The Virgin until January 19, but I’ll be reviewing the first three episodes of the season during the break if you want more Jane The Virgin in your life. Rewatch with me!
- This week’s story shifts suspicion to Rafael on the Sin Rostro front, but it’s not clear if there’s something legitimately shady about him or if Michael is just letting his feelings get the best of him. There’s a secret tunnel in the hotel and Rafael has a safe containing stacks of cash, fake passports, and a burner phone, but none of this is enough evidence to draw conclusions at this point.
- This episode touches on how religion and class are going to affect how Jane and Rafael want to raise their child, and I hope the show spends considerably more time on this topic.
- A highlight of this episode is the scene with Alba, Rogelio, and Xiomara on the porch swing, a conversation that stands out because it is primarily in Spanish. This is a show that truly embraces its otherness in a network TV landscape dominated by white, English-speaking casts, and I love that it’s getting the recognition it deserves.
- Based on the one line we hear from Jane’s short story, it doesn’t sound all that great. “She puts the ‘loose’ in ‘Lucy’?” Surely Jane can do better than that.
- Max Bird-Ridnell is giving some serious duck-face as Milos. Pucker up!
- This show is doing some remarkable work with hashtags. #GoRo #RogelioMyBrogelio #VivaDeLaVega
- “I was accidentally artificially inseminated.” The ultimate comeback to respond to judgey nurses.
- “Um! Are you suggesting that I’m not genuinely invested in the wellbeing of this baby? Because that’s offensive.”
- “He cannot make a proper ‘I am longing for you but cannot have you’ face.”
- “Come! A hug from Rogelio is like a rabbit’s foot: lucky, rare, and soft to the touch.”
- “Ooook. That seems a little dramatic. It was only five years ago.”
- “I meant to do that. It will go viral. One of those…memes.”