Titles are important in media. The title is the thing that gets passed around most, whether it’s through word of mouth or hashtags, and a strong title can pull viewers in while a weak one can turn people away. Empire is simple and forceful, implying wealth and power and the grand schemes that come with those elements. How To Get Away With Murder is lengthy but intriguing, providing instant gravitas with its blunt approach. Those are two of the season’s most successful new series, and while their popularity isn’t due solely to their titles, the names certainly don’t hurt. Compare those titles to Selfie, which conjures up images of teenage girls making duck-faces and families on vacation with selfie sticks. Selfie was canceled (prematurely, many would say), and while Jane The Virgin isn’t in danger of cancellation thanks to the Golden Globes and the fact that it’s on The CW, home of Beauty And The Beast’s upcoming third season, the show’s title is a hurdle when preaching the gospel of the series to new viewers.
Jane The Virgin’s name is inherited and translated from the original telenovela version, but it still makes the show a hard sell, especially for older audience members. There’s something very juvenile about the name, and it hides the depth and maturity of the writing and performances. When I tell people about it, I can sense the eye roll when I first mention the title, and I have to double down on all of the show’s merits. And yet, I can’t think of a better name for the show. It grabs attention (although maybe not the right attention), and establishes the context for the series’ wacky concept. You can expect a show called Jane The Virgin to not take itself too seriously, and this series definitely lives up to that expectation. There are serious moments, quite a few in this week’s episode, in fact, but for the most part it’s breezy, witty, and incredibly fun.
So why aren’t more people watching it? After a slight uptick following Gina Rodriguez’s much-deserved Golden Globe win, the series has leveled out at around 1.25 million viewers a week, which isn’t horrible by The CW standards, but would put it in cancellation territory on the other major networks. It’s a shame, because Jane The Virgin is a phenomenal series with one of the most consistently strong first seasons of any show in recent memory. Every episode has been very good to excellent, and while there have been the occasional mediocre subplots, those have always been overshadowed by the positive elements of any given chapter. It’s the kind of show I wish more people were washing, because it’s the kind of show I want to see more of on television, and executives listen to ratings more than they do critics. There should be more shows led by women and people of color. There should be more shows that experiment with the medium. There should be more shows that highlight the good in humanity without sacrificing dramatic stakes.
That last one is a big element in “Chapter Sixteen,” which sees Jane going out of her way to fix the broken relationships surrounding her. Following her refusal of Rafael’s marriage proposal, Jane’s red-hot romance is starting to fizzle, a degradation signified by Rafael’s incessant texting at lunch when Jane is trying to tell him about an upcoming hospital tour. Rafael was so attentive before, but he’s become distant and sullen after last week’s events, and this new relationship stress is blocking Jane from working on her novel, which she wants to finish a first draft of before the baby arrives.
As Rafael gets worse, Michael gets better, and he continues to work his way back into Jane’s heart by giving her a flier for a workshop led by one of her favorite romance novel writers, Amanda Elaine (the ever-radiant Jane Seymour), who just happens to be in Miami right after one of Jane’s other favorite romance novel writers was in town. The workshop plot is much more grounded than last week’s Angelique Harper story, putting Jane in a position that a lot of aspiring writers find themselves in. There’s no weird massage territory for her to navigate here; instead, Jane has to figure out how to salvage her reputation after she gives harsh criticism instead of motivational compliments to one of her classmates.
While Jane tries to get in good graces with her workshop, Michael is participating in one of this episode’s two very silly subplots, teaching Rogelio how to be a cop by having him as a shadow on the job. After being told by angry Twitter followers that he’s “Armed And Clueless” because he doesn’t know how to hold a space gun correctly, Rogelio seeks out professional help, which is a hilarious way of bringing these two characters together. And it’s delightful. Jaime Camil and Brett Dier have great chemistry, especially when they lean into their goofball sides, and their connection is even more meaningful after seeing Rogelio’s antagonistic relationship with Rafael.
When Rafael finds out through Petra that Rogelio knows Latin music superstar David Bisbal, he reaches out to Jane’s father in hopes of scoring Bisbal for The Marbela’s Calle Ocho celebration. That’s a bad idea because Rogelio is pissed off that Rafael didn’t ask his permission before proposing to Jane, and Rafael doesn’t make things better by justifying his actions with the fact that he’s known Jane longer than her mostly absent father. This is true, but as Jane points out in an exceptional scene for Rodriguez, Rafael didn’t bother talking to anyone about his decision to propose. If he did, he would have known that he was moving way too fast for Jane, and it’s not her fault that he has a tendency to be selfish and impulsive.
Jane shouldn’t be shouldering the blame here. She made her needs very clear, and when Rafael didn’t listen, he made her feel guilty for sticking to her convictions. Jane is not willing to deal with his shit right now, and Rodriguez’s performance has a bite that we haven’t seen in her interactions with Rafael. Underneath that nice girl exterior is a ferocity waiting for the chance to break free, and the combination of soap opera drama and pregnancy hormones opens the door for Jane’s rage. But even then, there’s an undercurrent of sadness to the anger, accentuating the pain Jane feels while delivering this tough love.
It’s a rough week for the Villanueva women in general as Xo and Alba have a big fight about Xo moving out, a conflict that brings out the worst in both of them. Alba thinks that Xo is making a foolish decision moving in a with a man that won’t marry her because she’s already had sex with him, and Xo doesn’t appreciate her mother’s lack of faith in her relationship. (She also really hates that Alba calls her “stupid.”) Andrea Navedo and Ivonne Coll do outstanding work capturing all the history between these two women, and they give the distinct impression that these women have had some variation of this fight many times before.
With Alba, there’s also a sense that she’s not being completely honest about her feelings. She acts with self-righteous fury, but is she mad at Xo because she’s committing to a man that may not keep her, or is she mad at Xo because she’s leaving her all alone? With Xo leaving soon and Jane potentially leaving after she has the baby, Alba is facing an empty house for the first time, and that’s a scary thought. Maybe that’s why Alba doesn’t show up to Calle Ocho. She’s trying to get used to a life without Xo and Jane, so she forcibly removes herself from a beloved family tradition.
“Chapter Sixteen” features one of this show’s biggest fantasy sequences yet when Jane attends the David Bisbal concert, where she dreams of dancing with Rafael as her family happily watches and the surrounding people perform a choreographed number around them. It’s not immediately clear that it’s a fantasy, and for a few moments it’s possible to believe that Rafael really is whipping out this grand romantic gesture to make up for his recent behavior, but the illusion is broken when Rogelio dips Michael on the dance floor. (Their bromance is strong, but not that strong.) It’s another brilliant way that this show takes Jane’s inner wants and interprets them to make the fullness of her emotion clear to the viewer, and also gives Gina Rodriguez and Justin Baldoni the opportunity to show off their sweet salsa moves.
But like last week’s episode, the fantasy is there to highlight the disappointment of reality. When the dance ends and Jane is in the crowd with no Rafael to be seen, we feel her pain because we felt her joy during the fantasy. Raised on telenovelas and romance novels, Jane has these lofty fantasies for her life, but her current experience is dismantling those dreams and forcing her to look at the reality of her situation. That may hurt, but when the damage is healed, Jane will be a stronger person for it.
- Rafael’s mother is coming. Still crossing my fingers for Salma Hayek as Elena Di Nola.
- This week’s other silly subplot involves Rafael and Petra taking care of (and losing) a dog they believe belongs to Latin music superstar David Bisbal, which sounds pretty lame on the surface, but ends up being a great way to spotlight their relationship and provides us with the hilarious image of Petra in high heels running after a dog. Also: Yael Grobglas projects so much heartbreak in that look she gives Rafael after they have their little moment at the end of the episode.
- Recurring new character alert: Rachel DiPillo joins the cast as Jane’s workshop colleague/Michael’s ex-girlfriend Andie, and she’s signed on for at least four episodes so I expect those sparks with Michael are going to start flying again.
- Rogelio says “jif” for GIF, and that sounds right to me. It is technically how the word is pronounced, and I can see Rogelio seeking out the correct pronunciation so that he doesn’t make a fool of himself to the world. Meanwhile, I will continue pronouncing it with a hard G because I don’t mind looking a fool.
- Is there a show on TV right now mining more humor out of Twitter than this one? If there is, please share.
- So many great Gina Rodriguez moments this week: trying to get her card out of Wendy’s hand, doing a private dance to “Livin’ On A Prayer” (and interrupted by Petra), and that salsa number! She’s just wonderful.
- I love the way the Latin Lover Narrator takes Amanda’s romance novel writing advice and teases the audience with something provocative before moving on. Such smart writing.
- How long has Brett Dier has been doing that Ace Ventura impression? I’d easily believe that he’s been doing it since the movie came out (when he was 4-years-old).
- This week’s best hashtags: #HotOnAYacht, #MotherBarker
- “I don’t think that’s worse.” Amber alert > Twitter alert
- “Interesting. Aaron’s coming clean. Misread that situation.”
- Amanda: “You read Love Under The Bridge?” Jane: “Of course! I just didn’t read the back of the flier!”
- Jane: “You can stay at The Marbela for the weekend.” Wendy: “The hotel with all the murders?” This line had me howling.