Jane Gloriana Villanueva finally has her baby this week, and it’s a moment that is as touching and beautiful as all the lead-up to the birth suggested it would be. And then the newborn Mateo Gloriano Rogelio Solano Villanueva is kidnapped by a Miami crime kingpin. The majority of this episode focuses on the grounded interpersonal dynamics that have given this show its heart, but the final scenes go hard on the telenovela craziness with a Solano sperm sample revelation, surprise wedding, and abducted baby. All of that insanity sets up a thrilling season 2 for this series, but it’s all the character work that gives me faith that no matter how wild the narrative gets, the writers won’t lose sight of the relationships that really matter.

It’s very possible that Jane The Virgin will suffer a sophomore slump, but when freshman year is so consistently excellent, a dip in quality is to be expected. And then again, maybe the show will be just as great in the second season. If the writing staff stays consistent and the creative team maintains the delicate balance it mastered in the first season, Jane The Virgin could keep this streak of great episodes going for a long, long time. I don’t see The CW ever cancelling this show if Gina Rodriguez is nominated for and wins an Emmy, letting it run until Rodriguez decides to leave it for a more lucrative job opportunity down the line because she’s a brilliant actress with incredible range.

“Chapter Twenty-Two” is another fantastic spotlight of Rodriguez’s talent, from her immense charm as a romantic lead to her deep emotional commitment to Jane’s role as mother. It’s difficult to pick sides between Michael and Rafael because Rodriguez has such strong chemistry with both actors, and such different chemistry. The viewer picks an allegiance largely based on personal bias, because the script doesn’t lean too heavily in any one man’s favor. I’m firmly in the Team Michael camp because I appreciate how he’s considerate of Jane’s feelings and tries to avoid being a source of pressure during this trying time, but I certainly wouldn’t be sad if Jane ended up with Rafael, who clearly wants to make this family work.

But Rafael is selfish. He wants what he wants and doesn’t give Jane very much room to express what she needs, whereas Michael has been especially attentive of Jane’s needs ever since he screwed things up between them. Rafael screwed things up, too, but he thinks an apology is all that he needs to do in order to win Jane back, and it’s not. He broke Jane’s heart and then comes to her door to tell her that he didn’t mean the terrible things he said, which just reopens old wounds instead of healing them over.

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Michael comes to Jane’s door and tells her that he doesn’t want to pressure her into anything, but that there’s also clearly something happening between the two of them, so he wants to know what Jane wants. She doesn’t know yet and tells Michael that she likes how he’s safe and familiar, but Michael responds by saying that he doesn’t want to be the safe and familiar choice. He doesn’t want to be the reality to Rafael’s fantasy, the option Jane settles for when the dream is over. He makes all this clear to Jane on her doorstep, but after Mateo is born, Michael visits Jane in her hospital room and tells not to worry at all about the things he said to her earlier and focus all her attention on the little boy in her arms. It’s the perfect thing for Michael to say in that moment, and I have the feeling things are only going to get better for Michael in season 2.

You see, Michael has a lead on where Sin Rostro may be hiding because he has a tracker on Nadine, who recently returned from being on the lam to strike a deal with the police. And Sin Rostro has Jane’s baby. Rescuing a baby would go a long way to breaking that “safe, familiar” image of Michael that Jane has in her head, and it would get Michael on Rafael’s level, which has been automatically elevated after the birth of his child. Jane, Rafael, and Mateo are connected for all time now, and the strength of that bond is what Michael has to fight against to win back Jane’s heart. And if it’s as strong as the bond Jane shares with her mother and grandmother, Michael is in for a very hard fight.

A huge amount of the suspense in this episode comes from the possibility that Xiomara, who is in Vegas preparing for her show with Rogelio, may not make it back to Jane in time for the birth. This show has done such phenomenal work fleshing out the relationship between Jane and her mother that it feels necessary that Xo be by her daughter’s side when she brings her grandchild into the world, and there’s a rush of relief when Xo comes in the hospital room to give Jane the same words of encouragement that Alba gave her 23 years ago. That shot of the three Villanueva women united while Jane ushers in the next generation is what this show is all about, and as riveting as the romantic drama is, this show wouldn’t be as successful without that unbreakable familial bond between Jane, Xo, and Alba.

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One of this episode’s most notable scenes features Jane without any of the other major players in the cast, going into labor while riding the bus solo. Jane’s new friend Gabriela is helping her deal with her increasingly frequent contractions, and when Gabriela puts pressure on the bus driver to abandon his route and take Jane to the hospital, the rest of the bus passengers cheer in approval. So much of what makes Jane stand out from other modern TV protagonists is how fundamentally good she is, and it’s like the universe is repaying her for a life of kindness and compassion by putting her on a bus full of supportive people that just want to help her bring a baby into this world with as few complications as possible.

Beyond the birth of Mateo, there are some other major changes to family dynamics this week thanks to Rogelio and Petra. After encountering some hard-drinking Rogelifans from Venezuela, a wasted Rogelio and Xiomara get married in a Vegas chapel by a Cher impersonator, an event they have no recollection of until they view the DVD of the ceremony the following day. It’s a fitting end to their turbulent romance, getting all the nonsense out of the way and speeding them into married life to give them a new status quo in season 2.

Then there’s Petra, who spends most of the episode being manipulated by Rafael in hopes that she’ll sell her shares of the hotel to him. She bites at Rafael’s bait and convinces herself that she has a future with him, so when she gets a call from the Miami-Dade Hospital saying that Rafael’s sperm sample was split into two batches, one of which is still in their possession, she’s eager to tell him the good news. That’s when she overhears Rafael confess that he was playing her, so she keeps the sperm surprise a secret and procures the sample herself. Is it implausible? Of course it is. But Jane The Virgin loves using implausible twists to take characters in new directions, and I’m very excited at the possibility of a pregnant Petra in season 2. (Although I question whether or not Yael Grobglas will be able to continue rocking those short shorts with a pregnancy belly.)

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Jane The Virgin covers a lot of narrative ground in each episode, but’s also one of the most inviting series on television. Even though this is the season finale, “Chapter Twenty-Two” is still concerned with new viewers, taking into account that season finale buzz may lead more people to check out the show. It mostly does this by recapping past events, but there’s a cheekiness to the summarizing that prevents it from playing like heavy exposition. Don’t know who Rafael Solano is? Here’s this shot of him taking off his shirt, which tells you much of what you need to know regarding his big appeal on the show.

The Latin Lover Narrator is the ideal guide for these new viewers, welcoming them with open arms and providing important information with the same kind of concise, casual delivery they would get from a friend that is filling them in while watching together. I wouldn’t necessarily recommend “Chapter Twenty-Two” as a first episode for newcomers, but it’s a solid indicator of the quality of the entire season, so if it happens to be someone’s first episode, it’s not a horrible pick. In fact, any episode of Jane The Virgin could be someone’s first, because they’ve all delivered high-quality stories and they’re all made accessible by the presence of the Latin Lover Narrator. So if you’ve been hearing good things about this show and want to give it a try, go ahead and dive in at the last chapter of book one. It may be the deep end of the pool, but if viewers like the way the water feels, they have 21 remarkable episodes to catch up on before season 2 hits in the fall.

Stray observations:

  • Who will play Sin Rostro next season? I like the idea that Sin Rostro sticks around for the entire series, played by a different actress each season as the character gets plastic surgery to change her appearance.
  • My other Monday night writing assignment, RuPaul’s Drag Race, has had two contestants appear on this series: Carmen Carrera played a waitress at the Marbella in the pilot, and Cher impersonator extraordinaire Chad Michaels officiates Xo and Ro’s Vegas wedding this week. Always love it when I see queens getting work!
  • If you haven’t read Noel Murray’s review of Jane The Virgin’s first season, you should go do that. He does a really great job articulating the show’s strong suits and why it’s such a refreshing new series.
  • The best part of Petra visiting her mother in prison is Petra’s reaction when she accidentally touches the table. She does not like the way that feels on her flesh.
  • Notable hashtags this week: #JanesHavingABaby, #Ahhhhhh!, #ForRealThisTime, #Rogelifans, #blessed
  • Songs on Michael’s labor playlist: “Push It” by Salt N’ Pepa, “Born This Way” by Lady Gaga, “Everybody Hurts” by R.E.M. His literalism is adorable.
  • The “Passions Of Santos” bus ad heralding Rogelio’s return makes me cackle: “He has risen. Santos is back…and so are his passions.”
  • “That’s enough recapping. There’s a baby to be born! So let’s get popping.”
  • “If you had a weird amount just admit it.”
  • “I’m not sure. I know about the custody play, the false abuse accusations, the covering for the—”
  • “Oh look at that. He knows where everything is.”
  • “That smell…is me. Because I’m in prison.”
  • “Is this as fast as you can go? Didn’t you ever see Speed?”
  • Jane: “You didn’t get an epidural?” Alba: “Why do you think your mother is an only child?”
  • “On the bright side, Jane is loving this epidural.”
  • “Talk about a pregnant pause.”
  • “There are many Jesus Christs. There is only one Jane!”
  • “It’s another beautiful to be Rogelio! Wake up, Rogelio! Wake up, Rogelio! It’s another beautiful day to be—“
  • “We’ll see how nicknames develop. Matelio perhaps?”
  • “By the power invested in me by the state of Nevada and the goddess Cher, who is with us here in spirit tonight, I now pronounce you man and wife.”

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