The crime elements of Jane The Virgin are the weakest part of the show, but they serve a vital purpose boosting the momentum of the story with new twists and complications. This show is much more of a romantic comedy than a crime drama, and the writers excel when they are operating within the framework of the former. The latter can get very repetitive; after five seasons of Sin Rostro schemes, I’m ready for that story to finally end. And we’re almost there. “Chapter Ninety-Seven” is all about the impact of evil women on the Villanueva family, with Jane working through her fear of Rose while Alba confronts the woman who pushed her down the stairs: Petra’s still-not-dead mother, Magda.
Writers Deidre Shaw & Chantelle M. Wells craft a satisfying script that uses the show’s crime history to explore the ways characters have and haven’t moved on from their past trauma. The symmetry of this final season has been very impressive, and as we approach the show’s conclusion, the writers are bringing back major plot points. The most distressing returning plot is Mateo’s kidnapping at the end of season 1, and a conversation with Jane’s new agent gives her the terrifying idea that Rose may have swapped Mateo for a different baby when she abducted him. Jane’s agent wants her to go deeper into the crime genre because that’s going to sell, but spitballing ideas for big twists sends Jane down a dark rabbit hole that leads to genetic testing for Mateo.
After the Michael debacle, there’s no limit to Rose’s sadism. It’s entirely possible that Rose switched babies, and despite Rafael’s attempt to soothe Jane’s worries, she can’t let go until she has solid proof. There’s no way in hell this show was going to reveal that Mateo isn’t the real Mateo this late in the game, but this episode is all about going deeper into the crime genre to intensify the narrative as we head into the final three-episode stretch. Surely enough, the DNA test reveals that Mateo is Jane and Rafael’s child, but this fiasco makes Jane realize that she needs to confront Rose if she’s ever going to have closure. The problem is that Rose is about to escape prison thanks to her army of lookalikes.
This episode has the most elaborate stunt ever attempted on Jane The Virgin: a car crash that sends Rose’s ambulance rolling. It’s a moment of spectacle emphasizing how much the crime genre can change the visual storytelling, and director Melanie Mayron films this entire sequence in a way that intensifies the sense of chaos as the half-dozen Roses scatter in the wind. Luckily, the police have someone on the inside feeding them information about Rose’s plan. Luisa is a double agent, finally putting her family before her love for an evil murderer. The information isn’t enough to snag Rose, though, and the episode with her on the loose once again.
While Jane is robbed of her cathartic confrontation, Alba gets her when Magda shows up at The Marbella with yet another scheme to get the hotel shares. “Chapter Ninety-Seven” is a fantastic spotlight for Ivonne Coll, who depicts a series-long character arc in Alba’s story. We see the puritanical Alba of the early seasons when she finds out that Jane’s novel includes scandalous parts of her history that she doesn’t want the world to know. She demands cuts that Jane accepts because she respects her abuela, but it means Jane has to rewrite huge sections of her book. As frustrating as Alba’s change of heart is, the passion of Coll’s performance sells how much it hurts Alba to think about the entire world knowing that she lost her virginity before marriage.
But then she changes her mind, all because of Jorge. When Jane goes to thank him, he tells her about how, as undocumented immigrants, he and Alba put up walls and closed themselves off from the world. They needed to fly under the radar, and Jorge recognizes that Alba’s fear comes from this lingering feeling that she needs to hide herself away. As much as I like seeing a meaningful interaction between Jane and Jorge, I wish we could have seen the conversation that Jorge has with Alba, which would do a lot to deepen their relationship. Their marriage isn’t the end of their story, and this is a missed opportunity to reinforce their connection by having them talk about their shared experience as undocumented immigrants.
We see different kinds of fury from Alba this week, and in the case of Jane’s book, there’s a lot of vulnerability behind her anger. When she confronts Magda later, that vulnerability is gone, replaced by the strength she needs to get this pest out of everyone’s hair once and for all. The immigration story plays into this confrontation as well, and because Alba can let her true self out for the entire world to see, she can rip into Magda the way she’s always wanted. After recording Magda threatening her, Alba gets in her face and hisses in English, “I’m not scared of you anymore, because I am an American now, bitch!” It’s a side of Alba we have never seen before, and Coll is clearly thrilled to play Alba in this more aggressive mode.
With Magda’s hopefully permanent departure, the show is rapidly shedding supporting members to leave us with the core cast for the final chapters. And it looks like River Fields is the next to go. Rogelio’s conversation with River last week about her relationship with her daughter has unforeseen consequences, and telling River to put family first puts This Is Mars in jeopardy. The network loved the final cut of the pilot and orders This Is Mars to series, but River will leave the project if she doesn’t reconnect with her daughter. Rogelio’s future in U.S. television is on the line, so he sits down with Pond to find out what exactly is the cause of her resentment and if there’s any way to rebuild burnt bridges.
Pond has hated River since the day she won her Emmy for playing HBO’s Sylvia Plath, when she forgot to thank her daughter during the acceptance speech. Embarrassed in front of her junior high friends who had gathered for an Emmy night sleepover, Pond developed a chip on her shoulder that can only be removed with a Rogelio de la Vega Grand Gesture. This is a very silly subplot but it’s also a fantastic way of using the heightened reality of the telenovela to explore estranged family dynamics. Rogelio and River recreate the night of Pond’s emotional trauma on a soundstage, inviting Pond’s former friends (now adults) to sit in a replica of her childhood bedroom while her mother gives a new Emmy speech about how much she appreciates her daughter.
The grand gesture works, but like pretty much every scheme Rogelio has had for dealing with River, his success ultimately causes more problems for him. Pond wants to move back home to New York City, and now that River is putting family first, she’s going to have This Is Mars relocated so that she can be with her daughter. Which would take Rogelio away from his entire family. Rogelio is once again forced to choose between his career and his family, and if he puts his money where his mouth is, his dream of life on Mars is over.
- The Marbella expanding into other cities sounds like set-up for a potential spin-off!
- Xo is choreographing Jane and Rafael’s first dance at their wedding. I wonder if she’ll get a good meaty episode before the finale like her mom did this week.
- Rose uses Bobby as a human shield and he’s shot dead by the police. R.I.P. Bobby, you were a wafer-thin character.
- River: “I pay her five times what a normal P.A. makes.” Narrator: “Wow. Almost a living wage.”
- “This River’s dam has burst.”
- (Alba tries to call a Lyft) Xo: “Mom. You’re calling me.”