How do you return to normalcy in the wake of major trauma? Jane The Virgin tackles this question as it tries to settle back into the show’s usual groove, and while tonight’s episode succeeds in that respect, the characters are learning that there’s no way to go back to their old routine after recent events. Jane is plagued by nightmares where Michael heads out on his first day back at work and ends up bleeding on The Marbella’s carpet the moment he walks out the door, and Jane’s fears about Michael returning to the force affect her behavior with everyone around her.
Last week’s episode had a heightened level of conflict that made sense given the huge impact of the season 2 cliffhanger, but “Chapter Forty-Six” is more representative of the relatively low-stakes storytelling that this show typically traffics in. Plots like Jane and Rafael looking at new preschools and Mateo developing a biting habit feel like tiny issues in a world where Mateo was kidnapped shortly after being born, Michael was shot shortly after they got married, and the person responsible for both is still at large, but these small problems are the most important ones because they’re the things new parents actually have to deal with in reality.
There’s a moment in this episode where Jane gives Mateo to Alba so they can go on a walk, and it actually makes me nervous thinking about Mateo and Alba out on their own in such dangerous circumstances. The writers of this series know better than to keep their characters tied down by hypothetical risk, though. Fear is a passive choice, and Jane The Virgin is always moving forward. The rapid pacing of this show ties into the inspirational elements of the narrative, and no matter what insane twist life throws at these characters, they quickly regroup, heal, and move on into whatever the next insane twist is. There are still scars that remind these characters of past pain (scars in this episode: Jane’s paranoia after Mateo’s kidnapping, Alba’s regret after suggesting Xiomara get an abortion as a pregnant teen), but that pain isn’t allowed to hold the characters or the show back.
Gina Rodriguez is so good that every episode of Jane The Virgin makes me fear some giant Hollywood property will cast her in a role that makes her too big to continue on her critically beloved, low-rated CW drama. Whether she’s given comedic or dramatic material, she approaches the script with total commitment that makes every decision believable because there’s such passionate drive behind it. That’s not to say that her performance is forceful; a big reason her acting is so impressive is because it’s so effortless, and from the very beginning, Gina Rodriguez has been so in tune with the spirit of Jane Gloriana Villanueva that it feels like the role was written specifically for her.
Last week’s premiere featured a more isolated Jane trying to get her bearings when the world has spun into chaos, but “Chapter Forty-Six” showcases Rodriguez’s chemistry with her costars as Jane is put in more communal situations. She’s back in the middle of Xiomara and Alba drama when Xo gets paranoid that her mother knows about her recent abortion, and Jane has to juggle her relationships with Michael and Rafael again now that she’s not spending all her time with Michael in the hospital.
Rafael says he’s over Jane, and the casual, relaxed dynamic of Justin Baldoni and Gina Rodriguez gives the impression that he means what he says. Baldoni isn’t in Smoldering Rafael mode this week; he’s playing the concerned dad who is trying to maintain a healthy relationship with the mother of his son while taking a more proactive role in his child’s life upbringing. That’s sexy in its own way, but not in a way that feels like it’s trying to attract Jane. They still have great chemistry, but it’s now being applied to the development of a strong friendship, and their conversation about Jane’s virginity has a playful vibe that makes me extremely optimistic about this new path for the two of them.
I’ve been #TeamMichael for a while now, and that allegiance only intensifies as he moves into the Villanueva house and immediately integrates into the family. The presence of Michael in Jane and Xo’s regular chats feels completely natural, and the episode makes a point that there’s nothing strange about Michael now being a permanent presence in this household. Brett Dier gives an especially warm and lovable performance this week, and he’s being strong and supportive for Jane because it keeps him from thinking about his own personal struggle. There’s so much gratitude and love in his scenes with Gina Rodriguez, and building up Michael’s emotional resilience for the majority of the episode makes it all the more powerful when he finally cracks after Jane makes an innocent comment about comforting the victim (of Mateo’s biting, not the shooting).
Rogelio didn’t have much to do in last week’s premiere, but those antics make for a hilarious bit in tonight’s episode involving Rogelio’s urine swapping PSA that goes viral. His larger storyline this week once again taps into his jealousy of Esteban, who is on the verge of crossing over from telenovelas to the U.S. TV market, and that idea of crossing over is ultimately used to make a very timely political statement about the importance of immigrants to the United States’ national identity. Rogelio has made a name for himself in Mexico (where he’s Tom Cruise, Justin Bieber, and Juanes all rolled into one lavender package), but he wants to achieve that same level of success in his new home country where the rest of his family lives. Rogelio wants what a lot of immigrants want: to be close to his family without sacrificing the things that made life in his old country worthwhile.
The connection between Rogelio and the immigrant experience is made even more explicit in a speech he gives during the Statue Of Liberty poem judging competition on Tiago a Través del Tiempo, in which he stands up for Emma Lazarus’ poem by arguing against the old white men that want to keep the huddled and poor outside the U.S. “America is about welcoming immigrants and celebrating differences to build a richer, more culturally diverse society!” Rogelio proclaims, and Jaime Camil understands the importance of these words, shedding Rogelio’s trademark humor for a more dramatic delivery that carries the full weight of the script’s message of acceptance and inclusion.
It’s always a treat when director Brad Silberling comes back to direct Jane The Virgin, and the energy and specificity he brought to the show’s pilot (and various subsequent episodes) is still at the forefront of his work in “Chapter Forty-Six.” The visual prominence of Alba’s new garish, old-fashioned wallpaper establishes that the Villanueva house is still a place dominated by Alba’s traditional views, which gives extra symbolic value to the image of the three women tearing off the wallpaper after Alba apologizes to Xo. Alba is giving her daughter a clean slate, and Xo and Jane are willing to help Alba get to that less judgmental place.
There are many memorable tableaus in this episode: Michael and Jane in his hospital bed love boat; Rogelio in front of the Statue of Liberty; Jane and Rafael trapped in the “Compassion Corner” where they’re forced to make up after a public tiff. That last one features some especially effective visuals that infantalize Jane and Rafael and highlight their embarrassment as they work through their issues in front of a class full of children and a large group of parents on a tour. The two adults are forced into a corner and put in chairs that are far too small for them, and they’re surrounded by a mass of children and beanbags that makes the situation even more claustrophobic.
Behind those kids is a wall of judgmental parents, turning this children’s classroom into a prison Rafael and Jane can’t escape until they open up about their feelings and resolve their problems. The classroom scene has a heartwarming emotional payoff when Jane reminds Rafael that her family is his family and he shouldn’t keep himself at a distance because he’s intimidated by everyone on Jane’s side. They are all one big family, and this idea is punctuated with comedy in the final moment of the scene when the teacher starts her song about togetherness, compelling the children and parents to sway back and forth in unison.
The visuals in this episode do fantastic work enriching the story, and I hope that attention to visual detail continues into next week, which looks like it’s going to be the big chapter where Jane finally loses her virginity. How will Jane’s view of the world change after she has sex? How will the show reflect her emotional state? I’m eager to discover the answers to these questions, but nowhere near as eager as Jane and Michael are to finally get it on.
- The Anezka/Magda/Petra story is still ridiculous, and I’m getting uncomfortable with this show’s carefree approach to Anezka’s sexual conquests when she’s assuming Petra’s identity. It’s a telenovela convention, but I hope the series does explore the emotional fallout of Rafael and Scott being coerced into having sex with Anezka under false pretenses.
- #Anezkatized is such a great pun that it makes me wonder if the writers were planning on using it when Anezka was introduced last season.
- I love when this show uses Rogelio to comment directly on things happening elsewhere in the story, like when he interrupts the Mother Jane montage to comment on how much he dislikes montages, to which his director replies that montages are an effective way of showing events over a longer passage of time.
- What’s in Esteban’s murse? XL condoms, paperback War And Peace, seven almonds, and a vegan smoothie in a mason jar (clearly ripping off Ashley Tisdale).
- “Oooh, so that’s what all those smocks were about.”
- “Urine swapping is no joke, it’s a federal crime. Make no mistake: if you swap, urine big trouble.”
- “If I can recover from a gunshot, you can recover from this.”
- “Dude, I love the ocean at night. The waves are killer. And then she realizes I’m the killer.” Rogelio’s American accent is a source of endless laughter in this episode.
- “Could you maybe lose the American accent while you talk about authenticity?”
- “And suddenly, Emma Lazarus went from inspiring a country, to inspiring a wildly inaccurate telenovela, to inspiring the star of that wildly inaccurate telenovela.”