At a certain point, Jane Gloriana Villanueva would inevitably snap. As an adult, she’s endured an accidental artificial insemination, her grandmother getting thrown down the stairs, a crime boss abducting her newborn son and shooting her new husband on their wedding, her husband’s surprise death after a supposed recovery, and her mother being diagnosed with cancer. There’s always a new crisis for Jane to deal with and she’s managed to persevere, but her most recent one sends her off the deep end. Her dead husband, Michael, is alive, but involuntary electroshock therapy on his hippocampus and temporal lobe has erased all memory of his past life. He’s now a slow-talking, Cubano-hating, dog-loving farmhand by the name of Jason (after fellow amnesiac Jason Bourne), and his return destroys Jane’s composure.
Written by Jennie Snyder Urman and directed by Gina Rodriguez, the final season premiere of Jane The Virgin gives the show’s creator and star the opportunity to show off just how far they’ve come and how much they’ve accomplished over the course of the series. Urman gets to relish in the diabolical telenovela twists that have kept the show so unpredictable and exciting, and Rodriguez once again steps up to the difficult task of grounding this over-the-top narrative in a believable, extremely complex character arc. A lot of people guessed the amnesia plot point since it’s a classic soap opera trope, but this is Jane The Virgin, so the amnesia is all the more tragic because the writing and performances so fully realize how this revelation changes relationships.
Jane goes on a wild journey in this episode, giving Rodriguez the opportunity to exhibit a wide range of emotions. The opening flashback is a concise display of that talent as we see Jane, Alba, and Xo visiting Michael’s grave each year on the Day Of The Dead. That first year is defined by intense sorrow as she struggles to accept that he’s really gone, then gentle sadness in year two and happy remembrance in year three. Urman and Rodriguez clearly define Jane’s feelings about her dead husband as they build to the resolution of the season 4 finale cliffhanger, finishing the flashback at a point of healing as Jane brings Mateo to Michael’s grave for his first Day Of The Dead.
All of those old wounds are ripped open when Jane sees Jason, and the first thing she does is pass out. When she makes up, Rafael tells her all about how Rose faked Michael’s death and erased his memory, sending her sliding back from all the progress she made and completely derailing her plans to get engaged and move in with Rafael. It’s wonderful to see Brett Dier back on Jane The Virgin, and he imbues Jason with a quiet, somber energy that comes from not knowing anything about the person he used to be. He woke up in a field with no memories, and has been trying to build a new life while living with all these questions about his past. The first big moment of connection between Jane and Jason comes when he wonder whether or not he was a good person as Michael, to which Jane responds by looking at him with tear-filled eyes and affirming, “You were a really good guy.”
Jane is able to keep it together for this first conversation, but as the reality of this situation sinks in, she begins to fall apart at the seams. This breakdown is presented in a seven-minute, single-take monologue that has Jane talking through the multitude of issues created by Michael’s resurrection, growing more and more frantic as new thoughts pop into her head. She relives the pain of those years following Michael’s death and the hard adjustment to being a widow. She panics about what she’s going to tell Mateo and laments how this interrupts her plans with Rafael. She slips into self pity as she thinks about how this latest plot twist continues to alienate her from other people who have their own problems, but nothing on par with the craziness that has defined Jane’s life for seven years.
Sure, this scene goes on too long and feels like a manufactured showcase of Rodriguez’s acting and directing skills, but it works as a deliberate break from the established look and rhythm of the series that highlights Jane’s mental deterioration. This is Jane at her most unhinged, but it’s also Urman and Rodriguez making a grand statement in the final season of the award-winning show they were able to complete on their own terms. It’s a creative flex, with Urman writing a monologue that encapsulates Jane’s entire journey over the course of the series and gives the star the chance to both perform and stage it herself. It highlights just how vital Rodriguez has been for the show’s success, and seeing her take on the directing reins for such an important episode also indicates how vital this show has been for Rodriguez’s professional development and making her a bigger Hollywood player both in front of and behind the camera.
This seven-minute monologue is certainly impressive, but ultimately it emphasizes how great the storytelling on this show is when it stays on the tracks that have kept it moving smoothly for 82 episodes. One of the strangest things about Jane’s speech is that it eliminates the back and forth she normally has with Xo and Alba, and it doesn’t make sense for these two women to sit back when it’s clear that Jane is in a downward spiral. There’s also no commentary from the Narrator, and as the monologue goes on, you begin to realize how valuable the narration is for keeping the energy up. The same goes for scene transitions, and the longer we spend in this scene, the more the momentum dips despite Jane’s feverish speech. The scene is a clever way of breaking form to show a pronounced change in the character’s mental state, and even though it leaves me wanting to get back to the show’s usual camerawork and dialogue, I feel like that wanting is the reaction the creative team wants from the viewer. The scene doesn’t feel right, but nothing in Jane’s life feels right anymore.
The episode does get back into those typical rhythms after the monologue, and there are a lot of strong interactions that accentuate how Jason’s appearance impacts the larger ensemble. We get one scene on the Villanueva porch swing, and while it deals with a lot of the same material that is outlined in the monologue, having Xo and Alba in active roles makes the conversation resonate more fully. Rafael is left in a particularly tough spot this week, and while Jane is freaking out, Xo is making sure that the rest of the family takes Rafael’s feelings into account. Rogelio tries to force some bonding with Rafael, but the real comfort comes from Xo, who has a tight bond with Rafael thanks to his help during her cancer treatment. Rafael feels comfortable enough with Xo to let his guard down, and he immediately breaks down in tears as he expresses his worry about his future with Jane.
Rafael has a lot of legitimate reasons to worry, and while this episode ends with Jane processing her emotions and realizing she still wants to be with Rafael, having Michael back in the picture—even if he’s an amnesiac named Jason—is still cause for concern. Michael’s old personality starts to come through when Jason and Jane argue on the carousel, and even though there’s a big hurdle between them, the chemistry between Rodriguez and Dier is still pulling the characters together. At the same time, this episode does a lot to put Rafael where Michael was at the very start of the series, establishing him as the longtime boyfriend whose romance is interrupted by a face from Jane’s past.
After deciding that she still wants to continue on the path she’s on with Rafael, Jane comes to his new office in a yellow dress calling back to the scene in the pilot where she proposes to Michael at the police station. A proposal doesn’t happen because it’s his first day at a new job, but they do have a much-needed conversation where Jane proclaims her commitment and tells him she doesn’t want to delay their move. Fans of Rafael and Jane will be delighted by this development, but there’s still an entire season of complications to come. What happens when Michael gets his memory back? It’s the big question lingering over the series, and given how well-plotted this series has been for four seasons, I’m confident that the answer will lead to some very satisfying drama.
- It’s even harder than usual to be invested in the hotel shenanigans in this episode, which involve JR leaving Petra after she shoots Petra’s ex-husband, Milos. The Petra/Milos scenes inject some goofy comedy to lighten the heaviness of the Jane/Jason plot, but the former spouses’ relationship just isn’t very interesting. I’m hoping this isn’t the last we see of JR because Rosario
- Kevin Kiner’s music has been an essential part of this show’s storytelling since the beginning, and he does beautiful work depicting the tension between Jane and Jason in his score, which blends dizzy guitar riffs with propulsive piano to capture the uncertainty and the underlying passion between the former lovers.
- Bridget Regan is really hamming it up as Rose for the final season and I am into it. She’s playing a telenovela big bad, so I expect her to keep amping up the performance as Sin Rostro does increasingly ridiculous shit like assembling a small army at the end of this episode.
- Does Petra jog Jason’s memory or does he just think she’s hot?
- Rogelio: “Are you engaged?!” Jane: “No.” Narrator: “But she might be married.”
- “You are lesbian!”
- “I am baby ferrets.”
- Jane: “Do I have something on my face?” Narrator: “Yeah. You have a little Michael on your face.”
- Jane: “We kissed and we saw my mom drunk on the porch swing.” Jason: “That’s sad.”
- “Well you did conspire to cover up a crime with her, maybe that’s what you’re remembering.”
- “That must have been unbearable.”
- Petra: “You got blood all over it. This will never hold up in court.” Narrator: “I don’t think any of this will hold up in court.”
- Petra: “Would I prefer to forget all of them? Sure! But how can I?” Narrator: “Besides electroshock therapy centered on the hippocampus and the temporal lobe.”