Over the weekend, swarms of people rushed to the movie theaters to take in the latest version of Disney’s Cinderella. The film is divisive, with some finding it utterly charming and others finding the central message a little thin. One of the main takeaways from the film is to have courage and be kind, no matter what the circumstances. While that’s all well and good for some circumstances, the film itself seems to gloss over the part where, at some point, you have to stand up for yourself.
In previous reviews, I admit I’ve been a little tough on Jane and the show’s tendency to make her into something of a saint. But as Jane the Virgin’s first season has progressed, it’s become increasingly clear that Jane Villanueva is far from a dishrag or a doormat. What Jane has that the most recent iteration of Cinderella lacks is the understanding that while it’s preferable to default to kindness whenever you can, there’s also a certain point in time where you have to say that enough is enough.
“Chapter 16” offers a perfect example of how Jane is no pushover. After an entire episode spent tiptoeing around Rafael’s bruised ego in the wake of his failed proposal, Jane decides she’s fed up. She points out to Rafael that the reason they’re in this awkward situation is because he proposed too soon. That if he had stopped and thought about it for a moment or taken a second and asked someone who really knew Jane about it, he never would have gone through with it, and she never would have had to turn him down. She directly articulates that she wasn’t to blame for his hurt feelings, and that she wouldn’t bear his burden over it any longer.
What makes Jane the Virgin such a special show is how thoroughly it understands how complicated it is to be a truly good person in this world, and how easy it would be to stop trying. Jane struggles and fails to do right by everyone in her life, and she never stops trying. But perhaps the most interesting thing that the show has done in its first season is slowly showing Jane that she can’t fix everything through simple kindness, and that that’s okay, too.
Throughout the episode, throughout the series, we see Jane indulge in the fantasy world she takes such comfort in, where things are romantic and uncomplicated and above all, nice. But Jane understands that those fantasies are a far cry from reality, and that expecting life to work out just the way she wants is an exercise in futility. By episode’s end, she’s assuring Rafael that what she needs from him is not grand, romantic gestures, but connection. Jane knows that what she wants and what she needs aren’t always going to be the same thing, but she also isn’t going to wait around just hoping someone will give them to her. She’s going to go out and fight for them. Maybe Jane the Virgin is a fantasy, but that’s still a heck of a lot better than a fairy tale.
Jane and Rafael are struggling with how to relate to each other in the aftermath of the failed proposal. While Jane seems anxious for things to return to the way they were, Rafael is decidedly more distant, assuring Jane that he’s just busy with work, even while it’s clear he’s still licking his wounds. Xo and Rogelio have finally found a house they want to move into, and though Xo told Alba about her plans, Alba didn’t take her seriously, spawning a huge argument between the two that Jane tries (and fails) to mediate. Jane runs into a serious case of writer’s block and decides to join a writer’s group to work past it. Upon entering the group, she accidentally insults one of the members after a workshop exercise and feels terrible about it, as playing the mean girl, accidental or otherwise, isn’t something she’s had much familiarity with. She eventually works things out with the group and is allowed to stay, and her frustrations with Rafael finally come to a head. They’re able to work through their issues, with Rafael realizing that in proposing to Jane, what he was really seeking was a family.
Rafael and Petra are busy trying to get the hotel back on its feet and decide to utilize Rogelio’s celebrity connections to do so. Rafael meets with Rogelio, whereupon he’s informed that the latter is angry with him for not asking permission to propose to Jane. Rafael awkwardly apologizes, and Rogelio agrees to lay the groundwork to get David Bisbal to perform at the hotel after the Calle Ocho celebration. Petra and Rafael get a chance to reconnect on a friendlier level, though it’s clear that Petra still has feelings for him. All the same, she gives him some valuable advice that he’s able to take back and use to try to mend his troubled relationship with Jane. Also, Petra and Rafael babysit a very cute dog.
Michael is back with a more pronounced plot than he’s had in some time, showing up not only to give Jane a flyer about the writer’s group, but also getting roped into taking Rogelio on a ride-along in an attempt to help him more accurately capture the spirit of being an intergalactic space cop. This comes in the wake of Rogelio becoming an internet laughingstock thanks to his shoddy space-gun handling. Michael also meets up with Aaron Zazo, who turns over the encrypted USB drive he discovered last episode in the hopes that it will help the police track down his twin’s murderer. The hard drive contained a single name: Tony Vaughn. Rogelio and Michael decide to stake out Vaughn’s house, leaving the two plenty of time to bond. During their time isolated from the world, we learn that Rogelio is a very annoying stakeout partner and that Michael has a wealth of Jim Carrey impressions. Michael, on the other hand, learns that Rafael proposed to Jane and she turned him down. The two end up tracking Vaughn to the Calle Ocho festival, and Rogelio actually aids in the arrest.
Big Twist: Andie, a girl in Jane’s writer’s group, turns out to be Michael’s ex-girlfriend. And Rafael decides it’s finally time to begin his search for his mother, Elena Di Nola.
Burning Questions (and Some Answers)
How does this show not have a dog every week?
Seriously, how great were the dog’s captions? (So great.)
The romance novel written by Jane Seymour’s character is titled Love Under the Bridge. Is it terrible Red Hot Chili Peppers fanfiction? (God willing.)
How ironic is it to have writer’s block about an episode prominently featuring writer’s block? (Very.)