There has always been a central conflict working away at the center of Jane the Virgin, and it’s not the tension between Rafael and Michael. It has nothing to do with the Jane’s faith versus her relationships or the struggle between balancing impending motherhood with pursuing her dreams. The war that will forever be waged on Jane the Virgin until, God forbid, somebody wins, is that between soap opera and realism.
What’s made Jane such a lovely surprise throughout its first season has been its ability to marry soap-opera elements with grounded beats of realistic human drama, an intoxicating if volatile alchemy that, when it works, cements Jane as one of the best shows on TV. However, when miscalibrated, the two combine to jarring effect, taking something emotionally pure and distorting it in such a way that what’s intended to be twisty ends up too horrifying to truly contemplate.
“Chapter Twenty-Two,” the final episode of Jane the Virgin’s first season, contains all of the high highs the show is capable of when at the top of its game while simultaneously going completely off the rails in the final five minutes. But before its descent into madness, the episode is modulated remarkably well and opens with a beautiful scene between Xiomara and Alba in the moments immediately preceding giving birth, in which Xo weeps to her mother that she’s too tired to continue and Alba assures her that it’s only five more minutes of pain for a lifetime of happiness. And that she needs to push or Alba will pull the kid out. It’s touching and funny and everything glorious about the show. It’s even better when this precise moment, likely one that has been lovingly retold in Villanueva lore for years, repeats itself upon Xo’s last-minute arrival at Jane’s bedside and she is able to reassure her weary, tearful daughter just as she had been reassured 24 years earlier. The women are together, and they are stronger than they’ve ever been, and they are resolute in their determination to make it through whatever trials they may have to face so long as they’re together.
That moment and the birthing afterglow that follows is, without question, one of the most glorious moments the TV season will produce this year, full of pure, beautiful emotion, and the closest thing to joy that fiction is able to provide. It served as the perfect punctuation mark on a remarkable episode of television and launched the next great love story of the show: that of Jane and her son Mateo.
The aching humanity of this scene is precisely what makes the final scene of “Chapter Twenty-Two” so monstrous. A few hours after giving birth, alone in her room with her son, a nurse enters to take Mateo away for a hearing test, assuring Jane that she’ll return with him in a matter of minutes, and she should catch a quick nap while she can. The nurse leaves the room and carries baby Mateo down a hallway before clipping off his hospital ID, smuggling him under her coat, and delivering him into a waiting car and the arms of Sin Rostro.
It’s not the only shocking ending of the finale — there’s the fact that Xo and Rogelio got drunkenly married in Las Vegas, and Petra came into possession of another viable vial of Rafael’s sperm, and the fact that Nadine is on the loose again and likely making her way back to Sin Rostro. But all of those things pale in the face of the kidnapping of baby Mateo. Soap operas are known for their shocking and over-the-top twists, ones that beggar belief, and all of the other plots are wholly in line with what you’d expect on a big season finale. Even a kidnapping isn’t so shocking on a run-of-the mill soap opera. I’d wager that half of the individuals that populated Days of Our Lives were kidnapped at one point or another.
But Mateo isn’t just a child, he’s a catalyst. He’s the reason the entire show exists. He is the true love and entire world of a character who we, as an audience, love more than life itself. Jane Villanueva isn’t just a television character; she’s a role model. She’s the best of what humanity is capable of while still remaining flawed and interesting and complicated. Or, if we’re talking in terms of biblical allusions here, if Jane is our lovely virgin mother, that makes Mateo Jane the Virgin’s Jesus. They literally kidnapped Jesus. Which is to say that it’s almost impossible to look at Mateo being taken from Jane, mere hours after his birth, and see it as just fodder for future stories as opposed to a horrifically scarring event that leaves a person not anxious for the second season to begin, but sick at the thought of what’s to come.
Still, all of that can’t negate what was a tremendous first season for a show that no one could have anticipated. Summer will be long without the antics of the Jane the Virgin crew, and now that Jane’s baby has been born, there’s no telling where season two will lead. We can only hope that whatever it holds will allow for the balance that the show so desperately needs to thrive.
Xiomara is reluctant to leave Jane to go to Las Vegas for her show with Rogelio, but Jane insists upon it, assuring her that she’ll call if anything changes. Jane is supposed to catch dinner with Michael but has to take a rain check because she’s trying to deal with graduate-school issues. He surprises her with takeout and is there when she starts having contractions. After taking Jane to the hospital, where she finds out it was false labor, Michael and Rafael argue in the waiting room. Jane catches them and is upset, returning home on her own. Later, Rafael stops by and finally admits his true feelings for Jane, telling her that he was in a dark place and that he lied to her because he thought that’s what she needed to hear, and that he wasn’t any good for her. Jane (rightfully) isn’t having it. Michael, too, stops by later on and apologizes for his actions the previous night, bringing a peace offering of a birthing playlist before telling Jane that while he did want to be friends no matter what, he was also interested in more. Jane lets it slip that she’s having feelings for him, too, but makes it sound like he’s her safety school and Rafael her first choice. This isn’t exactly flattering, and Michael leaves.
Jane visits with the grad-school admissions officer to plead her case and try to get an extension, having found out that she missed the application deadline. While in the process, she starts actual labor and, figuring she still had plenty of time/was in false labor, took the bus home. Her labor starts speeding up, and the rest of the passengers on the bus (and Xo on the phone) exhort the bus driver to take Jane to the hospital, which he does. Jane makes it to the hospital, as do Alba and Rafael, and labor slows after she’s given her epidural. In the meantime, Xo and Ro fight over Xo assuming that Rogelio wouldn’t want to skip his show to be with Jane as she delivered, but they make up just in time to go drinking with a group of his fans. The next morning, they awaken hung-over and rush to catch their flight home.
Jane’s labor starts in earnest, and she’s distraught that Xo will not make it in time. She begins pushing, and just at the point where she feels all hope is lost, Xiomara and Rogelio arrive in time to witness the birth of their grandson Mateo, named after Alba’s husband. Shortly after giving birth, Rafael tries to talk to Jane again about reconciling, but Jane tells him it’s not the right time. Michael later stops by to see the baby and tells Jane not to worry about what they talked about earlier, that she should be focusing only on Mateo right now, a statement that earned him glowy hearts from both Jane and Mateo alike.
Later, when going through his luggage looking for his concealer, Rogelio comes across a DVD entitled “Xo and Ro,” which neither he nor Xiomara recall receiving. They decide to watch it and see that it’s a recording of their drunken (and completely forgotten) Vegas wedding, as witnessed by Rogelio’s fans and performed by a Cher impersonator. They are shocked. Shortly thereafter, Mateo is taken by the rogue nurse and delivered into the waiting arms of Sin Rostro.
With the sale of his father’s hotel group complete, Rafael decides this is the perfect time to try to buy out Petra’s share of the Marbella, freeing his life from her grasp for once and for all. To do so, he tries to manipulate her but keeps getting interrupted by Jane’s labor pains. At the same time, a hospital keeps trying to reach him but he keeps avoiding their calls, leaving his assistant to deal with it. Eventually, his assistant gets fed up and, while Rafael is with Jane at the hospital, turns the issue over to Petra to deal with. Which is how Petra finds out that Rafael’s original sperm sample had been split into two and the second canister suddenly recovered. She intends to tell Rafael about this discovery but instead overhears him telling his sister how he wants Petra out of his life for good. In the wake of this revelation, Petra claims the sperm herself by posing as the once (and future?) Mrs. Solano.
Nadine is back and wants to trade information for her family's safety and leniency for herself. She gives Michael the whereabouts of Sin Rostro’s plastic-surgeon cohort, who supposedly gave her a new face before she disappeared into the night, meaning he was the only person who knew what she now looked like. Michael kept Nadine locked up while he checked out her lead, but by the time he reached the surgeon, he’d been killed. Upon returning to Nadine to tell her he couldn’t use her info, she begged him to make it work before he left her again to escort Xiomara and Rogelio to Jane’s bedside. In his haste, he leaves his keys and Nadine escapes, though it’s later revealed that it’s a setup and that her phone has a tracker, which will hopefully lead the police directly to Sin Rostro’s people.
Burning Questions (and Some Answers)
- Was that RuPaul’s Drag Race All-Stars winner Chad Michaels as the Cher impersonator marrying Ro and Xo?! (Yes. Yes, it was.)
- What other songs should be on Michael’s labor playlist to go along with “Push It,” “Born This Way,” and “Everybody Hurts”?
- What was the line of the night? (Just kidding, it was obviously Alba’s response to Jane asking if she should have an epidural if Alba didn’t: “Why do you think your mother is an only child?”)