If I could write this whole recap with emojis, there'd be several varieties of hearts, the running man, the dancing woman, and lots and lots of fires and heart-eyed faces. Those creepy dancing twin girls would also make an appearance. And there'd be a gun.
My imaginary emoji recap is appealing because it's incredibly hard to come away from a blockbuster hour of television like "Chapter Forty-Four" and pull together coherent thoughts that aren't just "AHHH!" or "WHY would you get ICE for the DAMN CHAMPAGNE?!" or "OMG FACE OFF MASK!" or "Why isn't all of life just Jane and Rogelio doing that father/daughter dance forever?" But I'll give it a try.
Jane the Virgin's season finale is a narrative fireworks display, a shock-and-awe storytelling spectacular that short-circuits emotional processing centers with blazing confidence. It drops jaws and crushes hearts and brings tears and also includes a pun so joyously dumb that I sat up on my sofa and started slow clapping.
The episode's success is partially due to a built-in feature of Jane the Virgin's genre, and of the show's own self-restraint earlier in the season. Telenovelas thrive on big, brash, bold, peel-off-the-mask moments, but if the density of face-burning epiphanies gets too high, they lose their punch. Jane made the choice to tone down a lot of those big moments throughout its second season. Oh sure, there's Anezka … and Derek's blackmailing … and Michael's dead partner … and the whole bit with the chip inside his leg. But throughout the season's back half, the crime-lord plot has been clunking in the background, limping along on man-scarves and the occasional hint of lurking evil.
Now, at last, that pent-up energy is allowed to bust out into the open, fizzing and flying through the last 15 minutes of this finale like a genie that had been trapped in a bottle. Luisa, fresh from rehab, assures Rafael that he will be able to find love again — after all, she did it with Susannah. The wicked, clever cruelty of Rose smugly telling Susannah that she's loved one person all along is delicious, and it also deepens Jane the Virgin's commitment to Luisa as a tragic character. Similarly, the unbelievable pain of seeing Petra enjoy her daughter's first laugh (and also one of the episode's best laugh-out-loud lines — "Baby has your sense of humor, laughing at others' tears!") before Anezka slips her the syringe, completes Petra's heartbreaking transformation from villainy to tragedy.
Jane's telenovela plotting aside, "Chapter Forty-Four" works because of the glorious wedding sequence, which hits all the right emotional notes and ping-pongs assuredly between tearfulness and laughter. It begins with relatively cheerful, low-key mayhem — Mateo walking, Rogelio and Xiomara fighting, a knocked-out priest — moves into touching warmth as Jane and Michael run through a seriously romantic itemized list of marriage discussion topics, and finally sparks into a charming dash down the aisle after Jane runs to a ridiculous last-minute thesis meeting in the final hours before her wedding. This total absurdity allows Professor Donaldson to throw one last punch while buttoning Jane into her dress ("I feel like I'm locking you into the patriarchy as I do this,") and it lands Jane and Rogelio on a city bus, 17 long stops away from the church as the wedding is scheduled to begin.
Once Jane finally arrives, the wedding is everything a Jane fan could ask for, along with several things I didn't even know to want. Rafael swallows his feelings (on Luisa's well-meaning, but unexpectedly misinformed, advice) and refrains from telling Jane he loves her. The Catholic ceremony is respectfully traditional, in a way that feels true to this show's desire to blend progressivism with custom. After a supportive nod from Alba, Michael gave his vows in Spanish — and, yes, that was the point when I cried a little. The moment was immediately followed by delighted, crowing laughter: Jane and Michael are declared man and wife, and the church choir kicks up a roof-busting rendition of "Go Have Sex, Jane!"
The reception is pure, Rogelio-inspired fantasy. Bruno Mars gets his act together and RSVPs so that he can give Michael and Jane a dreamy, celebrity-enhanced first dance. Jane and Rogelio's father/daughter dance is an unadulterated distillation of the happy end of Jane the Virgin's emotional register, swinging instantaneously from gleeful tears to pumped-up synchronized awesomeness. I was not ready for this. And how could I have been? It's so dazzlingly fun, it's hard to even look at directly.
All in all, Jane's ceremony and reception goes much more smoothly than Alba's did — a wedding, we learn, that disintegrated into a brawl when someone revealed Alba's relationship with Pablo Alonso Segura in the middle of the ceremony. It even heals some of the rift between Xiomara and Rogelio, who still love each other, but simply cannot resolve their differences.
That may well change next season, though, as Esteban's Extra-Firm, Extra-Long Este-buns have done their work far too well: The finale's best candidate for "Plot Revelation That Got Buried by Everything That Came Next" is Xiomara discovering that she's pregnant. Eep!
And so, it's the moment of truth. Jane and Michael, desperate to follow the Virgin Mary's direct advice to Get It On, decide against driving to a Motel 6. But in a scene instantly recognizable to anyone who's seen a horror movie, Michael decides to leave the room. For ice. There in the hallway, after a throwaway reference to Alabama football, we learn that Michael's partner Susannah is not who she says she is, and she SHOOTS MICHAEL IN THE CHEST. Because SHE WAS SIN ROSTRO THIS WHOLE TIME.
I have to give full credit to Jane the Virgin. I absolutely knew this was coming, in some shape or another. In spite of that, this twist was completely stunning. To be clear, though: There is no corpse, there is no funeral, and this is a telenovela. We cannot say for sure that Michael Cordero is dead, and it seems reasonable to hope that's not the case. Let's remember: Mateo's kidnapping presented a huge challenge at the beginning of season two, and Jane handled it remarkably well. By withholding full confirmation of Michael's death, the show gets to forestall some of that inter-season hand-wringing a little bit — but if I know Jane, no resolution to this story will be fast or easy, and that is tragedy enough in itself. I had really hoped the title of this show would become winkingly nostalgic. Alas.
For now, this ending sequence packs an hour of feeling into three minutes of story. It's dizzying and horrifying and great. If Michael is really dead, I'm going to be really, really sad. He's been a great character, a surprisingly excellent love-triangle participant, an immensely lovable Perfect Man, and a great break-dancer.
To Be Continued … but not until the fall! DIOS MIO!
From Our Narrator, With Love:
- For a brief second, I looked away from the final moments of this episode: Everything is the #Petrafied pun and nothing hurts. And also, if you haven't read or heard this NPR feature on Anthony Mendez, the voice of Our Beloved Narrator, do not deprive yourself any longer.
- Mateo can walk! "Behold the most amazing and coordinated boy in human history!"
- "Rafael's family drama had recently taken a turn for the bonkers."
- As Jane and Michael kiss: "Oh my God. Sorry. Gosh. [Sniff.] I just can't believe it actually happened."
- Rogelio is in full Bluetooth-yelling, Rolls Royce–burning, makeup-blotting, father-of-the-bride splendor — and on top of everything else, he's obviously responsible for putting Mateo in a lavender son-of-the-bride onesie. GREAT JOB! #HisBigDay #EveryBoysDream
- "Tell Bruno Mars if he doesn't confirm, I am cutting him from the lineup! Yes, I know he played the Super Bowl. Tell him this is the Super Bowl of weddings!"
- "Why. Do. You. Have. A. Sex. Basket. From. My. Mortal. Enemy."
- Rogelio announces Bruno Mars: "And now, for your first dance, I would like to introduce my third best friend in the world!"