Let’s get the big news out of the way right up front.
Getting it out of the way at the beginning is not how this episode works, which makes for a notable departure from the way Jane the Virgin structured its season-two premiere. Here’s the thing about premiere episodes for a show like this one: Either you resolve the finale cliffhanger relatively quickly, which is how Jane the Virgin dealt with the Mateo kidnapping plot from season one, or you draw it out for the full episode, as “Chapter Forty-Five” does.
There are advantages to each method. By devoting the full episode to resolving Michael’s fate, “Chapter Forty-Five” puts us through the emotional wringer, revisiting the earliest moments of Jane and Michael’s relationship, putting them inside a romance-novel frame, and doing some nice work exploring the tension between Jane and Michael’s mother. There’s some useful location overlap, too — the primary timeline’s main action happens at the hospital, which allows the Michael plot to tie into poor Petra-fied Petra’s story. For a show with lots of moving pieces, it’s nice to have a brief moment where most of the main events hang around in the same place.
On the other hand, the major advantage of quickly resolving Mateo’s kidnapping plot was that the season-two premiere could devote time to develop new stories and new conflicts. It marked a shift in Jane’s life — the episode was able to dive headlong into who Jane was now that she was a mother, and it started to lay the groundwork for how that shift would impact the series. Because “Chapter Forty-Five” is stuck in will-he-or-won’t-he land about Michael’s fate, a lot of that work will be shifted to the coming weeks.
In a lot of ways, “Chapter Forty-Five” really feels like “Chapter Forty-Four: Part Two,” because all of the major events are direct fallout from things that have already happened. Michael is shot, and we spend the hour waiting to find out his fate. Anezka, still disguised as Petra, tries to get back to the hospital so she can keep her sister stuck in paralysis. Susanna/Rose escapes with Luisa, although a trail of powdered sugar helps the cops know who to look for.
To its credit, though, the episode knows it’s a continuation of last season’s finale, and builds that idea into its familiar thematic framework. “Chapter Forty-Five” considers the idea that there are certain inviolable generic conventions, and the question about whether knowing the outcome impacts the journey, threading both through both the current-day story and the Jane/Michael flashbacks. We start with young Jane as a romance-novel fan at a book reading, questioning an author’s decision to end her novel without a HEA (happily ever after). “Sometimes you need to subvert the ending for the element of surprise!” the author argues. Young Jane insists that this breaks the structure of the genre, and that the book should be called “fiction” rather than “romance.” It’s a question Jane the Virgin obviously poses to its audience and to itself: Is this show really a romance at its heart? Is it something more patchwork? If it breaks the rules of its genre, do we consider that to be daring and innovative, or does that constitute a breach of its audience’s trust? Whatever the case, dear Lord, please get that child into a narratology class ASAP. Tzvetan Todorov’s The Fantastic is just waiting for you, Jane!
While the whole crew is stuck waiting to see whether Michael will pull through, “Chapter Forty-Five” takes the opportunity to explore the first moments of Jane’s relationship with Michael. The flashback plot works like a little proof of concept for the episode’s own question: We know that Jane and Michael will get together, so will watching them sort things out at the beginning still be satisfying? Can we still enjoy a story if we know the ending? In this case the answer is yes, because those early days involved an awkward love triangle with a very attractive man named Sam, Michael making Jane soup, a dead cat, and Jane and Michael calling each other bad names. The whole thing is undeniably charming, especially the moment where Michael pulls Sam over for a petty illegal U-turn and forces Jane to take the soup he made for her under false pretenses.
This particular story is satisfying even though we know the ending, but stopping there would also be too easy for Jane. Part of what gives this flashback its juice is that it’s still set inside the bigger frame of Michael’s uncertain fate, and the show ties those memories to action in the current day. Jane is forced to choose between a wait-and-see approach to Michael’s care, or a risky but potentially more effective surgical option. Remembering how Michael refused to walk away from their potential relationship, Jane insists that he is a fighter and chooses the surgery.
There’s not much here that points to what season three will look like, but one of the few developing stories is in the tension between Jane and Michael’s mother. His mom’s understandable concern, and her desire to control her son’s medical care, forces Jane to step up and really come to grips with herself as Michael’s wife, as the person who needs to make this decision for him. His mother’s initial stance is to wait and see how things go, and Jane has to rely on her instinct to push back and go the other way. It’s a nice moment. We also get a touch of what’s to come in Rafael’s future — I appreciated the time this episode took to note that he does not feel a romantic connection with Anezka, which simultaneously kick-starts Project Onion Rings, and inversely affirms that Rafael and Petra’s feelings for each other might be real. Rafael knows that his encounter with Anezka was not the same, and it makes his potential reunion with Petra more meaningful.
The other tiny hint of the future is in Xiomara’s brief conversation with the soon-to-be-incarcerated Rogelio, who really should not have given tweakers his urine even though it was a nice gesture. (Look, it’s still Jane the Virgin. Some stuff like this is going to happen.) Xo tells Rogelio that she won’t be having the baby — not a surprising decision for her, but one that I’ll be interested to watch play out in the very Catholic Villanueva household.
After all of the waiting, we reach the biggest twist of the episode: Everything works out! Petra’s still stuck being paralyzed by Anezka, Rose has Luisa trapped on a submarine somewhere, and Anezka is planning a further plot against Rafael (hilariously encoded as an onion-ring metaphor). But Michael’s surgery goes well, he wakes up and remembers his wife — good amnesia joke there, writers — and he gets a cat out of the whole thing.
Of course, this is just episode one of the season. It will remain to be seen whether all of that groundwork about HEAs will indeed lead to a subversion of the genre, or whether we’ll get to have that beautiful flash-forward ending with three kids and snowy vacations and Michael working the grill. It is a lovely episode by itself, but somewhat unusually for Jane, we’re now left with a question: What will the next trouble be?
To Be Continued!
From Our Narrator, With Love:
- Xo tells Jane that Michael will be “okay,” and Jane responds, “You don’t know that.” To which our narrator replies, “Which is true, because she couldn’t skip ahead to the ending, and we can’t either.” Thereby testing my resolve to do exactly that.
- In premiere episodes like this one, Our Narrator does a lot of “previously on” heavy lifting, reminding us of all the little bits and bobs that we may be foggy on from last season. It’s a testament to how well-written this show is, and how strong Anthony Mendez’s performance is, that what could so easily feel patronizing is actually quite smooth.
- “No, not amnesia?!” NICE HEAD-FAKE THERE, NARRATOR.
- There isn’t much time for Rogelio this week, but it is nice to have a little urine-swapping plot to lighten up the mood. Even when Rogelio can’t do much to help, at least he can offer his pee to some tweakers.
- “You thought I was ERIK ESTRADA?! That guy is like A HUNDRED!” #urinetrouble
- I do feel so badly for poor Xo and Ro. #estebunintheoven #estebarf