I’ve been recapping this show for a good long while, but I haven’t spent enough time writing about Gina Rodriguez’s performance as Jane. Sure, I’ve mentioned it now and again, in the way you say things like, “And of course Gina Rodriguez was really great as Jane again,” or, “Even in the context of her usual excellence, that was a notably great scene from Gina Rodriguez.”
It’s time to rectify that. Not only because it is long, long overdue, but also because Jane the Virgin is in a potentially rocky storytelling place. As I mentioned after the season premiere, the series needs to endear us to a new character in a way that will make us feel like he’s actually been fated from the jump, which is no easy feat. Although I appreciate Adam, his entry into the show has been done with a pretty light touch. He seems nice, he’s fun-loving, he’s a little immature for Jane, and he’s creative but not in a way that feels appealingly wonky. (Another potential trap: Selling artist characters by depicting their art is always daunting. We haven’t seem much of Adam’s work, but I’m not really bowled over by his comics, you know?)
So far, Adam doesn’t have much of the distinctness that made Michael and Rafael such immediately great characters. Michael was the nice one; Raf was the sexy one. Michael was the steady one; Raf was the adventurous one. Jane the Virgin was remarkably good at complicating those early binaries and proving how false they were, but they were still useful places to start. But as of now, I’m not sure where Adam fits. Last week’s episode combated Adam’s indistinctness by introducing his very own narrator. She got to argue his case, and she shifted our perspective on Adam as someone worth rooting for. But now his narrator is gone, and a big question quickly emerges: How can you prove Adam is a good fit for Jane?
The answer lies in Gina Rodriguez’s performance, which is stunningly good as usual, but which also does some crucial heavy-lifting for the story. I don’t know much about Adam, but I do know one thing: Jane likes him. A lot. Rodriguez sells the way Jane relaxes around him, the way she falls easily into his laid-back patterns, the way she enjoys shrugging off the responsibilities of Mom Jane and remembering how to be Fun Jane for a while. Jane playing roofball with Adam is Jane having fun — simple, silly fun that we haven’t seen from her in a long while. Does it matter that I don’t have strong feelings for Adam at this point? Not really, since Rodriguez is so great at playing the tension between Mom Jane and Fun Jane. Not when Fun Jane looks so transparently, overwhelmingly happy.
The other side of that is the relationship between Jane and Rafael, which is similarly great in this episode, albeit in the opposite direction. We’ve left Zen Rafael behind and are now deep into Douche Rafael territory, which isn’t an especially pleasant place. The scene when Jane and Raf text each other while trying to put Mateo to bed is a fantastic callback to the season-three episode when their bedtime texting was distinctly friendlier, and it’s also one of the best uses of the “typing but not yet sent” onscreen graphics I’ve ever seen. Meanwhile, the ongoing debate about where to send Mateo for school is exactly the sort of story that makes Jane the Virgin the most unexpectedly realist show around: People may wear latex masks to disguise their identity, but we’re also getting lengthy, serious discussions about the unfairness of impoverished public-school systems.
To no one’s surprise, Rafael and Petra just cannot make it work. There’s too much distrust on both sides, and they’re not united by much except their desperation to get the hotel back. Speaking of which: Has this show ever gone more than five or six episodes without the Marbella ownership changing hands? Do we think that somewhere in the world of Jane the Virgin, there’s a clerk for the Miami municipal offices who has to deal with some Marbella lackey showing up every three weeks to file new ownership papers? “Hi, yeah, it’s me again. So I have new forms, uh … yeah, no, this time the hotel is owned by someone named … Anezka? Look, can you just keep the Rafael Solano ones on file, or will I need to fill out new ones next week?”
“Chapter Sixty-Six” also gets us back into the world of Rogelio, Fabian, and the whole goofy telenovela nonsense. Darci is on bedrest, forcing Xo and Ro to wait on her. Rogelio and Fabian can’t work together, which results in a plot where Rogelio dresses as a woman to persuade a focus group that Fabian should be the one killed off rather than him. I’ll be honest, though: I didn’t love Rogelio pulling a Mrs. Doubtfire. He made for a lovely woman, and I appreciate the way Rogelio recognizes how important it is to anticipate the needs of others and do a little emotional labor. But there’s a part of me that wishes the focus group could’ve just made a decision without being manipulated by the desires of men. I loved the idea that Rogelio and Fabian would be judged by a roomful of women deciding their fate. Of course, that’s still the result: Jane the Virgin’s marvelous telenovela network execs are women, and Rogelio’s fate is constantly controlled by women writers, women directors, and women producers. I suppose my desire to watch Rogelio at the mercy of women is just boundless.
So in the end, Jane has a cast on her leg, but she also has Adam, who’s going to stick around even though he got a job offer in Los Angeles. Petra and Rafael no longer have one another. Rafael is jumping into bed with hotelier Katherine Cortes. Darci is still pregnant, and hopefully understands the importance of being friends with Rogelio. Plus, Esteban is back and Darci is (obviously) super-into him. Luisa still doesn’t have the Marbella because Petra refused to sign the papers, but Petra doesn’t have enough shares to fully wrest control back either. And just as Petra think she’s figured out a plan — nope! — her monstrous mom shows up in a terrifically bananas shot with the twins sitting on her lap, stroking her bedazzled hook.
ONE. OF. THESE. CHARACTERS. WILL. DIE! In case you missed it, the choices are: Petra’s mom, Anezka, Luisa, Petra, Rafael, or Alba. (Please, please, please not Alba.) To be continued!
From Our Narrator, With Love
• In the continuing ascendancy of Adam, it’s important that someone keeps arguing for the other side of things. Thus, Our Narrator’s thoughts on Alba: “Daaaaaaamn, Alba is ride or die for Rafael!”
• Everything about Our Narrator’s love for Alba is amazing. Fun Alba versus Regular Alba, with her Bible crossword and her single unbuttoned button? Amazing.
• “Your cake is so vulgar and distasteful and posing in the nude with a feline is so 2015!”
• On spending $8,000 for Mateo’s tuition: “That’s less than I spent to shoot Ricardo Montalban’s ashes into outer space!”
• As I said, I wasn’t a huge fan of Rogelio sneaking into the focus group, but I do love the way Fabian will be written out of Guillermo: The new plot will involve “the lady scientist eating them both” and only one will make it out of her butt alive.
• Rogelio’s thoughts on the focus group: “Pick me! Choose me! LOVE. ME.”
• On realizing Fabian has been replaced with Esteban: “Get that delusional has-been back this instant!”