overnights

Jane the Virgin Season Premiere Recap: Back From the Dead

Jane the Virgin

Chapter Eighty-Two
Season 5 Episode 1
Editor’s Rating *****

Jane the Virgin

Chapter Eighty-Two
Season 5 Episode 1
Editor’s Rating *****
Photo: Tyler Golden/The CW

Welcome back to the final season of Jane the Virgin! The phrase “final season of Jane the Virgin” is enough to make me a little teary before I even get into the specifics of this episode, so I am looking forward to a heart-twisting, joy-filled final run of this show, and I am very thrilled to have you here with me so we can all be in this place together.

But first, I do need to be transparent about something for this final season: my recapping integrity has been compromised. While writing a profile of Jane’s showrunner Jennie Snyder Urman, I visited the set last summer as they filmed the premiere. (This very episode! That we all watched just now!) As part of that reporting process, I became privy to some knowledge about this season. Not everything! There are things I don’t know! But I know quite a bit. The recaps won’t be very different because of it — I definitely won’t be spoiling anything. (Can you imagine?! Rogelio would be so disappointed in me, which I could not bear.) But it does mean that I won’t be doing much of the “I wonder what’s going to happen next?” commentary. It’s not fair to do that if I know what’s going to happen! So there’ll still be lots and lots of “oh my God!” and “let’s talk about why this was great” and “did you catch how this tied back to this other thing!?” There’ll just be a little less “how is this going to end?!”

Okay, enough of that. Michael is back from the dead, but he has amnesia, so he’s not Michael anymore! He’s Jason now, and the difference between Michael and Jason is instantly obvious. He speaks slowly, is put off by everything about Jane and her family, is attracted to Petra (WTF?!), and carries himself with an entirely different energy than Michael’s upbeat confidence. He loves dogs, especially his dog Bo. Jane looks at him and is instantly completely undone.

Much of the episode, especially Jane’s astounding, nearly seven-minute monologue, is spent inside that initial, overwhelming, reeling sensation. But it’s also about trying to place this shocking twist in the context of what’s happened from the very beginning of this show. MichaelJason’s return cannot just be about his sudden arrival and what happens next. It’s also about what his and Jane’s marriage was, what his death did to Jane and her family, and how much she’s had to change in the years since he died. His reappearance pushes Jane to reconsider her relationship with Rafael, and whether she’s ready to commit to him. It puts poor Rafael on what feels like insecure footing everywhere: in his relationship with Jane, in his new friendship with Rogelio, in his closeness with the Villanuevas. It even forces Jane to reconsider all of her work: She tells her mom and grandmother that she’d finally figured out a frame for her novel, one that integrates all of these pieces of her life, and now it feels like the whole thing has imploded. MichaelJason’s return triggers a self-reassessment throughout the entire world of the show.

“Chapter Eighty-Two” begins with a montage of Jane, Alba, and Xo kneeling in front of several headstones. It’s the Day of the Dead, and they’re there to remember lost loved ones. First, they go to Jane’s grandfather’s grave when Jane is a little girl, then we see them at Michael’s grave immediately after his death, and then again at his grave several years later. That Day of the Dead theme shows up throughout the episode; we see it when Jane looks at Michael and has a vision of him in the skeletal makeup. The boundary between life and death got very porous with MichaelJason’s reappearance, and she looks at him and can’t help but see him as someone who’s still dead and is somehow walking back into her life.

But Jane sees herself in Day of the Dead makeup as well. Jane is also a show about Jane’s changing identities and roles, something the title card plays with every episode, and this week it’s an unhelpful, evocative, “Jane the ???” That existential question about who she is now also shows up in Jane’s epic monologue, in which she lists all of her different roles — mother, girlfriend, daughter, writer — and frets about whether she should circle “married,” “single,” or “widow” at the doctor’s office. Fundamentally, MichaelJason’s appearance means that the story Jane has built about herself for the past several years has been erased. It’s not just that she’s been wiped out of Michael’s memory, although she has. It’s that the narrative she’s pulled together to define who she is has suddenly turned into a lie. She doesn’t know her own story anymore.

There are lots of questions created by MichaelJason’s return: whether his memory will come back, why Rose did this to him in the first place (something she’ll only tell Luisa, of course), what happened to him while he was gone, what this will mean for Jane and Rafael. What this will mean for Rogelio! But because he’s really just this bomb who’s been thrown into the story, all Jane can do is try to gather up the pieces and reassure the people she loves that they’ll make it through, somehow.

In the pilot episode, Jane wore a yellow dress and marched into Michael’s office to declare that she loved him. Now, in the first episode of the last season, Jane walks into Rafael’s office wearing a yellow dress, and she begins to make a big public declaration of how much she loves him. It’s intensely awkward, because it’s Rafael’s first day of work, and Jane waltzes in and starts yelling about how her husband has returned from the dead, so they have the rest of the conversation outside. The implication is the same, though. Jane is there to reassure him that whatever else happens, they’ll make it through. And because it is Jane the Virgin, they have more to make it through than they even know.

While this happens, Petra and JR are juggling a whole situation with Petra’s ex-husband Milos, who manages to gain ownership of the Marbella and also get stuffed inside a giant bear for a while. (The person JR shot is Milos, by the way, and now it looks as though JR may have left Petra for good, which — sob!) Rose is trying to woo Luisa back with a roomful of vegan doughnuts, and only Luisa can learn why Rose gave Michael amnesia. And, somehow, Rose is in prison, but she’s also hiring a very scary team of female mercenaries who she’ll probably employ to some gruesome and villainous ends. Jane the Virgin is back! To be continued!

From Our Narrator, With Love

• I will always love it when Our Narrator plays coy with us about how much he knows about what’s going to happen. “For a second that felt like the old Jane and Michael!” he says. “But what do I know. Except the story!” Give up the goods, Narrator!

• The ongoing mysteries of how exactly the Marbella changes hands will apparently continue in season five, kicked off by the hilarity of Petra demanding that Milos write a shakily penned note giving her back the hotel. When he gets blood all over it she’s miffed because it won’t hold up in court. “I don’t think any of this would hold up in court,” our Narrator notes.

• That farewell scene between Petra and JR is so heartbreaking! Even though it culminates in an “I love you” — “I know” exchange, which our Narrator cheekily uses to cut to Jane telling MichaelJason that Michael’s favorite movie was Star Wars.

• I love that shot of Luisa in her hotel room, surrounded by vegan powdered doughnuts. The one story I will tell about being on the set for this episode is that this scene was shot at the end of a long day on location, and when everyone got ready to shoot this scene, Gina Rodriguez (who also directed this episode!) and Jennie Urman decided that the doughnuts were arranged the wrong way in all of the baskets and the vegan label wouldn’t be visible enough. So one of my lingering memories from that visit will always be the entire cast and crew hunkered down in this tiny hotel-room set, cheerfully flipping around hundreds of donut packages at like nine o’clock at night.

#Rogelio

No one is ever as confident as Rogelio, and there may be no better proof of this than his unshakeable belief that the second he sees MichaelJason and says “Rogelio De La Vega,” Michael’s memories will return. Alas, even the magic of Rogelio isn’t enough.

Jane the Virgin Season Premiere Recap: Back From the Dead