Jane the Virgin
I am so pleased to report that the final season of Jane the Virgin is picking up some steam for the home stretch! Last week’s episode felt like a real gift, and “Chapter Ninety-Five” is a continuing demonstration of what Jane can do when it fully knows where it’s heading and is working its way toward an endgame.
For one thing, Lina came back! Jane has always been careful to make sure Jane and Lina’s friendship hasn’t fallen completely by the wayside, and as Jane and Raf now move into real wedding planning, it’s a nice opportunity for Lina to arrive and help Jane. At the same time, Lina’s arrival presents the show with some opportunities to push on some important emotional Jane/Raf buttons, like the idea of future children. Lina’s request for Jane to become her egg donor lets the show dig back into emotional territory from the show’s earliest days — parenthood and the surprising ways we get there, how Jane feels about biological children, the difficulty of growing attached and then letting go. And it’s smart for the show to then draw that same parallel with Jane’s feelings about Rogelio; like Jane, it’s easy for the audience to forget that Ro has not always been here, and that this relationship has changed dramatically over the last five seasons.
“Chapter Ninety-Five” also picks up something that started happening a bit earlier this season, something I’m really glad the show has both figured out how to do gracefully and started doing early: flashbacks. It’s so easy for flashbacks to be maudlin and self-congratulatory, and clip shows are the most dreaded form of “very special episode” for a reason. They’re also almost always a bit condescending; flashbacks feel like a guy sitting next to you on the sofa while you watch, constantly nudging you and going, “Hey, remember that! Remember that!”
But Jane will never go full clip show, and the flashbacks here are both noticeable and welcome. So much has happened on Jane since the beginning of season one; anyone could be forgiven for having lost track of how far the show has come. But even more than that, it’s possible to remember events from the past without recalling how emotional they were, what they looked like, the tiny details of how much bigger those moments felt at the time. In both the Lina story and the Rogelio story, Jane uses little snippets of flashback to anchor the current-day plots to stories from the past. It’s less “Hey, remember that!” and more “Because we know you remember how hard it was for Jane to decide to keep Mateo, you will now also feel the parallels with deciding whether to donate her eggs to Lina.” The flashbacks are well done! They do just enough to make me feel sweetly conscious of how much these characters have grown without feeling overly manipulative or repetitive.
It also continues to be an overwhelming relief to have Jane and Rafael mostly on the same page together. The tension about Rafael working at the Marbella again and his resulting delinquency with the Unitarian minister Jane’s trying to line up as their officiant is a nice little feint in this direction. It seems as though Raf could be falling back into his playboy ways, and the minister’s suggestion that Rafael might not be taking their family seriously is plausible enough as a potential concern for Jane that I fully expected this to turn into another argument between them. Instead, Raf goes back to the minister to beg for his apology and discovers that Jane has already taken the guy down a peg for daring to suggest he knows anything about their relationship. “You can’t even commit to a religion!” is a great comeback for a Unitarian minister who doubts the seriousness of a relationship. And seriously, how dare that guy?!
The bigger issue is that Lina’s request for some of Jane’s eggs spurs Rafael to admit that, in fact, he doesn’t want any more kids. Jane’s really shaken by this, and Raf’s declaration is the cue for the Narrator’s long-augured storm clouds to finally roll in. But even that level of discord between Jane and Rafael — a major issue, something that seriously derailed Xo and Ro’s relationship for a long, long time — isn’t something Jane is comfortable leaving on the table for too long. After everything that’s happened, there’s no longer any narrative energy behind keeping them apart. When Jane, hopefully, suggests that maybe one day one of them will change their mind, the Narrator almost can’t help leaping in: “Friends, one of them eventually did. I won’t tell you who, but … you can probably guess which one.” Look, a Jane the Virgin that just wants everyone to feel happy and confident in the future is a Jane the Virgin I can get behind.
On that note, of course Xiomara got into nursing school! I think she’ll find that being able to tell everyone their moles look suspicious is going to agree with her. And of course Rogelio’s heart condition was just a minor arrhythmia brought on by stress. Lina decides to use her one of her sisters’ eggs (even though they are all bitchy), and Petra and Rafael come to an agreement about their future working dynamic at the Marbella.
Rafael and Jane end the episode just as happy as they were at the start, and if I have a few lingering reservations on Rafael as the endgame choice for Jane, it’s very hard to remember what exactly they were when Rafael purrs things at Jane about having kept up-to-date with their shared calendar and checking things off her wedding lists. Of all the flashback bits, by the way, the one I found most endearing was the one in Rafael’s office as he gazed lovingly at his old desk and remembered how many times he and Jane interacted there.
Except. Everyone spends the whole episode talking about this storm on the horizon, and we think it’s arrived when Rafael has to tell Jane that he doesn’t want any more kids. But Jane is still a telenovela, so when Petra gets in her car, she hangs up with Rafael and then realizes her evil mother is in the backseat! And there’s a car crash! To be continued!
From Our Narrator, With Love
• There’s an interesting little note at the top of the episode that I have to believe is a self-aware comment about Jane. While Rogelio waits for news about whether This Is Mars will be picked up to series, his agent keeps sending him notices about other projects, including a sequel to my beloved Tiago. “The sequel is never as good as the original!” Rogelio announces, just before the episode title is stamped on: “Jane the Bride — The Sequel.” Cheeky Jane is always one of my favorite Janes.
• Rafael weighs going back to work at the Marbella, and Jane wonders if he really wants to dive back into the world of late nights at bars and tight shirts. We cut back to Rafael, whereupon Our Narrator notes, “That shirt can’t get any tighter.”
• The storm lurks on the edges of this whole episode, and while looking out the window, Petra notes that maybe it won’t ever actually come. “Trust me. It will,” says Our Narrator, in his very best Serious Melodramatic Telenovela Voice.
What a glorious episode for the Rogelio fans out there, waiting anxiously to learn if This Is Mars gets a series order. Speaking of which, if This Is Mars does not get a series order, I will riot #ThisIsMars #famestrike #Rogelifans #seriespickup
• I know I missed several, but I tried to keep a close eye on all of the scrolling comments on Ro’s Instagram live as he continued his #famestrike to create buzz for the show. My favorites were all of the eggplant emoji, of course, and also everyone’s concern for Rogelio when he needed to be hospitalized. But I also love how quickly his fans started rebelling when he tried to take them on a tour of Alba’s bedroom. “That room was lame!”
• “We soldier on, and we exfoliate, and we moisturize.” Words to live by.