Jane the Virgin
“Chapter Ninety-Two” feels like Jane is once again on a stronger footing. It’s hard not to notice that when the show focuses primarily on Jane and Rafael, things seem to falter a little this season, and when it pivots toward other stories — Jorge and Alba, Xo and Ro, the things going on with Petra — things feel sturdier. Jane and Rafael make the most sense together when they’re a part of Jane’s larger world, when the stories about them are mostly stories about everyone else, too.
The plot about Mateo’s ADHD diagnosis is a great illustration of that issue. Last week, when Jane and Raf first learned about Mateo’s diagnosis, the story quickly became less about Mateo and more about their relationship. Rafael lost it over the idea of getting Mateo tested, which never made much sense for his character. Jane wanted to get him tested anyhow. The primary tension was not about how to parent their son, it was about them being on the same page and Rafael’s sense of insecurity that Jane was overstepping her parenting boundaries. I have no problem with them fighting as a plot point (it makes sense for them to disagree sometimes!), but that disagreement highlighted some unevenness in the way Rafael is characterized, and it also did a disservice to Mateo’s diagnosis. The Narrator montage explaining Mateo’s brain felt a little rushed! ADHD got boiled down to the Narrator’s “trouble focusing” theme, which felt oversimplified.
But an episode like “Chapter Ninety-Two” shifts the focus back on Mateo and the challenges of trying to support him, turning Rafael and Jane’s relationship into a backdrop that still feels notable, but which is also a lower priority. It is a better, more thorough consideration of what Mateo needs, and it’s a more considered depiction of the challenges and stakes of helping him. Jane and Raf are of the same opinion about trying behavioral therapy before attempting medication. Rafael is open to Jane’s mantra, her notebook, her plan for routines and structure. And when that stuff doesn’t work (something that happens pretty quickly, but which is helped by a three-week time jump within the episode), Rafael recognizes when he and Jane are at their limits and brings up the idea of medication. One more time: This also makes some of Rafael’s earlier behavior feel even more unmotivated, and I think it’s part of a much longer-term issue Jane has struggled with where Rafael’s internal logic has been shaped in response to what the story needs rather than the other way around. Here, though, Rafael’s internal rudder seems to have been steered back into endearing co-parent territory, and I’m grateful for it.
Trying to figure out how to be the best parent for Mateo dovetails really nicely into another story in “Chapter Ninety-Two,” the one about Jorge and Alba’s marriage. It’s such a good idea for where to go next with Jorge and Alba — I fully believe that they are both the kind of people who would take a swift, sharp turn into hypertraditional gender roles, and it also feels plausible to me that they would both be legitimately happy about that. Jorge with his leather recliner, his annoying fish on the wall, his habit of never doing the dishes, is immediately recognizable as a guy who is modeling the behavior he grew up with and who’s perfectly good with things staying that way. The same is true for Alba, and I was particularly struck by her big rejoinder speech to Jane. When the dynamic is outside herself, it’s easy for Jane to recognize a pattern that seems regressive and exploitative. To her, it looks like Jorge is taking advantage of Alba and that Alba is ceding her independence to him. But when Alba swings the mirror in the other direction, Jane has to admit that she hasn’t complained about Alba doing all the cooking and cleaning for her. What’s more, Jorge and Alba’s marriage does not have to make sense to Jane, as long as they’re happy!
It also pushes Jane to finally realize she needs to move out. She cannot keep waiting and hoping that Rafael will welcome her back in. Plus, although I completely see how frustrating it would be to try to raise Mateo in an environment where Jorge is modeling all kinds of counterproductive patterns, it would also be annoying for Jorge, who just wants to chill out and watch TV in his sweet leather recliner! (Look we all know that recliner is hideous, but we also all know that we would absolutely pull the lever on that pop-up footrest the instant we had a chance.) It is time for Jane to move on. It’s easier for her recognize this need in Petra, who needs help returning the engagement ring she bought for JR, and it takes a sweet conversation on the beach for Petra to nudge Jane into taking her own next steps.
The other thing that works so well about “Chapter Ninety-Two” is everything going on with This Is Mars. I do not care who you ask, I don’t care how silly it is, I don’t care that it makes no sense at all — I am in love with it. Xo officially learns that she’s cancer free, which is fantastic, but it also lets Jane step up the goofiness going on with Rogelio and River Fields. River takes Xo’s remission as an opportunity to swoop in on Rogelio, and in spite of Rogelio’s insistence that he feels nothing at all for River, Xo gets wildly jealous and shows up on set to observe them shooting their sex scene. This coincides with the reveal that Rogelio’s This Is Mars character has an enormous, seemingly prehensile tail. It wraps around Rogelio and River as they kiss during a scene. River claims to not hear that the director has called cut and she keeps kissing Rogelio, and then Xo freaks out and pushes River into a Martian lake with a Martian shark in it, and look, the whole thing is so glorious and ridiculous, I was just thrilled.
In classic Jane fashion, that absurdity also ties back in to Rogelio and Xo’s marriage. Xo, further incensed that River still has not gotten the message that Rogelio is married, storms off in a rage and then suddenly turns back. She realizes that this jealous, insecure outburst is the kind of thing neither she nor Ro would’ve ever felt capable of doing during her cancer treatment. In its own idiosyncratically telenovela-esque way, it is a return to what normal feels like for them.
Meanwhile, Petra manages to hire back her much beleaguered former assistant Krishna, somewhere Luisa must be out there doing Narrator-knows-what with Rose’s henchman, and River refuses to give up on her De La Vega dream. To be continued!
From Our Narrator, With Love
• Our Narrator has stepped up the Jorge puns lately, and I am so here for it. Re-Jorganizing is so, so bad, and so, so great. (It’s no #Jorgasm, to be fair, but what could be?)
• After all this time with Jane the Virgin, the explanatory reminder bits about where we left off with characters from long ago are somehow still so necessary and so helpful. In this case, it’s the rundown for Krishna, who I remembered had been severely wronged but I had forgotten was literally imprisoned, just because of Petra? Her triple-salary is more than deserved.
• What a week for Rogelio! First up, his and Rivers’s mantras when they spot the poster featuring their young co-stars: “We’re so much more talented than them.” “And you’re so sexy.” “And you’re so gorgeous.” “And our skin glows like the sun.” “And theirs WILL ONLY GET WORSE.”
• Rogelio is right that his This Is Mars costume is very flattering, even BEFORE he got the tail on. “Sleek, supple, and slimming!”
• “People fall in love with me all the time, Xiomara!”
• “If you keep trying to have sex with me, I’m going to HR! And if they don’t pay attention, I’m going to Alyssa Milano!!”