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Jane the Virgin Recap: Just Like a Telenovela!

Jane the Virgin

Chapter Ninety-Six
Season 5 Episode 15
Editor’s Rating *****

Jane the Virgin

Chapter Ninety-Six
Season 5 Episode 15
Editor’s Rating *****
Photo: Kevin Estrada/The CW

Jane and Rafael are happily together and on their way to finally being married. Mateo’s continuing struggle with school has meant that he got a diagnosis and is now on medication that will hopefully help him feel happier in his own head. Xo is currently cancer-free and on her way to nursing school. Alba is happily married to Jorge. So the question is: What does Jane the Virgin have left on the table? What all needs to get wrapped up before this show ends?

Quite a few things, it turns out! The fate of This Is Mars still hangs in the balance, with no word yet on whether the network will order Rogelio’s pilot to series. Petra’s romantic life also seems to be in a holding pattern, as she recovers from her breakup with JR. (Why did you do it, JR?! Petra loves you so much!) But the two biggest unresolved things still swirling around are questions Jane has been playing with from the first episode. What is the Sin Rostro endgame? And will Jane ever make it as a professional novelist?

“Chapter Ninety-Six” gets the wheels turning on both of those questions, and it’s honestly been a long since time we talked a little about what the eff is actually going on with Rose these days. She is still in prison. She has somehow managed to connect with a network of criminals on the outside, including a guy who has apparently befriended Luisa. Luisa, in turn, is seemingly so wounded by Rafael cutting her out of his life that she’s embraced this evildoing Rose stand-in and is actively helping him with his nefarious plan. (Okay, I looked it up and this guy’s name is Bobby, but you can understand why I’ve forgotten it.)

The reason I say “seemingly” about Luisa’s sense that Rafael betrayed her is that I have got to believe Luisa and Rafael are working together to go along with Rose’s plan and therefore bring her down from the inside. Or if not that, if Rafael is in the dark on this and really does believe that Luisa’s turned against him, then Luisa’s attempting to take down Rose on her own. It is the only thing that makes sense, and I feel confident that after all this time and all her growth, Luisa wouldn’t have just turned evil again. No way.

On the “still being evil” front, though, we have Magda, who was seriously injured in the car accident that featured as the dramatic closing scene in the previous episode. Petra is mostly fine, thank God, but Magda spends most of the episode variously in a coma, hurling insults at her caregivers, and then hovering so near to death that Petra has to arrive at the hospital and give the order to turn off her life support. It’s a side plot, but Petra’s trying to face exactly how much she does not feel bad about her mother dying, and Petra’s anguish over how much she resents her mother for putting her in this position, is far and away the most moving element of “Chapter Ninety-Six.” (Also of course Magda doesn’t die. Of course. Ugh!!)

All of it only further bolsters my feeling that Petra’s character arc is maybe the greatest accomplishment Jane the Virgin has pulled off over the past five seasons. She has grown more than any other character on this show, and part of what makes this arc so appealing is that it has the easiest trajectory for sympathy. She goes from being a truly horrible harridan to a funny, sweet, straight-talking, and often mistaken human person, and as viewers, we’re primed to feel warmth for someone who begins as a villain and gradually becomes lovable. It’s a more reliably endearing arc than one for someone like Jane, who began as a protagonist we loved and whose development therefore could really only work by allowing her to make mistakes, to become briefly less appealing so that it could then rehabilitate her. It’s so pleasant to root for someone who was bad and becomes good. It’s harder to root for someone who was always good and then takes occasional swings through poor choices.

At least in part, that’s what’s been happening between Jane and Petra in the final season of this show. It’s so much easier to cheer for Petra, for her humanity and her humor and for how hard she’s worked to become a different kind of person. But when Jane makes mistakes, when she leaves Rafael for Michael (or leaves Michael for Rafael, depending on which of those actions you find more unforgivable), when she struggles with Mateo’s ADHD diagnosis, when she stalks Rafael — all that is harder to accept from a character who began as someone so absolutely, unquestionably good.

That does not mean that Jane’s arc has been bad, though. If anything, it’s much closer to the reality of what an actual human being is like; most of us are the heroes of our own stories, fundamentally good and trying hard to be decent people. Most of us can’t keep that up all the time. But it does explain why, in the most recent handful of episodes, Jane just keeps apologizing to Rafael over and over, why she is constantly put in a position where she feels like she needs to set aside her own needs and desires so she can fulfill someone else’s. Because I am probably a much more selfish person than she is, some of the apologizing has been tough for me! Even when she’s made hard choices over the last season, she’s been doing her best! But I understand both the impulse to make her apologize a bunch and why the whole season has felt like it’s less on Jane’s side than this show has been in the past.

It’s also why it makes sense for “Chapter Ninety-Six” to take such a big swing back to Jane’s novel (and why I found comfort in her completely ignoring everyone around her for several weeks while she finished her new book). From early in the first season, the question of Jane the Virgin was who she would end up with — it was the romance. But the question of her life was always whether she could make it as a professional writer. She cared about that before she cared about either Michael or Rafael. It has been the defining frame of who she is, entirely apart from the love story or her role as a parent. Because of that, the sudden revelation at the end of the episode (the literary agent ex machina) does feel like a wish-fulfillment gesture, but it’s also in keeping with the fairy-tale DNA of this show. Jane gets an agent! Maybe her writing career is going to work out after all!

But also, Rose seems to have outfitted a small army of women in Rose masks, and whatever is happening with Luisa and Bobby is finally starting to ramp up?? To be continued!

From Our Narrator, With Love

• This week in genre self-awareness, we first get Jane explaining indignantly that she is not Elsa and Anna’s nanny; she is their soon-to-be stepmother! And then, as part of her plan to get her novel on Isabelle Allende’s agent’s desk, she does in fact pretend to be their nanny. “I was using his bias against him!” she tells the twins. “It was subversive!”

• Oh hey, did anyone else notice that the few lines we get from Jane’s new novel sound … familiar? “Straight out of a telenovela!” is one of the quotes that flies across the screen while Jane types, furiously. And then, in the moment when Mateo sits down and starts reading her book, he begins with the first line, “Our story begins …” Which, if you go back and watch the very first episode of Jane the Virgin, is also the very first line of this television show. HMMMMMMMMM …

#Rogelio

• Okay, “Girl Rudy” was River Fields’s daughter this whole time?! I had been wondering how they managed to cast Eden Sher in such a relatively thankless role, but yes, I would also sign up to be Brooke Shields’s estranged daughter if given the chance.

• I love Rogelio and River endlessly editing their pilot to make themselves as attractive as they possibly can (especially because Jane’s showrunner is known to be particularly detail-oriented in the editing booth). But even more than that, I love Rogelio’s acceptance of his own future as “one of the standout supporting characters that people look forward to. The one who goes on to win Teen Choice awards. The spice, not the dish.” Rogelio, and I do mean this, forever.

Jane the Virgin Recap: Just Like a Telenovela!