Jane The Virgin
To probably no one’s surprise, least of all my own, it took me almost no time to start weeping during the finale of Jane the Virgin. I knew. I was prepared! Yet still, watching the last episode of this show I’ve lived with for so long, that has meant so much to me … it was really overwhelming. Especially because, as is completely proper, this final episode was a glorious, warm, and joyous celebration from beginning to end.
There were almost no surprises. Rose is gone, skewered on Rogelio’s Martian tail and dispatched forever. Jane has an enormous book deal, making clear that she will always be able to support her family by doing the job she loves. Magda has been banished to Europe, Petra has control of the Marbella, Michael is happily engaged to a cowgirl, Mateo has a happy future ahead, Rogelio has This Is Mars, and Xiomara has nursing school — there are few open questions left to answer. Which means that Jane’s final story really had space to be about the process of ending.
Jane has always been a show that teaches its viewers how to watch it, so the finale begins with a young Jane sitting on the sofa with Alba and Xo, watching the conclusion of her favorite telenovela. It’s not like an American soap opera, they explain to Jane, who is sad and frustrated that her story won’t continue forever. Telenovelas have endings, and they’re always happy ones. But an ending is almost always a referendum on what a show has been; it’s an unusually self-aware moment. For a self-referential and winkingly metafictional show like Jane, however — one that has always woven fiction together with an account of how to make fiction — it’s hard to imagine its ever being more self-conscious, and Jane’s ending feels like a triumphant final sprint and victory lap. The open question is not “What happens to these characters?” It’s “How can we ever say good-bye to these characters?”
So it’s a finale that plays with self-referentiality both big and small, and the biggest is the final moment: a self-knowing, literal wink. Jane, newly married to Rafael, with a happy ending in hand at last, tells Raf about the ending she has devised for her book. They make it into a telenovela, she says. “Who’d want to watch that?” Raf asks. Jane turns to the camera and winks happily. Jane the Virgin has been Jane’s book all along, of course, and in the telenovela adaptation, it is narrated by Mateo. The Narrator has always been Mateo, which we learn when he does a little self-referential commentary of his own. He tells Jane that his glam-mother (Rita Moreno is back, hooray!) says he’d be great at voice-over work. For the one and only time, we hear the Narrator slip off his Latin-lover accent as he cuts in with “And for the record, I am.”
But that big closing wink is only part of Jane’s finale, one piece of the show’s history to be put on display. Jane, Alba, and Xo sit on the porch swing for a final time, talking through Xo’s reticence about moving to New York and letting us all feel the emotional crush of seeing the three of them together. Jane has to bail Raf out of jail after he makes a big, romantic gesture by swapping the original ending of Jane’s book for her new one in time to make it into the first ARC printing. And of course the two of them end up commandeering a city bus, picking up the entire wedding party as they go, and arriving at the ceremony just in time for Jane to walk straight out of the bus and down the aisle. The bus is emblazoned with an ad for This Is Mars, just like the ad for Rogelio’s old telenovela on the bus Jane rode in the pilot. Jennie Urman, Jane’s showrunner, appears in a cameo as Jane jogs across a marathon race, handing her a cup and yelling at her to “keep going!”
In maybe my favorite quiet, little self-referential moment, Jane and Raf’s wedding rehearsal is held in a space that looks like the backstage of This Is Mars. It’s a quick rehearsal, probably done in the studio for reasons of easy access and Rogelio’s convenience, and nothing about it says it’s not just a plain This Is Mars soundstage. But it’s actually the space right behind the set for the Villanueva house; the greenery behind Alba is what you would see if you looked through the Villanuevas’ windows. At the end, all of the show’s bones, all of the behind-the-scenes spaces, the plot secrets, the unresolved questions, the shape of this story that Jane has been simultaneously telling us and trying to keep us from seeing too much of from the very first episode — all of it is out in the open. There are no secrets left! Just an ending and happiness.
Outside of the reveals of the Narrator and of Jane the Virgin as the telenovela adaptation of Jane’s novel, there are only two small surprises, and they both belong to Petra. The first is the reveal of Pyotr, her secret triplet brother. It’s just enough of a shock to jolt the episode away from being completely overdetermined, but it’s also so silly, so thoroughly goofy, that Pyotr doesn’t feel like a real threat to anyone’s happiness. (I wish we could’ve seen more of him, though! Clearly, Yael Grobglas was ready.) The other is that JR comes back! Petra doesn’t have to be married to the Marbella forever (unless she wants to be!). It is the happy ending of a Shakespearean comedy, in which all the good people get partners they love and all the bad people get their just deserts.
So many parts of this finale made me feel seen: Luisa yelling “You’re welcome!” at the rehearsal dinner after reminding everyone that she artificially inseminated Jane; Rogelio’s glorious run of post-Mars future publicity, culminating in a Vanity Fair cover declaring him a crossover success; Petra attempting to give a “funny” toast and managing to get to a description of Raf beginning, “His shirts are so tight … and his pants …” before bursting into tears. But I found two things to be particularly moving, especially fitting ends for Jane the Virgin. One is the reveal of Rafael’s true parents, a secret the show has kept forever and that turns out to be entirely ordinary. They were regular people living typical lives. Rafael takes in that news about their identity and can only be overwhelmed by how much family he has now, how many people love him, how secure he finally feels in who he is. There’s no telenovela twist; there’s only Rafael’s sense of gratitude and love.
But the moment in this finale that most reflected my own feelings came during the wedding, when Jane and Rafael attempt to exchange vows. They can’t. They keep trying, but they can’t do it because they’re so overcome and so happy to have reached this day at last. They don’t need to, either — they’ve already said everything they needed to say, and no one is in doubt about their love and devotion. There’s something so absolutely right about watching them both stand there helpless and wordless, though. It’s how this last episode made me feel.
I don’t know how to end this recap! For years now, the last words I typed in a recap of Jane the Virgin have been To be continued!, but this time it wouldn’t be true! So instead, I want to thank all of you who have been reading these, some of you for years. Jane has meant a lot to me as a viewer, but it has meant even more to be able to sit down and spend so much time writing and thinking about it and to know that you’re all there too. This show and you have given me a lot, and I’m very grateful.