Critics are typically depicted as villains in popular culture, so it’s refreshing to see Jane The Virgin take such an empathetic approach to the relationship between the artist and critic. You wouldn’t think it at first when Jane imagines herself as an uptight, spiteful critic, but as the episode continues, Jane realizes that the critic isn’t the enemy, but an ally in her ongoing creative development. Obsessing over reviews is an easy way to pull yourself away from the work, and because Jane is insecure about her writing, she’s projecting much more malice on her negative review than is actually in the text. She’s been processing her emotions by writing letters to the critic that she never sends, but she needs to take more proactive measures to get her creative juices flowing again.
I appreciate this episode as both a critic and artist, and you don’t need to be reviewed to connect with Jane’s struggle. I have a little critic in my head, too, and while I’m able to shut him up for most of my professional writing, he’s loud and aggressive whenever I try to do something creative for myself. The derivative critique comes up multiple times in this episode, and when I try to write fiction, I’m constantly worrying about my ideas being too similar to other art I’ve absorbed. This is one of the greatest obstacles for a storyteller to overcome. It helps to remind myself that pretty all art is derivative of something else, and the thing that makes it different is the person creating it. We all have our own points of view, and we have to trust that our perspective is enough to make a piece of art different from the influences that shape it.
This storyline gives Jane some valuable time with Rogelio, who is there to help her understand the critic’s role in the artistic process. Rogelio shows Jane a hidden lavender folder filled with his worst reviews, but instead of looking at this as a failure folder, he considers it his motivation folder. An artist doesn’t need to listen to a critic, and if they do, they should be finding ways to turn those critics’ words into something constructive, even if the review is all about tearing the work down. A review is just one person’s opinion, and it’s up to the artist to determine whether that opinion has any merit and if it should dictate their future decision-making. Rogelio ends up being confronted by his own inner critic later in the episode, and it helps him make positive changes to his own behavior.
Jane’s biggest problem is her creative block, and her father suggests that she enroll in an improv class to stimulate her imagination without the pressure of writing. Unfortunately, Jane is really bad at improv, and her first attempt at the “yes, and...” rule accidentally creates a rape narrative for her character, which is not funny at all, but makes for an excellent moment of cringe comedy. Improv is definitely not Jane’s thing, but it does remind her that she does best when working in a structured environment with set objectives. She decides to start going back to writing classes, and it’s a wise decision that renews her confidence.
The moment that shuts up Jane’s inner critic is the one that is most out of place in this episode, and the episode takes a sudden turn into Michael territory when Jane tells Rafael why she’s anxious about their current circumstances. She’s been shifty whenever Rafael mentions her nightstand at his place, and her problem isn’t the idea of cohabitation. The problem is that this next step feels completely right for Jane, and she’s caught between this new future and what it means for her past with Michael. She doesn’t want that lost love to be reduced to a stepping stone in her grander romance with Rafael, and it’s a complicated issue that isn’t fully explored in this short conversation. Coming to terms with this discomfort is an important mental and emotional step for Jane, but I would have liked to see her relationship with Michael play a bigger part in the rest of the episode if it’s going to be such an important part of this storyline.
While Jane is struggling with her inner critic, Rogelio is trying to prove to Xo that he’s interested and engaged in her life. But instead of having a quiet, intimate evening like Jane suggests, he goes to Xo’s dance studio with a limo full of yellow roses. And she’s not there. She hasn’t been there all week, and Rogelio tracks her down to find out why she’s been lying to him. Rogelio’s telenovela impulses take over when he spots her hugging a man, and Rogelio attacks him, not knowing that he is Xo’s coworker and partner for a Latin dance competition. He’s also gay. Rogelio is embarrassed and ashamed that he doubted his wife’s fidelity, so he turns into an overly enthusiastic cheerleader for the pair, which is both obnoxious and suffocating.
Xo and Rogelio have a conversation about what she needs from him right now, and they reach a happy point of understanding before Xo has her first competition. The entire family shows up for her big moment, which ends with a thud when she crashes into the ground after a bad drop. This storyline takes a major turn in the final scene of this episode, and while X-raying Xo’s chest, the doctor finds a lump in her breast. Xo storyline has the most striking visuals in this episode, and the importance of these specific images becomes clear after the cliffhanger. The first is the shot of Xo and Rogelio sitting in the car surrounded by the yellow roses, an image overflowing with warmth and natural life. The second is after the spouses’ reconciliation, when they dance together in their apartment. It’s a beautiful snapshot of how far their love has come since they were high school sweethearts, and both of these images represent a fullness of spirit that is threatened by the news at the end of the episode.
In a recent New Yorker piece, Emily Nussbaum talks about Yael Grobglas’ performance in relation to classic Hollywood actresses like Carole Lombard and Grace Kelly, and this week she incorporates some Katharine Hepburn into Petra, not just in wardrobe, but in attitude. Her first appearance in this episode has her berating Jane and Rafael for taking time out of her busy schedule to tell her they are back together, and Grobglas balances toughness with affection as Petra tries to stay strong in the face of a murder conviction while also falling head over heels for her attorney.
Petra and JR finally act on their feelings for each other in this episode, and while their love connection is initially planned as a ruse to throw off whoever is following JR, the two women can’t deny their real attraction to each other. The chemistry between Grobglas and Rosario Dawson is electric in this episode, but I’m trying not to get too invested given that JR is probably going to end up shot by the end of the season. It’s possible this show won’t go the “Who shot JR?” route, but given the referential nature of this series, the character’s name has convinced me that she’ll eventually meet a violent end. It would be great if I was proven wrong, though, because Rosario Dawson is a great addition to this cast and I want to see her interact with the rest of the cast, not just Petra.
- Alba, Rogelio, and Xo had bets on which day Jane and Rafael would reveal their affair. There are some great reactions in this scene as the two lovers learn that they were totally obvious the entire time.
- The glowing heart is a very effective visual motif that quickly imbues a scene with emotion. Mateo’s heart glows when his parents tell him that they are back together, and we understand the intensity of his happiness because we know what the glowing heat feeling means.
- Rafael has a potential lead in the identity of his mother, but it’s a dead end. We’ve already been down this road before, and even Justin Baldoni seems bored by this current storyline.
- There’s some very smart use of the “yes, and...” rule in this episode, particularly how it factors into Jane’s interactions with her inner critic.
- Some of Rogelio’s bad reviews: “performance rendered in crayon”; “as subtle as Lady Gaga on speed”; “a well-coiffed buffoon”.
- “I know a sex injury when I see one.”
- “What is this, sophomore year of high school? Did he ask you to prom? Are you aware that I am currently under investigation for murder?!”
- “If you go down, I go down.” Nice choice of words, JR.
- “Need a laxative? Poo Nami!” I am all about the Poo Nami callbacks.
- “Are you Shrek?”
- “I should go. We don’t want to overdo the magical realism.”