It was a great weekend for Jane The Virgin. The show was renewed for a second season on Sunday morning (along with all of The CW’s other new fall shows), and later that day, Gina Rodriguez won a Golden Globe for her portrayal of Jane Gloriana Villanueva, The CW’s very first Golden Globe win. These are great developments for a show that hasn’t performed exceptionally in the ratings, and hopefully Rodriguez’s inspiring acceptance speech brings some new viewers to the show, because it deserves to have a lot more eyes on it. The CW is clearly aware of the growing buzz around Jane The Virgin, and is wisely airing the first two chapters back-to-back tonight, offering an easy entry point into a series that has become very complex in just nine episodes.
“Chapter Two” features the scene that likely earned Rodriguez her award last night, a conversation between Jane and her mother that captures the immense gravity of this telenovela situation on an ordinary young woman that had her life planned to a T. Up to that point, Jane has tried to keep it cool, distancing herself as much as possible from the child growing inside her, but when Xiomara asks her how she’s feeling after a recent sonogram, Jane immediately and completely breaks down. The raw emotion that comes rushing from Rodriguez in that moment is heartbreaking, providing a clear look at Jane’s increasing feelings of helplessness and vulnerability. Without any dialogue, Rodriguez captures the overwhelming pressure that her character is under, and the strength of that performance intensifies the words when they do come.
Showrunner Jennie Snyder Urman writes the script for “Chapter Two,” and she elevates every element from the already outstanding first episode. More comedy, more drama, more intrigue, more twists, and most importantly, more emotion. The reason this series is such a big success is because it has a strong commitment to its characters and showing them from different angles, keeping everything grounded in real human emotion as the circumstances shift further from reality. Moments like Jane breaking down on the swing outside her front door are invaluable to this series, and Urman, Rodriguez, and director Uta Briesewitz fully understand this.
Jane’s heartfelt speech is filmed in one long take, revealing the precision with which Rodriguez hits all the emotional beats in one fell swoop. Briesewitz trusts her performer to carry the full weight of that speech from beginning to end, and Rodriguez is more than up to the challenge. Nine episodes in, and there hasn’t been a challenge that Rodriguez isn’t up to. She can depict any emotion at any pitch with complete honesty, a skill that makes her the perfect lead performer for a show exploring how the intersection of fiction and reality sends a woman’s life off track. The reality needs to be there in order to sell the fantasy, and that’s where Rodriguez’s gift proves immensely helpful to the writers.
As the only two episodes of season 1 written by Urman (thus far), “Chapter One” and “Chapter Two” play like two halves of an extended pilot. The first episode is primarily focused on bringing dimension to Jane and the major relationships in her life, but the second starts to expand the scope to further explore characters that are currently less directly involved with Jane. Petra and Rogelio are certainly connected to Jane, but they don’t have much of a face-to-face relationship with the heroine as of yet. Jane is a tool for Petra, carrying the child that could potentially save her marriage, but she’s so involved in her own drama that she’s not focused on Jane. Rogelio is eager to reconnect with his daughter, but he’s being kept away by Xiomara, who doesn’t want Jane to deal with another sudden change in her life.
Petra gets considerable attention this week, and the script shows a softer side of a character that is still duplicitous and conniving, but not completely heartless. Yael Grobglas has a difficult task of endearing the audience to a villain that is cheating on her husband and using Jane as a way to keep her crumbling marriage together long enough for a pre-nup payout, but there’s an innate gentleness to her voice and body language that immediately softens the character. She’s not playing the typical bitchy blonde antagonist, and she’s not written as one either. Petra may be using Jane, but she herself is being used by people like Magda and Zaz to further their respective agendas, making her a weapon for her mother and lover rather than a person that they truly care about.
A key moment for Petra comes toward the end of the episode when she tells Rafael that she was hoping this baby could be a real chance for them to revitalize their marriage, delivering lines that she planned previously with Zaz, but imbuing them with real feelings that she wasn’t expecting. Earlier in the episode she confesses that she hasn’t cried since she was a child, but as she tells Rafael how much she still loves him, a tear falls down her cheek to signify just how much she truly cares for him. And if that wasn’t enough evidence, the Latin Lover Narrator is there to cement Petra’s feelings for her husband by saying, “Turns out it’s easy to give a good performance when what you’re saying is actually true.”
Rogelio is the other big performer that gets more focus this week, and “Chapter Two” is when we learn about Rogelio’s vanity and pride, the two driving forces of his cartoonish personality. Jaime Camil is giving the most exaggerated performance of the entire cast, but he’s also very sincere; in terms of the balance of fantasy and reality, Rogelio is definitely leaning toward the fantastic, but he still holds on to the emotional truth of the character, which is that he desperately wants to meet his daughter. And he should be able to, but Xiomara’s justification for keeping him away makes sense. Everything in Jane’s life is changing so fast, and this isn’t the right time for her to find out that her mother was lying to her about her father’s identity. Xo has her own selfish reasons for keeping Rogelio out of the picture, but she’s still protecting Jane, who is struggling with all the other curveballs being thrown her way.
Second episodes are hugely important for new series, revealing what the series will look like on a weekly basis now that the pilot has established the groundwork of the story. “Chapter Two” establishes the rapid pace with which this show will introduce and resolve plot threads, and looking back, this episode has even more content than I previously thought. The first time around, I didn’t catch the subtle references to mental illness in the interactions of the Solano family; Luisa doesn’t like being called crazy, and her father coddles her because he doesn’t want her to feel unstable. That’s a plot thread that won’t be picked up again until six episodes later in “Chapter Eight,” but when the writers return to it, they really commit to it.
Characters’ decisions often have unforeseen consequences on this show, and it’s a lot of fun to go back to “Chapter Two” after knowing how the story unfolds in the future and seeing how certain choices impacted the course of the narrative. Michael is the person that convinces Jane to give Rafael a chance after she discovers the extent of his past indiscretions with a rudimentary Google search, and that’s a choice that haunts him from the moment he learns about Jane and Rafael’s kiss five years ago. By the end of this episode, he’s the jealous boyfriend spying on Jane from afar, and this is just a few hours after the couple has a romantic reconciliation. And things will only get worse from there.
“Chapter Two” ends on a foreboding note with the murder of Roman Zazo, pushing the series deeper into telenovela territory with a shocking cliffhanger. (And that’s not even the only twist in the final 10 minutes, which also include the revelation that Rose is Luisa’s stepmother and Alba discovering “El Presidente” in her daughter’s bed.) As the door closes on Petra and Zaz’s relationship, new doors are opened to multiple other narrative paths, guaranteeing that “Chapter Three” will be just as jam-packed as the first two. That brisk pacing is what makes Jane an exhilarating TV series, but the strength of the characterizations gives it the emotional depth that pulls viewers deeper and deeper into the story.
- The mention of telenovela villain Catalina Creel, who wears an eye-patch even though she’s not blind, is important, providing the first hint that Magda’s wheelchair is an act.
- Juanes’ “Una Flor” plays over the title this week, which is sadly the last time we hear it on this show. I like the idea of specific songs becoming motifs, so hopefully it comes back every so often.
- Bridget Regan’s hair is so pretty. She generally gives me serious Marcia Cross vibes.
- I wonder if we’ll ever meet Bruce, Xiomara’s married ex-boyfriend. Or maybe his wife?
- How great is the transition from Luisa and Rose’s sex to Jane running for the bus? Jane’s panting accompanies the “O! O! O!” on screen for some wonderful misdirection.
- Jane Seymour is joining the cast in the recurring role of Amanda, the leader of a romance writers’ group that Jane joins in the second half of the season. That all sounds delightful.
- Michael: “Happy to be here. Proud to be representing the male point of view.” Jane: “Oh see, I wouldn’t lead with that, ’cause that’s not gonna do well in our meetings.”
- “That is not a decent person. What he did in Bora-Bora is not decent. It literally is decent, which is why he got arrested.”
- “I said marlin, not Merlin!”
- “We’ve got a leopard on the loose!”
- “I have too many phones. If it’s important, the best way to reach me is through Twitter.”
- I really love Jane’s swing speech, so here it is in its entirety:
- We—we heard the heartbeat, ma. And I just started to think about it. I just didn’t want this to take over my life and change everything. But it’s going to. This is not a stupid milkshake. It’s a baby, and I’m gonna get attached to it, I mean how could I not? And then I have to give it to them. And that’s what I wanna do. I do. But it’s gonna be so hard. I mean, it just is. Even if Rafael and Petra are great. And I don’t know how to prepare or how to act or what to do to not make it hurt.
- “I became an International star just a few years ago. Imagine what a disservice it would’ve been to the world if I had given up.”
- Petra: “Enough of the tarot cards already!” Magda: “Don’t be a dramatic. I’m playing solitaire.”