It would be so easy for a show like Jane The Virgin to fly off the rails. The entire premise is built on outlandish plot points, but it’s stayed on track for four seasons because the creative team is committed to exploring the real-world challenges of characters caught in the middle of all the telenovela shenanigans. I don’t think this show would have lasted past its first season if it didn’t make honest emotion a top priority, and it’s easy to empathize with these characters because they have such rich, complicated inner lives. There’s a splash of sensational storytelling in “Chapter Seventy-Two” as Petra deals with the fallout of Anezka’s death, but otherwise this episode is Jane The Virgin at its most grounded, exploring subjects like public education, parental reconciliation, and work-life balance with a tender heart and sharp sense of humor.
This episode is written by Carolina Rivera and Paul Sciarotta with direction by Melanie Mayron, a trio of Jane The Virgin veterans with a deep understanding of the show’s style, characters, and conflicts. This show has a swift, graceful rhythm when everything is in sync, and “Chapter Seventy-Two” gives every character a substantial, satisfying emotional arc that intersects with the others to enrich the larger themes. It never feels like the writers have to push to create those intersection points, and it’s a testament to the long-term plotting of this series that they’re able to get so much mileage from the current status quo of Jane and Rafael raising a six-year-old while Rogelio and Xo deal with a baby. And with Xo and Jane preoccupied with their growing families, Alba is spending more time alone and letting her mind wander to the past, where the memory of her ex-husband becomes more idealized over time.
Jane and Rafael’s kiss at the end of last chapter lingers heavily on this episode, but as the script shows over and over again, there are multiple interpretations of every situation. Rafael thinks the kiss was incredible and can’t wait to do it again, but Jane didn’t feel those sparks. Or at least that’s what she says when she tells Xo about it. Jane isn’t very good at lying, but she does it a lot in this episode because she thinks it is necessary. She lies about her address to Mateo’s school, she lies to the parents of Mateo’s new friend, and I think she might be lying to herself about her feelings for Rafael and that kiss.
She definitely felt some kind of uplift because she feels it later when she’s around Rafael the next morning, but she doesn’t want to make that explicit until she’s sorted through her feelings and knows how to proceed. Despite Rafael’s hopes, that kiss doesn’t magically bring him and Jane back together, and Jane has a lot to process before she’s ready to do it again. Rafael is prepared with pragmatic lists to assuage Jane’s fears, but she needs more to go on before she does something that will have a huge impact on Mateo if it does or doesn’t work out.
The two Mateos drive much of this episode, and as Jane and Rafael bring their son to his new school, Xo has major breakthroughs about her relationship with her father when she and Rogelio start marriage counseling. We don’t know much about Xo’s relationship with her father, and given how important Mateo is for the legacy of the Villanueva family, it’s nice to get some posthumous development for his character. This episode illuminates a lot about Xo’s life growing up, and it made me want to learn more about the specifics of Alba and Mateo’s experience raising their daughter. (I would love to see a prequel spin-off set in late ’70s/early ’80s Miami.)
Both Andrea Navedo and Ivonne Coll give outstanding performances in this episode, and they’ve done a lot of work to flesh out the family history that we haven’t see on screen. I cried along with Xo when she realized how much she would have preferred more time with her father rather than the Madame Alexander doll he worked six extra shifts to buy her, and Navedo brings so much sorrow and regret to that moment while still appreciating everything her father did for her. Alba isn’t willing to hear any of Xo’s criticisms of what she considers a very privileged childhood that involved a lot of sacrifice for her saint father, but she eventually recognizes that no matter how perfect she wants the past to be, there were areas where everyone could have improved. Alba’s exalted image of Mateo and their marriage is preventing her from opening herself up to Jorge, and I wonder if she’ll try to win him back after her breakthrough at the end of this episode.
Rogelio is initially reluctant to participate in counseling and tweets his boredom when Xo is talking about her issues in their first session, but once the therapist asks Rogelio to open up about his own childhood, he embraces the opportunity to talk about himself to someone being paid to listen. Much of his #Rogelizations involve the pressure his momager put on him at a young age to support their family, and all of this talk about absent fathers inspires Rogelio to make a major change for his future. Instead of acting in the sequel to Los Viajes De Guillermo, he hands the role to Esteban and decides to take a year off so he can be with his daughter, giving him the chance to offer Baby the childhood he never had. (Or make the same mistakes as his mother.)
The therapy plot ties in very nicely with the school storyline, both in terms of a child being under a lot of pressure and parents making decisions that they think are best for their children but could have unforeseen consequences down the line. Jane and Rafael are putting undue pressure on Mateo by asking him to lie about his address so he can go to the nice public school in Rogelio and Xo’s neighborhood, and this quickly becomes a big ordeal when Mateo invites his new friend to a playdate. Xo and Rafael rush to get the house in order for the boy and his moms, but they can only do so much in a limited time. They can’t hide the triptych of nude photos that hang in the bathroom. They can’t get completely new kid-friendly glasses to replace the crystal.
Elijah’s parents see through the charade, but they’re actually very sympathetic and warn Jane and Rafael that a lot of the other parents won’t be, so they should be careful. This episode does very good work establishing the high stakes surrounding Mateo’s education, and ultimately the thing that gives Jane clarity regarding her romantic status with Rafael is seeing how he solves their current predicament. He know that he can’t live at the Villanueva house with all this tension between the two of them, and gets himself a small studio apartment in Xo and Rogelio’s neighborhood that they can use at the address for Mateo’s school so nobody has to lie anymore. Seeing Rafael make smart decisions for his family turns Jane on, and she can’t deny the telenovela magic of their second kiss after some playful foreplay.
Petra is feeling isolated from everyone in her life, and she’s off in her own plot that keeps her away from the rest of the main characters (with the exception of Rafael, but that doesn’t go very well). I understand why Petra isn’t worried about Anezka’s death. She’s been a person of interest in three past murders, and those all breezed past her without causing much damage. Maybe this one will too. Attorney Jane Ramos (Rosario Dawson, beginning what I hope is a lengthy turn on this series) knows what’s really going to happen, though, and Petra’s past means that the police are going to waste no time investigating her as thoroughly as possible.
It’s hard to tell underneath that prim, polished exterior, but Petra is panicking. She doesn’t know what to do now that she’s lost her entire support system, including Rafael, who lashes out at her when he finds out about how Anezka manipulated Luisa, but once the police start cracking down, she knows that she needs the best defense, no matter how much it costs. Of course, this is a Marbella-related plot, so there’s going to be some kind of twist with JR, and once she secures Petra as a client, she makes a call to a mysterious partner to tell her she’s been hired. I’m not very interested in yet another variation of this plot, but I am very interested in seeing Dawson interacting with the rest of this cast, so I have high hopes for Petra’s murder trial.
- The new season of One Day At A Time debuts today, and this episode of Jane The Virgin is like a mini-crossover between the two shows! We have Justina Machado appearing as Darci, Rita Moreno making a quick cameo as Liliana De La Vega, and ODAAT executive producer Gloria Calderon Kellett is back as Rogelio’s producer. Now I need to go watch the new episodes that dropped!
- There’s a new young Jane in this episode, Cali DiCapo, but I hope Jenna Ortega is sticking around to play Jane in her teens for flashbacks.
- Xo is totally supportive of young Jane potentially being attracted to women, and Mateo’s new friend at school has two moms who aren’t narcs. Look at this show being all effortlessly progressive.
- Jane says there isn’t a #TeamJafael, but there is very much a #TeamJafael.
- “Bright side: Our really difficult new family dynamic is something we can talk about in therapy.”
- “I remember when he was just a syringe on a tray, waiting to be inserted into the wrong woman.”
- Jane: “I’m angry with you, but I don’t want to get in a fight if you’re super sad.” Alba: “I mean, I’m not happy…”
- “It was my birthday. They should have been singing to me.”
- “And friends: that night, our pornstars talked.”