Review: ‘Jane the Virgin’ proves it’s outgrown its title

11.01.16 1 month ago 5 Comments

CW

Some thoughts on last night's momentous Jane the Virgin coming up just as soon as I call in my #Estefavor…

There are TV shows with static premises that have to be maintained in order for the show to continue, and ones that don't. Once Gilligan and the castaways got off the island, there would be no more story (give or take a reunion movie featuring the Harlem Globetrotters).

When you give a show a name like Jane the Virgin, even if you're borrowing it from the Venezuelan original, you could fall into the trap of letting the show be defined by when, how, or even if the latter part of the title would cease to be. But it's been a long time since the show was hugely concerned with that question, and even in the early days it treated it primarily as a darkly comic joke about the woman who experiences every aspect of sex (pregnancy, relationship drama) except the physical act itself. Instead, Jane was, and is, about so many things beyond that word, such that I never particularly worried if it could sustain itself after her virginity ceased to be. Once Michael survived being shot, the big event was only a matter of time, and “Chapter Forty-Seven” treated the occasion with both the fanfare and thoughtfulness it deserved.

As a broadcast network show, and a sweet one at that, there was no way we were going to get an explicit scene dramatizing Jane's first time, so the Bewitched-style animation of Jane and Michael on a rocket did the job nicely, without getting too self-consciously cute with the phallic imagery. And having Jane's first time be not that great felt both honest and smart, in the way it reminded us that having sex wouldn't suddenly solve all of Jane's problems.

Beyond Jane's difficulty at first having an orgasm with Michael, the episode tackled the transformative nature of the event – Who is Jane if she's not a virgin, and what is Jane the Virgin if she's not? – head-on, with Jane admitting to Xo that she feels like she lost a part of her identity. As Xo points out, the flower was never a fair totem for Jane to have – she was never perfect even before she and Michael went to bed together – but as something that's been hanging over her for years before we even met her, the event isn't one to simply be done with and moved past, and “Chapter Forty-Seven” captured the hugeness of it well, and with Professor Donaldson's help suggested subtle ways that Jane's new sexual status could change her without fundamentally altering who she is. 

Beyond that, the episode did a nice job of advancing various storylines – Rogelio trying to do an American version of Tiago, Xo at a career crossroads (and Rogelio bringing in Gloria and Emilio Estefan to help with that, rather than the show), Rose trying to win Luisa's trust – as a reminder that Jane has always had plenty to offer beyond the title character's titular dilemma.

(It also helped, for me, that there was no Petra this week. While that storyline is very telenovela-y, it also feels too cruel and nightmarish for me to want to watch much longer, and I say that as someone who's never entirely bought into the show's reformation of Petra.)

Had Jane kept finding ways to drag out the big event – The shooting has left Michael impotent! Jane is sent on a six-month world tour without Michael! – it would have become annoying, and suggested that someone (whether Jennie Snyder Urman or executives at the CW) were afraid that resolving the title would scare away viewers. But three episodes into season 3 (and three episodes past the wedding) feels reasonable, and the episode in question served as a reminder that this is an excellent, confident, versatile show that long since outgrew whatever limitations its name suggested.

What did everybody else think?

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