Some big things went down on last night’s Jane the Virgin, and I have thoughts about them coming up just as soon as they cut my penis…
Midway through the first season of Jane, Michael promised to never stop loving Jane, and the Narrator confirmed, “For as long as Michael lived, until he drew his very last breath, he never did.”
This is what we call major major foreshadowing, boys and girls, and while the threat of Michael’s premature demise didn’t hang over every episode from then until last night, it was still lurking in the background as a thing we would likely expect at some point before the series ended. And last night, we got it.
And while I’m sure fans of the character, Michael and Jane as a couple, and Brett Dier as an actor are all upset over what went down, this is not only Jane playing fair, but Jane making a difficult but necessary choice for the good of the series.
I’ve always chafed against the conventional wisdom that Happy Couples Ruin Shows, but there’s a difference between having a happy couple that still occasionally fights (say, Coach and Mrs. Coach from Friday Night Lights), or one where there’s an underlying tension even while all else is going well, and one where one half of the couple had become so perfect that the biggest source of recent conflict was whether he was making a good decision by trying to become a stand-up comic.
Michael had started out more or less on equal emotional footing with Rafael, as an overall good guy who loved Jane with all his heart but still had flaws, like a tendency to sit in judgment of others from his moral high horse. Over time, though, whatever rough edges he had got smoothed away, until he was the only obvious romantic choice for Jane, but also someone whose wonderfulness would make it harder for the show to generate stories around him, and around his relationship to the main character. And, indeed, the Jane/Michael material in the episodes since the show’s title became an anachronism have felt awfully thin. The show has had to lean more on the supporting characters for drama as a result, and while it’s fun to get more of, say, Rogelio, Jane works best when Jane herself and her personal concerns are central to most of what’s happening, and that was happening less and less over the last few months.
Jennie Urman published a blog post last night explaining the decision to kill Michael, reminding us that this had always been the plan, and noting that she and the other writers fell so in love with Michael as a character and Dier as an actor that they extended his lifespan so that many of Jane’s major life firsts (getting married, having sex) would be with him. That’s a nice reward for a good and likable actor, and for the many fans on Team Michael, but in hindsight, some of Michael’s saintliness from the last couple of seasons can be attributed both to the writers’ growing affection for the character, and to their knowledge that they’d be killing him off eventually, and wanted both Jane and the audience to feel the loss as acutely as they could. Saint Michael wasn’t great for drama of late, but the memory of him should help fuel a lot of what’s coming next.
The episode itself pretty heavily foreshadowed the death — watching it this morning, after social media had told me something huge happened, it took less than five minutes for me to realize that Michael would die — while also functioning as a sweet survey through Michael and Jane’s relationship, and the reasons why they made such a good couple (for personal, if not television, purposes). Urman and company also gave us juuuuuuust enough of Jane’s devastated response to the news — played with remarkable power by Gina Rodriguez — without turning what’s at least a 50/50 comedy/drama mix (and usually more like 60/40, or even 70/30) into something where laughter would have no place for a long time. TV time jumps are now much less shocking than when Battlestar Galactica or Lost did them, but here the goal seemed less to shock than to provide assurances that we wouldn’t have to spend a prolonged period watching Jane’s grief at its rawest, and also to set up some new mysteries about what happened to the characters during that three-year gap. (Urman promised in the same blog post to fill in the blanks over time.)
If you were a devout Jane/Michael ‘shipper, this stinks. I get that. But the version of the show with them this blissful wasn’t sustainable, nor was it ever part of the plan Urman had when she conceived of the series. Jane’s story has many more twists and turns to come, and Michael had to go for the sake of that, and also for the overall creative health of the series.
What did everybody else think?
Alan Sepinwall may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org