It Still Stings: When Jane the Virgin Couldn’t Let Michael Go
And so he came back…Photo Courtesy of The CW TV Features Jane the Virgin
Editor’s Note: TV moves on, but we haven’t. In our new feature series It Still Stings, we relive emotional TV moments that we just can’t get over. You know the ones, where months, years, or even decades later, it still provokes a reaction? We’re here for you. We rant because we love. Or, once loved. And obviously, when discussing finales in particular, there will be spoilers:
When Jane Gloriana Villanueva unexpectedly lost her husband Michael halfway through the third season of The CW’s Jane the Virgin, the untimely death gave way to a dramatic shift in the cheeky romantic-comedy’s overall tone. Gone were the days of love triangles and will they / won’t theys—they did, it was beautiful, and now it was over, leaving Jane, the showrunners and us viewers faced with the question of what comes next. Collectively, we grieved. We grieved for Michael, for the happily-ever-after Jane had stolen from her, and of course, we grieved for the loss of the oddball friendship between Michael and his best brogelio, Rogelio. And then, we found love again—in the most unexpected ways and places.
We found love in the strange sisterhood shared between Jane and her former nemesis Petra, the words Jane poured into her computer as she worked towards becoming a published author, and in Alba’s dedication to becoming an American citizen. We found it in family—in Mateo’s toothy, mischievous grin and in the unbreakable bond Jane and Rafael forged as his co-parents. While Michael’s death left an absence that would be felt throughout the show’s entire run, it also served as a catalyst for growth, and allowed Jane the Virgin to more deeply explore the different dynamics and dreams of its colorful cast of characters, as well as more complex social issues, such as immigration, racism, religion, sexuality, and abortion. Of course the show retained the same charm, romance, and unadulterated drama it had since chapter one—the quirks and hallmarks the telenovela genre it sought to honor—but it also made clear that the characters were not the only aspect of the show that had grown during the timeskip. After “Chapter 54,” Jane the Virgin was a different show.
Straight out of a telenovela, right?
Well, not enough like a telenovela, the showrunners decided. So, in the final scene of the show’s fourth season, Jane Gloriana VIllaneuva’s deceased husband, Michael, was brought back to life. Well, sort of.
At the start of Jane the Virgin’s fifth and final season, Jane comes to find out Michael never actually died. Instead, he was captured by the show’s overarching villain Sin Rostro, who publicly faked Micahel’s death, before forcing him to undergo electromagnetic shock therapy until all his previous memories were erased. After the amnesia had fully set in, Sin Rostro then gave Michael a new name, Jason, and relocated him to Montana, where he lived a simple life as a simple rancher. As Jane attempts to get to know her formerly deceased husband, she comes to discover that this new man is the antithesis of everything Michael was. Whereas Michael was urbane, affectionate, chatty, good-humored, and a known lover of cats, country boy Jason speaks slow, grows irate fast, and is more of a dog person. Oh, and another key difference between the two? Michael was a character, not a plot device. Well, at least he was until they made him Jason.
When Michael returns as Jason in the final season, he doesn’t do so as a long-lost companion, new dynamic character, or potential love interest—he is merely a charm-devoid obstacle for Jane and her current partner and long-time love interest, Rafael, to overcome. Prior to Jason’s arrival, Rafael intended to both move in with and propose to Jane, but, with Jason in the picture, Rafael is unsure of where Jane’s heart truly lies: with the shell of the husband she chose all those years ago, or with him. What ensues is a drastic regression of Jane, Rafael, and the show. Jane once again becomes an indecisive (and self-involved) romantic, Rafael becomes the very same jealous boyfriend from back in the first two seasons, and the show’s plot comes to focus almost entirely on the love triangle that started it all—which feels out-of-place and extremely rushed as we neared the show’s final chapters. Ultimately, Jason’s presence leads to a lot of resentment towards a formerly beloved character, as he seemingly only enters the Villanueva-Solano’s lives to again rob Jane of her happy ending. It also leads towards frustration with Jane, for acting so carelessly towards Rafael and the family they formed together, and the showrunners, for seemingly trying to dissolve all the show’s greatness into a final “who will she choose” moment, when it had so clearly grown beyond that question and the very notion than any one love is greater than another rather than simply different.
While the choice to bring Michael back works in strengthening Jane the Virgin’s connection to the telenovela genre—providing us with a truly dramatic reveal, more love complications, and, of course, amnesia—the addition of this plot point weakened the show, as it’s more rooted in chaos and the allure of seeing Michael back on screen than compassion and character development, especially when compared to earlier nods to the genre. You see, in its five seasons, Jane the Virgin embraced countless telenovela tropes, from long lost siblings and evil mothers, to body swaps and secret identities. However, throughout all of them, there’s a sense that there’s this real, emotional core that exists within—or at least, some larger reason that makes them work within the context of the show. More often than not, these tropes helped guide both Luisa and Petra down their paths of self-discovery, which arguably became one of the most compelling parts of the entire series. In comparison, Michael’s return was disingenuous and frustrating, which was incredibly unfortunate when his character—and the love he and Jane shared—was initially such a beautiful part of the show’s legacy.
Jessica Howard is the managing editor at gaming site Uppercut and a freelance writer with works published at Paste, UPROXX, Collider, and more. She enjoys loud music, hot coffee, and games with romanceable NPCs.
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