Jane the Virgin Struggles to Accept the Things that Can’t Be Changed in “Chapter Eighty-Nine”

TV Reviews Jane the Virgin
Jane the Virgin Struggles to Accept the Things that Can’t Be Changed in “Chapter Eighty-Nine”

Well, Jane the Virgin, you’ve burned me too many times to believe that The Love Triangle storyline will ever really be done with, but in the interest of willing that dream into being, I will—for now—go along with your efforts to convince me that Rafael (Justin Baldoni) is truly Jane’s (Gina Rodriguez) once and future love. I mean, to all her stalker-y credit, Jane certainly believes it, so I guess that leaves me no choice. Okay, Jane! I believe you! Now make better decisions!

Before we get into Jane’s week of wildly bad judgment, though, and how all of it so completely diverges from the calm she evinced at the end of “Chapter Eighty-Eight” accepting the long game it would take to win Rafael back, let’s first take a moment to appreciate all the Jane-free narrative arcs whose progress in “Chapter Eighty-Nine” really worked: Alba’s (Ivonne Coll) relationship with Jorge (Alfonso DiLuca), which got to move forward in a way that was both romantic and earned; Rogelio’s (Jaime Camil) dream project, which hit a snag at the network notes stage that was all too believable; and Petra’s (Yael Grobglas) ongoing arc of personal growth, which found a new milestone in her willingness to let go of the happiness she recently re-found with JR (Rosario Dawson) for the good of her daughters’ mental health.

This last storyline, which included everything from high, soapy intrigue (Petra turning the twins’ parrot-nanny in to the cops after overhearing her speaking Czech in the Marbella’s courtyard) to heartbreaking reality checks (Petra discovering that the twins saw JR holding the gun on Miloš, and learning the extent to which that, matched with their school’s active shooter training, has traumatically impacted their young lives) to Petra wearing the most beautiful blouse she’s put on in ages (flowing and silky with a pattern of bright emerald monstera leaves, so 2019), was especially strong. And although much of that strength stemmed from the incredible control Grobglas always has in keeping Petra balanced on the knife’s edge between power and vulnerability, just as much came this time around from the fact that “Chapter Eighty-Nine” allowed both JR and the twins (Ella and Mia Allen) to act not just as accessories to Petra’s growth, but as active agents of their own.

For JR, this is a return to form a long time coming—while she may have been introduced to the Jane the Virgin universe last season as a complex character who got to grow and change as Petra grew and changed, she has spent the majority of Season Five stuck as little more than the reluctant object of Petra’s redemptive romantic pursuit. Giving her the chance to reflect on her half of their romantic partnership, and to be intentional in how she approaches fighting for the right to be a part of both Petra’s and the twins’ lives going forward, lets JR return to the nuanced dynamism she had as a character originally. For the twins, meanwhile, the revelation that they have been emotionally tangled up in the soapier aspects of Petra’s life for a long time, and that they are both old enough now and engaged enough with the world to have taken it upon themselves to do something about it, is completely new. In terms of how the Jane the Virgin kids are deployed within the show’s larger narrative, it’s always been Mateo (Elias Janssen) whose character has got to grow and change for its own sake—which has made sense, as Jane is the show’s central protagonist. That Ellie and Anna are revealed in “Chapter Eighty-Nine” to have been steering their own ship on the seas of Petra’s world for some time, then, seems to confirm something that has seemed obvious since Petra and Jane’s friendship has been centered time and again since the Season Five premiere: Petra is now as much a heroic protagonist in Jane the Virgin as Jane herself is.

This is great news, as Jane’s showing as the story’s central heroine lately has been… not great. Of course it isn’t necessary for a heroine to be likable one hundred percent of the time, but although I can appreciate that Jane deserves to wallow in self-indulgent bad judgment as much as the rest of us do (hello, drag me), I don’t have to like watching it any more than her entire family liked having to keep pulling her back from actionable stalkerdom, trying to strong-arm Rafael back into loving her throughout this entire episode. Having the healthy complexity of Petra’s heroism on hand to distract from Jane’s spiral to rock bottom was a relief.

This said, that Jane did spiral to rock bottom this quickly was excellent news, like ripping a heavy-duty bandage right off our hearts. For one thing, this suggests that, with Raf or without, healing of some sort is soon on its way. For another, though, the specific shape Jane’s spiral took gave Rogelio a chance to be a kind of father to her in a way that, in their short history as father and daughter, he hasn’t yet gotten to be—that is, a disappointed one. And for all that I love seeing the Villanueva women (+Petra) use their bonds to inspire one another to be better versions of themselves, seeing Rogelio step up to do the same—and seeing Jane deflate when she realizes the shape of the mistake she’s made, putting his dream second to her obsessive pursuit of Rafael—was incredibly moving.

Plus, of course, it all led to her coming up with the shape of his revamped The Passions of Steve and Brenda pilot, This is Mars. And considering just how excellent we know Rogelio is at space acting, this is the best Season Five development of all.

See you all next week, when at long last, Luisa (Yara Martinez) returns, and Rafael is finally given something to do beyond being mad at Jane.

Alexis Gunderson is a TV critic and audiobibliophile. She can be found @AlexisKG.

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