Jane the Virgin’s midseason finale has arrived, and as usual, the characters will have plenty of challenges to face when the series returns in January. That’s too far away for my liking, especially because “Chapter Fifty-One” features huge cliffhangers about Rafael’s family, Michael’s return to the police force and Catalina’s (guest star Sofia Pernas) intentions after her French lover arrives at the Marbella to collect his family jewels. Throw in a few Hitchcockian themes and Jane the Virgin ends 2016 on a high note.
I’m rarely doubtful about anything the series’ writers come up with, but one eyebrow-raising storyline from the first half of the season is Xiomara’s rekindled romance with her ex-boyfriend, Bruce. Formerly married, this isn’t the first time Xo has returned to Bruce—much to Jane’s annoyance—but after a few great episodes that forced Xo to reflect and reevaluate her choices, she’s now hustling backwards. Still, Jane’s higher expectations for her mother add another dimension to their relationship, and in humanizing Xo’s romantic travails as a single mother, Jane only strengthens the audience’s connection to her.
Religion can be a heavy subject, but the series’ delicate balance reflects another side of Jane without too much intensity. With all the conflict Jane’s faced—Mateo’s kidnapping, Michael’s shooting—she’s having a hard time with her spirituality, and Abuela forces the issue front and center by wondering aloud about Mateo’s. It compels Jane to take a look at her situation and wonder where the disconnect lies. Rafael putting his foot down on Mateo’s spiritual wellbeing is a thorn in her side, but in the end she agrees that he has to find his own path to God. Right now, Jane has to focus on realigning her beliefs once more. Plus, a restless child in church isn’t fun for anyone.
There’s only one man narcissistic enough to have the world’s most beautiful women in one room and not feel any attraction to them. That man, of course, is Rogelio. In his desperation for a woman who wants to be his egg factory, Rogelio hires celebrity love guru Darci Factor, (guest star Justina Machado) to help match him with the celebrity of his dreams, but he’s far from happy. Darci’s tired of Rogelio’s shenanigans, too, especially because he seems to insult the ladies of her club. Again, who does this? The subplot goes even further, as Darci realizes that Rogelio isn’t ready for a romantic relationship. She volunteers herself as a mother, since they’re compatible enough to co-parent a child. It’s nonetheless refreshing to find a male character as obsessed with having a baby as Rogelio is, since it’s a trope that’s usually reserved for women.
Rafael is no stranger to his inner battles between a clear conscience and his family’s nefarious reputation, but in “Chapter Fifty-One,” Michael and Jane urge Rafael to come to grips the truth. Though it seems he can no longer clean up the family’s name—Rafael’s mother, Elena, dealt with stolen art in an orphanage—the episode’s big revelation is one that disrupts his sense of self, and is likely to send Rafael into crisis: In his investigation into his mother’s past, he finds a birth certificate proving that he isn’t a real Solano. Justin Baldoni’s performance is a highlight of “Chapter Fifty-One,” as Rafael deals with childhood memories of a convent, and his curiosity to uncover the truth no matter the consequences. Maybe now, Rafael will finally find a family that truly cares for him.
The real beauty of this episode is in its Hitchcockian influence: Not only does Jane focus on the rules of suspense for a new chapter she’s writing, but the Narrator also uses the rules to have some fun. At one point, there are birds hanging around a church bell, waiting ominously, until the Narrator claims he’s messing with us. Other homages include Alfred Hitchcock Presents and Vertigo, the latter in a scene featuring Rafael that’s sure to be a hit with Jane’s fans.
Iris A. Barreto is a writer for Fangirlish, freelance writer for Paste and social media intern for Pink is the New Blog. Heavily caffeinated. Forever lost in Westchester, NY & NYC; all GPS apps hate her. You can follow on Twitter.