Editors note: This article contains spoilers for the current season of Jane the Virgin.
There is a scene in the Season 5 premiere of Jane the Virgin in which Jane (Gina Rodriguez) is trying to wrap her head around the show's latest jaw-dropping twist: Her late husband, Michael (Brett Dier), is not actually dead. He has amnesia and goes by Jason, but he looks and smells like the sweet detective Jane married three seasons ago.
For just over seven minutes, Jane paces the kitchen as her mother and grandmother watch, unable to get a word in as she offers rapid-fire analysis of her predicament, punctuated with breathless asides: "I'm fine, I'm fine, it's fine!" It's a dizzying mix of emotions that is likely familiar to fans of the show, which began its fifth and final season last month.
Jane the Virgin is ending, but we're fine, we're fine, it's fine! Inhala, exhala — as Jane would say.
Jane the Virgin premiered in 2014 with a head-spinning premise: Jane Gloriana Villanueva discovers she's pregnant, despite never having had sex, after her scatterbrained gynecologist accidentally artificially inseminates the wrong patient. The father turns out to be Rafael Solano (Justin Baldoni), a local Miami businessman. Jane's unlikely pregnancy throws her life, carefully planned to Type-A perfection with Michael, into chaos. Her mother, Xiomara (Andrea Navedo), and her devoutly Catholic abuela, Alba (Ivonne Coll), have differing opinions on what Jane should do.
A TV show could have crumbled under the weight of that conceit alone, but Jane, loosely based on a Venezuelan telenovela, leaned even harder into its soap-opera roots. Evil, secret twins who sometimes assumed the identity of their siblings. An elusive villain dubbed "Sin Rostro." A baby kidnapped from the hospital. A dead husband who might not actually be dead.
But with every soapy twist, Jane has pushed past the tropes to explore the very human emotions underneath the melodrama.
The key to this approach is "taking these big swings and then taking them very seriously," said creator and showrunner Jennie Snyder Urman. "So if you were accidentally artificially inseminated, how would you feel? And really dig into that in every layer."
The show has also deftly subverted telenovela tropes. The first season established one of television's most respectful love triangles between Jane, Michael and Rafael. Things were a bit more contentious between Jane and Rafael's eventual ex-wife, Petra (Yael Grobglas), who was supposed to have been artificially inseminated on that fateful day. But over the years, Jane and Petra (a complex firecracker and a fan-favorite character) built a beautiful friendship.
Jane's father, whom she meets for the first time in an early episode, turns out to be Rogelio de la Vega (Jaime Camil), the star of one of her favorite novelas. Rogelio is egotistical and extra. His favorite color is lavender (he doesn't "pop in peach"). In a way, he personifies what makes Jane such a special show, reflecting its mix of comedy, pathos and drama. The character is also a credit to the show's masterful casting.
Before he was cast as Rogelio, Camil was well known in Latin America as a singer and telenovela actor (he starred in Mexico's version of Ugly Betty).
The show's most significant relationship is the one among Jane, her mom and her grandmother — three generations of Hispanic women who support and love one another despite their vast differences. Alba speaks only Spanish on the show, with Jane and Xiomara typically answering her in English.
Coll, a veteran actress who has played abuela to characters on Glee and Switched at Birth, thinks the show's focus on three Hispanic women as heads of the Villanueva house is a groundbreaking dynamic for television.
The Villanueva women give the show its most poignant layer. They frequently swap stories and advice on a porch swing in front of their home — a tradition Urman said helped her "find the heart of the show."
It was on that porch swing, in the second episode, that Xiomara encouraged Jane to talk about the emotional trauma of her unanticipated pregnancy. Jane, finally processing it, cries as her mother and grandmother hold and reassure her.
Jane's Season 5 monologue harks back to that moment, bringing the show full circle. Jane's life has been upended once more — this time putting her rekindled relationship with Rafael in jeopardy. Urman has known from the very beginning how Jane's story will end, but viewers should expect a lot of twists along the way.
Inhala, exhala. Jane isn't going away completely. The CW recently announced it ordered a pilot for a spinoff called Jane the Novela; the anthology series will tell stories written by Jane. Coll has already signed on to the project and Rodriguez will narrate the show as Jane.
Rodriguez (who directed the episode featuring her prolonged monologue) said in an email that the final season represents "a beautiful accomplishment" and "the perfect way to say goodbye" to the role that won her a Golden Globe in 2015. "This award is so much more than myself," she said in her emotional acceptance speech. "It represents a culture that wants to see themselves as heroes."
Four years later, Rodriguez says she hopes the show's fans have learned the lessons that Jane taught her: "Trust hard. And love harder. She taught me how to ask questions and never be afraid to go after what I want."
Jane the Virgin airs at 8 p.m. Wednesday on The CW.
Style on 05/07/2019
Print Headline: Jane the Virgin ending, but a spinoff is in the works