Jane the Virgin might be my favorite new show of 2014, in addition to it’s fellow incoming sister show The Flash on the same network. Both shows know exactly what they want and aren’t afraid to give it to the audience. Jane the Virgin‘s narration is very Pushing Daisies with a telenovela twist, as I wrote in my initial pilot viewing, especially due to the “thirteen and a half years ago” and “8.2 miles away” specificity. I love the typography and the writerly feel to it (appropriate since Jane wants to be a writer when she’s ready to be brave [me too, Jane, me too]). Jane the Virgin stays true to it’s telenovela roots (based on Venezuelan shows “Juana le Virgen”) but is a fun, heartwarming, addition to network television. It’s diversity and it’s humor are two of it’s strongest assets and it displays both in the pilot episode. I think it plays well in not dumbing itself down for audiences, there are several moments where they could have telegraphed character relationships or backstories, but didn’t, in honor of believing the audience would catch up if they missed it. I think the show gets off to a great start, with strong, but believably flawed characters. I think reviews will be easiest by grouping characters together and exploring their stories in each episode.
Jane loves: Her Family, God, Grilled Cheese Sandwiches. In no particular order.
Jane is in school to be a teacher, but has dreams of being a writer. She works at Rafael’s hotel and is in her last semester, living with her mother and grandmother until she and Michael are ready to get married. Because of a lesson from her grandmother at the tender age of ten, Jane has… preserved her flower, even with her boyfriend of two years. Jane goes to the OB-GYN for a simple exam, but due to overworking herself and falling asleep in the doctor’s office, she unknowingly agrees that she’s there to be inseminated–and she is. She naturally freaks out; none of this is part of her carefully orchestrated plan! She can’t put “have a baby” on her and Michael’s newly shared calendar! When Michael proposes, she still needs a moment to really think things over. She’s not ready for a baby and Michael doesn’t want her to have a baby that isn’t his. When she learns that Raf is the father (and a cancer survivor, and her boss, and the man she shared a dreamy kiss with five years ago) and that he and Petra are a “happy” couple with their last chance to have a kid–she buckles and agrees to go through with it. She’s got a hard road ahead of her, even without all the lies, secrets, and deception. Those parts just make the story more fun for us.
I already love Jane because she’s kind and hopeful and believes in the good of people. She’s hardworking and determined; she has a plan, but isn’t so rigid in it that she doesn’t accept change. She’s both practical and brave. She loves her family but is also very aware of her family’s mistakes. She just aches not to repeat them. But she honors her family’s choices and realizes the sacrifices they made for her. She has hope, romanticism, and loves people. This last point is clear at Luisa’s office, when she sees how upset Luisa is and wishes the best for her, even though Luisa is clearly distracted from her actual job.
Jane’s name, a derivative of John, means “Jehovah is gracious” and also alludes to Jane Austen as well as Jane Eyre–again, going back to her dreams of being a writer. I feel like this show, more than any other, will have characters whose names mean things relevant to their character.
Michael, who appears to love Jane and is willing to wait for her, proposes to Jane, before their mutually established timeline, because he is ready to be with her now rather than continuing to wait for their careers to be solidified. He’s a cop who’s investigating some drug smuggling, which has something to do with Zaz and Petra. He also has a secret past, which his shady brother, Billy, alludes to but doesn’t reveal to Jane’s family.
He’s a bit hard to read. Something about Michael’s response of “you too” to Jane’s “Love you” text doesn’t feel right about it, considering he proposes the next day. Maybe it’s his shady past that has me concerned about his genuine affection for Jane, but if you notice: he never actually says “I love you” during the either of their proposals… I think we should keep an eye on Michael.
Abuela Gloria is the typical grandma: interested in what’s morally right, loving, and ready for her telenovela’s every day. She’s also the person who told Jane to preserve her “flower” 10 years after telling Xiomara to get an abortion. We haven’t seen much of her yet, but she’s already shown to be complex. I like that Abuela only speaks Spanish, as it allows viewers to be seen as smart and is more realistic–a lot of grandmas of non-English speaking backgrounds speak little English, especially at home.
Xiomara means ready for battle–which is so appropriate for a character who fights for her daughter so fiercely and is always ready to do what is necessary to protect and love her. Even at 16, she always wanted Jane and clearly fought Gloria to have her. Once we learn that the telenovela star, Rogelio, is Jane’s father, watch the scene where the three watch the show: Xiomara watches Jane very keenly–perhaps watching to see if Jane sees anything familiar in Rogelio. Rogelio wants to meet his daughter.
Rafael has just finished cancer treatment and is back to running a hotel (one of a chain owned by his father, presumably?), with his best friend Roman Zazo and wife Petra. Raf and Petra’s marriage is in shambles–he doesn’t love her anymore and she’s in it for the $10 million pre-nup settlement should they be married for 5 years–so she heads to the OB-GYN to get his last and only sperm sample implanted in her–without his knowledge. So everything that follows is a bit Petra’s fault. (Or is it just cancer’s fault?)
Since the sperm was his last chance to have a kid, he realizes that he wants to have this baby, even if it’s with Jane. And even if it’s without Petra. His cancer changed his life, but he is still struggling with the reputation and effects of his former wild party phase. He is still figuring out who he is and is surrounded by people trying to manipulate him or play him–I think we’ll see him fall in love with Jane’s honesty.
Petra and Zaz are having an affair and Zaz seems to be caught up in some nefarious schemes, all behind Raf’s back. What is Zaz up to?
Luisa seems to love her brother a lot. She looks out for him and has heart to hearts with him at their club. She just needs to focus. She has a history of alcohol abuse (looks like both she and her brother went through a rough phase) and it’s hindered her career as an OB-GYN before (she’s on probation). When she finds her wife* (*in some states) with another–woman I presume?–it robs her of the focus it seems she’s fought so hard to get back and she mixes up Jane and Petra’s procedures. She’s immediately both apologetic but also practical–she calls a lawyer, who happens to be an ex. She knows she’s in deep doo-doo, and is nervous for the consequences, but doesn’t try to skirt them or run away from them or drink them away. She’s trying her hardest to be an adult and face things head on–perhaps the influence of whatever got her to stop drinking?
- Jane’s mermaid walk– waddle at the hotel.
- (Does Petra’s mother live with them? What is the reason for that?)
- “Crystal got fake boobs.” “Those are her break-up boobs.”
- “What if you’re like a religious messiah? I can’t lie to a religious messiah!”
- Jane already sees her Rogelio as a father figure, comforting her in the doctor’s office in her telenovela star daydreams.
- How is Petra’s hair SO PERFECT. It’s gorgeous and I can’t stop staring at it.
Jane the Virgin had the strongest pilot of the season, in my opinion. It did everything a pilot is supposed to do in terms of introducing a bunch of characters and none of them falling flat or feeling stiff. It teases us with juicy storylines and great twists worthy of the genre it’s parodying, and gives us plenty of heartwarming moments. I am so glad this show was picked up for a full season and I haven’t been able to stop thinking about reviewing it, so here we are. I hope I can keep up–reviews will probably be up on Fridays for the repeat airing and to be shared on Monday’s ahead of new episodes.
On to Chapter 2!