In the second episode of the first season of Jane the Virgin, Jane tries to fight change. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to watch Jane the Virgin.
I can tell that I’m going to have so much fun watching this. Even the very format of the show makes this a delight. I think the narrator is a perfect touch to this; it’s not often that the “Previously On…” sequence adds its own character to a story, but I’m so happy that the writers have leaned into giving the narrator their own style. It allows an interesting distance between the story being told and who is telling it. There are little jokes along the way (like the “sp?” bit in the captions, or the narrator saying they don’t care. It’s a way for the show to exist in this interesting space between poking fun at telenovela tropes while also lovingly swimming in them.
And I’d say that’s the case for the script as a whole. There are a TON of shocking plot twists in “Chapter Two,” and the last five minutes ruined me. (TOO MUCH.) It’s a staple of the telenovela, no? The story is not static; it’s always changing. Characters move in the momentum that’s given to them by the writers. Yet Jane the Virgin also stops to give these characters a grounding, a sense that they’re very much real people caught up in the chaotic absurdity of this soap opera. Like the pilot episode, this all felt so genuine and heartfelt, and that’s an accomplishment all on it’s own.
Jane and Change
It is fascinating to me that Jane exists within the kind of narrative—the telenovela plot—that necessitates change. Characters in telenovela shows cannot stay in one place, and they cannot refuse to change, at least not in most senses, because the world around them is changing rapidly. The writers take this idea and apply it to Jane in a much more intimate manner. Jane’s life has changed in a way that literally no one could have predicted. So what’s Jane’s reaction? To cling to certainty as hard as possible, even if it is at great expense to herself. It’s an entirely understandable reaction, too! She knows there are things that will be different in the coming months, so she sets up this family meeting—Michael’s first!!!—in order to establish normalcy. It’s a noble effort, but it also proves to be detrimental pretty quickly. There are too many chaotic factors in Jane’s life at this moment, and each of them has the potential to wrench her into a new direction.
At the same time—and I’ll address this more in Michael’s plot—there are things that Jane needs as certainties, and I was pleased the writers allowed Jane to feel those things out. Again, it’s so rewarding that we’re just TWO episodes into this, and there’s so much room for these characters to grow, change, and adapt. Jane is in a terribly vulnerable position, and it felt like such a privilege to get to watch Gina Rodriguez fall so deeply into Jane’s fears and insecurities. Y’all, I know we all know this, but she’s so good at this shit??? My heart broke during that scene on the front porch between Jane and Xiomara. Rodriguez has this physicality when she portrays emotion that’s stunning to watch.
Change is not inherently bad, though. What I do love about what “Chapter Two” has to say is that is values selfishness in a way that isn’t harmful. Jane was so busy trying to satisfy everyone else in her life that her mother had to stop her and remind her that now, more than ever, was the time for her to put herself first. That meant keeping her job if it provided joy and stability. (Sorry, I still can’t get over the health care thing. I understand Michael’s emotional conflict here, but dude. Your fiancée is now pregnant and you want to have her risk losing her health care? ABSOLUTELY NOT.) It meant doing things that were best for her and the baby, even if it made others uncomfortable. It also manifested as acceptance; Jane spent so much time here fighting reality! You know, the whole “milkshake” thing? It’s okay if this whole situation scares her, or if it makes her feel like life sucks. She should feel safe to express those things on top of the joy and excitement!
It’s also hard to talk about Jane’s growth because so much of it is tied to her relationship with her mother. It’s not just their past together that matters, either, though that’s obviously a big part of this. I’m really loving this character, too, because Xiomara and Jane are set up as foils of one another as a conflict, and yet, the two of them continue to grow closer. How? They begin to understand one another. They are developing a new empathy, and it’s fascinating to watch. This process has only barely begun, but Jane is starting to see her mother through new eyes. Jane is about to be a new (and young) mother, and I wouldn’t be surprised if this creates new opportunities for Jane to understand who her mother has been to her.
But the show also allows us to see Xiomara’s own struggle with that. She was a young mother who had to raise Jane without her father, Rogelio, and with the help of Alba. However, it’s clear that she constantly questions whether or not she’s been a good mother. We can see that insecurity all over this episode! But what “Chapter Two” does is show us that Xiomara certainly wasn’t perfect. She was just different. And at the heart of her actions was a deep, burning love for her daughter. So maybe she embarrassed Jane at her quinceñera; but Jane doesn’t even know that Xiomara did that to prevent her from a greater shame. Thus, when Rogelio comes barging into Jane’s life, Xiomara does it again: she protects her daughter from even more pain at a time when she doesn’t need it. Look, I get why Rogelio wants to meet Jane, but Xiomara is right. Jane is SO overwhelmed in this episode, and one more dose of chaos right now is probably a terrible idea.
That being said… maybe sleeping with Rogelio on top of all of this is a bad decision? Maybe. MAYBE.
I do appreciate Michael’s conflict here. It’s understandable why he is uncomfortable and why his jealousy flares. This really is a weird situation for him, but it’s made even more nightmarish because of his job. I also thought it was satisfying to watch him give Jane this ultimatum and then walk it back, realizing that he was centering himself and his feelings instead of hers. It wasn’t fair of him to ask her to leave the hotel. Does it solve his problems, though? No. He knows Petra is an unfaithful fiancée, and seeing Petra lie so easily is making him paranoid. How much you wanna bet that he’s going to continue thinking it’s possible that Jane will cheat on him? I’m sure he’s noticed that Rafael and Jane have an easy chemistry. (I sure have. Whew, that scene where Jane is getting a sonogram? That was MAGIC.) His world is all crime; it’s all the worst of humanity; and how long will it be until that creeps too far into his life outside his job?
Oh, not long. Because… holy shit, there’s so much happening here already!
I feel like “Chapter Two” is starting to peel back the edges of Petra in a way I really want the show to do. She is about the only character here who is who she is on the surface, and there did not seem to be any effort to explain why that is. Why is she so desperate for Rafael’s money? Why did she start that relationship with Roman, Rafael’s best friend? What’s her motivation beyond greed?
It’s not until Petra gets to the tearful confession near the end of this episode that I see something new in Petra: genuine sadness. Which is ironic, since she’d been coaching that whole confession with Roman, and it was supposed to be a means of manipulation. Except… holy shit, she actually meant it. There was a time in which she was in love with him. What was their relationship like during Raf’s “bad boy” days? What has she gone through? Cuz now I want to know about this! That being said, it doesn’t excuse the betrayal, and it doesn’t make her right for trying to manipulate Rafael. But it makes her feel more whole as a character. It also seems like she had no idea what sort of work Roman was into, right? (And for the record… I am kinda side-eyeing Roman’s death. He stands as the only Afro-Latinx character on the whole show… except not anymore. Just because this whole cast except for Michael is Latinx and brown doesn’t exempt them from this sort of problem. I was hoping we’d see more of him, too.) So, the affair’s over, but is Rafael ever going to find out? Will that derail him from his attempt at making this relationship work? Also, hi, what’s going on with Petra’s mother??? I feel like there are some telenovela tropes in THAT, and I’m hoping this doesn’t go the lazy route of “disability + scars/disfiguration = evil.”
The Solano Family
Y’all, of EVERYTHING that happened in “Chapter Two,” nothing intrigued me more than the ONE MINUTE SEQUENCE in which we meet Luisa and Rafael’s father. Honestly, the sheer chaotic energy of the five million reveals there ALONE is something to respect. I could not react to one twist before eight more of them came down the pipeline. What’s so impressive to me is how so little said so much. We know that their father is someone who likes being impressed; we know that Rafael perceives that his father favors and “coddles” Luisa. WHICH HE FULLY ADMITS TO. He actually admits to it because… she’s “family”? What the fuck does that mean? Is Rafael not family? And then Rose shows up, and we find out that Dr. Luisa’s ex-lover, who she hooked up with earlier in the episode, IS HER FUCKING STEP-MOM?
Y’all, WHAT IS ACTUALLY HAPPENING IN THE SOLANO FAMILY. I need a full episode backstory RIGHT NOW.
The video for “Chapter Two” can be downloaded here for $0.99.
Mark Links Stuff
– You can now pre-order my second YA novel, Each of Us a Desert, which will be released on September 15, 2020 from Tor Teen!
– Not only that, but my very first pre-order campaign is now live for North American readers! If you submit proof of pre-order, you can get a limited edition print that comes with the book.
– If you’d like to stay up-to-date on all announcements regarding my books, sign up for my newsletter! DO IT.