In the first episode of the fifth season of Jane the Virgin, EVERYTHING IS A LOT. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to watch Jane the Virgin.
Trigger Warning: For death, grief, torture, memory loss, trauma.
What an episode. Strange and uncomfortable and surreal, and yet… still unmistakably Jane the Virgin.
The Return of Michael
Damn, what can I even say about this? I spent a great deal of “Chapter Eighty-Two” in a state of shock, especially as the backstory for Jason was revealed. It just… shit. I grieved Michael’s death, too! He was gone! How the fuck do you deal with something like this? It’s both exceptionally evil—clearly, Rose did this as a means of manipulating someone—and completely unprecedented. They buried him. Jane moved on and fell in love again. Is she… is she still technically married? What the fuck, y’all?
The show focuses almost entirely on Michael’s return, and for good reason. This is huge. Obviously, the plot with Petra is, too, but Michael was a protagonist. He was such a significant force within the show, so his return had to be given the space it was given here. And we’re given time with almost every character as they process all this new information. There’s Rogelio, who lost one of his very best friends, who also mistakenly hopes that his Brogelio past will jog Michael’s memory. There’s Rafael, who knew it was the right thing to bring Michael back into Jane’s life, even if that meant jeopardizing his own relationship with her. There’s Patricia, who is mostly just overjoyed to get her son back in any state! And… Mateo. Christ, how? How are they going to do this? This news was hard enough to process as an adult. But as a CHILD???
I assume we’ll get there. For the most part, though, this episode is concerned with a more immediate conflict: Will Jason remember who he was as Michael if he spends time around Jane? What’s so crushing about this is watching each of these people approach Jason with hope, only to have nothing happen. Memory and brain damage isn’t an exact science, and while I can’t speak to any sort of authenticity here in terms of representing this, I do think that the show didn’t take the easy route. It would have been a rousing, emotional thing to have Michael’s memory start to come back. But the man has been through such an intense and specific type of trauma that it felt more realistic to get what we got here, even if it’s harder. And weirder! Brett Dier plays Jason with only tiny references to Michael, and those are… whew, they’re crushing. Because he is fundamentally a different person, someone who has lived a life utterly unlike his before. He lives in Montana. He has horses. And a dog! (HI, BO. I LOVE YOU ALREADY.) He believes he has never used a computer. Yet all of this pales in comparison to the greater emotional ramifications of his return.
Who is Jane if Michael is back?
It took me until Gina Rodriguez’s incredible monologue to realize that there basically haven’t been monologues on this show? The show always moves so quickly, and while there have been some longer, more focused scenes, the editing and writing jumps from one plot to the next. (Very telenovela-like, of course.) So, why a monologue, filmed in a single take, that’s well over five minutes? Why do that here?
Because it fits. And more than anything else, that’s why Jane’s looping, intense, giddy, guilt-ridden, grief-filled monologue needs to be where it is. I’ve said this so very many times before, but here’s yet another chance for me to repeat myself: Jane the Virgin deals its characters telenovela twists, but often opts for contemporary realism when showing how they cope. There’s no exception here, as Jane rambles on about all the tiny and huge things that have been disrupted in her life now that Michael is back. Is she a widow? How does that change her identity? What does she circle at the doctor’s office now? How does she deal with a man who has Michael’s face, who smells like Michael, but who calls himself Jason? Who remembers nothing of his life with her? Who are they now?
I don’t know. I truly don’t even know how I would react if someone I loved who died was suddenly back. The tragedy of this all is that Jane’s grieving wasn’t fake. It wasn’t unnecessary. Because Michael was still gone! So what do you do with all that grief and all that healing now? Where does it go?
That scene was astounding. Gina’s acting. The blocking. The mixture of humor and sadness and shock and anger. Faith! God, y’all, what an incredible moment for the series. It was the right choice to make, and everyone behind Jane the Virgin absolutely pulled it off.
So where does all this lead to? There are a number of important decisions made here in the wake of all this chaos. Most of them have to do with Rafael, which I loved. Because holy shit, I know things are awful and confusing for Jane, but look at how hard this is for him! And yet, he still did the right thing. Not just for Jane, but Luisa, too. I loved that he told her the truth and kept her appraised the entire time. There were no secrets between them, no ulterior motives. He let Luisa know that he traded her location for the location of Michael, and then supported Luisa in whatever decision she made. It’s why she felt comfortable trying to get to the bottom of all this. For once, Rafael genuinely didn’t pressure her! LOOK AT THE GROWTH WE ARE WITNESSING ON THIS SHOW.
Clearly, Rose has something planned here, but I want to focus on how the Villanueva family deals with this, too. Rogelio understandably has a hard time with Michael being back, but thankfully, with the urging of Xiomara, Ro chooses to support Rafael. It’s a sweet gesture, but it’s also complicated by Rogelio’s need to be comforted himself. Michael was his best friend! Yet it’s true that he’s come to love Jane and Rafael as a couple, so that makes this even harder.
I also think the point of establishing all that between Rafael and Rogelio was to show us that Rafael needed support himself. I noticed how willing Raf was to offer kindness and a hug to Rogelio. Look what happens, though, when Xiomara comes to him, on her own, and she makes it clear she just wants to hear from him. He breaks down, and the tension and fear he held the ENTIRE episode comes flowing out.
Which is why it was also so relieving that despite all this, despite the chaos and confusion, Jane still knew where she stood with Rafael. The return of Michael doesn’t change her love for Rafael or her desire to be with him. I loved that choice, I loved that it was impulsive for her to show up at his work, I LOVED THAT FOR THE MOMENT, THERE IS NO DOUBT. This is a show that can often throw a curveball, so I am not fully expecting Jane to not re-think things with Jason, but still. A NICE THING HAPPENED.
You know, Petra’s plot was pretty upsetting, too. It’s hard to have to be lined up with the return of Michael, but “Chapter Eighty-Two” is a necessary, if uncomfortable, step in Petra’s journey. In the aftermath of JR shooting Milos (HA! I WAS RIGHT!!!!), Petra falls back on what is familiar to her. It was so fascinating to see this unfold because it’s actually a very common response to trauma. As Petra details, she’s had to lie, cheat, steal, and manipulate in order to navigate and survive the incredibly toxic environment she’s lived in all her life. Defaulting to that? That’s her normal. That’s her familiar. And we often go with what feels familiar, even if that’s harmful or unethical. That is what Petra is trying to break free from.
Has she improved? Absolutely. And she has before this episode, even though I would agree that Petra hesitating when Milos offered her a deal is a sign that she’s grown. Turning Milos in to the police? Another step. Here’s what is uncomfortable, though: Is it fair for Jane Ramos to have to wait for that change to happen? Is it fair if Jane is the collateral damage on Petra’s path to self-betterment? No. Not at all. I say that fully wanting these two to be together! I want them to figure it out!!! But I appreciate that the show didn’t have Jane Ramos give up on her boundaries. She established that Petra had gone a step too far, and now, here are the ramifications.
Ugh, it sucks, but it’s good writing, and it’s a very fair charcterization.
ALSO!!!! PETRA IS BISEXUAL! I LOVE THAT SHE ACTUALLY SAID IT!!!!
The video for “Chapter Eighty-Two” can be downloaded here for $0.99.
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