In the seventh episode of the fifth season of Jane the Virgin, Jane gives Michael and Montana a try. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to watch Jane the Virgin.
Trigger Warning: For discussion of grief
What if you could try again?
So, hi. I project a lot on the fiction that I consume, and I daresay I’ve made a little career out of it. After all these years, I still find it fascinating to draw out the lines between fiction and reality, even when I’m dealing with narratives that are fantastical. Jane the Virgin fulfills something between the two, of course, and I’ve commented on that countless times over the course of this show’s five seasons. This is also not the first time this show has oddly coincided with my own life. Sort of like my experience with The Shepherd’s Crown over on Mark Reads, I can’t deny that I’m spending a lot of time thinking about the same sort of things as “Chapter Eighty-Eight” addresses.
Because what if you could try again with someone you loved who died?
Like I said, this show and its writers have always toyed with fantasy and reality. There are so many wonderful romance and telenovela tropes spread across this script, and that made this feel fantastical in the best way possible. There’s only one bed. A city girl visits their love interest in the countryside and tries to learn their ways. Emergency, last-minute camping. Mysterious pasts. Love triangles. Yet Michael’s entire arc is the biggest fantasy of all: He died. Except he didn’t! But functionally? He was gone. He had died. That’s how the show treated it; it’s how Jane led her life in the four years since his disappearance.
And then he came back.
His return (and his amnesia) sent Jane the Virgin into a tailspin, both emotionally and in terms of the kind of telenovela tropes that exist to shake up any sort of certainty. That’s a hallmark of the genre, isn’t it? The plot always keeps moving. Nothing is stable. Nothing is for sure. You can even get away with ideas that generally don’t hold weight in other genres. Like, for instance: seeing a dead body and attending the funeral of a major character being killed off. That’s generally a sign that a character is actually dead.
And so, like Jane, I mourned with her. I mourned because she was so happy. I mourned because it hadn’t been all that long since I had lost someone I loved deeply, suddenly and terribly, in a way that completely upended my life. I mourned because large parts of the world were suffering from a collective grief over the loss of so very many people because of a disease.
And then he came back.
It was a dream come true. Well, in a specific context, and in a specific time. Even though Jane the Virgin chose to jump forward in time after Michael’s “death,” it’s not hard to imagine one aspect of Jane’s time while grieving Michael: She definitely wished that one day, Michael would just walk through the door and return to her life. I say that because I know I did it when my dad passed in 2006. And here I am, just about to get to one year post-death of Baize, and I still have moments when I look to my front door and I wonder what it would be like to see him walk through it. What would he say? What would he look like? Would he have enjoyed living here in this new apartment, which is so much bigger than anything else we lived in when we were together, when he was still alive? Would he have liked the neighborhood? My new friends?
What would he say about all the things I have somehow managed to accomplish in the year since he went away?
But that is pure fantasy, and one thing therapy has taught me is that sometimes, fantasy hurts. Fantasy holds you back. Fantasy makes you forget what really happened because sometimes, fantasy is comforting in all the wrong ways. I am thankful every day of my life that I found a therapist this year that worked for me, and I’m thankful that she managed to specialize in trauma and grief. I’ve been on a journey since just before the pandemic began in full here in NYC—literally, my first session was in-person, and then a week later, we went into shutdown—that has revealed how often I was clinging to fantasies while grieving. I wouldn’t have known without someone qualified to point it out to me.
This isn’t quite a fantasy for Jane, though. In some ways it is, and I’ll get to that towards the end. Jane’s whole decision to go to Montana was to cut through the noise, to approach a potential relationship with Michael head-on. To me, it felt like her trying to engage this not as a fantasy, but as reality. What would it really be like to live with Michael again? What was his life like anymore? Could Jane get a picture of a possible future? I found it interesting, then, that the script immediately dropped these two characters into some brutal realism: The journey from Miami to wherever in Montana that Michael lived was awful. Of course, there’s the added gut-punch that these two were finally traveling together. The first time!!! It never happened during their initial relationship! It’s pointless wondering if they would have traveled well together in the past, though. What mattered—and what made up the point of this exercise—was to see how these two worked now. So, they don’t travel well, which was a possible negative aspect of this.
But once Jane settled in, I liked what I was seeing. I liked that she was able to relax. I especially liked how respectful Michael was about how very different his life was. He never forced Jane to do anything she didn’t want to do, and instead, he encouraged her when she was interested in his life! So, on a personal level? I started wondering if these two were going to end up together. This seemed to be working out, and lord, some of their scenes together were so romantic! (THAT SHOWER MOMENT. HELP.) Like… falling asleep under the stars? Jane learning that you can hear yourself think in places as quiet as Michael’s home? I’d even argue that getting to meet Michael’s coworkers and friends was a good thing, too. Look how accepting those men were, y’all. He’s got a new family that cares about him, and they seemed ready to accept Jane, too. (Which does make me wonder about the whole Charlie subplot. I can’t seem to make that fit within any of the readings I’ve come up with for “Chapter Eighty-Eight.” Because what I thought was unfolding was a plot about someone Michael had dated in the previous four years. Except it ends up being about Bo eating some of Charlie’s chickens? What did this plot do to the greater story of Jane and Michael’s attempt to reconcile their relationship? I’m not entirely sure, so I’m interested to hear takes from y’all in the comments.)
Yet this is where the show toys with fantasy and reality. What would it actually mean for Jane to accept this? Sure, there were more options than the dichotomy she thought existed. There was more here than just move to Montana with Michael or go back to Miami without him. Still, those were all just IDEAS. Jane’s imaginings of the future with Michael all seemed nice and possible, yet they are a fantasy, one that she doesn’t discount until the end. Why? Because of how much Jane’s love for Rafael was mixed up in her guilt over what had happened and what she had done. And I want you all to know that I do get why Jane did this and why she had to explore this option, even though I fully recognize why Rafael makes the decision that he does here. I can’t sit here and tell you that if I was delivered an impossible twist of fate, and my ex walked through the door right now, that I wouldn’t throw away all my therapy for the past seven months and try out a relationship with him. Isn’t it understandable that she just had to know?
Perhaps. I think it is. However, Rafael’s presence in all those fantasies was the tipping point for Jane. Ranch life was calming and entertaining. Spending time with Michael? It’s undeniable that much of it was good, and both these people did manage to find a way to meet in the middle in many respects. So maybe there is some potential there. But who did Jane care about the most in her image of the future? Who kept appearing? Who is at the center of her romantic love? It’s still not Michael, and it used to be, sure, but it’s not anymore. Her feelings, while complicated and intense, are simply not the same.
It was gut-wrenching. I’m not gonna lie. Because Michael didn’t do anything wrong, and he wasn’t immoral for pursuing this. It was what his heart wanted! And yet, it’s still wrong, and Jane had to say goodbye to him. I don’t know if this is the final time we’ll see Michael. It really felt like this was the final step in this arc, even if it left his character in such a heartbreaking place.
At the same time… I really get Rafael. I feel such an immense sympathy for him because he chose what was right, knowing how much it might cost him. God, I still can’t forget how much joy he experienced when he thought that Jane had sent in the divorce papers and how crushed he was when he found out Jane hadn’t gone through with it. So yeah, this is a trust issue. How can he trust her to stay after this? How can he trust her not to put him through the same thing in the future?
I don’t know how to fix this, y’all. I really don’t. It feels like such a huge mess, and I don’t know what fighting for one’s destiny looks like in this context. I would love it if Rafael and Jane got back together by the end of the show, but… how? HOW???
I also want to end this by repeating what I said at the end of the video for “Chapter Eighty-Eight.” It was such a brilliant writing choice to have this episode be a single POV. It was the right thing to do, and by restricting us to Jane’s story, it made the ending hit harder. It gave Michael and Jane some real time together so that Jane breaking things off would make more sense. Bravo, writers!
The video for “Chapter Eighty-Eight” can be downloaded here for $0.99.
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