In the ninth episode of the first season of Jane the Virgin, Rafael and Jane face a new challenge while Xiomara chases her dreams. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to watch Jane the Virgin.
Trigger Warning: For discussion of domestic abuse, ableism.
THE FINAL MONTAGE OF SCENES RUINED ME, WHAT AM I SUPPOSED TO DO.
I have long wanted more for this character, and “Chapter Nine” finally grants it: I learn why Petra assumed a new identity, why she is hiding from someone named Milos, why Ivan is here, and why she is so desperate for money. I appreciate that, as the show manages to use archetypes from telenovelas but has given depth and complication to pretty much everyone here. Except for Magda and Petra, that is. And while this certainly adds a new layer to them, it feels very strange in hindsight. There is nothing in this flashback to hint at who these people will become. In fact, what we see in it makes them out to be wholly sympathetic characters who went through a horrific experience because of an abusive, controlling, and spiteful ex. He meant to hurt Petra, but hurt Magda instead, and then Ivan further complicated matters through blackmail.
So, the show makes these two people out to be relentlessly awful people, only to introduce backstory that is tonally jarring. I just feel so weird about it! Particularly the idea that in trying to escape a monster, these two people became monsters. The story has already been leaning heavily into the trope that someone who is disabled or disfigured is evil, and Magda is BOTH of those things! That doesn’t even account for the ending, where Magda shoves Alba down the stairs. Yeah, that’s pretty unforgivable, so I don’t see the show finding a way to redeem Magda. It’s not that it’s impossible for abused people to become abusers, but I don’t think the show is trying to address something nuanced here; sometimes, these two feel like drama for drama’s sake. Yes, that’s a weird thing to say about a telenovela show because that’s often the point of narratives like this. It just makes me uncomfortable that the show used a background of abuse to build a couple of villains.
I wanted to expand on something I said on video. There are multiple moments in “Chapter Nine” where I really fell into believe that Jane and Rafael would work. I still think it’s possible, and I certainly want to believe what Rafael does: that the events of this episode were a way for show Jane and Rafael that they work wonderfully together. Yet I can’t stop myself asking the same question Jane is: Do they? Do they work well together, or did this situation end as it did because of more random circumstances? As I had mentioned before, people in Rafael’s life keep messing up this relationship. Rafael is trying his best, but Jane isn’t wrong. She and Rafael come from drastically different worlds, and their approach to Petra’s attempt at custody demonstrated that. Rafael wanted to solve the issue with money. Was that a bad idea? No, not necessarily. He could afford it, it would have given what Petra needed, and in the short-term, Petra would have left them alone. But Jane was concerned about the long-term; would Petra come back to ask for more money somewhere down the line? Jane’s solution was uncomfortable, since it involved working with Michael, but it was also a little more practical. If they could implicate Petra in the truth—that she had no interest in the child, just more money—than this solution could be longer lasting.
What they end up with is something right in the middle. It’s not perfect, and it’s certainly not over. (I’m sure the Narrator is cackling at me.) They discover that Pietra’s identity was assumed, and they use this to pressure her into accepting the divorce. Does that mean this couple is better together? Rafael’s hopeful, and I wouldn’t say that Jane feels the opposite of that. She’s hopeful, too, but she’s also much more cautious, and I believe that’s because she doesn’t want to be impulsive or hasty about any of this. And what if that is yet another thing that will come between them? Jane plans things out for YEARS at a time. Is Rafael like that? Will he clash with how careful and reticent Jane is?
AHHHHH THIS HURTS.
I’m calling it now: Michael is getting so reckless in his pursuit of Sin Rostro that all of this is going to come back and bite him in the ass. Paying his brother to find evidence? To lie and use that as a means of obtaining a warrant? Not reporting leads as he is supposed to? That’s not even addressing his relationship with Nadine! This is a MESS, and while he’s made a breakthrough in the case (WHERE DOES THAT HOLE IN THE GROUND LEAD TO), I’m worried. It’s clear that the break-up with Jane has manifested this messiness; I don’t think he’d be behaving this way at ALL if that had not happened. But what if he blows this case? What if Sin Rostro gets away with everything? Also… have I seen Sin Rostro? Are they somebody I know? Because I currently don’t have any suspicions. I feel like I’m completely in the dark.
I’m so into the mother-daughter parallels here, especially since they each feel, in their own way, that maybe their dream should have already happened. Y’all, this is an ETERNAL mood. There was a sprawling conversation about this on Twitter not too long ago, when someone expressed some despair over the idea that they still hadn’t published yet and were in their 30s. HI, HELLO, FIRST-TIME NOVELIST AT 34. I understand why we focus on “success” when it comes from younger people, and there’s certainly a whole lot of pressure to succeed early and do it big, too. I felt that for most of my life, and I wrote about what that felt like when I was reviewing Terry Pratchett’s Moving Pictures for Mark Reads. There is no age you HAVE to reach your dreams by! None! Most days, I’m actually thankful I didn’t publish a book in my 20s; I don’t think I could have dealt with the pressures that came with it; I don’t think I would have even gotten published if I hadn’t spent LITERAL YEARS reviewing and analyzing fiction on this site and Mark Reads. My path was strange and different, and I want Xiomara to appreciate the same thing for her own journey.
Granted, it’s hard when gatekeepers spout this kind of ageist bullshit. Xiomara is by no means the only woman who has ever been affected by this; the show is clearly referencing a longstanding bias in the music industry. Her talent doesn’t matter to the producer he saw because he expected someone younger. And the absurd thing about this is that any producer or marketer or publicist can make someone “happen” if they just put some effort into them. So I appreciate deeply the quiet gesture that Rogelio made here, especially since he refused to gloat about it or take credit for it, which is definitely not what he usually does. No, I think he understood that Xiomara needed a boost from someone like Paulina Rubio, who has such a long and fascinating career. Look, y’all, I really think Rubio was instrumental in the popularity of Latin pop, and I am certain that countless people told Rubio that what she was doing wasn’t possible. Like going solo from Timbiriche; I feel like I read an interview of hers where she faced detractors telling her she’d never find success on her own without the group.
Well, look at her now.
I want Xiomara to find happiness, y’all. And that includes romantically!!! MORE ON THAT NEXT.
I love that Jane’s interest in being a writer is not the main focus of this show, at least not right now. There’s a lot I relate to in this depiction because I, too, had a very full life while I was trying to be a fiction writing. Much of my career has actually involved heavy writing, but it was never really fiction. So I found what time I could, I sent off my stories or query letters, and I hoped for the best. I got almost entirely rejections for many, many years, at least until I finally got that first yes, the one that set everything into motion. More often than not, depictions of writers in other mediums is not very accurate, but this felt believable. After a long grind, you finally get your first acceptance, and the validation that often comes with it is immense. It’s such a high! Like, the thing you created had to be more memorable than anything else that person read??? Somehow???
At the same time, I was touched by Jane wanting to be selfless and respectful here, especially since the subject matter of her short story hit way too close to home. That scene where Jane and Xiomara discuss the contents of the story was refreshing, especially since it really drove home the sense that these two were actively trying not to keep secrets from one another. It hurt for Jane to admit that she judged her mother when she was younger, but her honesty wasn’t cruel. But she also didn’t try to dodge how hurt her mother was by the character based on her.
All of this was portrayed with tenderness and love, and I’m finding Jane the Virgin best when it is at its most sincere. I hope dearly that Xiomara feels free to pursue who she wants now that Jane understands her mother so much better than she ever did. Her mother was impulsive and promiscuous; she also sacrificed a great deal to make her daughter feel safe and happy.
I’m full of so many feelings, y’all.
The video for “Chapter Nine” can be downloaded here for $0.99.
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