Jane the Virgin: S05E01, “Chapter 82”

Welcome back, Janiacs!  After what seemed like an eternity, Jane the Virgin has returned for its farewell tour.   Just as my emotions are mixed on one of my favorite shows returning just for it to end, I’m equally conflicted on the resolution to that cliffhanger from the season 4 finale.  I mean, I’m glad JR didn’t kill anyone, but who gives a shit about the return of Milos. Oh, that’s probably not the cliffhanger y’all really cared about. If I’m being honest, I totally forgot about the #JRShotWho plot and the only thing I remembered from last spring was the shocking return of Michael.  For what it’s worth, I’m pretty conflicted about that as well.

Minus a quick intro showing how the Villanueva women have celebrated Dia de los Muertos(and a tactful and concise way of showing how Jane gradually recovered from the death of her husband), the show wasted no time giving out some answers on the resurrection of Michael.  Turns out that Rose orchestrated faking Michael’s death by giving him poison to slow his heart rate, hired some EMTs to drive off with his not-lifeless body, and paid off a morgue pathologist to fake his death certificate.   None of this answers who exactly was buried in the coffin 4 years ago, but I guess that hardly matters at a time like this. As if Rose’s plan wasn’t diabolical enough, she had Michael tortured with repeated rounds of electroshock therapy until he lost his memory.  She renamed him Jason, after Jason Bourne, took him to Montana, and told him that he was in a lot of trouble and should just start over…..so he did. A part of me was really annoyed that I couldn’t inform Rose that naming him Jason Bourne wasn’t a play on words as much as it was just a half-assed movie referenced, but since I can’t, I’ll just delight in the joy she had when playfully saying “He lives”.

But saying Michael lives is only true in the most technical sense.  His heart beats, he breaths, he moves, he talks…..occasionally, but the essence of Michael is virtually gone. He no longer makes jokes (not that he was ever really good at that) he’s not into conversing, he’s turned against cats and owns a dog, and the brain damage has caused him to inexplicably dislike cuban sandwiches.  All the things that made him who he was have disappeared with his memories and every bit of it is breaking Jane’s heart as she dutifully talks him down memory lane in attempt to make him remember a life that meant so much to her.  

To say Jane’s life has been fraught with turmoil would be almost an understatement when you think of all the insane turmoil she’s endured, but up to this point she’s handled it with relative calm and grace.   Well, that all ended with one simple question: “Are you ok?”. You can’t blame Xo for asking such a simple question. But as Jane makes abundantly clear during a 7 minute stream of consciousness nearly uninterupted meltdown, she is finally not ok.  That meltdown, by the way, was possibly the most impressive bit of acting I’ve ever seen from Gina Rodriguez. I am extremely impressed by not just her ability to deftly serpentine her way through expressing all the pent up emotions and thoughts and concerns and implications Michael’s return mean for her and the entire family, but for the writers in skillfully crafting that obstacle course of thoughts.  Despite the duration and the range of emotions Jane has to zig zag through, the transitions in thoughts and shifts in tones just come across seamless. Ms. Rodriguez was also the director of this chapter. Her connection to the character and the material no doubt contributed to the success of the scene, which in other hands would have likely come across as overly dramatic or campy. Instead I was in awe.

While the episode mostly focuses on how Jane is processing this newest twist, it does make some time out to show how the family is taking the news.  Alba seems to be handling it the best as she seems so stoked to have Michael Jason around to call her ma’am. Rogelio is disappointed his visage didn’t rekindle any memories of their previous bromance.  Xo is just trying to be supportive, not just to Jane, but for Rafael. I’ll admit I got misty eyed when she got him to open up about how scared he was about possibly losing his once-soon-to-be-fiance. I’ve never been fully sold on Rafael as the right person for Jane, but how he’s handled this whole Michael thing has made me a believer.  He never tried to hide the truth, he made sure he had all the facts he could before going to Jane, he’s giving her space to process, all while still moving into a new place without sulking his lady ain’t with him. If all that weren’t proof of enough of his maturity, he’s also not falling for Rose’s scheme to get Luisa back in her life. Instead of begging his sister for help trying to find answers of Rosa’s motive for doing this, he tells her stay away.  Of course, Luisa is not going to do that, but it’s nice she got to make that decision without being manipulated by guilt or loyalty.

By the episodes end, things seem to be looking up for Raf.  Lucky for him, Jane decided to use her writing to clear her mind.  She quickly remembers the big moments in her relationship with Michael: their first kiss, their wedding, and his death.  It’s remembering the funeral and how Rafael was there for her that she’s able to get some clarity. She had a great love with Michael, but it was something she put in her past and mourned and she successfully moved on.  She’s not going to allow herself to forget the last 4 years and the love she has for Raf. I almost started actively cheering at this point, but thought better of it. Not because I worry about being judged as that crazy lady who screams at her tv (that shipped sailed many moons ago) but because I don’t for one second believe this will be the last time this relationship is tested.

On the topic of tested relationships, I can’t forget to mention Petra and Jane the Lawyer.  I’ve already spoiled who JR shot, but the why feels just as unremarkable. Milos just wanted some old fashioned revenge.  He didn’t want Petra dead, he just wanted to take control of the hotel and send her to jail. He tries to bargain his way out of them calling the cops by offering back the shares of the hotel he got from conning Luisa which Petra pauses to consider.  That pause is enough to confirm Lawyer Jane’s doubts in their relationship and no amount of pleading from Petra is going to save it.

Petra has steadily become one of my favorites over the years, but I wish they would have just omitted this storyline and saved it for the next episode.  With the weight of everything Jane and Michael and Raf are dealing with, it both couldn’t compare to the emotional punch and the comedic elements just felt out of place (despite how cute that baby ferrets line was).  I still wish Petra and JtL could make it work, cause Petra is at her best when they are together, but in the context of this episode I was mostly wanting them to work so Petra and Michael don’t get something started. I was actively grimacing when Michael was checking her out, cause it definitely seems in the realm of possibility that a romcom would end with the pairings in reverse from the first episode.

As much as I’m still not happy about the return of Michael, pulling out the amnesia trick for the final run is completely on brand for this telenovella.  Quite frankly, I’m kicking myself for not guessing it was the reason he hadn’t returned sooner. It works by not only being a common soap device, but it also is the only way they could bring back Michael and not have fans pissed off that he let Jane go through 4 years of mourning his loss.  It also opens up Jane to a lot of conflict, both internally and externally, that could really boost the show which had found itself repeating and recycling previous plots last season. I’m intrigued by how Michael’s return will affect her faith considering the Catholic church is unlikely to see a gray area in “til death do you part”.  I really did not want to revisit the love triangle the show so smartly put to bed 2 years ago, but this episode did a great job in convincing me there was still more to mine out of that with the new dynamics.