Great Episode – Jane the Virgin’s “Chapter Fifty-Five”

There’s been a huge shift in the status quo in the last fortnight on Jane the Virgin and it’s worked wonderfully, particularly following the time skip in the thrilling “Chapter Fifty-Five”

The time skip in television is a difficult art to master. Some of them have been excellent, as in Battlestar Galactica when the crew settled on New Caprica, or midway through the first season of Fargo and the third season of Hannibal. More frequently however, they’re not executed as well, such as in Desperate HousewivesDoctor Who or the real-life break of Arrested Development.

The start of Jane the Virgin‘s “Part Three” is a brilliant new entry in the former category in a wonderful episode that feels simultaneously like series finale and complete reboot. The show jumped forwards three years into an entirely new beginning for a show that felt like it had recently been losing some of its unpredictability, and capitalised upon the shake-up in every way possible.

“Chapter Fifty-Four” built to the devastating death of husband Michael as a result of the wounds inflicted by Sin Rostro ten episodes earlier, a move that was foreshadowed as early as “Chapter Ten” but lost none of its impact as a result. The third season’s premiere which included a sequence in which Jane imagined their life together if Michael survived has now been entirely re-contextualised, and Jane launched into a dramatic new direction.

Chapter Fifty-Five

One of the trickiest elements of a time jump is ensuring that the audience does not feel robbed of crucial moments of progression with characters, and “Chapter Fifty-Five” makes the wise and bold choice to place us at a point where Jane is still grieving from Michael, even as many of the others have moved on. Jane the Virgin has always primarily been the story of its main character, even as her family cycled around their own plot lines, and it works well that she’s still feeling the loss as much as the audience are.

Elsewhere, writers Paul Sciarrotta and Jennie Snyder Urman cleverly use the cliffhangers and information set up in the previous episode to subvert expectations. Rogelio and Darcy are getting married but it’s only to boost reality show ratings. Rafael’s time in jail hasn’t hardened him but rather softened him, as Petra callously states. Rafael’s transformation and steady redemption from his second season selfishness has been slowly eased into across the previous ten episodes, and the time jump allows him to land at its logical end point here. It’s a hugely welcome change, and his dynamic with Jane is heart-meltingly sweet.

But very wisely there are still cards being kept hidden for now, and for a show that loves a big reveal the time skip is a great thing to hide them in. Luisa and Rose are conspicuously absent from the episode and given the latter has been associated with some amazing villainous twists in the past, this is enough to prompt some exciting speculation. And in the closing moments as Jane sits down with Petra, Rafael and their children alongside inter-cutting to the Marbella’s new treasure hunt, the discovery of a body in Scott’s uniform is the perfect testament to the promise that there’s still a whole lot to learn.

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When a TV show as dramatic as Jane the Virgin goes on as long as it does, there’s a tendency for it to lose its teeth. Viewers become more endeared to characters, villains are redeemed and the danger and mystery can’t live up to the opening episodes. The decision to kill off Michael, as upsetting as it may be, and the time skip off of the back of that is the best possible way to re-vitalise the show. It’s still been an outstanding show, a few lulls aside, but I’ve always felt that the first season was its best.

But that could now easily change. The events of “Chapter Fifty-Four” and “Chapter Fifty-Five” come out of nowhere and it’s a promise of more unpredictability to come. Last week showrunner Jennie Snyder Urman wrote a wonderful note on Michael’s death, in which she remarked that they ‘changed some things in the writers’ room’ as a result of Brett Dier’s performance, and it’s a testament to the attachment and safety that can result from a status quo that is really working.

But at the end of the day Jane the Virgin is a telenovela and a soap opera, albeit a brilliantly grounded one, and it was the right decision for them to go through with it. Jane and Michael’s relationship was so strong by this point that it had nowhere to go but down, and I’d much rather see it end in such a dramatic and conclusive way rather than a slow and painful dissolution.

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And it results in an episode that feels like it hasn’t forgotten Michael’s death, and that he will have a continued posthumous role in Jane the Virgin. It’s the classic distant finale for “Part Two” of the show and it’s a premiere and reboot that kicks off “Part Three” with a whole load of rejuvenated arcs and new mysteries. That’s a hell of a tall order, but Jane is one of the best written shows on television period, and led by a fantastic showrunner, so it pulls it off in one of the most engaging and joyful episodes the show’s ever had.

There’s a lot of hope in the future for Jane the Widow and for Jane the Virgin.

Written by Tom Besley

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