Jane (Gina Rodriguez) talks to her husband, Michael (Brett Dier). Colleen Hayes / The CW

‘Jane the Virgin’ finds its footing after mid-season twist

If you’re a “Jane the Virgin” (2014 – present) fan who has continued watching the series after February’s season three, episode 10: congratulations. A shrine should be built in honor of your strength, compassion and ability to forgive. You are so patient and optimistic, you probably don’t even resent Tufts_Secure for its unreliability and unexpected outages.

If you’re a “Jane the Virgin” fan who hasn’t even seen season three, episode 10, read no further. Don’t let this be your version of Justin Baldoni’s spoiler-filled Instagram feed. You’ve been warned.

All this, of course, refers to the big mid-season twist of Michael’s death. In the typical telenovela style that the series both teases and embraces, “Jane” had viewers on the edge of their seats with the season two cliffhanger that left Michael’s (Brett Dier) fate in limbo immediately following his big wedding to Jane (Gina Rodriguez). Thankfully, audiences were quickly reassured that everything would be okay when Michael was still alive at the opening of season three. At least, that’s what we thought.

The first half of the current season explored Michael’s slow recovery and struggles to adapt back to everyday life outside police work, as well as Jane’s trauma after almost losing her husband. Never a show to stay in one place too long, plenty of other interesting plotlines and some less interesting character arcs were incorporated alongside their marital drama in the first nine episodes, including the appearance of Jane’s mysterious cousin, Catalina (Sofia Pernas), the new relationship between Xo (Andrea Navedo) and her old flame Bruce (Ricardo Chavira) and the ongoing murky business of Petra (Yael Grobglas) and the Marbella Hotel.

Things were looking increasingly normal and positive for Jane and Michael until episode 10, when a heart attack induced by his previous gunshot wound suddenly killed Michael. Gina Rodriguez, whose stunning performance as Jane has brought tears to many eyes and earned her a Golden Globe, deserves another award for the scene following Michael’s death alone.

Although the show’s narrator had dropped subtle hints alluding to Michael’s fate in previous episodes, most viewers were caught off guard by the twist. Even fans who had always considered themselves Team Rafael (Justin Baldoni) when it came to the show’s love-triangle were still heartbroken by the death, and Team Michael fans were outright betrayed.

The show’s decision to jump three years into the future after Michael’s death felt like a cop-out and a way to side-step the immense grief that Jane would obviously be feeling. At the same time, it was also hard to understand why this kind of heavy drama had a place at all in a series as comedic and uplifting as this one. How can “Jane the Virgin” possibly be the show it started out as with its titular character now a young widow?

It has come as a pleasant surprise to see just how deftly the show has actually handled the time jump and Michael’s absence in the three episodes following the twist. Although it feels wrong to see some characters in new situations without having been able to see their growth, such as post-prison “Zen” Rafael (now with a beard and a new girlfriend), it’s clear that Jane is still very much herself. While trying to manage her career goals on top of raising her son Mateo alone, Jane faces panic attacks triggered by reminders of Michael and memories of the weeks following his death.

The show allows viewers to follow Jane’s memories back in time, giving a glimpse into the grief that is still very real for her. At the same time, other plotlines, such as Mateo misbehaving in school and Petra’s scheming, continue to hold viewers’ (and Jane’s) attention. In a way, it’s all very familiar and rhythmically comforting to see Jane as an independent woman again as the world turns around her, even with Michael’s death in the back of everyone’s mind. But as Rafael reminds her in episode 13, she has other goals to pursue that will keep her moving forward.

As “Jane the Virgin” usually has 22 episodes per season, plenty of time remains for things to change for better or for worse before season three draws to a close. Considering that episode 13 featured Rafael breaking up with his girlfriend and Jane reflecting on her previous relationship with Rafael, it seems likely that the show’s writers are preparing to align Jane and Rafael’s paths romantically once more somewhere down the line. For now, Jane certainly needs more time to grieve and figure out her new life alone, and the rest of us do, too.

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