Jane The Virgin, Season 1, Episode 1, “Chapter 1”
October 13, 2014, 9:00 PM (EST), CW
The real miracle of Jane the Virgin isn’t how a 23-year old virgin could end up pregnant, but how a show could possibly balance so many outrageous twists with sincerity and charm. I was initially quite skeptical of the show given the premise, but less than ten minutes in, I was completely drawn into Jane’s world. In the space of an hour, we meet Jane, her mother, grandmother, boyfriend, new boss, ex-crush, his wife, and her doctor. And I mean we really get to know them. Most of them are introduced by their obvious stereotypes, but we soon find out that each one is as layered as our protagonist Jane. We also learn how all of these people are inextricably linked to Jane through a series of bizarre accidents and coincidences. It’s an insane amount of information to take in, so it’s a testament to confident writing and a clear vision of where the show is headed. I’m sure there’s also a soft spot for the soapy romanticism of the telenovelas that inspired the show, but they were smart to add lots of optimism and authenticity in order to tone down the melodramatics the genre is known for.
Jane, played by an incredibly magnetic Gina Rodriguez, is an absolute joy to watch. She is a principled, kind, and hard-working young woman who always tries to do the right thing by others. She has her entire life planned out, including becoming a school teacher and waiting to have sex until she’s ready. Her two year relationship with Michael, a police detective, is full of passion and love. The good things in her life derive from her own wonderful personality, the love and support she receives from the mother who had her at 16, and her devout Catholic grandmother. Her life is going to according to plan until she visits her gynecologist for a routine pap smear and is accidentally inseminated.
The densely plotted pilot details exactly how such an absurd mix-up could’ve happened, building it up like the climax in a horror film but playing it mostly for laughs. However, the fallout is devastating for Jane. She thoughtfully examines her options with support from her mother and grandmother. She learns the truth about their decision-making process in whether or not to bring Jane into the world many years before. Michael is ready to spend the rest of his life with Jane, but at the thought of raising another man’s baby, he hesitates. It’s pretty obvious that she’ll decide to continue the pregnancy, but what surprised me was how much weight the show gave to each option available to her, including abortion. I was worried that the show would rely heavily on religious reasons, but really, her decision stems from her selflessness and grit.
There’s an entire other family that is linked to Jane’s, and that is of her boss and ex-crush Rafael. He’s stuck in a troubled marriage of convenience with a woman who thinks it would be romantic to surprise him with an insemination and the chance for a child. He comes off as the typically smug, rich asshole type, but we find out later that he’s recovering from cancer and Jane is carrying the only biological child he’ll ever be able to have. The stakes climb higher and higher with every reveal throughout the episode, but the reassuring narration and beautiful characterization keep the whole operation quite grounded. Tonally, the show balances lighthearted comedy with heartbreaking drama, but it’s the subtle hint of foreboding that has me wanting to see more. Ultimately, Jane is by far the best reason to get hooked on the show, because at the end of the hour, it’s impossible not to root for this heroine who deserves all the happiness in the world.
Jane, played by an incredibly magnetic Gina Rodriguez, is an absolute joy to watch