Jane the Virgin, Season 1, Episode 2, “Chapter 2,”
October 20, 2014, 9:00 PM (EST), CW
Jane is a planner. In a flashback to her Quinceañera, everything was going according to plan - the flowers, her entrance, the choreographed dance with her superfly date… until her mom Xiomara embarrasses her with an impromptu rendition of Kelis’ “Milkshake.” Jane didn’t panic. She simply moved on. She believes that nothing’s changed - specifically, that she can get through this pregnancy without it derailing her perfectly planned out life. The plan is to graduate from school, try on wedding dresses, and take care of logistical things to keep the baby healthy. Oh, and one other thing - in order to distance herself from the fetus, she’s decided to call it a “milkshake.”
Jane has a number of decisions to make and changes to resist/embrace. At 7 weeks pregnant she is due for her first sonogram. When she shows up to the appointment, everyone involved is there - her mother, grandmother, Rafael, Petra, and Michael. The technician sends everyone out of the room so that Rafael and Jane get some time and space to connect. They have a very revealing and vulnerable conversation about fear, and then as they hear their child’s heartbeat, they both tear up. It’s a tender and sweet moment. At home with her mother, it finally hits Jane that she will be very much attached to the baby and that it’s already a more painful situation than she had anticipated. Xiomara gives Jane permission to put herself first for once. Jane will never be able to prepare for the life she’s about to lead, and that thought understandably terrifies her.
It isn’t just Jane riding an emotional rollercoaster. Even though she’s the emotional core of the show, Jane the Virgin is definitely a huge soapy ensemble. Rafael is forced to choose between supporting his sister Dr. Alver and the mother of his unborn child Jane when it becomes clear that Jane could rightfully sue and win due to the botched medical procedure resulting in her pregnancy. Rafael wants to divorce Petra and is completely aware that Petra wants to prolong the marriage so that she is entitled to more money per their prenuptial agreement. However, Petra is sleeping with Rafael’s best friend Zaz. Meanwhile, Michael is spying on Petra and Zaz through his detective job trying to hunt down a criminal named Sin Rostro. He’s also struggling with his jealousy of Rafael and ends up asking Jane to quit her job. Xiomara still hasn’t told Jane that her father, the telenovela star “El Presidente,” wants to meet her. They end up in bed together and damn near give grandma Alma a heart attack.
This sophomore episode is weak because it feels too safe. Much of this episode is spent carefully recapping the first episode. Relationships are further solidified, motivations are further dissected, and a lot of exposition continues to dominate. Since the show’s framework involves a delightfully intrusive voiceover, Jane’s inner thoughts, flashbacks, and title cards, there’s plenty of opportunity to explain the wild twists and shifting motivations thoroughly. However, I’m not sure if it will always be necessary. I hope the writers use these devices carefully instead of relying on them as a crutch in the future.
So far, the hourlong format concerns me. Even though there were some funny moments, the episode got off to a slow start and the wild telenovela twists didn’t work as well as in the pilot. Early on, too much time is spent rehashing issues from the pilot. Then, a lot of time is spent giving the illusion that things are about to explode, but instead we get a lot of resolutions. Jane decides not to quit her job and Michael becomes supportive. Rafael and Petra decide to stay together for the sake of their baby. Xiomara makes Jane’s father wait to meet her until things are less complicated for Jane. There’s a slight cliffhanger in the last scene when Zaz is impaled on the ice sculpture in the middle of the party, but I’m not very eager to get back to these characters next week. For the most part, they all seem to be in a good place.
What seems to be working best about the show so far is how everyone is assumed to be a good and caring person even if they’re painted as villainous or superficial. I came away from the pilot thinking the show was populated with complex characters, but in this episode, the easily recognizable aspects of their personalities were emphasized. The rekindled connection between Jane and Rafael was the high point of the episode after it becomes clear Rafael remembers Jane’s deepest ambition - to become a romance writer. If the show continues with this love triangle between Jane, Rafael, and Michael, we are going to need some deeper conflict and more nuanced characterization. The show does tender-hearted drama better than the broad comedy so far. As long as the show retains its warmth and the emotional reactions continue to feel genuine, I’ll still be very much in Jane and baby milkshake’s corner.
Even though there were some funny moments, the sophomore episode got off to a slow start and the wild telenovela twists didn't work as well as in the pilot.