Monday, October 13, 2014

REVIEW: 'Jane the Virgin' - Jane Goes to the Doctor and Receives Life-Changing News in 'Chapter One'

The CW's Jane the Virgin - Episode 1.01 "Chapter One"

Jane is a driven young woman studying to become a teacher, dreaming of being a writer and supporting herself with a job at a Miami hotel. Her fiancé is supportive of her decision to "save herself" until marriage. However, all of her meticulous life plans are turned upside down when she sees her doctor for a routine check-up and is accidentally artificially inseminated with a specimen meant for someone else.

Jane the Virgin is simply the best pilot to air on a broadcast network this fall. It is such a welcome surprise too. The basic premise for this show - a woman who is saving herself for marriage is accidentally artificially inseminated - is completely ridiculous. How in the world could anyone make that premise make sense. Not only does this premiere pull that off, it also strongly establishes a world that I would very much enjoy going back to frequently.

Jane the Virgin manages to balance hilarity, soapy plot twists and high stakes drama with ease. Star Gina Rodriguez is the biggest reason to watch. She is a star in the making and this is a wonderful showcase for her. None of this works if they didn't cast someone who you can sympathize with while all of this stuff happens to her. The premiere strongly establishes Jane as a character and a person of values before suddenly throwing her off her timeline. For her entire life, she has seen what her presence has done to her mother's life. Xiomara has had to make compromises in order to take care of her daughter. The twist though is that this is the life that Xiomara wanted the second she found out she was pregnant at 16.

The hour manages to respect every character's perspective and values. Every person has an opinion on what Jane should do after she gets pregnant. The stakes are high because it is Rafael's only sperm sample. This is his only chance to become a father. Jane doesn't want to be a mother. She has a great life and is focused on what she wants to be doing. A baby would throw all of that careful planning out the window. Jane's boyfriend of two years - Michael - wants her to terminate because he selfishly doesn't want her to be torn between a life with him and a life with the baby and the father. That is selfish but it's also completely valid and okay for him to think that way.

The decision that Jane faces in this first hour is incredibly profound and equally well-handed. It does not take this development lightly. This is a decision that will completely alter her life. She has to decide if it's something that she wants - and could potentially be highly rewarding - or something she doesn't so she can continue to focus on her life the way she has always dreamed. That decision weighs on Jane throughout the hour and Rodriguez pulls you in in a way that is exciting and enticing. It is going to effect everything and everyone in her life. They all weigh in and she makes her choice - to keep the baby. She makes the choice wholly on her own. She stands by it and hopes this child could greatly better her life - but won't completely derail it either. She still accepts Michael's proposal - although he has a shady past that could potentially be harmful. And then, she ends the hour incredibly hopeful over the promise of what this child could bring to her life - and the lives of her family.

Some more thoughts:
  • "Chapter One" was written by Jennie Snyder Urman and directed by Brad Siberling.
  • I love that Alba only speaks Spanish. That is a character detail that greatly informs on the life and values that Jane holds dear. Plus, it led to the great scene where Jane has to try to tell her grandmother what happened at the doctor.
  • I laughed out loud when Jane took a drink and then quickly spit it back in the glass because she realizes she can't have alcohol now.
  • Also, Michael is investigating Rafael's best friend - who is also sleeping with Petra, his wife - for some unknown reason.
  • Oh and the doctor who inseminated Jane also happens to Rafael's sister. Such a complex narrative and I love it! 
  • And then, there's the unknown quality that is Jane's father. He is a telenovela star - and the show thinks of itself as a version of a telenovela. It's aware of that fact and embraces it. And yet, I'm not sure how his presence will effect the show because it is such a small role in this first episode. At least it promises more turmoil in Jane's immediate future.