Monday, February 2, 2015

REVIEW: 'Jane the Virgin' - Jane Writes a Telenovela Episode & Sin Rostro's Identity is Revealed in 'Chapter Twelve'

The CW's Jane the Virgin - Episode 1.12 "Chapter Twelve"

Jane gets a big break in her career, but it all seems too good to be true, especially when it involves Rogelio. Rafael is stressed about Sin Rostro's connection to the hotel and begins to fear for his family's safety. Petra's past is quickly catching up with her and she is disheartened when she learns the truth about someone very close to her.

Jane the Virgin's roots are in telenovelas. They are a genre popular throughout the world. Yes, at times they can be cheesy but that is the appeal of them. They are over-the-top and ridiculous but also grounded in characters who are entertaining and who audiences can have a lot of fun watching. Jane the Virgin understands the tropes of telenovelas and expertly uses them to convey new meaning to familiar plot twists. Because the show has embraced this access point, it is willing to be over-the-top. But it is still grounded in a deeply emotional reality.

"Chapter Twelve" goes into the telenovela tropes hard and with purpose. The show is using these types of plot twists to generate excitement just like the genre has always done but also in informing the audience about the emotional needs of all of the characters. This universe is filled with many deeply textured characters. To the point where someone can appear only for a brief cameo in one episode and we understand their purpose to the larger picture. Jane the Virgin has been so fun and enrapturing so quickly because of it's willingness to embrace its own identity.

The show simply isn't using telenovela tropes in order to make fun of telenovela tropes. They are displaying them both within their own narrative and within the show-within-the-show in order to extend a connection throughout all of these characters. Theme and tone are so important. Shows need to be distinct and be about something in order to truly make for good TV. Life is sometimes ridiculous. Every person has emotional wants and needs and their own understanding of events. When they converge with other people's point-of-views, it becomes this delicate balance of storytelling.

Jane gets this huge break in being offered to write the next episode of The Passions of Santos. It's a dream come true for her. But one that also comes with personal tragedy in that it's also the episode in which Rogelio's lead character is being killed off. That's devastating. And so, Jane has to weigh the good of the situation with the bad. Rogelio is a high maintenance person. But this job gave him his big break. And now, he's being replaced with his younger assistant who is sleeping with the head writer. Besides his family, this job is the most important thing in Rogelio's life. Without it, who is he?

Much like the show, Jane has to embrace the telenovela in order to perfectly capture the death scene that Rogelio deserves. That sequence works phenomenally well because it's both deeply rooted in the characters and their tragic backstories - both big and small - that has been built up and earned over the last half-season while still being ridiculously over-the-top. Rogelio's fake death is happening concurrently with Petra's "death" at the hands of Milos - her abusive ex-boyfriend who threw acid in her mother's face and is the reason she changed her name and fled to Miami. The separate scenes are both being staged for dramatic effect. Rogelio is moving Jane to tears by bringing her powerful words which she was inspired to write from a personal connection to life while Petra is playing along with Milos' plan in order to reveal her mother's true self. It works both in the moment - where it feels like two deaths are happening but one of them is actually real - and afterwards because of the trust the show has built with the audience.

The only thing connecting these two separate events is the trope of an elaborate death sequence. But it also works because Petra and Jane had a fantastic moment earlier where Jane let Petra use her shoulder to cry on. Petra has often been built up as this villain who stands in the way of Jane and Rafael getting what they what. But she is human too. She has fears too. She is afraid of Milos and what he may do. That moment alone in the stairwell is incredibly humanizing because she is so much more than the version Jane often sees. And yet, her whole world gets turned upside down because of Milos' return. She was so scared of what he may do to her. And yet, he helps her see that her mother has been lying to her for years now. That's a reveal that one simply can't take lightly and Jane the Virgin earned that moment.

Another thing that the show earned in "Chapter Twelve" was its reveal of Sin Rostro's true identity. The entire season Sin Rostro has been built up as this master criminal running an enterprise out of the hotel. The criminal brings real life heightened stakes to these characters' lives. Yes, there are so many things happening to every single character. But the idea of Sin Rostro enveloped the whole show in that it was fun to continually guess on who was really the big bad of the season. Michael has been so focused on capturing him following his breakup with Jane. His spiraling finally starts to bear some fruit in that he finds that connection between a plastic surgeon and the Solano family.

The show has been building up to this master reveal. The audience has had their assumptions and the characters have had theirs as well. Michael was certain that Rafael was the one in charge while Rafael and Rose were starting to get very suspicious of Emilio. But the true mastermind is actually Rose! She's been working extra hard lately to deflect attention off of herself and onto her husband. The police are issuing an arrest warrant for him and the timing is just right so that everyone can believe that he has fled the country. For all intents and purposes, he's Sin Rostro. Except he isn't. He's now dead. The pressure is off Rose now and she can continue to build up her criminal world even more now. However, I felt like the big reveal was a little ambiguous. Rose simply could have killed her husband because she feared that he was Sin Rostro. That didn't necessarily make her Sin Rostro. But the show clarified that quickly with an onscreen text. More importantly, when Emilio's body is found - and we all known that day will come sometime - Rose can claim self-defense for her actions. That makes her seem even more brilliant and deserving of all the buildup that Sin Rostro received.

Some more thoughts:
  • "Chapter Twelve" was written by David S. Rosenthal and directed by Gina Lamar.
  • Jane and Rafael also visit Luisa in order for her to apology to them. But more importantly, it's to add even more suspicion to the proceedings as she reveals where the corkscrew that killed the bellhop came from.
  • So far, Xo has been able to keep her renewed vow of chastity. But it is getting increasingly harder to do with Rogelio. She does offer him a new direction for his career. Now, he's gonna try to transition to being a movie star because he has the face for 3D.
  • I've noticed this before but I just have to mention how expressive Yael Grobglas' eyes can be. Also, love that Petra will always bend over for a coin even if it's worth less than a penny. It's a nice quirky character detail.
  • How did Jane and Rogelio connect the dots of Nicholas being cast as Rogelio's son to him getting the writers to kill Rogelio off.
  • Love that even the narrator was left speechless after the Sin Rostro reveal.