Monday, November 16, 2015

REVIEW: 'Jane the Virgin' - Jane Struggles to Balance School and Motherhood Across Several Months in 'Chapter Twenty-Eight'

The CW's Jane the Virgin - Episode 2.06 "Chapter Twenty-Eight"

Jane and Rafael begin estate planning for Mateo, and Jane worries he will become spoiled. Jane's graduate school professor is not sympathetic to her situation. Rogelio decides to create his own show, with Xo's encouragement. Petra is shocked to learn what she is having and turns to Jane for advice and help in getting her mother out of prison. After Michael's issues at work, he has decided to go rogue and is even more determined to catch Sin Rostro.

"Chapter Twenty-Eight" is attempting to tell a lot of story as they play out over several months in the show's timeline. Each act break moves the narrative forward one month. The hour ends at five months from where it began. It's very chaotic and ambitious - a blend that the hour mostly pulls off. This episode shows just how big milestones can actually be devastating and exciting. In just these few months, all of the characters go on a whirlwind of big moments. All of which include some very complicated emotions. They all have grown as characters in these few months attempting to get into a new rhythm following the destructive final beats of the previous episode. But the hour spotlights just how complicated it can be to go after one's goals. Planning for the future is a very scary proposition. This episode covers time so beautifully. It's meticulously plotted and allows for growth of the characters. But it also makes sure to keep things rooted in the reality of the moment as everyone is unsure of where they stand and what will happen in the future.

These months are pretty brutal on Jane. She had her heart broken when she had to choose Mateo's safety over her love for Michael. The pain of that is still very fresh to her. She is attempting to move forward. She wants to better her life both for herself and Mateo. But that proves to be just as complicated. Every day presents a new parenting challenge for her. She is doing her best to handle all of it. She has such a strong support system with her family. Plus, Rafael has really stepped up in terms of his fatherly duties. But being a mother is still taking a lot out of Jane. Not only is she dealing with the emotional devastation of moving on from Michael, she is physically exhausted. These months take their toll on Jane's body. It forces her to make decisions that not only compromise herself - but Mateo as well.

Jane chose to go to grad school in order to become an even better writer. Her classes have started. And yet, her need to juggle that and motherhood makes her incapable of doing either one well. Her mind is distracted - which turns her into a much worse student. She is missing so much of Mateo's development because her attention needs to be on writing. As a result, Mateo develops a flat head and needs to start wearing a special helmet. This entire process doesn't get any easier for Jane either. During a writer's retreat with the rest of her class, she can't even focus because she forgot to bring the plug for her breast pump. That concern greatly outweighs her need to do well in this class. She does feel better after unloading all of her complicated life on the rest of her classmates. But even that's not enough for her to find the perfect balance between school and Mateo. It's all building up to the moment where Jane gets the flu and becomes a mean person. It's just because she is holding onto the plan of breast feeding Mateo for a year. That plan is no longer good for anyone. Jane just has to come to accept that. When she does, it's a huge relief. When she makes that decision, she has a moment of clarity. It doesn't make her life any less chaotic. But she is able to approach things much more sensibly as a result. It was a difficult decision to make but one she believes is for the best for Mateo.

Jane wants to be flexible like that. She struggles through the episode regarding the trust that Mateo would inherit if something should happen to Rafael. She has always known that Rafael is rich. Getting to know him as a person has made her forget just how much money he currently has. She doesn't want that to affect Mateo's upbringing. She wants him to stay grounded. She doesn't want him to end up as a baller who flaunts around money with no consequences or concern whatsoever. But Jane needs to find some middle ground as well - otherwise Mateo risks becoming Oliver Twist begging for money. The two sides come together with an agreement that works for both: every dollar Mateo gets he'll have to match it to a charity of his choice. They are both happy with that plan. Over the course of this episode, Jane and Rafael do learn how to make decisions as parents who are not a couple. Sure, those romantic feelings get in the way several times. But they are largely successful at interacting just as friends who have a baby together.

Of course, all of that could change rather quickly. After five months of time have passed since Michael and Rafael's fight, Rafael asks Jane out on a date and she says yes. She has seen what her life has become and is incredibly grateful for it. She's happy that she can rely on Rafael to understand what's going on in her and Mateo's lives at all times - even though his life is just as chaotic considering Petra is pregnant with twin girls. But it also feels strange for the show to explore a renewed interest in Jane and Rafael as a romantic couple. The time has passed in the show's universe but it's only been a few weeks since Jane chose Michael. The complications of Jane's love life have been overwhelming a little bit this season. In this episode, she is only able to get over Michael so quickly because he literally leaves town for a few months. He's barely seen at all. That's what renews Jane's connection with Rafael. He is there for her because of Mateo. Michael does show up in the end. But that matters very little to Jane. She's just happy and willing to take a chance on something new again. It just happens to be with Rafael - who still doesn't want to be with anyone but her.

Meanwhile, Petra is also struggling as this pregnancy is a particularly grueling experience for her. At times, it does feel as if Petra is off in her own story. Her adventures with her mother and Milos do skew a bit more broadly than the grounded reality that Jane is largely in. And yet, Jane and Petra have a couple of great scenes together that really bring the whole focus of the episode together. Petra wants to rely on Jane because she has been through this experience before. To her, it seems as if Jane has all of motherhood figured out already. That is totally not the case at all. The two are able to bond over needing someone to be a support system. Petra can't trust her mother even though she's out of prison now. Rafael seems more concerned about Mateo than his other two children. Petra needs a friend and Jane reaches out to be one for her. Sure, it could be awkward having Petra at the Thanksgiving family dinner. But it also feels right. Jane wants to have a relationship with Petra that isn't contentious. She understands that there is a real and fragile woman underneath that tough exterior. She wants to be supportive because she knows exactly how tough this world can be. That's what makes this episode so rewarding. It's able to change up character dynamics and make them full even more enriching as a result.

Some more thoughts:
  • "Chapter Twenty-Eight" was written by Corinne Brinkerhoff & Micah Schraft and directed by Melanie Mayron.
  • Was it mentioned before that Rogelio's show was ending? It feels like a sudden development dropped into this episode. But it also leads to some great hijinks as Rogelio thanks the crew but doesn't really know what they do, is jealous of his ex-wife and nemesis' new show, and attempts to create his own. Unfortunately, his telenovela is just a parody of Mad Men. Plus, the network executives just want to pull a Heather Locklear with him.
  • Petra's mom is apparently keeping another secret from her. The show has done a lot with her. But they may have pushed things too far when she loses both a hand and an eye while handling one of Milos' grenades. It's farce that feels a little out of place. Plus, more murder!
  • After five months away, Michael should return as a new man. But it also seems like he has gotten a major break in the Sin Rostro case. That could be exciting for the future. He sure looked determine when he ran into his new old partner again.
  • Jane really didn't need a gay best friend. So, it's good thing the show is trying to do more with that character. But him exposing all the harsh and ugly truths of the Solano family could bring about much destruction for Rafael and Jane.
  • It's great that the family just accepts that Jane gets mean when she is sick.