Monday, October 17, 2016

REVIEW: 'Jane the Virgin' - Michael's Fate Hangs in the Balance After the Shooting in 'Chapter Forty-Five'

The CW's Jane the Virgin - Episode 3.01 "Chapter Forty-Five"

Jane discovers that Michael was shot and finds herself having to make difficult choices. With Rafael focused on keeping Mateo safe, Anezka, who is pretending to be Petra, "helps" the cops with their investigation. It isn't long before everyone starts to notice that "Petra" is acting odd. Rogelio is trying to keep everyone out of the press for Jane, but in order to do so finds himself in an awkward position and asks for Xo's help.

Ever since that Season 1 episode where the Narrator noted that Michael "would love Jane until his dying breath," he has been a character marked for death. That seemed like a very credible fate for him especially at the end of Season 2. He was shot by his partner, Susanna, who was later revealed to be Rose the entire time. It was a huge and ridiculous telenovela twist that was bound to have some severe emotional repercussions for the start of Season 3. This premiere has to answer the question of whether Michael lives or dies. It really could have gone either way. Most times, when shows do stunts like this, it seems unlikely that the character will die. And yet, Jane the Virgin has crafted a scenario were it could happen. Jane had her happily ever after. She married the perfect guy who she wanted to spend the rest of her life with. The only problem is that he was shot before they were able to have sex. That's a huge component of this show. Jane's virginity has meant so much to her and the narrative stakes of a number of stories and character relationships. Michael's death could be the only thing to keep that basic premise of the show going for the season. Him being alive is bound to have many personal complications as well. This is a well crafted opening episode that pulls out a number of narrative tricks to keep the audience guessing right up until the very last minute.

Jane is the one who finds Michael in the hallway. She's the one crying out for help and needing to make decisions about his care in the hospital. She's his wife now. All of that responsibility falls on her. The story makes sure to remind the audience of just how much Jane loves order and control. It's so thematically powerful watching a young Jane attend her first book reading and have many criticisms about the book. She deconstructs the storytelling and its misplacement in the romance genre. Jane is a traditional girl who loves the appeal of romance novels. She loves the idea of happily ever afters. She wants that for herself. She wants the guy, the house and the family. She wants that life with Michael. And now, it could all be over the moment their lives together are set to begin. It's devastating really. Jane isn't given a whole lot of time to actually react to everything that is happening. She needs to be put together and grieve in the way that Michael's mom deems understandable. It's a harsh process. This isn't what her plan was at all. That's what makes it so heartbreaking when she just walks away to cry to herself in another part of the hospital.

Michael's fate really is in Jane's hands too. His condition is critical. The bullet is compromising his spine. There's the risk that he'll never be able to walk again. That wasn't a part of the future Jane envisioned for herself. And yet, this is the reality of her life. It's much more complicated than her idealized notion of romance. The show has done a phenomenal job deconstructing those norms over its three seasons. A love triangle propped up a choice for Jane. In this premiere, Jane still finds herself in a love triangle. It's just a completely different one. The flashbacks also reveal a time in her life when she had to choose between pursuing a cute guy, Sam, she's been interested in for almost two years or taking a chance on something new with Michael. It's clear that Michael has always been a good guy who has been willing to fight for Jane. He was there on her doorstep willing to make something of this relationship. He wanted to see if there was still a spark between them even after they sobered up. With Sam, Jane had to wait and hope that things would work themselves out eventually. It is an odd story to be telling right now. But it also has relevance in showing that Michael would want to fight no matter what. He wouldn't want to sit around hoping that the problem would fix itself.

Of course, that's what the family has to do throughout this premiere. They are just at the hospital hoping that the doctors and nurses will come to them with good news. They all love Michael. Jane and Michael's mom may not get along but neither one of them want him to die either. It's a shared experience for both of them. The story plays into the demanding and frustrating in-law trope. And yet, it holds so much value as well. This is how she's coping with this horrifying situation. Plus, it's easy to see where she's coming from. Jane may be Michael's wife. They may have dated for a long time. But she doesn't know everything about him the way that his mother does. His mom knows about the concussion he had as a kid. It's up to Jane to make the decision regarding the surgery though. It's subtle work when Jane and Michael's mother come together on that decision. It shows that all hope may not be lost in this relationship. They just need to keep hoping that Michael will continue to fight and make a full recovery. They need to believe that this isn't the end of their story. Jane still is operating under the belief that she and Michael will still have three children. They will still have their family traditions. Their lives will still be perfect and happy. They will be able to grow old together - and finally adopt the cat Michael has always wanted. Jane is still envisioning that life even though it seems further away than ever before.

The audience getting a glimpse into the plan Jane and Michael made for their future together plays as the final nail in Michael's coffin. It's a way to establish what will be lost should he die. Jane is all about plans. This is what she wanted. But unforeseen circumstances would keep her from having it. And yet, the show subverts those expectations. Michael survives surgery. He wakes up and doesn't seem to have any deficits whatsoever. It would be a huge telenovela trope to have him wake up paralyzed or with amnesia. Those could have been solid story arcs for the character as well. However, he wakes with full mobility and is able to name Susanna as his assailant. It's the best possible outcome for the character. It's a miraculous piece of storytelling. This episode builds and builds with the emotions across its running time. The tears already start when Jane discovers Michael in the hallway. They last throughout the uncertainty in the waiting room and the inability to do anything to help. It's a massive release when Jane sees Michael before his surgery. And it's so phenomenal when he comes back to her. This won't be the end of their story. They can still have their picturesque happily ever after. They seem to have that even when they are just in a hospital room together. This still feels like the love story straight out of a romance novel. It wasn't ruined by this shooting. But there is still the looming question of what comes next for both of them? How much will this shooting actually change their lives? It's unclear right now. It's just important that Michael is still alive. He and Jane will be able to figure everything out eventually.

This premiere also poses an interesting question. Does knowing how a story will end ruin the journey getting to that point? Jane has often read the endings in romance novels first to know just how invested she should become in the story. It's something she can do because the ending is readily available to her. She can't skip to the end in real life though. She has to live in each agonizing moment as she waits to hear the news about Michael. Of course, the show itself plays around with time. It is able to show us new details about the start of Jane and Michael's relationship. It puts things in an even better context. But again, does knowing the ending hurt the story? It wasn't surprising when Michael was shot at the end of last season. It felt like a pretty solid conclusion to draw. It was a tease the show introduced when the Narrator noted that Michael "would love Jane until his dying breath." Knowing that Michael survives being shot doesn't ruin the cliffhanger or uncertainty from the hiatus or the emotional drama throughout this premiere either. In fact, this premiere rewards the audience for being a part of this journey and embracing the characters into our hearts. This clearly isn't the end. Unless of course, the show is planning on some major twist happening in the future for Michael. This shooting could open a whole new set of problems for him that could easily lead to him dying on Jane before the end of their epic story. That uncertainty should excite the audience and want us to see what happens next to see if everything will continue to work out for this epic romance. 

Some more thoughts:
  • "Chapter Forty-Five" was written by Jennie Snyder Urman and directed by Gina Lamar.
  • The main story is phenomenal in this premiere. Everything pertaining to Jane and Michael is excellent. Whenever the supporting characters are a part of that story, it's so powerful as well. The actual subplots are a little too silly though. It's great when the Narrator rewinds too far and ends up in a moment where Jane and Xo are just laughing for some reason. But the other stories are at times a little too distracting.
  • Anezka is still living life as Petra. But she's in a race against the clock because she has to continually inject Petra with a paralytic in order to keep her in her current "locked-in" state. It's a very introductory story that establishes the pressure she'll face to maintain all of this ruse.
  • Rafael and Anezka did have sex. He thought he was having it with his ex-wife, Petra. But now, it's much more important that he has realized the spark is no longer there and he's done. That could be a good thing for the show. With romance with both Jane and Petra off the table, it could open new story opportunities for him.
  • Rogelio's story is perhaps the silliest of the entire premiere. Yes, it's genuine in that Michael is his best friend and he doesn't want to be a distraction to Jane during this difficult time. But it's a little too absurd for him to be trading his urine to a couple of drug addicts just to keep a picture from being tweeted.
  • So far, Rogelio is the only one who knows about Xo's pregnancy. She tells him once she gets involved with his story. But it also seems like she has made her decision on that matter as well. She's not planning on raising another child. Rogelio respects her decision - even though he's unable to be there for her because he's being taken away in handcuffs.
  • Rose and Luisa have escaped via submarine. That's a pretty outlandish reveal at the end of the premiere. It makes things safe for Jane and Michael for a little while. But Rose and Luisa are never gone from the main story for that long. They'll pop up again sometime soon just in order to complicate everything for everyone else.