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Jane the Virgin, Ep. 2.01, “Chapter Twenty-Three”

Jane the Virgin, Ep. 2.01, “Chapter Twenty-Three”

Jane The Virgin, Season 2, Episode 1, “Chapter Twenty-Three”
Written by Jennie Synder Urman
Directed by Brad Silberling
Airs Mondays at 9 pm (ET) on The CW

In early October of 2014, Jane the Virgin swept into the television landscape, bright, positive, and like nothing else before it. Centering around an intergenerational Latina family, it told the story of Jane Villanueva, who was accidentally artificially inseminated with the sperm of her one-time high school crush Rafael, and how this development changed the rest of her life. There were secretive international drug lords, love triangles galore, dream sequences and dance sequences and famous Latino and Hispanic celebrities, and above all a commitment to truly showcasing the lived experiences of a family of Latinas in Miami. Based on a Venezuelan telenovela, Jane the Virgin stuck closely to its soapy roots, all the while bringing a grounded emotional reality to the creative and fantastical world the show created, anchored by Gina Rodriguez’s performance as the titular Jane.

The first season of the show ended with a devastating cliffhanger: After Jane gave birth to a healthy son named Mateo, he was taken by a nurse who handed him over to Sin Rostro, an international drug dealer. The show slowly revealed that Sin Rostro was actually Rose, Rafael’s stepmother, who murdered Rafael’s father and best friend. Rose had gone into hiding for most of the latter part of the season, but reemerged in the finale to wreak havoc in the lives of the main characters once again. It was a dark moment to end the season, and fans and critics alike wondered how Jane the Virgin would approach this kidnapping plot when the show returned for a second season. They worried that this development was too far into soap opera territory for the show, that the effortless balance the show maintained between the telenovela and more realistic aspects of the story was in danger.

“Chapter Twenty-Three” answers these fans and critics by swiftly delivering a healthy Mateo into Jane’s arms within the first fifteen minutes of the episode. Michael, Jane’s detective ex-fiancee, negotiates a deal with Sin Rostro, exchanging a key piece of evidence in the case against her for Jane’s baby. The episode moves quickly from Mateo’s safe return to exploring the new and shifting dynamics between the characters, focusing on Jane’s frustrating inability to breastfeed Mateo and the continued love triangle between her, Michael, and Rafael. The show does an admirable job of presenting both Rafael and Michael as reasonable choices for Jane, contrasting Rafael’s Disney prince looks and romanticism with Michael’s grounded, textured history with Jane. (Both Justin Baldoni who plays Rafael and Brett Dier who plays Michael are adorable humans, as are most people on Jane the Virgin.)  Michael and Rafael manage to save the day in their own ways in “Chapter Twenty-Three,” as Michael rescues Mateo and Rafael helps Jane with her breastfeeding worries. While eventually Jane will have to choose between the two, the show so far has wisely incorporated the love triangle as only one aspect of the story, keeping “Who will Jane choose?” an active and interesting question instead of a tired one.

What’s clearest in “Chapter Twenty-Three” is that creator Jennie Snyder Urman and her team know exactly who these characters are, and how they relate to one another and the world that Jane the Virgin has created. There are callbacks a plenty, from the nuns Jane worked with at her teaching placement to Valeria and Victoria, Rogelio’s ex-stepdaughters, to the show’s first sighting of the infamous Slutty Crystal, but the episode doesn’t feel overstuffed. Sure, “Chapter Twenty-Three” moves at the normal pace for an episode of the show, meaning it packs between six and sixteen episodes’ worth of story into 42 minutes, but that’s the charm of Jane the Virgin: It moves fast, it knows what works, and it stays centered in the emotional truth of its characters. Season two has brought a lot of changes for the series, the introduction of baby Mateo already shifting the show’s focus from Jane’s pregnancy to Jane as a mother, not to mention Xiomara and Rogelio’s drunken Vegas wedding, which gets a small moment at the end of the episode. But Jane the Virgin is still the same show, despite all these changes, still the same story that celebrates family, that includes a wry, witty narrator, that features a shirtless Justin Baldoni cradling a very tiny baby on his chest. “Chapter Twenty-Three” sets up a promising second season for a series that is really like nothing else on television.