what i watched last week
marvel's agents of s.h.i.e.l.d., season two finale

jane the virgin, season one finale

Let’s get the spoilers out of the way. Yes, Jane has the baby in the finale.

Jane the Virgin is one of those shows that scares people away from the start, just because of the title and/or premise. A young woman becomes pregnant despite being a virgin ... that’s all many people need to know. It sounds like a wacky concept with nowhere to go. But if you’ve never seen Jane the Virgin, you’ve missed one of the most innovative series on TV right now, and not because of the premise.

So much creativity is involved in Jane the Virgin that it’s hard to know where to start. It doesn’t just borrow some of the frills of a telenovela ... it is a telenovela, albeit a very knowing one. The genre is treated with love, even when the exaggerations become more joke than tragedy. There is a narrator (“Latin Lover Narrator”, according to the closed captions), played by Anthony Mendez, who becomes a character in his own right. Jane’s abuela speaks only in Spanish, with English subtitles, but Jane speaks to her in English, and she understands. When people text, we see the texts on the screen. There is a telenovela within the telenovela. There are outrageous plot developments (one man, Roman, dies by being impaled on an ice sculpture; then later his twin brother Aaron turns up; still later we find “Aaron” is actually Roman, who killed his twin). Everyone wears their hearts on their sleeves. Excess piles on excess, and somehow it all works.

Part of it is due to the excellence of the cast. Deservedly, Gina Rodriguez gets the most attention as the title character, but also worthy of extra mention are Ivonne Coll, a legendary Puerto Rican actress who plays Jane’s grandmother, and Mexican actor Jaime Camil, who plays Jane’s telenovela star/father, Rogelio. There’s even Bond Girl Priscilla Barnes as a Czech schemer in a wheelchair.

More important, the family feels real. The relationship between the three generations of Villanueva women comes across as natural, even when the plot sends them to silly places. And, despite the silliness inherent in the premise and in the telenovela approach, Rodriguez’ Jane is always grounded. She connects so fully with the audience that we can latch onto her as the narrative swirls surrealistically.

Ultimately, the plot shenanigans threaten to overwhelm the series. The cast may do a great job of convincing us in an individual scene, but they are asked to be too inconsistent. I love you, no I don’t, well yes I do but I can’t tell you, yes I do, no I don’t ... the repetition got to me after awhile. It feels like a show I’ll lose interest in. For now, given the brazen use of multiple genres, given the diversity not only of the cast but of the milieu, given the fine balancing act between the absurd and the moving ... Season One was a nice ride, and it will be interesting to see what next season offers.

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