As of Monday's episode, Jane the Virgin is officially operating in a post-Michael world. However, Jane's (Gina Rodriguez) first love has by no means disappeared from the show's ongoing narrative or from his place in Jane's heart.
In "Chapter Fifty-Five," the trauma of Michael's (Brett Dier) unexpected death hung over the emotionally-charged hour just enough that the three-year time jump that closed out last week's episode wasn't so much a fresh start as it was a welcome opportunity to tell interesting stories about how people access and process grief and how the people we lose never really leave us.
While many fans are rightfully upset over the heartbreaking twist — can you call something a twist when it's been teased and foreshadowed several times before? — the way Michael's death unfolded after taking the LSAT was one of the more realistic developments featured over the course of the series, which operates from a heightened sense of reality.
As a telenovela that blows through more story in 10 episodes than some shows cover in a single season, Jane the Virgin has cornered the market on jaw-dropping surprises and twists (sorry, Westworld!), but Michael's death happened the way death often happens: suddenly and without warning. If this week's episode had picked up in the immediate aftermath of Michael's death, there was a chance the raw and all-consuming grief Jane was feeling, while certainly excellent Emmy fodder for Rodriguez, could have overwhelmed or even halted the narrative, a concern series creator Jennie Syder Urman and the show's talented team of writers shared.
In a tearful letter to fans posted after last week's episode aired, Urman said the decision to jump three years into Jane's future was made after speaking with grief counselors and that this path "opens up our storytelling in new and exciting ways, while allowing for the light and bright Jane world that we love to write."
And that's exactly what this week's episode portrayed. Jane the Virgin has not bypassed or attempted to lessen the pain of Jane's grief; the writers have instead found intimate ways to show that Jane is still struggling three years on. From her initial reluctance to read the romance novel she wrote about her relationship with Michael in a showcase of Miami-area writers to the pain clearly visible on her face as she listened to a formerly insignificant voicemail from Michael before bed, Jane is still grieving the loss of her soulmate. She likely always will be. But she's also going to work, taking care of Mateo, bridging emotional gaps between her parents and living a version of the life she was prior to Michael's death. She isn't OK — not by a long shot — but she will be eventually. Some day. Because she has to be.
As anyone who's ever lost someone close to them can attest, death doesn't just happen to the person who dies, it happens to the people around them. In the wake of trauma, it's up to those left behind to decide how to go on in the face of seemingly insurmountable odds. Jane the Virgin is currently navigating one of the most terrifying experiences any one of us can face in its exploration of Michael's sudden death and the aftermath. The series has found a way to balance an emotionally-draining life event with the same kind of warmth, humor and grace that it previously used when handling everything from Jane losing her virginity to her experiences as a new mother.
While some fans may take issue with the "sudden" closeness of Jane and Rafael (Justin Baldoni) — they're in constant contact and he's the person who gives her the tough love she needs in order to be able to read from her novel about Michael — it's not a slap in the face to fans who identified as #TeamMichael. It's a natural reaction to grief to lean on those around you and Jane has pulled Rafael and even Petra (Yael Grobglas) closer in the wake of losing her husband. It's not just acceptable, it's a very, very good thing.
In the world of television, time jumps are judged not just by their execution but by the quality of the story that follows them, too. By picking up three years later, Jane the Virgin avoids being mired in the pain of Michael's death and instead finds a way to celebrate the long-lasting effect he had on Jane's life and the lives of those he met. Although we're only one episode into the post-Michael era of Jane the Virgin, the future looks a little brighter than it did last week, and honestly, that's all that really matters.
Jane the Virgin airs Mondays at 9/8c on The CW.
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