[Warning: The following contains spoilers for Jane the Virgin's Season 4 finale. Read at your own risk!]
We can't believe we've already come to the end of another season of Jane the Virgin. With only 17 episodes, Season 4 was easily the shortest season of Jane yet, but the show definitely packed a whole lot of telenovela drama into this abbreviated run. There were breakups and reconciliations, murder and breast cancer, imaginary henchmen who turned out to be real and Adam (Tyler Posey) — do you even remember Adam? To be honest, us neither, really.
But compared to what the finale just dealt us, there's only one thing Season 4 will be remembered for: pulling off the ultimate telenovela bait-and-switch. Because if you thought Michael's (Brett Dier) death was shocking, then we hope you're sitting down for this one, because guess what? Michael is friggin' alive!
That's right. Jane's (Gina Rodriguez) former soul mate is actually alive, although he does look like he's been put through the ringer. Remember that phone call from Rose (Bridget Regan) to Rafael (Justin Baldoni)? Well, it turns out it had nothing to do with the identity of Raf's parents and was, in fact, to tell him that the dead husband of the woman he was about to propose to was not so dead after all. Or at least, that's what we're led to believe. In a show that has relied heavily on impossibly realistic mask work before, there is always the chance that Michael isn't who he appears to be.
But for now, the characters and viewers can only continue under the assumption that this is, really and truly, the beloved Michael Cordero back from the grave. After all these years believing Michael to be dead and having fallen back in love with Rafael, it'll be interesting to see how Jane will react to Michael's return. And to be honest, the same can be said for the fans, who grieved for Michael right alongside Jane and found peace with his passing as well.
TV Guide spoke with creator Jennie Snyder Urman about how long this genuinely heart-stopping reveal was in the works (seriously, is anyone else experiencing irregular palpitations?!), what this means for the future of the original love triangle and whether this turning point marks the beginning of the end for Jane the Virgin.
Can you confirm that this is in fact Michael and not a twin or highly realistic mask situation?
Jennie Snyder Urman: [Laughs] I can't confirm that, but it's not a twin. We're not doing another twin. The question of "is it really Michael?" will be the season opener and be resolved in the season opener.
So we will see Jane and the others be suspicious of this person's identity?
Urman: Well, it's suspicion meets with shock meets with the place Michael is currently in — and I'm calling him Michael for the sake of this conversation. It's a few things working together that will cause a lot of the drama when we come back.
Was this always the plan when you killed off Michael?
Urman: It wasn't specifically; it was always a possibility. It had to do with the ending and what we wanted and — it's hard to talk about while being vague, which I have to be. It was always on the table, I will say. I met with Brett about a year ago to talk about this.
What was Brett's reaction like when he found out about this twist?
Urman: "Oh my god! Holy sh--! Yes!" [Laughs] And you know, the only person that I told was Gina. And I told her maybe at the end of Season 3, I think while we were shooting the finale of last year. So she knew, and then of course the writers, and our producer Lilith, and that's it. I redacted the last page of the script. And so nobody had the last page and Brett came to surprise everyone. So they didn't know he was there and there was no last page of the script and then I open the door and he walked in, so it was a pretty fun moment for us, for the cast and family too.
I would absolutely love to see the video of that moment.
Umran: There is a video, there is a video. Because obviously CBS knew too so they sent people since they knew it was going to be a big moment.
I know it's hard to talk about since viewers aren't even sure if this is Michael, but what can you say about the circumstances that have brought this person into Jane's life right now?
Urman: It's tied to Sin Rostro, I can say, and it's a lot of ways setting up our final chapter. I liked for Rafael, he did something very selfless, bringing him back even though he knew it would risk his relationship. That's always been his biggest fear: "If Michael was here, would Jane choose me?" And it has to do with some of the themes that we're going to be exploring next season.
Whether or not this turns out to be Michael, it does raise the possibility for fans that he is alive. Were their any reservations about pulling a bait-and-switch of this magnitude on the viewers?
Urman: There's two specific telenovela tropes that we really haven't done. One of them is this "return from the dead" and the other one we will be playing next season, and I think that we have a fairly dramatic and satisfying and telenovela-worthy arc planned out. So I hope that they'll join us for the ride. We like big, shocking surprises with grounded emotional fallout, so that's what can be expected.
I was a die-hard Team Michael fan, but I saw how happy Jane and Raf were recently and found myself rooting for their engagement and now I'm incredibly conflicted and confused. Is this how you anticipated and hoped fans would react to this reveal?
Urman: Perfect, perfect! I hope so. I know people who are die-hard Rafael fans will not want him back and the people who are die-hard Michael fans want him back always, as we always do when someone is lost in our lives. And my ideal would be what you just explained, which is if you love Jane and Michael together but this year, as Jane and Rafael worked through their issues, you could see who she was with him and how happy she also was and how he supported her dreams and career ambitions. And so then, when Michael comes back, it's the ultimate "holy sh--, what would you do?" scenario, which feels interesting, dramatically, to play.
Are you prepared for some backlash as well?
Urman: Yeah, I think that comes with the territory, certainly, when you make big moves, not everyone likes them. And I think there'll be people on both sides. I hope they appreciate that this is a telenovela and it demands a certain amount of dramatic impossible situations. And then we really, I think it's going to really be giving us so much emotional drive and conflict next season, which I'm really excited about.
This show was so rightfully praised for exploring Jane's grieving process in a way that I really don't think we've seen on TV before in such depth. But do you think this reveal will cause fans to look back on that storyline differently?
Urman: Certainly, if a loved one is gone, you grieve and this is almost like that wish fulfillment of would they come back? But Jane didn't know. Jane had to move on. This is four years later in her life. And purposefully a year and a half later on our show. He has been gone for a long time and she did grieve him and we had to show her grieving in a really real and grounded way because otherwise we wouldn't believe that she moved on and we'd always suspect that he was coming back. It's a telenovela. In real life, when you grieve people, they don't return. That's what life is. But this is more life-adjacent. I think it was very important for us to show what her grieving felt like and take us through that and not forget about it as we continued to evolve her character and she continued to grow and change. And this is something that is a twist worthy of a telenovela, I think.
We've seen how Jane has grown over the years, but what can you tell us about how this person compares to the person Michael was when we last saw him?
Urman: Very different, but I can't quite get into how.
What can you say about how this person feels towards Jane or acts as though he feels towards Jane?
Urman: Definitely cannot talk about that. [Laughs]
Jane and Rafael were so close to getting engaged, painfully close. How will this person's arrival destabilize Jane's relationship with Rafael?
Urman: I think it suddenly puts everything in jeopardy and suddenly makes everyone look at where they are and what they were and look at what they want. It's going to be painful on both sides, on all sides, and ultimately, if they can survive this, they can survive anything, so we'll have to see. It puts everything in flux, really. And like I said, it's Rafael's greatest fear — would he have been a second choice if Michael was still here? — and knowing that he had the possibility of losing Jane, he still brought this person back, which I think is great for his character in terms of it's the ultimate selfless act. But "is it good for his relationship?" is a different story.
What can you say about how this person's arrival is emotionally impacting Jane?
Urman: I mean, incredibly. It's an incredible emotional earthquake.
Rose wanted Luisa's location in exchange for sharing this information. So does the fact that Rafael is with "Michael" mean that he told Rose where Luisa is?
Urman: He did tell Rose where Luisa was. Whether she's still there remains to be seen, but he did give some information.
How will that choice affect Rafael's relationship with Luisa moving forward?
Urman: You have to see if he gave the right information — there's levels to that as well. But he did make that choice for Jane. It's an impossible decision.
Gina has said that next season will be Jane's last and you've referred to the upcoming "final chapter." Can you confirm that next season will be the last?
Urman: I said it's the beginning of the end. I'm not at liberty to confirm or deny at this point. But I will say that the plan for when Jane will be ending has been in the works for a few years and The CW has been very supportive about taking the story towards the ending that we have planned and giving us the time to do that. So things will become clear soon. But at this point. I'm not at liberty to say.
I think it is fair to say that this show is closer to the end than the beginning. We've seen Jane lose her virginity, Alba become a citizen, Rogelio get his American spin-off - what are the other big hanging threads that need to be addressed before the show bows out?
Urman: Well, there's certainly Jane's writing and her career success, which I'm very invested in. She had a big writing breakthrough at the end which, when she started to type and the words she typed were the words that our pilot began with. So I'm going to be exploring her writing in a big way. We're going to end with a wedding, as telenovelas do. Things are happening. Things are in place. Rogelio has to shoot this pilot. He definitely got it greenlit but the shooting of the pilot and the return to The Passions of Santos, now The Passions of Steven and Brenda, is an important thematic piece for next year. And we've left Xo, obviously, with cancer and we're going to be tracking that and exploring her health and illness. And I think that there's stories still left to be told.
With all the Michael-ness of it all, I feel like the JR cliffhanger might get a little lost in the mix. First of all, I love the meta joke of it all, but what can you tease about the identity of the mystery victim?
Urman: It's somebody that Petra knows and the audience knows. That's about all I can say. It's not a new person in our world.
If we go back and dig for clues, were there hints to this person's identity sprinkled throughout the season?
Urman: I think so. I think I can say yes without giving too much away.
Between Michael's death last season and now his alleged return, I don't know how much more my heart can take. Can you guarantee there will be no more shocks of this magnitude going forward, or because the show is approaching the end, should fans expect even bigger twists and turns?
Urman: We're moving into the final phases of the story so I would say, of this magnitude, this is probably as big as we get.
While it is a relief to know that we don't need to worry about another twist trying to top this moment, that Michael reveal will be more than enough to have fans talking throughout the entire summer hiatus. At least we can all rest easy knowing that the series has already been renewed for a fifth (and potentially final) season. And at the end of the day, what would Jane be without a classic Friday night cliffhanger to keep us waiting for more?
Jane the Virgin's first three seasons are available on Netflix now. Season 4 is expected to be added to the streaming service in the coming weeks.
(Full disclosure: TV Guide is owned by CBS, one of The CW's parent companies.)