Prior to the start of Jane the Virgin's final season, I asked creator Jennie Snyder Urman if the central love triangle involving Jane (Gina Rodriguez), Rafael (Justin Baldoni), and the freshly "resurrected" Michael (Brett Dier) would continue throughout the rest of the series, and whether everyone could come out of the show without having their hearts irrevocably broken. Urman predictably played coy, as the show relies heavily on emotional, jaw-dropping twists -- it's a telenovela, after all -- but she did say there was an ending planned for Jane, and it would not be a surprise in the series finale.
In Wednesday's new episode "Chapter Eighty-Eight," the show put the love triangle to bed, seemingly for good. After Michael said he and Jane would never find out what they could be in the present so long as they were surrounded by the ghosts of their past, the pair traveled to Montana so Jane could get to know this version of the man who was once her husband, the one who is also now part-Jason and whose personality isn't quite the same as it used to be. Jane initially struggled to adapt to Michael's life on the ranch, but the two eventually reconnected while camping out under the stars. By the end of the episode, however, the weekend away from Miami, away from Mateo and Rafael, made Jane realize her heart belongs to Rafael now. She flew home to confess her love to him... only for him to tell her it was too late, that he didn't trust her anymore, and he couldn't go back to the way things were.
Jane the Virgin's final season, much like the four that preceded it, has been a nonstop roller-coaster ride of emotions. But the end of Jane's story is clearly in sight now, even if we don't know what the destination will fully entail. We know we haven't seen the last of Michael. We know there is a "significant" death on the horizon (could it be Xo [Andrea Navedo], who has been going through treatment for breast cancer?). And we know the threat of Rose (Bridget Regan) and her devious master plan continues to loom large over the series. Essentially resolving the central love triangle this far in advance of the series finale not only allows the show to turn its focus to these and other storylines (it should be noted though that the show has always proven itself to be perfectly capable of juggling multiple complex stories at once), but it also reminds us that Jane the Virgin has never been about which man Jane chooses; instead, it's about a young woman and how she grows as she overcomes unexpected obstacles on the way to achieving her dreams.
Wrapping up the love triangle so quickly, or at least having Jane figure out who she wants to be with since Jane and Rafael are not a couple at the moment, is also very Jane. The show has always moved quickly through its story, never lingering on developments for more than a few episodes. As Urman said when discussing Michael's return, she doesn't like to hold onto secrets or story for too long because she likes to "see how people respond," and revealing information "always creates new drama." Although Jane may have struggled to choose between Michael and Rafael early in the show's run, she had definitively chosen and married Michael by the end of Season 2. In Season 5, she needed time to process her feelings for Michael when he returned so she and the audience could understand not just that she had changed, but also that Michael and Rafael had changed, too. They are not the people they were at the start of the series, nor are they the people they were in Season 3 when Michael "died." For Jane to realize all of this less than halfway through the final season is in keeping with Urman's ideal quick narrative pacing, but it also eliminates the risk of the show repeating itself. There are a lot of positives about having Jane come to a conclusion about what she wants from her life sooner rather than later.
Still, if there are Jane the Virgin fans out there who are unhappy with how this particular chapter in Jane's romantic life has ultimately played out, it's not without reason. At some points this season, it felt like the writers made Michael a little too different in an attempt to push Jane toward realizing that she loved Rafael. It's completely within the realm of possibility that a person who has suffered brain damage could come out the other side with a different personality, but it's also possible for people to simply evolve and fall in love with other people at different moments in their lives.
That is ultimately what Urman said regarding Jane's decision to be with Rafael now, but the series could have had Jane reach the same conclusion without changing Michael's personality quite so much. Jane has matured and evolved in the years since Michael's "death," but she is still inherently Jane. Michael's sweet and openly romantic nature was one of his most endearing qualities, and to erase some of felt to some fans like a betrayal of his character. While we saw some glimpses of it this week, the differences still seemed exaggerated in the service of expediency.
And yet even though I find myself frustrated with the execution of certain aspects of the end of Jane and Michael's love story, I can't help but be excited to see who Jane is in its aftermath, when she is no longer the person being pursued romantically and no longer holds all the power. She's rarely been in a position of having to woo someone, and Rafael has been hurt deeply by Jane since Michael came back into their lives. While his response to Mateo running into the street in a previous episode was truly mind-boggling -- and it's hard to always see things from Raf's point of view since the show is told through Jane's eyes -- Rafael's journey from the privileged man he was in Season 1 to the thoughtful working man he is today, the man who is taking antidepressants to deal with this latest obstacle in his life, should not be overlooked.
Rafael's greatest fear has always been that he is a consolation prize, that Jane was only with him because she couldn't be with Michael. Her inability to immediately "choose" Rafael without first exploring her feelings and a possible relationship with Michael once he returned obviously cut Raf deeply, even though Jane clearly needed to do it. Rafael's decision to bring Michael back into their lives at the expense of his own relationship was something the Rafael of earlier seasons never would have done. Just as Jane and Michael have changed, so has he. I hope the show continues to explore this, as well as how Jane and Rafael presumably fit together now as co-parents and maybe even friends as Jane attempts to show Rafael that she loves him and that they belong together. Because the show was never really about which man Jane is going to end up with in the end. It's always been about Jane's journey and seeing her grow as a result of the many relationships in her life. And there's still a lot of pleasure to be had from seeing her overcome all of the surprising challenges that arise on her path to figuring it all out.
Jane the Virgin airs Wednesdays at 9/8c on The CW.
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