Compassion at the core of 'Jane the Virgin's' inaugural season

CW

By Alex Intner, Daily Arts Writer
Published May 13, 2015

When I first heard about the premise of “Jane the Virgin” in January 2014 (when the pilot was produced), I laughed. The logline, which mentioned a religious virgin getting artificially inseminated, seemed like a ridiculous idea, especially because it was airing on the CW (which was still recovering from having series such as “Gossip Girl” and “90210” on its air). However, once it was picked up to series, the buzz surrounding the pilot suggested something which was much better than the initial premise suggested. While skeptical, I tuned into the first episode in October, and it completely won me over. Over the course of its first season, the show embraced its silliness and became a fun telenovela-comedy with a genuine heart at its center.

“Jane the Virgin”


A
Season 1 Finale
CW
Mondays at 9 p.m.


“Jane the Virgin” follows what happens after Jane Gloriana Villanueva (Gina Rodriguez, “The Bold and the Beautiful") is accidentally artificially inseminated with the sperm of rich hotel-owner Rafael Solano (Justin Baldoni, “Everwood”) by Rafael’s sister Louisa (Yara Martinez, of the upcoming #TrueDetectiveSeason2). The first season covers Jane’s pregnancy, as well as her meeting her father, telenovela star Rogelio de la Vega (Jaime Camil, “Devious Maids”), the drama surrounding Rafael’s hotel (mostly involving his ex-wife Petra (Yael Grobglas, “Reign”) and the workings of notorious drug dealer Sin Rostro). In the finale, Jane gives birth to her child, and her former fiancé and detective, Michael (Brett Deir, “Ravenswood”) gets closer to catching Sin Rostro.

On the technical level, “Jane” has many things going for it. It pays homage to and mimics the style of a telenovela, especially in its storytelling. Its stories are over the top and dramatic, especially with their twisty nature. Some of the over-the-top feeling comes from its use of a narrator, credited as the “Latin Lover Narrator,” and onscreen text. Combined, they form the show’s best device. Newcomer Anthony Mendez brings a warmth and strong sense of comic timing to the role, voicing every emotion perfectly. Just look at the sequence involving Jane having contractions on the bus. The on-screen text would update the time between them each time the characters did. This, combined with the narrator’s slightly panicked voice-over, created a funny and well-made sequence.

The show’s strengths don’t lie just in the technical elements, but in the authentic heart at its center. The show’s best moments are the ones that show how much the Villanueva family cares for and supports one another. The scenes with Jane, her mother Xiomara (Andrea Navedo, “Law & Order”) and her grandmother Alba (Ivonne Coll, “Switched at Birth”) talking about their lives and giving each other advice are among my favorites. The best scene in the finale was the three women and Rafael sitting around the hospital bed supporting her through the birth. A lot of the credit here should go to the three actresses, especially Rodriguez. She acts as the show’s center and oftentimes plays the role of the show’s beating heart. The reason why she has already won a Golden Globe for the show and will be in strong consideration for an Emmy later this year is the way she plays all the emotions asked of her, from joy to complete devastation, with strength and poise.

That is why the cliffhanger, with Jane’s son, Mateo, being kidnapped by Sin Rostro, was so shocking. The show wears its heart on its sleeve and the impact this will have on Jane should lead to great television in the fall. While it might appear to be too dark for a dramatic comedy, I trust that the series knows what it’s doing and will be able to follow what was a fantastic first season with an even better second.