Nearly every time I tell someone my favorite show is “Jane the Virgin,” I get some sort of laugh, like I’m telling a joke. Still, after two excellent seasons, I have to explain why a show that starts with a virgin getting accidentally artificially inseminated is one of the best on television right now. Everything this show does is a high-flung tightrope act. It could easily go off the rails in a second, but nothing in the brilliant season three premiere suggests that’s going to happen any time soon. Through its resolution of the cliffhangers from last season as well as the perfect way it hits its emotional beats, the episode reminds me exactly why I love this show.
“Jane” ’s season premiere picks up exactly where season two left off, with Jane (Gina Rodriguez, “Deepwater Horizon”) finding her new husband Michael Cordero (Brett Dier, “Ravenswood”) shot in the hallway outside their hotel room. As doctors at the nearby hospital try to save Michael, the series flashes back to the beginning of Jane and Michael’s relationship. Last season also left us with Petra (Yael Grobglas, “Reign”) being “Petra-fied” by her sister Anezka (also played by Grobglas), who takes over Petra’s life in an effort to exert revenge against her for sending their mother to prison.
Where this premiere succeeds is in its emotional evocation. The episode spends most of its time with Jane and her family in the hospital, waiting for news about Michael. Watching Rodriguez’s heart break breaks my heart, as Jane deals with the possibility that Michael might die. The show occasionally touches on grief, and every time they do it’s filled with raw emotions, as everyone deals with it in their own way. The series illustrates this strength with Michael’s mother (Molly Hagan, “iZombie”). She tries to take over the decisions involving Michael’s health, much to Jane’s chagrin. Though the resolution is slightly forced, the story makes its point in a creative way.
“Jane” usually uses flashbacks as a framing device, and this episode is no exception, as the show frames the question of whether Michael lives with the story of Jane and Michael’s past. We’ve already seen the initial meeting where Michael, a cop, gets called to at Jane’s 21st birthday party, where the two share a kiss. But, after that night, Jane goes on a date with her long-time crush. Although, as the episode told us, we knew how the story would end, it was still compelling to see a piece of their relationship we haven’t seen.
At its heart, “Jane” is an expertly crafted parody of the telenovela while being a perfectly executed telenovela in and of itself, and the premiere continues that trend. Petra’s story involves an evil twin and a failed attempt at romancing the good twin’s love interest, Rafael (Justin Baldoni, “Everwood”). These developments are two very common telenovela tropes, but they’re so wonderfully executed. Though Petra may be in a hospital bed with no ability to move, I’m excited to see where they take this story in future episodes. There’s also the love story between Rose (Bridget Regan, “White Collar”) and Louisa (Yara Martinez, “Alpha House”), which took another twist in last year’s finale with Rose emerging from the dead and taking Louisa away with her. The big final twist of the premiere is Louisa waking up to find out she’s underwater. It’s the kind of “WTF” twist the show has pulled off so many times before, and I’m looking forward to seeing how they justify it.
All this is colored with elements of “Jane” which are familiar, but so strong. Anthony Mendez’s (“The Unexplained Files”) work as the “Latin Lover Narrator” remains stellar, as he guides us through the journey into Jane’s past and Petra’s tough situation. There’s also the clever onscreen text that helps insightfully push the story forward.
The season three premiere of “Jane the Virgin” wasn’t radically different from any episodes that came before it, but that doesn’t matter. It had the pure love and emotion that has defined it for its entire run, as well as the telenovela-esque twists and turns that I’ve come to expect from it. I love this show, and this episode was another reminder of why.