‘Jane the Virgin’ and its eclectic cast return
After an unbearably bleak month of attempting to be entertained by real people’s mundane drama, hearing the words “accidentally artificially inseminated” has never felt better. “Jane the Virgin” is back with a killer midseason premiere, making up for lost time with an exceptionally hip and “in with the gays” Abuela, a guest appearance from Glam-ma (Rita Moreno, “West Side Story”) and a college English class with giants. An explanation will follow.
In the telenovela world of drug lords and baby kidnappers, the badassery that exudes from Gina Rodriguez is the only constant. The second Latina woman to ever win the Golden Globe for Best Actress in a TV Comedy, Rodriguez (“Filly Brown”) delivers a consistently exceptional performance as Jane. A single, working mom with dreams of a career and more on her mind than the next guy, Jane shines as one of the most inspirational women on television. Her one-of-a-kind sense of humor, brains and general awesomeness are only heightened by her acute sensitivity, a characteristic that is too often either entirely lacking from independent female leads or portrayed as their detrimental flaw. Instead, Jane’s vulnerability is a testament to her strength as she unapologetically embraces all the emotions that come with raising a child, starting a career and constantly reevaluating the messiness of her love life.
The midseason premiere kicks off with the terrifying realization that the “Great Books” literature class that Jane is teaching is instead coined “Books for Ballers.” A swarm of six-foot athletes (the previously mentioned giants) enters. Understandably, a visceral reaction to the word “sports” follows shortly thereafter as Jane has traumatic flashbacks to elementary school gym class. But, in the true glass-half-full spirit of Jane Gloriana Villanueva, she bravely sacrifices the home telenovela reel for a sports broadcast in an attempt to connect with her students. “Pride and Prejudice” is translated into “baller” terms as the athletically-challenged viewers gawk at the millionth reason why Jane is the coolest person ever.
“Jane the Virgin” constantly delivers surprising character development that easily rivals the usual melodrama of artificial pregnancies and presumed-to-be-dead-mothers-turned-drug-lords — yet another quality that sets the show apart from other network comedies. Season two begins to convince the audience that the now very pregnant Petra (Yael Grobglas, “Jeruzalem”) might not be the physical manifestation of evil after all. Her mistakes, as ridiculous as they may be, color the misguided “villain” in a weirdly relatable way. At the very least, the fiery anger sparked by the second not-so-accidental insemination has died into a controllable sizzle. For the record, there are now three babies, and nobody has had sex.
The midseason premiere was light on the Michael-Rafael-Jane love triangle, but romance is inarguably on the horizon for the rest of the season. Michael might claim he has “moved on” with a new girlfriend, but the rest of us are definitely not ready to let go. Nevertheless, the Villanueva women have a collectively long list of suitors, and if there’s anything the audience can unanimously agree on, it’s that we are all #TeamJane.