This article contains spoilers for the show “Jane the Virgin.”
Let me take you back to 2016 (or at least some of its better parts). “Stranger Things” season one would cause Eggo waffles to rise dramatically in sales, “Closer” by the Chainsmokers ft. Halsey was dominating every radio station, the “Hamilton” obsession was surging stronger than ever, Harambe became an international sensation and Pokémon Go had people going outside to be on their phones. For me, 2016 was the year I would first watch “Jane the Virgin,” the show that finally thwarted my obsession with “The Flash” and that remains my favorite show today.
I was late to the train when it came to “Jane the Virgin.” The show was released in October 2014, but I only watched it two years later when my mom came across it on Netflix and urged my sister and me to watch it with her. For those who haven’t had the pleasure of watching what I consider a television masterpiece and my favorite show of all time, “Jane the Virgin” is … well, it’s a lot — certainly too much to accurately explain in a few sentences, a paragraph or even a page. At its heart, “Jane the Virgin” is a comedy-drama, structured as an ode to the Latin American telenovela. It’s centered around Jane Villanueva (Gina Rodriguez, “Someone Great”) whose life dramatically changes when she finds out she’s pregnant — more specifically, when she finds out she was artificially inseminated with a stranger’s baby. To make matters worse, Jane grew up in a Catholic household and promised to wait to have sex until marriage, so the pregnancy comes as even more of a shock to her mother, abuela and soon-to-be fiancé, Michael Cordero (Brett Dier, “Ravenswood”).
“Jane the Virgin” has a plot with so many twists it hardly feels believable. Each episode, or “chapter” as the show puts it, has a crazy arc, which comes together to maintain the overall storyline with some help from the narrator (Anthony Mendez, “Foodtastic”) — one of my favorite characters. This show truly has it all: love triangles (the best one on television), long-lost fathers, faked deaths, false identities, secret twins, secret triplets; the list goes on. I understand that “Jane the Virgin” sounds almost too crazy and cheesy to be a real show, but I assure you all of its chaos works.
Throughout its five seasons, “Jane the Virgin” features a love triangle between Jane and her two love interests, Michael Cordero and Rafael Solano (Justin Baldoni, “Five Feet Apart”). Michael is a police officer who later studies for law school and is Jane’s current boyfriend when she finds out she’s pregnant. Rafael is a millionaire hotel owner and the biological father of Jane’s child. Both men truly love Jane, and her relationship with each fluctuates greatly throughout the series, so I can’t say there’s really a wrong choice; however, I will say that I am #TeamMichael.
To me, it was apparent that Michael always loved Jane and wanted her happiness, even putting her happiness above his own. I can’t say the same for Rafael: He was trying to win Jane over even when she was engaged to Michael in season one, which is something I can’t quite get behind. The relationship between Jane and Rafael always seemed to be more fiery and unstable, ready to break apart at any moment, whereas the relationship between Jane and Michael was more secure and safe. Ultimately, Michael was a more caring and understanding guy, which better suited Jane. When Jane and Rafael were together, Michael didn’t try to sabotage the relationship or take Jane back. He always wanted her to be happy, even if it meant she wasn’t with him. On the other hand, it seemed like Rafael just wanted Jane to be with him and wouldn’t sacrifice that even if it would make Jane happier — Michael would.
Of course, I know how the series ends, and Jane and Rafael grew their relationship into one I can definitely support. Rafael went through a lot of personal growth throughout the show to become someone better for Jane and to be a good father to their child. Even when Michael “comes back,” the relationship clearly isn’t the same. Perhaps a better representation of my position would be #TeamJane. If Jane’s happy, I’m happy. I think she would’ve been happier with Michael if she could’ve been with him (not him with amnesia), so I’ll always lean #TeamMichael, but, at the end of the series, Rafael makes her happy, so I’ll support it.
Of course, “Jane the Virgin” would not be complete without the other supporting characters, and none are more loved than Petra Solano (Yael Grobglas, “Reign”). From the beginning, Petra was made out to be the villain. We watch her in the first episode as she desperately tries to save her and Rafael’s failing marriage by secretly unfreezing his sperm to become pregnant with his child, which she later succeeds in doing. She tries to sabotage Jane and Rafael’s relationship throughout the first few seasons, still in love with Rafael and wanting a future for them to work out. It isn’t until she’s pregnant that she and Jane begin developing their friendship, with Petra in desperate need of support and Jane willing to be there for her throughout the pregnancy.
The show provides context for Petra’s antagonistic characterization with background from her childhood. She grew up with only her mother who constantly mistreated her, leaving her with no real idea of what love or family meant. Constantly having to work through the struggles of her past, Petra’s character arc is easily the best in the show, and one of the best I’ve seen in all TV. She doesn’t instantaneously become a good person; instead, over the five seasons of “Jane the Virgin,” she gradually becomes a better version of herself. Her character is in some ways the most real, with her flaws apparent from the beginning, her worries of not being a good mother incredibly realistic and her battles with the past very reasonable. What makes the arc so believable is how much of her personality is maintained. Her ambition and drive never falter and she maintains the sarcastic wit that viewers have come to know and love, all the while continuing to be an incredibly successful businesswoman and mother, coming out as bisexual along the way and finding a long-term girlfriend. Petra truly finds herself throughout the duration of “Jane the Virgin,” and it’s beautiful to watch her character grow.
Beyond having arguably the most entertaining and unpredictable plots on American television (and some amazing side characters), the Villanueva women themselves are crafted so beautifully. The messages of familial love and womanhood the show perpetuates set it above and beyond other shows on television today. Yes, “Jane the Virgin” has major elements of romantic love, but the true love story is that between the three main women of the show: Jane, her mother, Xo (Andrea Navedo, “Superfast”) and her abuela, Alba (Ivonne Coll, “Switched at Birth”). Alba is very Catholic and loves her daughter and granddaughter very much but has a somewhat strained relationship with Xo following Xo’s teen pregnancy. Together, and with their shared love for Jane, both women strive to repair the bond between them and serve as representations of spectacular women fighting for themselves and their family.
All three have their flaws, but they are able to impart valuable lessons to each other. They all depict independent, resilient women dealing with struggles faced by real women across the country. The show touches on aspects of multiculturalism, highlighting Alba’s experience as an undocumented immigrant and her journey to becoming a U.S. citizen. It tackles and dismantles labels of what a woman is. Jane is more than a virgin — she is a woman who is emotional, who grieves in very real ways, who is strong and independent, who is forgiving and loving, who is passionate and driven and a million other things.
With a plot that constantly keeps you at the edge of your seat, one of the most hotly debated love triangles and impeccably crafted characters, “Jane the Virgin” truly doesn’t get the attention a show of its caliber should. It is everything a show should be and portrays a beautiful love story — one of the family bonds between the Villanueva women, which is, unfortunately, one type of love that is hardly ever captured on screen. So please, go watch it, and don’t be a “Jane the Virgin” virgin.
Daily Arts Writer Jenna Jaehnig can be reached at email@example.com.