Jane the Virgin: Chapter 1 and Chapter 2

I can’t tell you how excited I am to be recapping the CW’s new series, Jane the Virgin. As soon as I heard the absurdly endearing concept – a religious 23-year old virgin accidentally gets artificially inseminated – I was hooked. The premise sounded just crazy enough to work! And of course it did originally work as a Venezuelan series, Juana la Virgen. The CW series is loosely based on Juana, which aired in 2002.

So, welcome to the world of Jane Gloriana Villanueva! We’re two episodes in and Jane’s once simple life has become as complicated as the telenovelas she adores.

Obviously Jane’s most pressing problem is the unplanned bun in her oven. Poor girl just went to the doctor for a routine pap and came out an expectant mother. The distracted and heartbroken doctor mixed up her room with another patient’s. It’s too bad that overworked Jane – teacher’s college student by day, hotel waitress by night – was dozing on the examination table when the doctor asked her if she was ready for her insemination.

And nobody could be more shocked by a positive pregnancy test than a woman who has guarded her virginity since the day her devout grandmother crumbled up a beautiful flower and dared her to make it look new again. Not exactly a subtle demonstration!

But alas the mistake was made, Jane the Virgin is knocked up, and she decides to go through with the pregnancy. As she struggles to come to terms with her new reality, she finds herself contending with a colourful cast of characters whose actions will have a huge impact on her life.

There’s handsome, rich playboy turned cancer survivor, Rafael, whose sperm Jane was inseminated with. He had only one viable sample and Jane is his last chance to have a biological child. He also happens to be Jane’s boss and her one-time liplock buddy from her summer working at a country club five years ago. At first Jane is very reluctant to have the baby. She’s always been responsible, hard-working and practical – done the right thing when it definitely wasn’t the most appealing option. So why should she derail her whole life because of a mistake she had no control over? But when she learns about Rafael’s bout with cancer she decides to carry the baby to term and give it to him and his wife.

Jane starts having doubts when she does a little digging into Rafael’s bad boy past. Jane: “I googled you.”  Rafael: “That could not have gone well.” But there’s definitely a connection between the two unlikely parents. Rafael brings out an adventurous side of Jane, pushing her look beyond her pragmatic goals and forcing her to examine her riskier dreams. Maybe she should give her dream a being a writer a second chance?

There’s Rafael’s deceitful wife Petra who Jane believes is just a sweet, loving spouse who wants a baby more than anything in the world. And Petra does indeed want a baby … because it’ll help her hook Rafael for a full five years and cash in on her prenuptial agreement for $10 million. It’s why she unfroze Rafael’s only sperm sample and arranged to ‘surprise’ him by inseminating herself. Her plans were thwarted when Jane was mistakenly knocked up instead, so now Petra must try a new tactic to keep her man. Rafael has been threatening to divorce her, but Petra knows that Jane won’t give her baby to a single father with a sordid past. If Rafael wants his child, he’s going to have to put up with Petra.

But does Petra have a softer side? Is she just lashing out because Rafael fell out of love with her? There are moments in which she hints at a hidden depth … small, small moments when she’s not boinking Rafael’s best friend Roman Zazo.

There’s Jane’s doctor Luisa whose major mix-up caused all the chaos in the first place. In her defense, she did walk in on her beloved wife having an illicit affair the night before. But that’s not going to stop Jane from suing her or convince her brother to speak to her again. Why would her brother care? Oh right, because he’s Rafael! Yes, she accidentally inseminated a woman with her own brother’s sperm. Maybe she really, really wanted to be an aunt? If that’s not enough to make your head spin, she just started sleeping with a sexpot ex-lover … who just happens to be her STEPMOTHER.

There’s Jane’s cop fiancé Michael who moved up their carefully considered timeline because he wanted to start their life together as soon as possible. It probably didn’t hurt that they’ve been dating for two years and never gone past second base. Michael proposed at the worst possible moment – just after Jane discovered she was pregnant – and he was less than thrilled with the news. He implored her not to have the baby so they could start fresh, but he’s accepted her plan to give the baby to Rafael and Petra. Unfortunately for Michael, he stumbled upon the truth of Petra’s infidelity during a stakeout of Roman Zazo’s apartment. If he tells Jane the truth, she could decide not to give Rafael the baby, which would screw up his ‘fresh start’. So far he’s showing disturbing signs of selfishness by keeping his mouth shut.

There’s Jane’s mother Xiomara, an aspiring singer with a fondness for short shorts and push-up bras. Xiomara got pregnant with Jane the old-fashioned way when she was only 16 years old and Jane has always worried that she torpedoed her mom’s dreams. Although Xiomara comes across as flaky and irresponsible, she’s actually a fierce advocate for her daughter’s happiness. She’s willing to look bad and take all the blame when it comes to protecting Jane … even if it means busting out an inappropriately sexy rendition of “Milkshake” at a quinceanera to distract everyone from Jane’s philandering date.

There’s Jane’s grandmother Alba, whose powerful flower metaphor has in many ways shaped Jane’s life. She’s a severe, yet affectionate woman whose secret shame is that she told Xiomara to have an abortion when she came home pregnant. When Jane reveals her own shocking pregnancy, Alba admits her mistake and advises Jane not to terminate. She’s currently being supportive, while not so subtlety pushing Jane towards raising the baby herself.

As if Jane didn’t have enough complex relationships and influences in her life, there are more people poised to cause drama that she doesn’t even know about yet!

There’s Michael’s bad new brother Billy who hinted that Michael might not be the perfect golden boy Jane thinks he is.

There’s Petra’s strange mother Magda, a disfigured tarot card reader who is definitely up to no good.

There’s Jane’s favourite telenovela star Rogelio, who unbeknownst to Jane is also her father! Xiomara dated Rogelio as a teenager but lied to Alba about the paternity of her child when he told her to get rid of it. Xiomara did a double take when he made his big debut as star of the hit series The Passion of Santos. She confessed the truth in a letter and now Rogelio is determined to be a part of Jane’s life. Xiomara has convinced him to wait until things calm down but this crazy list of characters pretty much guarantees that’s never going to happen!

Finally, there is Roman Zazo, Rafael’s best bro and Petra’s paramour. He won’t personally be causing any problems because … well … he’s dead! He was skewered by a giant ice sculpture during a fancy party at the hotel. But since the cops were investigating him, it’s a safe bet there’s foul play involved and with Michael on the case Jane is sure to feel some of the repercussions.

WHEW! That’s a HELL of a lot of twists and turns for the first two episodes of any series. But this charming dramedy brilliantly utilizes the telenovela form while lightly poking fun at it. It’s cheesy and melodramatic but also heartfelt and authentic.

Everyone in the cast is doing a fantastic job, but I have to give special shout-outs to two of my favourites. First is the radiant Gina Rodriguez whose Jane is a wonderfully messy modern woman. She’s sweet, determined, dorky and absolutely beautiful inside and out. Second is the narrator Anthony Mendez, whose brilliant voiceover sets the tone for the whole series. The writing is also fantastic. I adore the way characters are introduced with quirky supers that reveal defining character traits and funny snippets of information.

It’s true love guys! I’m in love with a new fall series and I couldn’t be happier. I can’t wait to come back next week to share more with you!

Photo Courtesy of The CW

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