If forced to sum up Jane the Virgin in one word, I’d chose “quirky.” Fortunately, reviews are allowed to be much longer than a single word as there’s a lot to like about this cute new show that airs on Monday nights on The CW. Gina Rodriguez, who plays the Jane referred to in the show’s title, has been labeled this new fall season’s breakout star and she’s a solid choice for that distinction. Also working in Jane the Virgin‘s favor is the fact it’s not the same old, same old. This is neither a subject matter we see often on TV nor is the show populated with your typical comedy series characters.
Episode One Recap:
The telenovela-inspired comedy/drama centers around Jane Villanueva who doesn’t know her father, is being raised by her single mother, Xiomara (Andrea Navedo), and who was schooled in moral values at an early age by her grandmother, Alba (Ivonne Coll). Alba taught Jane the importance of remaining a virgin by crushing a flower and asking her to restore it to its pre-wrinkled beauty. Now 23, that flower remains in its crushed state in a frame on her bedroom wall while Jane’s virtue remains intact.
Jane’s involved in a long-term relationship with the handsome detective, Michael (Brett Dier), who understands her desire to remain a virgin until she’s married. He’s patient, but the timeline they’d planned out for their relationship gets bumped up when he decides to pop the question. Unfortunately, not long before Michael gets down on his knees to propose, Jane finds out some life-changing news.
A routine visit to the doctor for a pap smear resulted in a mishap that should, if this wasn’t a TV series, find Jane’s doctor at the receiving end of a lawsuit that could make Jane a multi-millionaire. The doctor, Louisa, was supposed to inseminate her brother Rafael’s wife Petra (Yael Grobglas) with the couple’s only sperm sample taken before Raf went through his battle with cancer, however she caught Petra cheating on her brother and was so upset she accidentally inseminated Jane. Got that? But before Jane knows how she wound up pregnant, her mother demands they re-test her and when those also come back positive, Xiomara declares, “You are immaculata!”
A little backstory on Rafael: Rafael (Justin Baldoni) is wealthy, handsome, and the new owner of the hotel where Jane works. Although Rafael doesn’t initially remember it, they met for the first time when Jane was working at the country club he belonged to. They connected over a grilled cheese sandwich, but he never followed up with a phone call. Now years later, Jane discovers it’s his sperm she’s been accidentally inseminated with.
Back to that marriage proposal… Jane surprises Michael by blurting out that she’s pregnant, a fact which leaves him stunned as he knows how much Jane values her virginity. Although he’s not into marrying a woman who’s carrying another man’s child, Jane’s mother and grandmother are, surprisingly, far more supportive of her bizarre situation. Xiomara lets her know that she has a choice and doesn’t have to have the baby. Grandmother Alba also chimes in with unexpected advice, telling her that she had once given Jane’s mother that same choice of keeping or aborting the baby. Alba also tells Jane that she’s the best part of her life and that if she keeps the baby, he or she will become the best part of her life too.
After Petra pleads her case, Jane decides to continue the pregnancy and then give the baby to Raf and his wife who discover are on the verge of divorce, something Petra keeps a secret from Jane. Michael’s actually fine with this decision and when she shows up at the station to propose, he accepts.
The Bottom Line:
The first episode hinted that Michael isn’t the straight-up guy he’s making himself out to be. There’s something in his background that might come back to haunt him, and maybe Jane doesn’t know him as well as she thinks she does. Episode one also featured Xiomara spotting Jane’s father on TV and it turns out he’s now a huge telenovela star (and he’s played by telenovela star Jaime Camil).
Even if the title turns you off…and I have to admit when I first saw the show’s name and read the synopsis I thought it was a lame concept…Jane the Virgin is worth giving a chance. Series star Rodriguez is charismatic and she’s surrounded by a terrific supporting cast led by Andrea Navedo as her free-spirited mother. The series is sharply written and fast-paced, spending just enough time introducing each character and setting up backstories without lingering too long on any one particular element. This is one series that actually deserves and lives up to all of its pre-premiere hype.
-By Rebecca Murray
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