Jane the Virgin 5x04 “Chapter Eighty-Five” & 5x05 “Chapter Eighty-Six” Review
One thing Jane the Virgin has done very well this season is show the central conflict — Michael’s return from the dead — through multiple points of view that are all equally valid, as much as they contradict each other. It’s almost enough to make me not hate the return of a love triangle I thought had been dealt with long ago. (Yeah I know, if I hate love triangles so much I probably shouldn’t be watching a telenovela.)
In “Chapter Eighty-Five,” the concept running through the background of the episode is that of worst nightmares. With Michael regaining his memories now a reality, everyone is forced to face their worst nightmares, and it’s impossible to choose someone whom I feel worst for.
When Michael was still Jason, there was a degree of separation: he wasn’t Michael anymore, he wasn’t the person Jane had fallen in love with and married, so it was easy for her to make the decision to send him away and continue to pursue her life with Rafael. Now there’s no running away from it, and all three players are forced to face their feelings and fears head-on, and hopefully resolve this love triangle in a way that’s healthier than one of the participants dying.
Let’s start with Michael. With the return of his memories, he’s still in love with Jane — of course; he never had the opportunity to fall out of love with her. Now Michael has to deal with the fact that he’s essentially two different people, with two different life experiences and different likes and dislikes, inhabiting the same body. Perhaps the only thing Michael and Jason have in common is their feelings for Jane.
I’d like to take a moment to acknowledge Brett Dier’s acting in these two episodes; while Michael maintains the mannerisms of Jason, bits and pieces of the man he used to be begin to shine through. As Jane observes in one of the dispassionate narrator notes she’s writing for herself, “His laugh is slow to come, but it’s just as contagious.” There’s something disconcerting about watching Jane and Michael talk and laugh the way they used to, except now Michael’s talking about roping calves.
It almost seems more a curse than a blessing that Michael got his memories back. Aside from feeling like he’s two different people, now he has to figure out how he fits into the lives of people who have believed him dead for the past four years, and have moved on without him. So where does that leave him with Jane? My heart tells me he should stop pursuing her and let her be happy in this life she’s built, but that’s hard when his feelings are as fresh as they were four years ago. Especially when it’s obvious Jane still feels something for him, too.
I feel for Jane, I really do. Moving on from someone after believing they’ve died is in an entirely different ballpark from moving on from someone after a breakup. She still loves Michael, and she’s forced to realize she still loves him once he gets his memories back — despite the fact that she loves Rafael, too. (Although it’s Rafael, not Jane, who has the flashback to the moment in Season 2 when Jane professes that she’s in love with both of them, it’s impossible not to draw parallels.)
Petra breaks the whole conflict down into perhaps too simple a form: “Michael is your past, Rafael is your future.” And while I hope that this is where the season is ultimately going, right now it’s impossible for Jane to see it that way. Michael was her past, but now that he’s back she can’t just leave him there. She’s being pulled in two different directions simultaneously — the life she’s built with Rafael now vs the life she built with Michael 5 years ago; the love they both have for her and the love she returns; the special place each holds in the broader fabric of her family — and she hasn’t been given a single second to breathe. And now even her son is being pulled into the drama, and is turning against her.
And then Rafael. Look, I know I said it was impossible to choose sides, but I am Team Raf until the day I die and my heart is absolutely breaking for him. While it takes Jane until the end of the episode to realize what her worst nightmare is — losing Rafael and her son — Rafael has already lived through his worst nightmare. And now he’s being forced to do it again. Rafael already had lingering fears that he was only a consolation prize to Jane; she never actively chose him and now that she’s faced with that choice, she’s hesitating.
Can you imagine someone saying they love you so much that they want to spend the rest of their life with you, but then being unwilling to file for divorce with the person they used to be married to? Or being so unwilling to file for divorce that they go to extraordinary lengths to retrieve the papers after having already sent them off? When Rafael asks Jane if she still loves him and she doesn’t reply — love for the person you want to marry shouldn’t be conditional. Rafael loves Jane with everything he has, as he has proven over and over again, and too often Jane’s love for him comes across as performative rather than genuine.
Rafael knows Jane better than perhaps anybody else, and he knows that she won’t be happy unless she gets the chance to explore what she may or may not feel for Michael. Just as he knows that watching her do that will absolutely destroy him. Given the circumstances, I think removing himself from the situation is the healthiest thing he can do for himself and perhaps the best thing for his and Jane’s relationship in the long run, as much as him asking her to move out hurts her now.
One thing I was impressed with was how mature both Rafael and Jane were through this entire impossible situation, especially compared to how they acted in previous seasons. Remember when Rafael broke up with Jane in Season 1 because he didn’t think he was good enough for her, but he never bothered to tell her that? Although this breakup hurts both of them, they both understand why it’s happening, which leaves room for them to patch up their relationship when the time is right.
And despite their current differences, they’re both determined to still be good parents and present a united front to Mateo. Mateo is, understandably, on his dad’s side in all of this — he doesn’t remember Michael as a stepfather to him, he only knows Michael now as the person who is driving a wedge between his parents.
At least, with all this unfolding, both Rafael and Jane have people that will go to bat for them. (Michael is a little on the outside right now, although he did get to spend some offscreen time with his mom.) Rogelio, despite being firmly Team Michael in the past, reassures Rafael that he loves him; Jane finds perhaps an unexpected confidante in Petra.
In fact, Jane and Petra’s relationship is without a doubt my favourite thing about this season so far. Petra’s character development has been deftly handled since the beginning of the show, and the fact that they got her to a place where the sisters/best friends relationship she has now with Jane feels both natural and earned is incredible. It’s so nice that any tension between them regarding Rafael has dissipated for good (at least that’s one love triangle that won’t be coming back!) and that Jane has found someone she can talk to honestly about her situation that isn’t tangled up in it — she hasn’t really had that since Lina left. (Remember Lina?)
Somewhat surprisingly, there was still no sign of Rose or her lackeys in these two episodes. But with the return of Petra’s mom, Milos making threats from prison, and Xo winding up in the hospital, I think everyone has quite enough secondary drama to be getting on with. Even if it is a telenovela.
Jane the Virgin airs Wednesdays at 9/8c on the CW.