Brow Beat

Why the Twist on the Jane the Virgin Season Finale Was So Disappointing

Michael (Brett Dier), Jane (Gina Rodriguez), Alba (Ivonne Coll), Xiomara (Andrea Navedo), and Rogelio (Jaime Camil) on Jane the Virgin.
The thing that everyone expected to happen finally happened. But that’s not why the episode was maddening. Greg Gayne/The CW © 2016 The CW Network, LLC

This post contains spoilers for Jane the Virgin.

The thing that everyone has been expecting to happen on Jane the Virgin finally happened on Monday night’s season finale: Michael, with whom Jane seemed to be on a path toward conjugal bliss, died. More accurately, he got shot in the heart minutes before he and Jane were to consummate their marriage, and he presumably won’t survive.

Despite the fact that the show has been priming us to expect this moment for weeks, it was devastating—a testament to the show’s mastery of rhythm. Most of the finale was spent lovingly exploring the details of Jane and Michael’s wedding: Jane’s nail-biting rush to get to the altar on time, Michael’s surprise decision to recite his vows in Spanish, Jane and Rogelio’s exuberant father-daughter dance. There was plenty of foreshadowing of Michael’s impending demise (Jane and Michael dancing to Bruno Mars singing “I promise to love her for the rest of my life,” Michael giving Jane a snow globe because “this way it’s snowing on us forever”). But Michael’s death still hurt, because Jane the Virgin has put in the work to show how good Michael and Jane were for each other. In a telenovela full of crazy plot twists, Michael and Jane were a thoroughly down-to-earth couple who had ample physical chemistry, laughed at each other’s snappy banter and inside jokes, and made good-faith compromises when they disagreed.

Given that Jane the Virgin is a telenovela, I accept that Michael had to die for the sake of drama, even if it means that poor, sexually frustrated Jane must remain a virgin for a while longer. (I do wish the show would let her have sex before the show ends its run, however, even if it renders the show’s title somewhat inaccurate. The showrunners know virginity is just a construct, right?)

However, it’s hard to accept the maddening circumstances of Michael’s death. In the last three minutes of the episode, we discover that Susanna—Michael’s menschy partner on the police force, who’s been dating Rafael’s sister Luisa—was actually Rose, aka Sin Rostro, Raf’s former stepmother, the love of Luisa’s life, and the ultimate crime lord, this whole time. We know this because Susanna literally peeled off her face to reveal Rose’s face beneath it. Fans will recall that Rose was killed in a standoff with the police earlier this season—but apparently we’re now to believe that the person who died wasn’t really Rose but some henchman surgically altered to look and sound exactly like Rose.

This turn of events, needless to say, beggars belief—even for Jane the Virgin. This is a show where not one but two characters have had evil twins, where a lover from someone’s past seemed to curse everything he touched, and where Jane’s everywoman mom is caught in a love triangle between two world-famous TV stars. But despite the fantastical plot twists, Jane the Virgin has always stayed rooted in reality. It wasn’t plausible that Jane would be accidentally artificially inseminated with her former crush’s sperm, for instance, but it was technically possible within the confines of the real world that you and I inhabit. Last night, Jane the Virgin seemed to throw the constraints of time, space, medicine, and physics out the window. This whole time we’ve been told that Rose’s crimes have something to do with an underground plastic surgery ring, but who needs plastic surgery when you’ve got a magic mask that can make you look and sound like an entirely different person for months!

In addition to the sci-fi turn, last night’s big twist seemed like a step backwards for the show’s relationships and character development. Susanna, played delightfully by Megan Ketch, seemed like a charming, empathetic addition to the Jane the Virgin universe this season, a smart cop whose devotion to the job matched Michael’s. She was also a gay character whose gayness was incidental to her character, rather than acting as a placeholder for her personality. Now, all of Ketch’s good work in making Susanna a quirky, likable character has been erased—and we’re supposed to believe that in the final year of his life, Michael was somehow thoroughly duped by an undercover crime lord whose downfall was her lack of familiarity with the phrase “Roll Tide.”

Additionally, the whole season has been priming the audience to expect Derek, Rafael’s sketchy half-brother, to be exposed as some kind of master criminal. Derek was a moderate improvement on Rose, villain-wise, because he exposed Rafael’s trust and abandonment issues, giving us a deeper understanding of Raf’s psychology. Rose, on the other hand, no longer means anything to any of the other characters on the show except Luisa, whose romantic and personal travails are treated more as a joke than anything else, and who flits in and out of episodes without affecting any of the central characters. Luisa actually seemed to be on a good path recently, having gone back to rehab and started dating Susanna, but it turns out she’s just caught in the exact same cycle with the exact same person as before.

Jane the Virgin has always tried to be a soap opera, a sitcom, and a procedural rolled into one, and the procedural element has always been the weakest link. Most fans of Jane the Virgin only care about the various crime plots only insofar as they inform the soap-opera plots, affecting Jane, Michael, and Rafael’s lives and influencing their choices. It’s always been possible to love Jane the Virgin while also half-ignoring the details of the crime narrative, which never really made all that much sense anyway. Last night’s finale didn’t just foreground the nonsensical crime plot; it exploded a number of other more interesting plot lines in the service of the nonsensical crime plot. I will absolutely tune into Jane the Virgin next season to see how Jane deals with the fallout of Michael’s death—but I pray to God the writers will stop trying to make me care about Sin Rostro.