It’s not easy for a TV show to gracefully outgrow its initial premise, but in Jane the Virgin’s “Chapter 47,” the CW metanovela’s title character lost her titular virginity without sacrificing any of the tender humor and worldly wisdom that makes the show such a continued delight.
A brief recap, for those who don’t watch the show: After two seasons of pinging back and forth between Michael, her longtime boyfriend, and Rafael, the biological father (via inadvertent artificial insemination) of her 1-year-old son, Jane finally settled on Michael, who she married in the show’s second-season finale. But no sooner had they adjourned to the honeymoon suite than Michael, a police detective, was shot by the arch-criminal Sin Rostro, who had for months been masquerading as his partner. To quote the show’s excitable narrator: I know, just like a telenovela, right?
Michael survived the gunshot, but his convalescence delayed the newlyweds’ consummation even further, just long enough that it seemed as if the show might put it off indefinitely: Jane’s first sex would be the equivalent of the castaways leaving Gilligan’s Island or a satisfying explanation of the Dharma Initiative, a constantly moving target we can get tantalizingly close to but never squarely hit. “Chapter 47” turned Jane and Michael’s escalating desperation to do the deed into a miniature farce, placing a succession of obstacles in their path. No sooner had they adjourned to their new house to get it on when her father showed up to help them redecorate, and then Jane’s mother and grandmother dropped by for an impromptu housewarming.
Spoiler: Jane and Michael finally did it, a deed the show depicted with a cartoon of them stepping into a rocket that blasted off into the stars. But for all its flights of fancy—this is a show where one character is currently masquerading as her own twin—Jane the Virgin has always been more committed to undermining fantasy than perpetuating it, and its portrayal of a couple’s first sex is no different. Michael, who unlike Jane, has done this before, flops onto the pillow satisfied that he’s moved them to simultaneous orgasm, but we quickly learn that Jane was faking it. She’s had orgasms with Michael before, but her first experience with actual intercourse turns out to be less, or at least different, than she thought.
With her Catholic grandmother’s homilies about the sanctity of her “flower” still ringing in her head, Jane can’t fully embrace her newly de-virginized self, so she conjures a doppelganger to work things out with, in the form of her abuela’s long-estranged sister. Cecilia, who, we conveniently discover in the same episode, looked exactly like Jane, is the one who broke the news to her abuela’s husband on their wedding night that she was not a virgin, and she’s gone down in family history as a wild-haired slut, which is how Jane envisions her: in a slinky, cleavage-enhancing dress, wriggling as if the thought of sex is constantly running through her mind. (Gina Rodriguez, who plays both parts, gives Cecilia a comically overwrought Spanish accent; she sounds a little like Natalie Wood in West Side Story.)
Jane tries to write Cecilia into the novel she’s completing as part of her master’s program, but her adviser, a doctrinaire second-wave feminist played by thirtysomething’s Melanie Mayron, knows that something’s amiss. (One giveaway: Jane accidentally films her and Michael having sex, then inadvertently emails her adviser the video instead of her latest chapter. It happens.) The shame she was taught to associate with sex didn’t magically vanish the instant she slipped on her wedding ring, nor can her first time possibly live up to a lifetime’s expectations. Like every aspect of a marriage, sex takes work (although it’s more fun than, say, making a household budget), and that means understanding that Cecilia is as whole a person as she is, and the virgin-whore complex belongs in the trash along with the crumpled flower that’s been hanging on Jane’s bedroom wall since her abuela’s first lecture.
This is still TV, so it doesn’t take Jane and Michael more than a couple of acts to get their sexual chemistry back on track. Their accidental sex tape serves as both a useful post-game film and a warm-up for the next go-round. This time, the cartoon rocket skywrites Jane the Virgin’s title in the air, then busts the clouds so only “Jane!” remains. (The show’s title isn’t actually changing, but showrunner Jennie Snyder Urman has suggested future episodes will draw a line through the latter two words.) But after two full seasons rooted in will-she-or-won’t-she, Jane the Virgin has smartly and smoothly transitioned to a show about the complications sex adds to a relationship, and the pleasures of working them out.