This post contains spoilers for Jane the Virgin.
Well, we were warned, but that didn’t make Monday night’s Jane the Virgin twist any less shocking when the writers finally killed off Jane’s beloved ex-cop husband, Michael Cordero, who collapsed from complications of his gunshot wound right as he finished taking the LSATs. Jane and Michael’s marriage, with its lessons in communciation and compromise, has long been one of the show’s healthiest, and has kept Jane the Virgin rooted in reality among all the long-lost relatives, shocking revelations, and over-the-top drama. So it’s little surprise that fan reaction to the twist was swift and decisive:
So devastating was the decision to kill Michael off that showrunner Jennie Snyder Urman issued a letter timed to the episode’s airing to explain her thinking. “Originally, I thought Michael would die earlier,” she wrote. “But Brett [Dier] is such an incredible actor—he gave us such great comedy and drama and first-rate exposition delivery, often all in one scene […] So, we changed some things in the writers’ room. Jane and Michael got married. They had sex. They moved into their first home. And I’m so glad we did that and I’m so glad all those firsts for Jane were with Michael. But this is a telenovela, as we so frequently remind you. And we are only at our midpoint.”
Urman is right about one thing, at least: We should have seen this coming. “Friends, I did say Michael would love Jane until his dying breath,” the narrator cruelly reminds us as Michael takes that final gasp for air, a line Urman reveals was thrown in to force the writers to follow through on the big twist. That said, the show has cried wolf before. After episodes and episodes of foreshadowing, Michael’s death seemed all but assured at the end of Season 2, when he was shot by Sin Rostro on his wedding night. But he survived, he and Jane finally did have sex, and Season 3 brought the pair new challenges as Michael worked through his recovery and grappled with having to find a new career now that he was unfit for police work.
Then, just as Michael and Jane were starting down a new path, he died, and what makes that death all the more wrenching is that it’s so very un-telenovela, and thus so uncharacteristic of Jane the Virgin. As Michael walks out of the LSATs, he has a pained look on his face, suggesting that maybe he didn’t perform as well as he’d hoped. But then he falls to the ground, clutching his chest, and in a matter of seconds, he’s gone.
And that’s the most shocking twist of all, because on Jane the Virgin, characters don’t just die—they’re shot, or found dead in their jail cell clutching a bible, or thrown from a window and impaled on an ice sculpture. The realization that a character can collapse from something as mundane as aortic dissection is a game-changer in the Jane universe while also serving as a reminder of the very quality that keeps Jane from becoming farce: Despite its wild premise and plot twists, the characters and their emotions feel very real. A quick, quiet, senseless death like Michael’s, with very little pomp, is about as realistic—and as heartbreaking—as you could ask for.
There’s a second, structural twist in this episode, which is the flash forward to three years after Michael’s death, a strategic move by the writers to avoid getting bogged down in its immediate aftermath. “We’ll be flashing back to those three years and filling in gaps, but mining emotions realistically is something we work hard on and we knew the immediate pain of that loss would overwhelm our storytelling,” wrote Urman. “After talking to grief counselors, this felt like the right time to reenter Jane’s journey. She’ll always feel Michael’s absence (and trust me, we will too), but it opens up our storytelling in new and exciting ways, while allowing for the light and bright Jane world that we love to write.”
It will be intriguing to see how all of this, time jump included, changes the show. Still: