This post contains spoilers for Jane the Virgin’s Season 4 finale.
It’s hard for anything on Jane the Virgin to truly surprise fans anymore, given how much the show has thrown at us over its four seasons. Evil twins? Been there. Secret adoption? Done that. Villains who disguise their identities using hyper-realistic face masks? Child’s play for a show whose motto is “I know! Straight out of a telenovela, right?”
And yet until very recently—like, last week—the most unpredictable twist Jane the Virgin had ever delivered was the Season 3 death of Jane’s ex-cop husband, Michael Cordero, from complications from his gunshot wound. As I wrote at the time, that moment was a shocker precisely because it was so mundane compared to the high drama we’re used to from Jane. There was no tense build-up, no confrontation with a bad guy, no moment where Michael whispered his last words to his tearful wife. It wasn’t even the end of the season! He simply keeled over, an unthinkably ordinary fate for a character who had already survived a much more sensational confrontation with a crime lord.
The show moved on with a three-year time jump. Jane grieved, and we grieved with her. In Season 4, she focused on her career and learned to let herself fall in love again, even more than once. Life went on as only life on Jane the Virgin could—with murder mysteries, love triangles, and absurdly over-the-top revelations. In the meantime, Michael’s ghost seemed to have been, if not exorcised completely, then at least allowed to rest in peace.
Then came Friday night’s season finale.
Here’s what happened: Rafael visited Rose (the same crime lord who shot Michael) in jail and learned something terrible enough to postpone his planned marriage proposal to Jane. But after letting Jane believe that this bombshell was actually about his parents, Rafael comes clean at the end of the episode, admitting that it was about something else entirely. “OK,” says Jane, still kind of expecting a proposal. “What did she tell you?” But Rafael decides that in this case, it’s better to show than tell.
That’s when, in the very last moments of the season, we find out who is hiding behind the door: Michael Cordero, alive. We even get to see him for five whole seconds—three cheers for the return of Brett Dier—so this is no mere rumor, and showrunner Jennie Snyder Urman has confirmed that it’s not an identical twin situation. Michael’s reappearance opens up tons of possibilities for Season 5. What role will Michael play after being gone for so long? How will he explain where he’s been all this time? What does this mean for Jane and Rafael’s relationship, now that she isn’t a widow?
These are all valid questions, because, after all, a good plot twist will inevitably change the future of the show. But a great plot twist also makes us reconsider its past, too, and this is a great plot twist. In light of the finale’s revelation, it’s worth looking back at a particular episode from Season 3: “Chapter Fifty-Four,” the fateful episode in which Michael dies (or maybe I should say “dies”).
The theme of “Chapter Fifty-Four” is memory, with a focus specifically on memories of Michael and Jane’s relationship. The characters argue about how accurately someone can really remember the past, and there are extended flashbacks in this episode to Michael and Jane on a date at the carnival early in their relationship. After Michael’s death, this seemed like a sweet, poignant way to send the character off, by showing us the early stages of their romance and contrasting it with them as a married couple to show how much they had grown. But in light of Michael’s reappearance, this episode has new significance, because the most obvious explanation for Michael’s long disappearance is that he somehow lost his memory.
Think about it: The recap at the beginning of the Season 4 finale includes an otherwise seemingly unimportant detail, Rogelio insisting that amnesia is “a key plot twist.” He’s talking about The Passions of Santos, but considering how thin the line is between telenovelas and real life in the Janeinverse, it would be foolish to dismiss that line’s inclusion as a coincidence. And amnesia is certainly one of the only explanations that could justify Michael’s absence for so long without telling heartbroken Jane that he was really alive. When you add that the theme of the episode where Michael went away was “memory,” it makes a lot of sense that Michael would have lost his.
I’m not pointing this out to turn Jane the Virgin’s finale into another game of Puzzle TV. There’s no reason to believe the writers were secretly trying to telegraph the fact that Michael was alive way back when “Chapter Fifty-Four” was on the air, especially since, as Urman told Entertainment Weekly, they didn’t even know for sure that he would come back as a character. ” It’s just that rewatching “Chapter Fifty-Four” with the knowledge that Michael might someday lose his memories of Jane is somehow just as sad as watching it with the knowledge that he dies. And that, not the shock value, is what makes this twist perfect for Jane the Virgin.