I’ll admit it—when Jane the Virgin was first announced, I was among its most outspoken detractors. “Accidental virgin insemination while at a gynecologist appointment? That is the most ridiculous thing I’ve ever heard! I could never take such a show seriously,” I scoffed. But, after bingeing all of season one, it’s time for me to eat my words. By the end of just the pilot, Jane the Virgin had proved all of my preconceived notions about it wrong.
It is hard for me to put into words why or how this show works so well because on paper it absolutely shouldn’t, for all the same reasons I initially wrote it off for. Is it incredibly far-fetched? Absolutely. Would basically any of the events happen in real life? Probably not. But despite the ridiculous situations, which fall into the realm of charming rather than absurd because of the telenovela tone that the show nails and embraces, the characters are so real that they are able to ground even the most unbelievable moments. The show is very self-aware and embraces its wackiness. They don’t shy away from dream sequences or giving hilarious subtitles to a barking dog. But the characters are just so damn endearing that you simply cannot help be charmed by everything that’s happening. It is difficult to compare the tone to anything else on TV, which makes what they have accomplished even more impressive.
I do not know that this show would work with a lesser actress than Gina Rodriguez as Jane. She is so down-to-earth and relatable and has impeccable comedic and dramatic timing. You root for her one hundred percent of the time. Jane is an incredibly intelligent, driven, pragmatic heroine who is the kind of person you want to be best friends with. You simply want her to be happy—which is easier said than done considering the many twists of the telenovela-style storytelling.
One aspect of the show that continually impressed me was how balanced and solid the central love triangle is. It’s rare to find yourself switching sides nearly every episode, but all of the characters involved are so well-drawn and three-dimensional and the storytelling is so complex that it’s truly hard to decide which of Jane’s suitors is better for her. In one corner, we have Michael (Brett Dier), Jane’s boyfriend at the start of the series who (understandably) has trouble accepting her sudden pregnancy. He’s a cop and while he makes some bad decisions early on, he would do anything for Jane, and his determination to win her back is admirable. They make sense together, in a high school sweethearts kind of way. But then there’s Rafael (Justin Baldoni), Jane’s accidental baby daddy—whom she coincidentally happened to share one magical kiss with years earlier, pre-Michael. Their attraction is passionate and magnetic, but Rafael is troubled, has less in common with Jane, and also makes very questionable decisions at times. Their chemistry, however, is undeniable, as is the fact that they are having a child together, regardless of the fact that they didn’t mean to. I will admit that as of the season one finale, I was leaning towards Team Michael, but I’m sure my opinion will flip-flop five more times in season two.
While the love triangle is one of the best crafted I’ve seen in a long time, it is hardly all the show is about. The true love story of Jane the Virgin is that between Jane and her family. Jane lives with (and was raised by) her mother, Xiomara (Andrea Navedo), an aspiring singer who gave birth to Jane as a teenager, and her abuela, Alba (Ivonne Coll), who is largely responsible for Jane’s devout beliefs. Jane’s father, Rogelio (Jaime Camil), unexpectedly enters her life for the first time during season one. He’s an extremely self-centered telenovela star who had a passionate fling with Xiomara back in the day, and he became one of my favorite characters. Rogelio is the most ridiculous caricature of a human in a show full of ridiculous things, but Camil’s performance makes him human, endearing, and hilarious.
Another thing I was impressed by was just how quickly the plot moves. A lot happens in season one—the finale alone contains more twists than entire seasons of some shows, including a few that genuinely shocked me (I’m still not over that ending). Of course, the shock value only multiplies when you are invested in the characters and boy, was I invested a near unhealthy amount in literally everyone by the end of the season. Who am I kidding—I was invested in them practically by the end of the pilot.
I feel like this show essentially captured lightning in a bottle—it has the exact right ingredients to work despite all evidence to the contrary, and there’s something about it that’s just a little magical and rare. It’s difficult to quantify, but it succeeds on every level. It’s smart, funny, charming, and, most importantly, chock full of so much heart. So if you were like me and initially knocked this show based on the premise alone, please join me in eating your hat, because I dare you not to fall head over heels in love with it.