When we meet Jane Villanueva in this fall’s premier episode of Jane the Virgin, we meet a strong-headed twenty-something determined to live by the books. But when her doctor artificially inseminates her, Jane’s trouble-free days come to an end as she decides if keeping the child, or giving it up, is worth risking her relationships, goals and morals.
Not-quite-plain Jane: In a situation as wild and cartoonish as the Spanish soap operas the Villanueva women feed on, Gina Rodriguez brings the character of Jane to life as a practical yet down-to-earth young woman, insistent on sticking to her detailed timeline. Her strict values are bequeathed from her traditional grandmother, while her playful idealism comes from her all-fun mother. She is comfortably in love with a local cop who she plans to marry, but only after she earns a teaching degree and certainly not before sleeping with him. Innocent yet never naïve, Jane is an original and relatable protagonist who viewers won’t be able to take their eyes off of.
Relentless Narrator: Jane’s character isn’t the only allure of in this new series. An external narrator guides viewers through Jane’s story, loosening the dramatic flair with undiscerning banter as he details exposition and explains character traits. His humor reveals each character’s real deal, such as ““Raphael Solano: Hotel Owner, Playboy, Trapped Husband” and “Petra Solano: Maneater” without making any apologies.
The Not So Good:
Expulsion of disbelief: In lieu of the telenovela style, the characters’ paths cross over and over again. SPOILER ALERT: First, there’s Rafael who is the owner of the hotel where Jane works. Meanwhile his sister, Jane’s doctor, accidentally inseminates Jane with his own specimen, and as Rafael discovers his employee is carrying his child, he also remembers he and Jane had an extremely brief fling a few years back. Despite this purposeful ode to soap operas, it is, potentially, a bit too much to chew for prime time TV.
Happily ever after: Pilots are supposed to set up a season, but this one sets up and wrap up, all in under 45 minutes. By the end, the audience is left with a couple untied strings of a subplot and Jane’s happily ever after. Viewers can only brainstorm what is in store for upcoming episodes, but there are no burning questions keeping them on the edge of their couches until next week.
Jane the Virgin is a charming, funny spin on a dramatic premise. The plot is overly complex but not confusing, and still packs air, entertainment and emotion. B for structure, but an A+ for characters and originality.