TV Review: Jane The Virgin (Season 4)

Jane The Virgin’s fourth season has come to its conclusion, after its shortest season yet. Whilst the telenovela’s latest offering might have gotten off to a rocky start, it went from strength to strength in the latter half of the season, culminating in the biggest shocker yet.

Initially, I was skeptical about this season’s offerings. The fourth season certainly started off in an odd place, with the introduction of Adam, who everyone knew was a “placeholder” boyfriend for Jane, as her love story has always been about Rafeal and Michael. There was no way that he was going to be around very long. Because of that, it was hard to invest in their relationship and the first few episodes, in which the relationship was a large focus, felt like they were just marking time.

The first half of the season also sees the return of douche Rafeal. Through all of the manipulations he goes through trying to get the Marbella back from Luisa and Anezska (definitely one of the weaker plot lines of the season), it reaffirms, at least to me, why I have never been able to get behind Jane and Rafeal as a couple. They are too fundamentally different and no matter how many sweet moments they have together (and there are plenty in the back half of the season), that is always something that is going to be there.

Jane The Virgin has established time and time again the class differences between Raf and Jane, and it’s something that comes up again and again because it so influences who both of them are as people. Everytime I think I’m starting to like Rafeal, he does something to self-sabotage and we’re right back to square one, and that speaks a lot both to his character and his relationship with Jane. We can never fully get behind their relationship because we’re just waiting for Rafeal to self-sabotage once again, and these feelings definitely came to the fore for me throughout the latter half of the season. Even in their sweet moments, I’m just waiting for Raf to do something to screw it all up.

The Marbella action does ramp up and get a little more interesting towards the mid-season finale, as the death the narrator hints about over the first half of the series finally happens (and has huge ramifications for the rest of the season) and the confusing Luisa storyline finally wraps up. We also finally get to see the culmination of Jane’s publishing journey, with the arrival of Snow Falling. As a writer, I appreciated that they didn’t show Jane’s novel being a runaway success and to me, the best moments that came from this process were the little throwbacks to Michael and showing that even four years after his death in the show’s timeline, Jane’s grief is still an ongoing thing. A particularly poignant moment showed Michael’s mother coming to support Jane at her book signing after three years of shutting her out.

The second half of the season however, is where the show truly shines. There were standout moments during the first half of the season, but in the second half, every single episode knocks it out of the park. Personal highlights for me were definitely Chapter Seventy Four and Chapter Seventy Six. Chapter Seventy Four is star Gina Rodriguez’s directorial debut and she knocks it out of the park with a sex positive episode that features a prominent storyline for Alba (finally!) rediscovering sexual pleasure, Petra’s new exploration of her sexuality (more on that later) and Jane and Rafeal finally doing the deed. It was the perfect mix of funny and poignant. Chapter Seventy Six was all about embracing your inner critic, which unleashed an incredibly funny Jane persona, “Critic Jane” and allowed her to come to some much needed realisations about her writing and also gave Rogelio some much needed character development.

Xo and Alba both finally get more of a storyline in the latter half of Season Four, which is great, because it feels like the show has been somewhat treading water with both of them for a while. Alba’s pursuit of American citizenship has been a key plot point for her throughout the last two seasons and this storyline comes to a beautiful conclusion this series. We also get to explore more of her relationship with Jorge and through this her feelings about her relationship with her late husband, the original Mateo.

Xo’s storyline is incredibly heartbreaking, as she is diagnosed with breast cancer. As always, Jane The Virgin handles the issue with great care and grace, and it brings out the best of all the actors, with Andrea Navedo, Jaime Camil and Ivonne Coll putting in some of the strongest performances in the episodes following Xo’s diagnosis. The scene where the family find out about Xo’s diagnosis and they all instinctively drop to the ground to pray is perhaps one of the most poignant, heartfelt and beautiful moments this show has ever had. In a twist for the zany, Xo’s diagnosis also gives us the wonderful gift of Petra dressed as the tooth fairy, reminding us all that Yael Grobglas’ comedy timing is the gift that keeps on giving.

The episode following Xo’s cancer diagnosis is one of the most heartbreaking episodes the series has ever done, and gives Justin Baldoni a chance in the director’s seat (I hope that he and Gina get the chance to direct more episodes next season as their understanding of their characters and show have made for outstanding episodes!)

Petra’s discovery of her bisexuality has been a storyline long in the making, and this year’s Jane finally gives us that. The sparks are flying the minute her lawyer Jane Ramos (JR) enters the scene and honestly it’s my favourite storyline Petra has had in a while, because seeing the usually calm and collected Petra get giddy and lovestruck is incredibly amusing. Her chemistry with JR is also off the charts. I hope that Rosario Dawson is back next season, because I’m really loving this new story for Petra and want to see more of it.

The finale this year was quite possibly my favourite ever Jane The Virgin finale. The surprise theme of the episode certainly delivers and without wanting to spoil anything, the twists keep on coming and I’m excited to see how the revelations of this episode affect the next season.

Overall, this season was a little uneven, with the second half of the season being far stronger than the first half, but it is a testament to the show that four years in, it can still deliver outstanding episodes week after week and that the two strongest episodes of the season were episodes directed by the shows’ stars. There are so many wonderful storylines just waiting to be picked up for the potential final season and I for one, cannot wait for Jane’s return this Autumn!

Jane The Virgin: Seasons 1–4 are available to watch on Netflix

Originally published at https://www.thenationalstudent.com.

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