What a wire-to-wire run for “Jane the Virgin.” Having been greeted last fall with paeans of praise from critics, the show fulfilled the promise of its pilot, maintaining a sweet, whimsical tone throughout its first season. Anchored by a star-making turn by Gina Rodriguez, the series cleverly built on its telenovela-inspired conceit, chewing through story at an impressive pace. All that culminated Monday (and SPOILER ALERT if you haven’t watched) with the inevitable cliffhanger, setting up plenty of intrigue for season two. Sure, there was an adorable baby, but all that really did was underscore how consistently “Jane” delivered.
Granted, some fans might feel a trifle let down by the nature of that cliffhanger, in which Jane’s newborn was promptly kidnapped. That rather unsettling moment followed more contortions in the on-again, off-again relationship between Jane and Raphael (Justin Baldoni), as well as the lingering presence of Jane’s former boyfriend Michael (Brett Dier).
To the credit of executive producer Jennie Snyder Urman and her staff, both guys managed to remain relatively sympathetic, despite being in competition for Jane and occasionally doing jerky things. The series also unearthed a regular fount of laughs from Jane’s dad Rogelio (Jamie Camil), who, in the finale’s other big surprise, married her mom Xiomara (Andrea Navedo) in a drunken Vegas ceremony.
Perhaps foremost, “Jane” was infused with a sense of inventiveness and energy, from the flashbacks illustrating its protagonist’s childhood to the script that would stream across the screen to the cheeky narration. Although the show operated with a great deal of heart – particularly in the wonderfully rich relationships between daughter, mother and grandmother (Ivonne Coll), but also smaller scenes, like the “It takes a village” bus ride dropping Jane off at the hospital – this is one of the few hours categorized as a comedy for award-consideration purposes that generally merits that description.
In the bigger picture, the acclaim showered on “Jane,” coupled with the success of “The Flash,” helped transform CW’s image, or at least significantly elevate its game. Granted, that’s easier to do on a network that programs a mere five nights a week, but it’s worth noting that also means programmers get fewer development at-bats than their rivals.
There are, admittedly, some caution flags regarding, say, how long the show can milk the Jane-Raphael-Michael triangle, or whether some of the soapy flourishes become too outlandish. One can argue that absconding with the baby danced up to that line, but the producers clearly felt they needed a big hook to bridge the gap between seasons.
All told, “Jane” didn’t just make the most of its premise, but sustained its quality virtually without a hitch. And if that isn’t as rare as a virgin birth, it’s still a plenty admirable accomplishment.