Now that the wonderful second season of “Jane the Virgin” has entered the home stretch — the season finale arrives May 16 — I have a confession to make. I’m Team Rafael.
I am sure a number of “Jane the Virgin” fans will have strong feelings about this. But just hear me out before you compose your agitated tweetstorm.
First of all, when it comes to “Jane the Virgin,” my primary allegiance has always been to Team Jane. I would be fine if she were single next season, met a new guy, or just focused on her writing and her family. The CW show is her personal journey, and I am fully on board. As the Narrator (my favorite human being on TV) has told the audience, like the fiction Jane herself writes, this show does not hinge upon “the Marriage Plot.” That’s just one of many strands the show skillfully weaves together each season.
Jane’s quest to balance her creative ambitions and yet still honor her many family and personal commitments has always been the foundation of the show, and I wouldn’t want it any other way. Whatever mode “Jane the Virgin” tries — melodrama, telenovela, warm family drama, surreal workplace comedy, drama or satire (all the things we get before a typical episode is half over) — Jane Gloriana Villanueva is more than interesting enough to be the center of attention. And the show has always made the case that she doesn’t need, or more importantly want, to be defined through her relationship with a man.
Okay, now that we got that out of the way, as the Narrator would say, let’s do this. But before we get to Jane and Rafael, here are my primary team affiliations regarding “Jane the Virgin”:
As previously noted, Team Jane for Life.
Team Villanueva Women. The ever-changing complexities of the relationships between Alba, Xiomara and Jane are among “Jane’s” greatest accomplishments. And considering I just called “Jane” the best show on TV right now, that’s saying something.
Team Rogelio’s Hair. Rogelio is a perfect unicorn of awesomeness. He and I agree on this (I did not love the kidnapping plot, but that was the only small gripe I have about the show this year).
Team Mateo. Season one of “Jane” was just about flawless, but the second season has expanded the show’s thematic explorations in really smart ways. We’ve seen Jane try to hang on to her goals while balancing them against her enormous love for her son and her at times desperate (and relatable) desire to be a perfect mom (Give this show all the Emmys for being real about breast-feeding, child care crises and the prevalence of baby vomit on the clothing of new parents). Over the course of the second season, it’s dawned on Jane that perfect moms don’t exist, and watching her try to be patient with herself as she makes mistakes has been poignant and moving (as has the depiction of Petra’s postpartum depression). Of course, star Gina Rodriguez plays every emotional beat beautifully, and I need to add that her alter ego, Salsa Jane, needs to come back soon (Also, for the record, Mateo is so cute that it’s almost unbearable).
Team Whatever Season Three Brings. Maybe Jane will never get married. Of course, the current season is leading up to a big wedding, which will no doubt be fun to watch and full of emotionally acute highs and lows. But this show loves its shocking twists (and those who speculate that a death is coming are making me very nervous). In any event, who knows what the (already renewed) show will do in the future? Maybe a new guy will come along and turn Jane’s world upside down. Maybe there will be no boyfriend or baby daddy drama for a while, who knows? After two seasons of “Jane the Virgin” being my happy place every week, I fully trust executive producer Jennie Snyder Urman to do whatever she wants (especially after she turned superstar Rogelio into the star of a telenovela version of “Doctor Who,” which is in the Top 10 Best Things That Ever Happened on TV).
Team Michael. Yes, these two are adorable together, I cannot deny it. “Jane the Virgin” has always made both Rafael and Michael plausible life partners for Jane, and they’re both also believably flawed. This is not about Justin Baldoni (who plays Rafael) versus Brett Dier (who plays Michael) — both actors have done fine work on the show. Dier in particular has made the most of his role even though for long periods he was off by himself in various police-investigation plots, which are the most workaday and least romantic plots in the “Jane” universe, and his comedic timing cannot be denied.
Team Rafael. But the fact is, “Jane the Universe” has constructed a believable lead character whose life, hopes and temperament are so clear, so well-defined and yet so complicated that I have a solid set of beliefs about what she thinks she wants and what she really wants — and thus I feel empowered to speculate about all of that. (What’s a romance without meddling from well-intentioned friends, after all?)
This is just my two cents, and I know many others disagree, but here goes: Michael is a wonderful guy and a good boyfriend and a potentially great husband and father. But I don’t think he’s ultimately right for Jane. There’s a streak of the dreamer and the risk-taker in Jane, and if she marries Michael, my fear is that it would be easier to ignore or shut that part of herself down. She’s taken plenty of chances over time, of course, but many of them were more or less forced on her by circumstance. I want her to take some chances of her own.
Jane got pregnant unexpectedly well before she wanted to, and as much joy as that brought her, that also changed the course of her life. It’s going to be that much more challenging for her to achieve her dream of becoming a published author. (Sidebar: I’ve greatly enjoyed season two’s lively exploration of literary snobbery vis a vis critiques of Jane’s novel in progress, by the way. Snyder Urman’s got some things to say about how fiction enjoyed by women is often undervalued, and she’s often saying it in the most sly, witty way possible.).
Given how much turmoil Jane’s been through, even before she got pregnant, of course it makes sense to want a solid, caring, dependable partner. But love doesn’t always make sense, does it? One thing “Jane’s” always done really well is depict the complicated emotional cocktails that can accompany love, lust and aspiration. In my view, the show’s always been at its most romantic when Jane and Rafael are together (just check out the picture above from tonight’s episode), and I want Jane to have more magical moments in her future. Is that so wrong? I mean, Rafael in white tie.
Rafael and Jane may not make as much sense, but to me, they’ve always had much more of a spark. If I could logically explain why, I would, but I just see more potential magic in that relationship than I do in Jane-Michael. I can’t lie about that (if I did, the Narrator would call me out, right?).
Rafael has had a lot of growing up to do in the past two seasons, and he’s got yet more ahead of him, of course. When the story began, he was a spoiled, angry rich boy who was nice enough when things were going his way but prone to lash out when they weren’t. Even this season, he quickly reverted to his playboy ways when things got tough (kudos to Baldoni for playing those shifts with almost uncanny precision). Rafael still tends to think that financial success will bring his life depth and joy, but those things only come from truly committing to emotional fidelity. I’d bet he’s always going to struggle with the issues that come from being abandoned by his mother and parented badly in her absence, but I can’t hate on the guy for that. We’ve all got our baggage.
With Rafael, there is more unpredictability, but there’s also more heat. He’s got darkness in him — but so does Michael, and so does Jane, for that matter. What can I say, there’s just a certain kind of chemistry that lights up the room when those two are together, and it’s so searing that it overpowers whatever flickers of Team Michael I’ve felt in the past.
Will Jane ultimately choose heat or warmth? Rationality or risk? I couldn’t say, and it goes without saying, I respect her choice either way.