SPOILER ALERT: Do not read if you have not yet watched the fifth and final season premiere of “Jane The Virgin.”
It took five seasons but the CW’s take on a telenovela finally delivered one of the biggest genre tropes: amnesia.
Picking up immediately from where the third season left off, Jane (Gina Rodriguez) was confronted by the fact that Michael (Brett Dier) was actually alive, after Rose (Bridget Regan) faked his dead, burned off his fingerprints and put him through electroshock therapy of his hippocampus and temporal lobe so that he would forget who he was.
“Amnesia was the thing that first entered us into that space with Rogelio’s telenovela, and so once we knew Michael/Jason was coming back, amnesia felt like the right move in terms of just how to create so much drama for the finale season — and also the emotional toll of how someone you love looks at you like a stranger felt very exciting but also challenging, in terms of how to ground that,” showrunner Jennie Synder Urman explains.
Once Urman knew that was where she would be taking Michael, she knew the most important part of the storyline would be taking seriously “the trauma of him waking up and not knowing who he was.”
Awakening in Montana years earlier, Michael didn’t know if he was a good or bad guy and chose to make a new life for himself, rather than search for the answers about who he really was. Now calling himself Jason, he prefers dogs over cats, isn’t much of a talker, and called everyone from his wife to his mother “ma’am.”
“We had to recreate everything. And how would you do that if you didn’t know if you were a good person or a bad person? You wouldn’t be talking all of the time because you’d be afraid of what you may say that could be bad or incriminate you in some way or give away something that you don’t know,” Urman says. “So that made us think about him as somebody who was just sort of keeping his head down, quiet and observing — just sort of watching people for cues and things. That made him a more internal person because he’s lived without any kind of sense of history, memory — anything — to hold on to.”
Urman notes that this also allows Dier to tap into different parts of himself as an actor and gives the show a new relationship to explore — because he’s “this new character, but she’s looking at him as her husband.”
“It raises interesting questions about the soul and soulmates and what makes a person,” Urman continues. “If we’re a collection of the stories we tell about ourselves, or if we’re actually what’s essentially there — and how experience molds us.”
Michael’s return has thrown Jane for a loop, and going forward, Urman shares, she will focus on trying to stimulate his memories. She believes if he is around familiar people, places and things it will spark something, so she will put some of her life on pause to take him around and tell him stories of their past. But, Urman says, she is still going to keep him at some emotional distance because “obviously he’s different and she’s different,” and things are further complicated by the fact that she is with Rafael (Justin Baldoni) now.
“It’s part of the journey — what does Jane owe this person [and] how can she help him, while also preserving her sense of herself and her family and where she is in her life. How does it not take over her life? The answers to that are not easy, and they keep changing,” Urman says.
The season premiere saw Jane spiral into the stages of grief once again upon living with the shock of her dead husband’s return, culminating in a seven-and-a-half page monologue that Urman wrote and Rodriguez performed (and directed) in a oner.
Urman admits that before she writes anything she thinks about how she would feel if she were in the character’s shoes, and when it came to this monologue, “it was such a complicated well of emotion in terms of memory and your heart and what you owe them and who you are now and who you were then,” she explains. She also felt like because the revelation was “so huge,” it deserved to be shown in a “new, fresh way” than anything else on the show.
“It’s about all of the range of human emotion that you would have in that instant,” Urman continues. “Trying to keep things together, gradually falling apart, finding the humor in it, finding the tragedy, finding the sorrow, finding the irony — all of those levels — because it’s such an unimaginable thing that has happened. It’s an outpouring.”
Although Jane “let it all out,” so to speak, in the final season premiere, that is not to say her newfound grieving process is complete.
“It keeps changing as the character changes and as the circumstances change and as the expectations change and as the relationship between her and Jason changes. This is the first,” Urman says.
In a pivotal final season premiere scene, Jane walked into Rafael’s work “telling him she loves him, just like in the pilot when she came into Michael’s office,” Urman points out.
“It was a way to really invigorate the love triangle, but tell totally different stories,” she says.
Going forward, Michael’s reemergence in their lives will be a disruptive influence, but it is one that will dissipate from the spotlight as the initial shock wears off and people settle in back into their relationships. Storylines such as Rogelio’s (Jaime Camil) new show and relationship with River Fields (Brooke Shields), as well as Petra’s (Yael Grobglas) broken heart over J.R. (Rosario Dawson) will become “more present in the second episode and beyond because life goes on,” Urman shares. “The other characters’ storylines start to take off.”
And just because the show is a take on a telenovela does not mean Urman will focus her whole final season on characters’ relationships. “It’s that, and,” she says. “It’s the balance of romantic with professional.” While sometimes, Urman admits, the one comes at the cost of the other, they will be “in lockstep” for the final season with strides made for all characters in all areas.
And then of course there is the mystery of Rose. Urman says it has been important to her to have “one major villain over the course of five seasons” in order for there to be familiarity for the audience. Getting down to the bottom of what Rose has up her sleeve (beyond faking Michael’s death, of course) won’t come quickly — she is only in about half the episodes, Urman shares. “How big to go and where to leave it” was one of the more challenging aspects of writing the final season for Urman. But of course, they are building up to “an explosive climax” by series end.
“I want [the audience] to feel like this was a story well-told — that it was building towards an end from the beginning and that [the audience] got to go on a journey with us,” Urman says of her ultimate goal for the season. “I want them to feel that they were in the hands of a storyteller who had a story to tell them, and that it was really all part of one piece.”
“Jane The Virgin” airs Wednesdays at 9 p.m. on the CW.