SPOILER ALERT: Do not read if you have not yet watched “Chapter One-Hundred,” the series finale of “Jane the Virgin.”
Five years ago, the CW was dominated by surreal series centered on vampires and werewolves, demon hunters, a genetically altered soldier, and so-called homo superiors. But then came “Jane the Virgin.”
In a sea of dark, gritty dramas came a light, warmly colored broadcast take on a telenovela, punctuated by cheeky voiceover narration and on-screen text, and even the occasional slapstick comedy moments. From Jennie Snyder Urman, who had previously created “Emily Owens, MD” for the network, and starring relative newcomer Gina Rodriguez as the titular Jane, a Miami waitress who got accidentally artificially inseminated in the show’s pilot episode, the series put its network on the map with critics and as an awards contender (Both the show and Rodriguez were nominated for Golden Globes in the first season, with Rodriguez winning, and narrator Anthony Mendez was nominated for an Emmy in that same year). In a way, its success may have helped usher in additional female-centric fare such as “Crazy Ex-Girlfriend,” which also came to an end earlier this year.
Over the years, the show featured births, weddings, deaths — and even a shocking “back from the dead” move that came with a bout of amnesia. There were kidnappings, evil twins, career changes and the chance for Alba (Ivonne Coll) to become a U.S. citizen. Now, after five seasons and exactly 100 episodes, “Jane the Virgin” has come to an end. True to the genre’s form, it signed off by making sure its heroes got happy endings — including the extra celebration of a wedding.
Jane had been married before — to Michael (Brett Dier) in the second season finale — so when planning her second wedding, to Rafael (Justin Baldoni), Urman most wanted to make sure the event was “representative of who she was now, as opposed to who she was then.” Rather than focus on a big, fancy ceremony and party to match, the goal was to explore the lead-up to the wedding to punctuate how much Jane and Rafael had overcome to get to the point where they would be saying “I do” at all.
“I also wanted it to look different,” Urman tells Variety. “I wanted it to have more of the kids because they have a bigger family now. The wedding to Michael was beautiful, but it’s a different kind of wedding: It’s the family’s wedding, in a way.”
Putting Jane and Rafael’s kids front and center at the wedding also allowed for the show to tie up a major thread: revealing who the show’s narrator was. After their son Mateo read his part of the ceremony in an extra loud voice, the show’s real-life narrator Anthony Mendez dropped his accent a bit to reveal that it was adult Mateo who had been offering the disembodied colorful commentary this whole time.
An adult Mateo working as a voiceover artist and narrating a show about his mother’s life was a decision Urman says she made in the second season of the show, but revealing it in some of the final moments of the series was a way to bring it “full circle.”
“Our show has always been very clear that you’re watching a telenovela,” she says.
Following that pattern, the very last shot of the episode and therefore the series was Jane breaking the fourth wall to wink at the audience after telling Rafael she added a line to her book’s ending to say the story was turned into a telenovela. It was an ending Urman says she had conceived from the pitch of the show.
“Much of the last season was always in the cards that we’d laid out, and it was, ‘How do we get there?’ that was the journey,” she says.
Although she shares that she can see “six episodes in the future where, as Xo says, your cells regenerate every seven years, so you revisit the family seven years in the future, then 14, etc and call it an epilogue,” she also admits she never wanted to do a flash-forward in the series finale to show how Jane’s book became the telenovela.
“I hold that as comfort if I ever miss these characters too much. It’s my way of saying I could see these characters again,” she says. But “I wanted to end the story at the wedding and in that moment.”
In spending a good amount of the episode on the moments leading up to the actual wedding ceremony, Urman was able to include callbacks to pivotal imagery from the earliest days of the show, including the three Villanueva women on the porch swing and Jane riding the bus. It also provided the answer of what happened to Rafael’s birth parents.
“It was always this big thing that was built up and sometimes you want to subvert that,” Urman says, noting that she also wanted to “close things, not start something new” with the answers the show provided.
Rafael’s birth parents, as it turned out were nice people who happened to be killed years earlier. It was something that could get answered at the end of the show without much fuss, Urman says, because “he has this big, rich family life and he’s doesn’t need [his parents] as much now.
“His relationship with [Luisa] is great, his relationship with Petra is great, his relationship with Jane is great, he has three kids, so what is he seeking? There’s not a hole he needs to fill; he is full,” she says.
Similarly, Urman wanted to make sure that beloved characters including Rogelio (Jaime Camil) and Xo (Andrea Navedo), Petra (Yael Grobglas) and even Darci (Justina Machado) got closure with the pieces of their lives that had been left open-ended up until this point. For Rogelio and Xo, it was being able to feel comfortable leaving Miami to pursue American fame in New York, while for Petra it was reuniting with JR (Rosario Dawson) and for Darci, it was an engagement to Esteban (Keller Wortham).
“Everyone’s the hero of their own story,” Urman says. “I wanted there to be a feeling of [them] getting something, too.”
Urman’s cast, writers’ room and crew had gone into the fifth season knowing it was the final one, so they had time to prepare for the inevitable end. But that didn’t keep the experience from being emotional.
“The writing of it was stressful because I was going through my own ending. I felt like I was almost living Jane’s book: ‘It’s 98% there but wait I want to add one more thing!'” Urman says.
Once they were in production on the episode, she says the shoot felt “nostalgic already,” but because so much of the episode was about saying goodbye, with Rogelio and Xo preparing to move, “you could let yourself be in that moment and feel it.”
The biggest challenge was scheduling, especially in bringing back guest stars such as Dawson, Machado and Rita Moreno. “I pinged them 10 months before. We just all kept in touch. It’s hard to make those things work, but if everybody wants it to work, it’s going to work somehow,” Urman says.
The finale also snuck in cameos from Baldoni’s real-life family, including his parents and wife, as well as one from Urman herself, who was “convinced” to appear on-screen by executive producer and director Brad Silberling.
Ultimately, despite the tears shed on-screen and behind-the-camera, Urman feels the finale was packed with “a lot of joy” during the process of making the episode, which she hopes the audience also felt while watching it.
“I don’t know if I want [the audience] to mourn it,” she says of the show. “I want them to feel like they had a satisfying conclusion to a story they’d been told. I want them to miss the characters in their life and stuff, but I want them to feel full — like they just had a big meal and that’s the end of it.”
But, even though there won’t be new episodes of “Jane the Virgin” coming, in some ways, Urman acknowledges, it’s not a true goodbye.
“There is a slew of people watching it who have been waiting since the end of Season 4 to see what the f— happened with Michael,” she says of binge-watchers who wait for streaming to catch up with their favorite shows. “There’s a whole other wave coming of people interacting, rooting for their person to win out, and I’ll get Tweets of, ‘How have I not seen this show until now? I’m so excited to discover it.’ It’s so nice that TV gets to continue in that way. I’m grateful to that because I think it allows it to breathe and for me to still engage with it in some way, and I’ve enjoyed the engagement of it.”