Midway through the fifth and final season premiere of the CW’s warmhearted telenovela Jane the Virgin, the eponymous heroine (Gina Rodriguez) spends a seven-minute-plus scene gradually freaking out over the apparent resurrection of her late husband, Michael (Brett Dier), and what it may mean for her and her family.
“We’re actually not moving today,” she tells some confused movers, while failing to seem calm and rational, “because my husband came back from the dead!”
The scene is impressive in small part because it was shot as a continuous take (Jane even winds up pantsless by the end of it). Mainly, though, it’s remarkable because it does that thing that has always made Jane special. It uses the craziest of soap-opera tropes (evil twins, amnesia, kidnapped babies) while letting Jane and her loved ones react to them like the very human beings they are.
Without spoiling exactly what happened to Michael — or even whether this really is Michael — it’s safe to say that the storyline is wild yet emotionally grounded. Like so much of what creator Jennie Snyder Urman has done thus far, the development functions simultaneously as a parody of a telenovela and the genuine article, self-aware but also sincere.
God bless Anthony Mendez, the hardest-working narrator in show business. The meta voiceover lines that Snyder Urman and her team give him — “Then again, this is a telenovela, as we all know” — work wonders in allowing the series to have its cake and eat it, too. Every time it seems like a story is too ridiculous or contrived, Mendez’s velvety voice will appear to confess that he agrees with you. It’s not only funny, but shows enough respect for the audience’s intelligence that — as with Jane’s genuine reaction to events such as Michael’s return — it gives the series license to try even more manipulative things down the road.
All of the new episodes are similarly deft. The show seamlessly juggles the antics of criminal mastermind Rose (Bridget Regan) with Jane and frenemy Petra (Yael Grobglas) passive-aggressively texting each other parenting articles, or lets the comic feud between Jane’s narcissistic father, Rogelio (Jaime Camil, always a delight), and his show-within-a-show co-star (Brooke Shields) turn into a serious commentary on both the gender pay gap and this precarious moment to be brown in America. (The latter even forces Rogelio to be introspective for once, as he asks, “Why am I so desperate for validation from a country that doesn’t seem to value or accept me?”)
Jane the Virgin returns March 27th to the CW. I’ve seen the season’s first three episodes.