I’m so glad Petra finally gave birth. Despite the shorter episode count between us learning of her pregnancy this season and Jane’s in the last, it seems like Petra’s been pregnant forever. I’ll miss her pregnancy wardrobe and her hilarious reactions to her pregnancy, but hey, at least we’ve got two new babies! Though “Chapter Thirty-Six” is very concerned with picking up where the newly reconciled Jane and Michael left off, it’s also about cementing Petra and Jane’s relationship as friends. The love triangle has been tiring, and recent events require it to come back into sharp focus, but Petra and Jane are always appealing and always fun.
A concerned Petra enlists Jane in confronting Rafael on his apparent downward spiral, and the two end up at Angelique Harper’s book signing where they plan to confront her after she plagiarizes Jane’s book. Petra and Jane are still polar opposites, making their scenes together even more fun. Their new outlook on honesty gives them the opportunity to handle each other with more frankness than before, and they’re able to interact with one another in ways other people aren’t. No one else in Jane’s circle pushes her to stand up for herself like Petra does, insistent on Jane womaning up to confront Angelique. Despite Jane’s wide support system, it’s notable that there are few people willing to tell Jane upfront and without any kid gloves that she needs to do better. Petra psyching Jane up for her confrontation with Angelique is a super cute moment even if we don’t get to see the end results of it because Petra’s water breaks.
Jennie Urman’s gone on record saying they intended to make Petra’s experience as different from Jane’s as possible. Despite a few bumps on the road, Jane’s pregnancy and Mateo’s birth went pretty smoothly. That’s not the case for Petra, whose pregnancy has been deeply uncomfortable down to the final moment in which she can’t have an epidural. She doesn’t even have Rafael at her side, since he’s stuck in traffic with Michael, and it’s Jane coaching her on when Anna and Elsa are born. It’s a nice, and big, moment for Jane and Petra’s friendship, as motherhood is one of those big things they’re going to have in common now.
I’m also, as always, hesitantly looking forward to Rafael having a storyline. It will be a relief when the show finally lets him let go of Jane, but until then this will do. He’s back to his playboy ways when the episode begins, though at least he’s insisting all his new sexual partners use two kinds of contraception (but contraception was never really his issue was it?). We’re led to believe Jane moving on has pushed Rafael over the edge and into self-destructive behavior, but that would be easier to believe if we hadn’t seen it kicking off last episode after Jane, and then Petra’s, rejection. Rafael’s always had a crappy family situation and with it, lots of reasons to spiral, and the show has better reasons to base Rafael’s downturn on than he can’t have his way and have Jane. I’d much rather watch him do that because his mother abandoned him and is a dangerous drug lord than because he can’t get Jane to love him again. Rafael hunting for his half brother is a much more flattering look on him, even if this episode has no room to really devote itself to it.
The question remains if the rest of the season will be able to really give Rafael’s family the attention it deserves. Jane the Virgin has been pretty slight with everything involving the Solanos that isn’t somehow connected to Jane. Luisa’s disappeared once again (ugh), and the last time Rafael had some kind of reaction it was to his mother’s reappearance and her quick betrayal, but that was dropped not long after. Derek’s appearance at the Marbella is a promising look at something more for Rafael, and he certainly deserves it. This season hasn’t been kind to him at all, not in the narrative or in its storytelling methods, and more than anything I just want to see Rafael doing something different. He’s become far too one note than he should be.
In the show’s attempt at lending nuance and gravitas to the love triangle, they’ve leaned too heavily on Rafael to the point where he seems a far cry from the man we knew him as. “Thirty-Six” tries to correct this somewhat by giving Jane and Michael some angsting of their own to do. Though they’re back together, their respective obsessions with their past circumstances makes it difficult for either of them to really enjoy it. Though they’re both giddy, Michael planning a proposal and Jane planning to accept, Rafael’s still a piece of the puzzle neither knows how to really deal with. Jane tries to handle it by creating a “Rafael-free zone”, ignoring Petra’s calls about him and trying to put as much distance between them as possible. She tries to distract Michael with reminders of how they used to be like a dinner we first glimpsed in the pilot and renting a boat to replace the memory of their marina breakup, and she conjures a version of her and Michael who live a picturesque life in which she never hooked up with Rafael. We know the show would look a lot different if Rafael and Jane had never become a couple, but it’s still jarring to see Jane trying so hard to forget about it. As Petra later points out, Michael and Jane’s relationship wasn’t so perfect it kept them from breaking up in the first place, and Rafael was a huge and important part of Jane’s life, who encouraged her to embrace the things she’d feared. Jane’s time with Rafael wasn’t wasted, and it’s nice when Petra tells her that she needs to let the past go.
A nice change in conflict comes in Xo and Alba, which is especially distinctive considering the Villanueva women have always been on the same page. When Xo learns the truth about Alba sleeping with Pablo before marriage, and now chatting with him regularly, she’s hurt and angry after years of fielding her mother’s criticisms about her own sexuality. It’s no secret that Alba’s stance on Xo and Jane’s sex life has been more than a little judgmental. Despite her declaration a couple episodes back that she wouldn’t judge Jane if she chose to lose her virginity before marriage (that’s not going to happen now since her and Michael are this close to getting married), that’s a fairly new stance. The show’s premise is based upon Alba insisting that the loss of Jane’s virginity would mean ruining something precious about her, which is another reason why I’m so glad the show’s retired that wilting flower image.
- I’m disappointed in the names for the twins. I suppose its in keeping with the show’s commitment to putting Jane and Petra’s experiences on opposite ends of the spectrum, but I hate that the twins’ names end up being a joke when Mateo’s name was so important.
- That being said, I laughed when the narrator told Jane to “let it go” when she was questioning Petra about the babies’ names.
- The Scandal-esque scene was super cute, though now I feel deprived of a similar one for Downton Abbey.
- Michael is glad Fitz and Olivia are over on Scandal. YES!
- Rogelio’s still being held captive by Paola. I was mistaken when I thought this story would go quickly.
- I wish we’d gotten more of Michael and Rafael stuck in traffic together, especially if it was going to yield a more mature exchange between the two than the one’s we’ve seen. Michael’s apology was nice and all, but more please?
- Jane and Michael’s proposal was super sweet and super cute. Let’s see if this wedding actually happens.