Season two has been terrible to Rafael. There, I said it. I’ve had my issues with Rafael in the past, but now I’m not sure they’re all his fault. I mean they are his fault, but it’s also the fault of writers who don’t want to move outside of their comfort zone. Jane the Virgin likes Rafael to do pretty much one thing only: cause friction between himself and Jane, usually over Michael. Anything else is asking too much. When it gives Rafael other storylines, like Derek or his accidental insider trading or something involving bankers and Lachlan, it doesn’t invest in them. So Jane the Virgin returns to its usual fare as Michael babysits Mateo, who calls him “Dada” right in front of Rafael. It’s ridiculous that this should be an issue, and it’s a relief that it isn’t blown up to be another thing with Rafael being insecure about Michael’s place in Jane and Mateo’s lives. But it does highlight an annoying aspect of Jane the Virgin: it doesn’t really like men caring for babies.
Oh sure it likes it in that it knows that it’s a requirement for parents to, you know, coparent. But it doesn’t like it enough that it won’t sway from putting most of the responsibility on Jane’s shoulders. Early in the season it was Jane struggling and making sacrifices to make motherhood work, while we saw Rafael pretty much going about business as usual, and now we know why.
Even before Anna and Elsa were born, Rafael was spending little time with Mateo onscreen, and I assumed that was just due to a lack of available time to show it. Rafael, who’s totally in love with fatherhood is of course spending lots of time with his son, I was sure of it. I questioned it in “Chapter Thirty-Eight” with Rafael freaking out about that forty minute drive, but I still thought “I’m sure Rafael has time with his kid, they just can’t put it onscreen all the time”. But now I get it! Of course Rafael was freaking out about that forty minute drive! Rafael asks Jane for three days a week so presumably he has (at most) two right now. Two days! In a seven day week! Rafael wants to be the most visible male presence in Mateo’s life, but why isn’t Rafael already fulfilling that role? He has the desire, the time and the resources to be a hands-on dad, but he’s just…not? We know he can be (he was taking care of Anna and Elsa on his own not too long ago), and we know he wants to be, but Jane’s freaking out over the holes her left in her babysitting schedule as if Rafael couldn’t pick up the slack?
I’m disappointed in Jane the Virgin’s approach to parenthood here. It’s been consistent in pretending as if all the childrearing has to fall on Jane or Alba or Xo–all women–and that’s disappointing considering how progressive the show’s been in other aspects of motherhood. Even Michael’s suggestion that he watch Mateo is treated as something of a shock, because why would Mateo’s soon-to-be stepfather actually be trusted to take care of him from time to time? Men can care for children too, you know, and they can do so for more than an hour. But Jane has been weirdly resistant to allowing this to be. This episode implies that that will be changing, but it’s a wonder why it was ever an issue to begin with?
Xo and Jane’s fight is also on the frontburner this week, as they leave the two in flux as Jane’s wedding approaches. Jane’s not backing down from her stance that Xo needs to be her mother more than a friend, and Xo bristles beneath Jane’s judgment. They won’t even share a car, can’t be in the same room together and Xo’s not there as Jane’s picking out her wedding dress. I’d be more onboard with this storyline if it had been introduced better, but as it is now we’re stuck with it. Their separation coming as Jane’s about to marry Michael feels like a cheap stunt and a way of delivering drama not that the show has finally put the Jane/Michael/Rafael triangle to bed. Thankfully everyone else in the cast is as over it as I am and are determined to mend the split. Rogelio stages a performance to put the situation into perspective, suggesting that Xo and Jane are just afraid to be leaving one another for the first time. I don’t know if that explanation works any better, but I’ll just run with it. I did enjoy the little twist Jane figured out for her novel, one that she likes and also pleases her anti-romance advisor, to introduce her heroine’s mother.
This review probably makes it seem like I didn’t enjoy “Forty” as much as I did. Its not a bad episode, it just has some bad things in it. Jane and Michael are as sweet as ever, Rogelio working alongside his former executive producer is surprisingly endearing (and I’m kind of shipping it?), and Gina Rodriguez and Yael Grobglas both get to stretch their acting muscles playing two separate characters. Rodriguez clearly enjoys getting to step outside of Jane for a moment, and her salsa-dancing heroine is as fun as can be, and so is her dance with Derek Hough (though I totally forgot he existed). Meanwhile Grobglas switches gears to slip into Agnieska’s twitchy naivete. Her time in the orphanage has left with her tendency to pick pockets and slap people who invade her personal space, neither of which helps Petra with a deal she and Rafael are trying to land. I have a bit of whiplash from how quickly the show abandoned her postpartum depression and her ongoing struggle with motherhood (I assume she’s not running away anymore?), but I’m vaguely interested in seeing how her relationship with her newfound sister unfolds.
- I really like Judy Reyes on this show, and I want her to stick around for awhile. I’m not quite convinced the show’s really done with Xo and Rogelio, so that doesn’t bode well for Reyes’ character, but I’m going to enjoy it while I can.
- Its really cute that we don’t get to see Jane’s wedding dress until the wedding day. But of course someone is photographing Jane and Michael and probably about to cause trouble. Go figure.
- I’m really annoyed that Rafael is feeling like a bad parent when I am, for the very first time, like THIS IS NOT YOUR FAULT THIS IS THE WRITER’S ROOM’S FAULT.