[Editor’s Note: The following contains spoilers from “Jane the Virgin” episode “Chapter Seventy-Six.”]
“Jane the Virgin” has always done right by its telenovela trappings – a virgin birth, double-crosses, secret twins, eyepatch-wearing villains, and love triangles galore. But it’s also stealthily been working in less sensational storylines that are relatable to many of today’s Americans. While some of the issues are political, such as undocumented immigrants in Miami, others are far more universal, such as the challenges faced by Jane (Gina Rodriguez) as a single mother and a widow.
This season has focused on Jane as a first-time novelist, and in particular, one whose life hasn’t become a JK Rowling-style publishing fairy tale. Jane’s book was met with tepid sales and reviews — the curse of anyone creative who needs to constantly prove that they are true artists with talent, able to succeed in their chosen craft.
Unfortunately, inspiration for a follow-up hasn’t been forthcoming. That’s disappointing, but not as sobering as going back to square one and trying to find a job since the whole big-time author thing didn’t pan out. It’s the eternal struggle of creative people: How to make a living that will also allow you time and energy to be creative with that next step.
Already, Jane has held some of the usual jobs that writers cycle through: server, assistant in a literary agency, and most recently, ghostwriter. She didn’t fail at that job so much as have the book deal pulled out from under her when her subject (Petra Solano, played by Yale Grobglas) was arrested on suspicion of murder. On Friday’s episode, Jane flirted with the idea of once again becoming a teacher, but that opportunity was taken off the table.
In the case of both ghostwriting and teaching, Jane initially felt that they were good compromises – allowing her to keep her linguistic skills sharp – but was satisfied they didn’t work out in the end because neither job was creative enough and felt like traps. Jane’s relief is so palpable, in fact, that she breaks down a little, which reveals just how deeply she feels about her chosen profession.
As with most creatives, Jane expresses herself through art, which is essential to her growth, and in this way, Jane’s problems as a writer this year are in lockstep with her personal journey over these past four seasons. While the premise of “Jane the Virgin” may seem to have expired – she has since had sex after being accidentally artificially inseminated and having a virgin birth – in some ways the show’s title still holds true. Before her surprise pregnancy, Jane was already on a path to become a writer but had to put much of that on hold when she became a mother and then got married to Michael (Brett Dier). It was only after his sudden death did Jane find her first story, inspired by her relationship with Michael, that became her first novel.
And thus, Jane’s case of writer’s block is also tied up with her arrested development. She’s been so busy defining herself as a mother, a wife, and then a widow, that she’s really only truly learning what it is to be just Jane for the first time. She’s already voiced her fears about moving on and being happy to current boyfriend Rafael (Justin Baldoni), as if she is unsure of what this could possibly mean for her life. She’s on the brink of something… but what?
The show personifies Jane’s doubts and fears with Critic Jane, an alter ego who looks like her but wears glasses and has an indeterminate but snooty accent as she negs everything Jane does. Learning to deal with criticism is one of Jane’s hurdles as a writer, one that she has mixed success with despite sage advice from her father and trying the go-to activity to unlock creativity: improv classes.
In the end, Jane seems to have harnessed her inner critic, playing her as a physical persona in class. The performance doesn’t really go over well, but the point is for Jane to respond, not others. Nevertheless, it’s been surprisingly touching for viewers to witness each step of progress made in her writing, including tackling writer’s block and creativity issues, because it’s paralleling Jane finding the next step in her personal growth.
Like the “Jane the Virgin” title cards for each episode – in which the words “the Virgin” are crossed out and replaced by some new descriptor like “the Guilty Catholic” – Jane gets to constantly redefine herself. With only five episodes left this season, it’ll be intriguing to see how closely Jane the Writer and Jane the Person come together, and if those identities will soon become indistinct.
“Jane the Virgin” airs Fridays at 9 p.m. ET on The CW.