Jane the Virgin's fourth season ended with an emotional whopper, but it wasn't the romantic proposal Jane (Gina Rodriguez) or the show's fans were expecting. In the final moments of Friday's finale, Rafael (Justin Baldoni) revealed exactly what Rose (Bridget Regan) told him that rocked him to his core: that Jane's husband Michael (Brett Dier) wasn't dead after all.
Looking back, the clues were all there that something of this magnitude was coming: Jane wasn't a mess on the anniversary of Michael's death because she'd found happiness; Rafael was worried he was always going to come in second even though he and Jane were in love and moving in together; and Jane nearly lost Mateo, which called back to when he was kidnapped at the end of Season 1 and Michael saved him. Basically, the Michael-shaped shoe had to drop eventually. However, knowing the clues had been planted all along doesn't make this bombshell any easier to process, because bringing Michael back now, right as Jane's book is finally coming together and right as she's declared she will propose to Rafael if he doesn't propose to her, potentially threatens to undo more than a season of personal growth for Jane.
Everything depends upon how Michael's miraculous resurrection is explained next season, but according to creator Jennie Snyder Urman, this development was always a possibility when Michael appeared to die halfway through the show's third season. Urman has never led us astray before — in fact, she long ago proved she knows what she is doing and has Jane's best interests at heart even if viewers don't always agree with or even understand the paths she chooses to take her on — but this does raise questions about the evolution of Jane the woman and Jane the show.
While a storyline involving a character returning from the dead certainly isn't out of place in a telenovela — and Jane has purposefully been highlighting its telenovela roots of late — the series was praised for the way it thoughtfully portrayed Jane's grief in the aftermath of Michael's death. Does his return more than a season later cheapen that emotional arc? Does it erase Jane's personal progress? Not necessarily, but it's a possibility. After all, it took Jane years to move on and open her heart again. Bringing Michael back just as Jane has found happiness with Rafael could also be construed as an uncharacteristically cruel development that potentially suggests the show prioritizes dramatic plot twists over character. Even if that doesn't turn out to be true down the line — it's never been the case before and Jane the Virgin has always managed to stick its difficult landings — it's going to be several months before fans will have the opportunity to hear Michael's side of things, and that's going to make a long hiatus feel even longer.
The most likely scenario is that Michael faked his death to protect Jane and her family — the idea that Michael would ever willingly abandon them is absurd and goes against everything we know about him — but that would also suggest there was significant story happening off-screen that viewers were not privy to, which could be problematic. Of course, it's also entirely possible Michael's resurrection is just the latest in a long line of vindictive schemes organized by the villainous Sin Rostro; we must not forget Jane the Virgin's long history of hyper-realistic masks and people pretending to be other people. But if the man standing in front of Jane in the finale is actually Michael and not an imposter wearing his face — we'll know for sure by the end of the Season 5 premiere — it's going to reopen old wounds while creating several new ones.
Rafael's greatest fear has always been that he's a consolation prize, that Jane is only with him because Michael died. The fact he didn't hide the truth about Michael from Jane, potentially at the expense of his own relationship, is major emotional growth for him. But this will only make his fears worse. Meanwhile, it's probably safe to say this version of Michael will not be the same man Jane loved and married, which will create a new set of issues even though Jane isn't the same woman he loved and married either. The simple fact that Michael is now back in Jane's life, though, means the series is also on the edge of reverting back to the show it was when it started, which was one that saw Jane caught between the two men she loved.
And this leads to perhaps the biggest issue that arises from this shocking development: if not executed properly, Michael's return threatens to reduce Jane Gloriana Villanueva down to her romantic relationships, and that's absolutely not what this show is about. Jane the Virgin has never been about which man Jane chooses; it's a heartwarming story about a young woman and how she overcomes unexpected challenges and surprises while fulfilling her dreams. In the end, it truly doesn't matter if Jane is married to Michael or Rafael or someone else entirely, it only matters that she is happy and healthy and successful (and it seems like she will be, because the words she typed in the finale are the words that open the Jane the Virgin pilot). But to know that she's about to have her heart ripped out again just as she was making significant progress in both her personal and professional lives is almost too much to bear. So while we have the utmost faith in the show and its writing staff, we're also going to spend the summer wondering how Jane — and Jane the Virgin — will eventually come out the other side of this latest heart-stopping twist better than they were before.
Jane the Virgin will return for its fifth season later this year.
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