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Major spoilers below for anyone who hasn't seen Jane the Virgin's latest episode, "Chapter Fifty-Four."
Fans of Jane the Virgin are quite familiar with the "hand over agape mouth" reaction that so many of the drama's bit twists and surprises warrant, but tonight's episode deserves some kind of an award (and more than a few dirty glares) for killing off Michael, Jane's doting husband. And yes, he legitimately died, unlike how things played out when he was shot last season. As creator Jennie Snyder Urman puts it, this bold move was always a part of Jane's journey and was meant to do just what a shake-up's name implies.
We came into the show, in the pilot, with Jane at a place where her life seemed (somewhat) mapped out. And a cataclysmic event --- [accidental pregnancy] --- happened , spinning her into a very different place, forcing change and growth. And in many ways, we've been dealing with the fallout of that event for two and a half seasons. Now, at the midpoint, she finally felt settled again. This felt like the moment to shake things up in a bigger way. This is a telenovela, after all.
Tonight's double-take-provoking incident was an especially hard one to watch because of how good things seemed to be going in Jane's life. Even knowing how telenovelas work, as well as TV dramas in general, one still wants to see Jane smiling and achieving a steady plateau of happiness that can perhaps one day later in the future be chopped to bits by the death of her significant other. We didn't want it to happen already! And in an episode where they tried to recapture the magic of their first date no less.
Alas, while it was an emotional jolt to see Michael succumbing to heart problems spurred by his shooting - not to mention having to see Jane get that knee-buckling phone call - the big death was not one that came completely out of left field, as the narrator reminded viewers. Back in the tenth episode of the series, the narrator first hinted at Michael's demise with a line about how he would love Jane "until his last breath." When Season 3 kicked off and he hadn't been killed, though, it seemed like maybe that line wasn't quite as ominous as it seemed. But no, as Jennie Snyder Urman told Deadline, the line was definite foreshadowing, as well as narrative insurance.
His death was definitely in the cards back then. And I put that line in Episode 10 for two reasons: first, to prepare everyone, because I knew it would be devastating. And second, to make sure we followed through with it in the writers room (because I knew it would be hard to do, and we'd be looking for ways/reasons to circumvent it). So yes, it was always part of the larger story we were telling; it was an integral step of Jane's arc and her relationship to romance and to the idea of 'happily ever after.'
That's as good a reason to include a future-spoiler as any: to make sure it gets done. I mean, Michael is the person that Jane lost her virginity to, thus altering the authenticity of the show's title, so killing him off is a pretty scary ordeal for a TV showrunner. Especially at such a non-distinct point in Season 3, rather than as part of a finale or midseason premiere. One needs that ever-present motivation.
It doesn't seem like we we'll be watching Jane in heavy mourning, however, as the episode capped off with a brief scene introducing another jolt: a three-year jump forward in time. Michael's place in Jane's life will never leave her memory, certainly, but audiences look to be getting a brand new set of memories for the maturing lead character. Not that he'll be left behind entirely, as Urman teases the next three episodes of the season will offer flashbacks to what occurred in the immediate aftermath of Michael's death. Grab the tissues.