‘Jane the Virgin’: An unexpected twist
Our age of complex reproductive technology, it presents us with a lot of extraordinary issues. “Jane the Virgin,” a really enjoyable new CW dramedy loosely based on a Venezuelan telenovela, jumps right in with this unusual question: What happens when a 23-year-old confirmed virgin is accidentally artificially inseminated by a doctor and gets pregnant?
Oh, the show could be awful, with lots of high-strung farce and bad jokes about the Virgin Mother. But it’s quite the opposite: a show that, with good humor and intelligence, respectfully follows a woman’s journey into the unexpected and unknown. And Jane is played by Gina Rodriquez with so much earthy charm that she inspires confidence in the entire venture. She brings a sweet emotional honesty to all of her scenes.
Under the guidance of her Catholic grandmother, Jane has worked to remain a virgin until marriage. She wants to avoid becoming her mother, too, a lonely nightclub singer named Xiomara (Andrea Navedo) who got pregnant and had Jane when she was 16 and unmarried. Jane’s boyfriend, a cop named Michael (Brett Dier), has been patient and supportive of her choice. But after her doctor inseminates her, thinking she is another patient, she has regrouping to do and some big decisions to make, and so does Michael. Their lives will no longer follow a familiar or traditional pattern.
Jane’s first decision is the most obvious. Will she decide to have an abortion? Some viewers may think of “Jane the Virgin” as a vote against choice, since she ultimately decides to move ahead with the pregnancy. But the show never really comes off as a preachy statement so much as a very specific story of one woman. And the writers don’t avoid or gloss over the option, as Jane seriously considers it in the premiere, Monday night at 9.
Her second decision is less black and white. What will she do with the baby — keep it or give it to the father, a man with cancer whose frozen sperm sample was his last chance to procreate? The father, the handsome and wealthy Rafael (Justin Baldoni), is married to a conniving woman who has her own agenda when it comes to the baby. And adding to the already complicated situation: Jane and Rafael met and shared a kiss many years earlier, before Jane had met Michael, and their chemistry may remain intact. Yup, Jane is in the middle of a major muddle.
There are other twists, and other conflicts that our heroine will need to resolve, and yet “Jane the Virgin” doesn’t feel crowded. The premiere moves forward quickly and agilely, laying out a web of interconnections and plots that promise to be entertaining as the series unfolds. There’s a welcome bit of soapy telenovela camp in the air, just as there was on “Ugly Betty,” to add a wry lightness to all of the moral querying.
Jane, her mother, and her grandmother have been longtime fans of the soap operatic genre, watching episodes squished together on the couch, never thinking that their own lives would so closely resemble one.