TV

Will ‘Jane’ Get Her Happily Ever After?

Ahh, all is well. Jane The Virgin is back, Gina Rodriquez is still a delight that none of us fully deserve, and (spoiler alert) Michael Cordero is alive. Sure, Petra is still paralyzed and Xo is still carrying the baby of her ex’s enemy. But in spite of the remaining doom, like Jane at it’s best this episode brought out a lot of sweet and optimistic moments: a story framed as a romance novel; heartwarming and hopeful flashes of Jane and Michael’s future; hilarious flashbacks of what happened after their first kiss (Michael had a cat and it died, jackass). While it’s all good for now, there’s the sneaking suspicion that things this good can’t last that long.

The theme and framing that this episode follows begins with an angry young Jane reacting to a new romance novel that ends on a twist rather than giving its romantic leads the expected HEA, or happily ever-after. Little Jane believes this twist fails the genre, since romance novels all follow a similar pattern that make you believe in true love. Jane has always had its soap roots on display, but all its romance novel influences are just as clear. This episode sets us up to think that the HEA past Jane looked for is her future with Michael, but what if this story instead ends with the unfair twist she never wanted?

Last season, I fully believed Michael would die, and the finale pretty much sealed that fate for me. Then Michael survived, and for a minute I forgot all about the narrator’s ominous statement about loving Jane “for as long as Michael lived, until he drew his very last breath.” But don’t worry! There’s still hope! Showrunner Jennie Snyder Urman responded to reporter questions about this particular quote saying, “I think you will have to watch… I will say it’s a reliable narrator. And we’re going to be dealing with that.” Urman also said that the love triangle is “not over, but it is over now.” And then my money was back on a funeral for Michael.

Of course, there aren’t always happy endings in real life. And Jane and her family’s struggles have always been relatable enough, but only to a point. Throw in a celebrity dad, a couple of murderers, crime plots, kidnapping, an evil twin… you get it. We relate to Jane, and strive for her optimism, but this isn’t a realistic show. You still hope for the best for her because against all the drama and cliffhangers her happiness is the heart of the show. Ultimately it’s a romantic soap, and how can they keep topping on the drama if Jane has a happy, normal life? I’ve flip flopped on #TeamRafael and #TeamMichael more times than I can count, so something has to come next. If Jane wants a peaceful life with Michael, as an audience member I want that too. And yet it doesn’t seem like that’s on the horizon. I’m in for the ride, and the ups and downs are what makes this show such an impossibly fun thing to recap. But isn’t it time Jane got her own HEA?

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TV

How Sitcom Relationships Impact Narrative Choices

Last night’s Brooklyn Nine-Nine saw Jake and Amy finally reuniting after six months without contact, and it was… a little awkward. Fortunately, it was also hilarious (Amy punched Jake in the the throat, Jake told Amy he kissed Holt right before kissing her) and short-lived; by the end of the episode, the two were back in sync, or in Jake’s case, as in-sync as you could be with someone who just shot you. If it was any other sitcom, the strain of being away from each other for half a year would be too much, and the characters would probably break up, only to have a big adorable reunion by the end of the season. But Brooklyn Nine-Nine has never written Jake and Amy that way, and don’t typically use their relationship for dramatic purposes like, for example, The Office might. Which is interesting to me, because if you look at all the 2000s/early 2010s sitcoms you’ll find that their relationships impact the plot in very different ways, whether it’s a deliberate writing choice or audience perception.

Focus On the Ensemble

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Since getting together at the end of season two, Jake and Amy have been a low-key piece of the larger ensemble puzzle. Brooklyn Nine-Nine gets away with this, since it’s a higher concept show- they’re NYPD officers, not “friends hanging out”- but it wouldn’t work on every show. Admittedly, they’re sometimes a little forgotten, which is bound to happen when there are cases to solve, jokes to tell and five additional main characters to flesh out in just twenty minutes. But Brooklyn Nine-Nine is not a particularly dramatic show, with the exceptions of season finales and recent three-parters, so there’s not a necessary weight that needs to sit on Jake and Amy’s shoulders. They’re fun together and they’re fun apart, and when we get an episode that expands on their relationship it’s usually a good one. Otherwise, I think we’re all content to just hear Gina and Holt spilling the hot goss.

It’s A Wonderful Life… Until It’s Not

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Is there a more perfect sitcom couple than The Office’s Jim and Pam? Excuse me, seasons four through seven of The Office’s Jim and Pam? PB + J was the relationship goal for young me. I recognized that they were real enough to be, well, real, yet I didn’t have the world knowledge to realize that in real life things couldn’t always be so perfect. Jim and Pam were made for each other, but the kind of couple that was still not completely happy with their lives. The Office took that to the next level, leading to some relationship drama that hurt to watch, but was almost needed in a show that was no longer featuring its lead actor and heading towards a decade of air time. Early on, The Office was about the workplace, but was really driven by the question of whether or not Jim and Pam would end up together. Once that question was answered, it was nice for a bit, but Andy chasing after Erin didn’t pack the same punch. Maybe Jim and Pam’s relationship suffered a little bit in the middle, but in the end they remained a couple you might actually know in real life.

Bring Out the Worst in One of Them

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The Mindy Project
came back to Hulu yesterday. I’m hesitant to start, and it’s because of Danny Castellano. Danny was never perfect, though from the first episode you knew he and Mindy were destined to be together. “You look nice,” “Go to Hell,” is a perfect little moment between them that sets up what will come. Mindy and Danny are both kind of terrible people, in a way that makes you love them. They say ridiculously dumb things for two accomplished doctors and often treat each other badly, and then are really sweet and make you root for their relationship. But after getting together they became an entirely new monster. Mindy is Mindy; she has the entitlement of a white man with a bad bitch attitude. She’s our protagonist, and she’s not going to change for any man. But Danny can and did change. He became kind of awful. He had always been super conservative and cartoon Italian, but after they had baby Leo he was even worse. His flaws were used to help cement Mindy’s decisions. Maybe it was just because Chris Messina had to go and shoot Live By Night, but his character became almost nonexistent, and now he’s engaged. Mindy Lahiri’s story isn’t about the men itself, and is about her journey surrounded by men, but still. This one hurts.

Bring Out the Worst in Both of Them

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I’m still rooting for New Girl’s Nick and Jess. Their slow build and first kiss were the reason I proclaimed this show to be one of the best. But after they got together the show was very different, and mostly the reason I stopped watching. They just didn’t work out. Where Mindy reacted off the obvious differences between her and Danny, Nick and Jess just flopped like two fish who were out of water but afraid to tell the other one they were dying. I guess that happens in friendships turned relationships, but it would have been nice to have them act like normal human beings. Let’s not forget that Jess is a Vice Principal and Nick was in law school, okay? Jake Johnson once made a very good point about their relationship failing on a story basis because it forced Nick into all the A stories, which doesn’t work on an ensemble show. I still have faith that the show has grown enough to bring us a Nick/Jess relationship that makes sense for the characters. And I’m not giving it up for a Jess/Robby romance.

It’s All About the Chase

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I love How I Met Your Mother. But I do not love Robin and Ted. Or let me rephrase- I love them to an extent. I loved them way back in season two when they were symbolized by the blue French Horn, and everyone thought their relationship would grow to be a great friendship. But in season nine, when telling he story of his deceased wife makes Ted realizes he’s still in love with his best friend’s ex wife, I did not love them. The Ted/Robin back-and-forth was fodder for most of the drama throughout HIMYM’s run, and almost every time it was brought up I rolled my eyes. This was a great show, with the best continuity and in-jokes I’ve ever seen, that just kept going back to a relationship that could never be. Robin wasn’t the mother! Every step of their relationship felt like a waste, because it wasn’t end game. Until it was. The finale was met with pretty widespread disappointment, myself included, because it was just not what we expected. Maybe if we all focused more on Marshall and Lilly, we wouldn’t still be upset about this.

Rely On Everyone Else For Drama

Parks and Recreation - Season 6

The Parks and Recreation lineup has a lot of couples that would make a top ten list, but Ben and Leslie take the cake. Remember how nervous Leslie was to go on a date with Officer Dave because of her history of terrible first dates? Remember what a jerk Ben was when he first came to Pawnee, because his job was shutting down jobs? Remember how Leslie Knope is the future President of the United States, and Ben gave up his dreams for her? Yeah. They’re the best. Parks and Rec is a show that’s not too in your face about its idealism, but its there. It’s a show I used to describe as “The Office, except everyone likes each other and they’re all your favorite character.” It’s not going to send us through the ringer just to have Leslie and Ben be completely fine by the end. So it relies on the external relationships for drama. Ann moves away, leaving best friend Leslie behind. Leslie and Ron are totally at odds in the future. Ben and Leslie want the same job. The drama is all there, but it doesn’t interfere with them as a couple. It’s so nice to watch, it almost makes you forget you’re watching a TV couple fall in love by yourself.

Get Canceled, So Who Knows

05-happy-endings-w1200-h630This is genuinely the worst tactic. We’ll never know what happened to Happy Endings‘ Penny and Dave! Did they fall in love? Or was there a dramatic love triangle? I have nothing to say here, except that I’m still really sad this show was canceled.

 

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Books, TV

A Time For Starks

It’s Wednesday of the week between (possibly one of) the greatest episodes of Game of Thrones ever and the finale. So there’s a lot of think-pieces and questions needing answers floating around there. Is Sansa pregnant? Will Jaime kill Cersei? Where is the wildfire?! As much as I need these questions answered, there’s one question that’s more important to ask, and that’s this: why are people hating on the Starks?

Whether they’re your favorite house or not, it’s been set up from the beginning that the Starks are important. We spend most of the entire first episode, and most of the first chapters of A Game of Thrones, in Winterfell. The series starts with the honorable Ned Stark fulfilling his duties of Warden of the North in front of his young sons. Even our first cliffhanger is “is Bran Stark alive?!” He’s a seven year old boy in a series about kings and warriors. Why should that even be important?

And yet it is, partially because we’re not sociopaths who want to see the death of children, and partially because the Starks are crucial to the story. They were the example of goodness and honor in Westeros, where most people didn’t feel the same. They were a cute family who just wanted to be reunited, and over the course of five seasons weaved in and out of each other’s lives, just missing each other so many aggravating times. And now that they’re finally making their way back to each other, people seem to be wanting their story to take a different course. “They’re all back to where they started,” people complain. Yeah. And…? We’ve known from the start that there must always be a Stark in Winterfell, and now we’re finally getting back to it. If you’re like me, noticing that slowly but surely each ‘villain’ is getting picked off one by one, you recognize that the culmination of the series has to be heading toward one big brawl against the White Walker army. Genuinely, who is more important to that story than the Starks? Jon, with his Valyrian steel sword and Night’s Watch knowledge; Bran, with his connection to the Night King and all-seeing wisdom, Benjen, who’s halfway to becoming a White Walker himself; Winterfell, the closest stronghold to the terrors beyond the wall.

All their stories are wrapping up neatly, too. Arya has completed her training and knows where she is- and thank God, because I couldn’t have handled one more section with the Waif. Sansa, who’s been brutally abused as long as we’ve known her, finally got the revenge she needed, and with her first kill and war-time strategies she’s becoming a real player in the game. Jon may not be the best leader, but I’m behind him, and we’re so close to the reveal that he’s half Targaryen I’m sure that Drogon can even feel it. You may not love them, but they’re finally home.

And hell yeah I clapped when Sansa had Ramsay’s face ripped off by dogs. It’s about time the good guys got some wins.

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Books, TV

Television & Surprise Reveals, AKA the Jon Snow Predicament

How do you pull off a big reveal? Not a hypothetical question, I’m really asking: how do you do it? I can only image how much easier it was back in the Dallas days, where there were no Twitter rumors or grainy iPhone photos from the set that could spoil what you’ve spent months and millions on hiding from your dedicated audience. Poor Kit Harington has been bombarded with questions for close to a full year, and though his lying finally paid off and (spoiler alert) Jon Snow came back to life last night, was it all worth it?

I’ve recently read the A Song Of Ice & Fire series that Game of Thrones is based on, a summer’s worth of train rides intended to tide me over before season 5, since I had binged 1-3 right before season 4 began and was in desperate need for a fix. So it’s all relatively fresh to me (except the Greyjoy stuff, I’m sorry but I skimmed), particularly the cliffhanger ending of Jon Snow being stabbed to death by some choice traitors of the Night’s Watch. Not that anyone would need a refresher on that- if I never see that image of Jon Snow dying in the snow ever again, I’ll be good!- but when the scene concluded season 5 I was less than surprised. I also wasn’t worried at all. Was it because I firmly believe in R+L=J, something that the show couldn’t get away with not revealing eventually? Was it because Harington would be spotted in Belfast more times than anyone could count? Why didn’t I care that one of my favorite characters had just been killed off a show that infamously kills favorite characters? And why does it matter?

I don’t watch The Walking Dead, but I have a feeling they’ll run into a similar issue next season, when it’ll be revealed who Negan brutally murdered at the end of last season. From the internet’s reaction, it was sort of a cop-out to have an entire season leading up to a death that is never seen. Are viewers going to find out who is dead at the beginning of the premiere episode? Mid-season finale? I’m interested in how they’re going to raise the tension for some that everyone’s already expecting- something that Thrones currently has to tackle with The Mountain, a character I’m fairly certain everybody knows has been reincarnated by Qyburn as Cersei’s champion, but hasn’t been explicitly revealed to the audience. What’s the hold up?! At least with Jon, we got some answers. My sister guessed during the episode that they’d make us sweat out Snow’s fate for one more week, and I was thrilled to see that they didn’t. Jon Snow dying was a good cliffhanger, regardless of how much you believed he was really dead, but his resurrection mostly just made me glad that we wouldn’t be heading into another week of “not knowing” if Jon Snow was “really dead.” After a while, all the waiting lends itself to disappointment and wasted time.

It brings to mind similar reveals this television season, specifically The Flash. It’s big-bad reveal this season was sort of a wash- Earth 2’s Jay Garrick wasn’t really Jay Garrick, he was Hunter Zolomon, AKA Zoom! But the audience already knew this, having figured it out weeks before Barry, so the lead-up and discovery of his secret was a little lukewarm (I’m really not going to blame The Flash on that, considering the story was really only bogged down by obligatory network prep for the Legends of Tomorrow spinoff, but I digress-). Maybe the audience is just getting too smart. After all, everything I’m referring to here is based on a pre-existing written series. We can’t expect the source material to be completely re-written just to keep TV audiences on their toes. But at the same time… Can’t we? If Hollywood is going to keep adapting, they’re going to need to not get lazy about the execution. Or maybe just don’t give us an important, beloved character and expect the actor not to cut his hair immediately after dying on screen… You know what, maybe audiences are just asking for a lot these days. Anyways, long live Jon Snow.

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TV

Jane The Virgin Has a Michael Problem

If you’re a Jane The Virgin viewer, there’s only one thing on your mind right now: Michael’s going to die. Oh, no? Just me? I’m the only one watching each new episode like it’s season 9 of How I Met Your Mother, a complete waste of time since the wedding they’ve been planning is just going to end up a tragic plot point to the ultimate resolution of having two other characters get together? What?

Dramatic reactions aside, the impending death of “Jane’s perfect man” Michael Cordero is a sore spot for me. #TeamRafael sucked me in from the beginning, but somewhere along the middle of last season I left Rafael and his perfectly colored pants in the dust and joined Team Michael. And I know the point of the show is #TEAMJANE, but c’mon, the show is 100% at it’s best when it’s revolving around the core love-triangle/square/other many-sided shape. Yeah, there’s a crime mystery going on in there as well, but right now all I really know about Mudder is Rafael’s brother wears a lot of scarves. I was thrilled Jane and Michael got engaged, which right now is a problem.

Michael’s death is a widely debated theory right now. I mean, Google doesn’t lie: Screen Shot 2016-04-19 at 4.00.33 PMAnd it’s partially because the sly hints they’ve been dropping are just now too damn obvious to ignore. The kicker was the final shot of last night’s “Chapter Forty,” which gives us the revelation that Michael is being stalked. Truthfully this itself isn’t a huge deal- he’s a cop, and when it comes to the criminal angle nothing could be worse than baby Mateo being kidnapped hours after birth. What is a huge deal is that it seems pretty much confirmed that this will be the storyline to carry Michael to his demise. So right now, it feels like the show has the chance to go in two directions:

A) Michael is safe, Jane and Michael marry, Jane The Virgin becomes Jane Not The Virgin, Rafael and Jane co-parent Mateo, there’s unnecessary drama at the Marbella, Jane moves out and visits her mother and grandma when it’s convenient to the plot

B) Michael dies, Jane falls back to Rafael, another potential love interest comes along and messes with the equation, the audience is treated to Michael v. Rafael 2.0 and Mateo has some other random guy he can call “da-da”

I guess there’s a third option, where Michael breaks it off with Jane for other reasons or he gets amnesia or is put into witness protection or some other crazy soap opera plot. I realize I’m being picky here. TV shows are meant to change and considering the amazing story the writers have given us in the past I have faith that they’ll keep entertaining us. But one thing that’s hard to deny is that JTV does an excellent job of making you side with who they want you to side with- Michael is currently being portrayed as Jane’s soulmate, whereas Rafael is back to making bad decisions and being a subpar dad to Elsa & Anna (lol). There are cycles to their responsibility and attractiveness, and we’re totally in a Michael moment right now. If Michael dies, am I supposed to just fall back into Rafael? Or guy #3? Not to mention the fact that Jane is the least deserving person of a dead fiancee, and that’s something that no one is deserving of. Maybe I’m just sad I chose the wrong side of this debate. Maybe I should just accept the dead-fiancee trope is one that would not only work within Jane The Virgin, but would make for some really interesting development moving forward. Maybe I am just looking way too far into a TV show. Whatever the case, we have 4 episodes to see if Jane makes it down the aisle or not. The Michael problem will be hanging over my head until then.

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