When season four of Jane the Virgin set out with the goal to bring joy back into the lives of its main characters, it was taking on a lofty challenge. And in true telenovela form, it didn't accomplish its goal without introducing newer obstacles with potentially longer term consequences.
Just as things were starting to look up and Jane's future felt certain -- moving in with Rafael, getting engaged, and writing another book -- we were thrown for another loop. A major loop. One that has the stature of a male in his late 20s with sandy blonde hair, blue eyes, a warm smile, and boyish charm.
Because I have yet to recover from the shock that was Michael's return in conjunction with JR shooting Petra's stalker/blackmailer/vendetta seeker, I re-watched the episode in an effort to find all of the instances in which the show's writers were hinting at this crazy ending. After reading a handful of interviews with the show's creator, Jennie Snyder Urman, I can confirm that Michael is in fact Michael and not someone wearing a realistic face mask a la Sin Rostro. And the person JR shot is someone we know and have seen before.
One of the running themes of this episode was Jane planning the plot of her next novel. The wall in her room was covered in notes that represented pivotal moments in its story. When she hit a wall (figuratively) and realized why her plot twist wasn't landing, she told Rafael and Alba that she had to go "even further back to the beginning."
I KNOW. GOOSEBUMPS.
The imagery of Jane's post-it notes -- how they laid out everything so literally -- almost felt like a foreshadowing of the feelings that would eventually rush over her when she arrived at Rafael's apartment in the episode's final moments. The post-its in conjunction with the scene after the fireworks at Alba's (A - L - B - A) citizenship party, where she's perched on her bed typing on her laptop with failed manuscripts of past cascading and spiraling around her, indicated that Jane's past is still very much part of her present and future.
Expecting one outcome and being served one that is both completely unexpected and implausible until the very moment where it becomes plausible by it happening is Telenovelas 101.
One of the most obvious turning points in the episode was Rafael's reaction to the information that Rose was holding over him from the end of the prior episode. He was intentionally ignoring Jane's efforts to get him to talk about why he was, in his words, "not in a good place." It seemed strange that Rafael had at one point felt like he could share his desire to learn more about his birth parents with Jane and at the next, completely shut her out of it. A response that seemed rash and selfish was in fact signifying one of Rafael's most prominent moments of growth.
For Rafael to decide that he didn't want to hide this information from Jane -- because he very well could have after four years of everyone thinking Michael was dead -- showed us how deeply he cares about her. He would jeopardize their future together for Jane to know the truth and for their relationship to be built on the honest foundation that she values so much.
Speaking of futures, there is another scene in which, upon watching again, I can't help but feel gave us such a direct cue to the episode's ending that it was almost too derivative for anyone to expect Michael's return from it. When River Fields (kudos to the Jane the Virgin team for this wonderful addition to the show) spoiled the surprise that Rafael was going to propose and Jane, upon being asked by Xiomara whether she wanted to marry Rafael, told her, "He is my future, who else could it be?"
How could anyone have guessed that there not only was someone else, but there still is someone else.
Michael's involvement with the investigations into Rose did, admittedly, confuse me to a point where I stopped reading into all of their details. There are a lot of details there. And although he was connected to that case -- remember when he went AWOL in the early seasons -- his first close encounter with death seemed to put him over the edge in terms of continuing his work as a police officer/detective.
The moment that led me to start thinking about Michael's work as a detective was when Jane chose to not leave when Rafael told her to, and instead reassured him that "people in relationships don't leave." There are questions about what Michael did when he "died" that I probably won't know I even need the answers to until season five picks up where this episode left off. But I am confident that this idea will give Jane reservations when it comes to finding peace with her current situation: genuinely happy with Rafael and still in love with the husband she thought she'd never see again. Michael did technically leave, but we don't know how much of it was on his own volition. Think about Rogelio (!!!!).
The parallel unfolding of Petra and JR confronting the mystery blackmailer with Jane arriving at Rafael's apartment was as tense as the ending sequence of her and Michael's wedding episode.
Jane + empty hallways at pivotal life moments = TRIGGERING (and major foreshadowing).
It's not up to the viewers to decide how involved Michael will be in Jane's life -- or whether he can be -- but Brett Dier is a joy to watch regardless. The Jane-Michael-Rafael love triangle signals the show (sort of) returning to its roots for its alleged final season. If this show wasn't so well executed I would be salty about the emotional turmoil I've been put through since Michael's death. Even as a Team Rafael convert, I think this shake up came at the perfect time.