The first time I tried to watch the Jane the Virgin series finale, “Chapter One Hundred,” I started crying exactly 27 seconds into the screener sent to critics. The moment the CW’s telenovela’s omniscient narrator (Anthony Mendez) says, “At the end of the day, those three women,” it’s difficult to keep the water works at bay. The narrator is speaking about Jane Gloriana Villanueva (Gina Rodriguez), her mom Xiomara Villanueva (Andrea Navedo), and her abuela Alba Villanueva (Ivonne Coll), the three women who have grounded the primetime soap through every love triangle, surprise impaling, and unexpected love interest.
Although “Chapter One Hundred” has to juggle a wedding, a big move, an unresolved relationship, and one last soap-y obstacle, the series never loses sight of the three women at its centre. That is why it’s so very hard to say goodbye to Jane the Virgin, a show that cements itself in the pantheon of great television with this series finale.
The centrepiece of the final episode is Jane’s second wedding, this time with Rafael Solano (Justin Baldoni). At the beginning of Jane, Rafael was the tight shirt-wearing playboy charming his way though his daddy's Miami hotel, The Marbella. Now, about eight years later in show’s timeline, Rafael is the proud father to his son with Jane, Mateo (Elias Janssen), and his twin daughters with Petra (Yael Grobglas), Ellie and Anna (Ella and Mia Allan). The Rafael whom Jane is marrying turned down the luxurious lifestyle of a hotelier in favour of a steady real estate gig, a modest apartment, and time to tuck his children into bed at night.
In classic soap fashion, a couple of obstacles stand in the way of Jane and Rafael’s finale nuptials. First, Jane’s mom Xo and dad Rogelio De La Vega (Jaime Camil) have to announce they’re moving to New York City. That is where Ro’s new hit show, The Passions of Steve And Brenda, will film. Initially, Jane says she and Rafael are going to spend the night before their wedding together. But, when Xiomara melts down over the nerve-racking change — going so far as to announce she won’t follow her husband to the Big Apple — Jane rushes to the Villanueva home for one last time.
The return accomplishes a few big tasks for a series finale in a show with this much mythology. If you look closely at the Villanueva women’s last time around their kitchen table, Jane and her family eat grilled cheese sandwiches, which are famously Jane’s favourite food. In fact, Jane’s love of a grilled cheese is one of the first three things we learn about her in the series premiere (her other passions are God and her family).
On a deeper level, this Villanueva interlude allows Jane to remind viewers of its greatest message once again: be brave. Those are the words Rafael first told Jane when he kissed her in the Marbella’s restaurant before he even really knew her name. That is the sentiment Alba shares with Xo in her time of stress. If Alba could come all the way to America from Venezuela and make a life for herself, her daughter can attempt to hack it in New York, no matter how scary it seems.
It’s that big speech that gets the Villanueva all under one roof and in one bed for the last time. When Alba turns off the light in her living room, she remembers all special moments she enjoyed in that space and “Chapter One Hundred” gives us a greatest hits montage. It starts with young Alba (Rosie Garcia) and the OG Mateo (Dennis Mencia) walking into their Miami home, which is so full of promise. From there it’s three generations of lives, all so filled with love.
It's here that the care creator Jennie Snyder Urman and her team gave to each of these characters — most of whom are Latinx, and about half of whom are working class — truly shines. Jane was birthed during the 2014-2015 television season, when networks decided to throw their resources into debuting shows starring women and people of colour. That’s the year series like Black-ish, Madam Secretary, and Empire all premiered. But, ABC’s Cristela was the only other new network series that season that was led by a Latinx cast. It was canceled after 22 episodes.
Jane, however, was able to soldier on and give us a Latinx rom-com hero in world where Jennifer Lopez was previously the only one allowed to fill that space. By entering Jane around, well, Jane we saw a love story through a distinctly different perspective than series like Girls and New Girl. It was one where we were forced to ask how Catholicism, a guiding light in many Latinx households, can affect someone's views on love and sex long past childhood (“Look at the flower in your hand … now crumple it up”). Over the last five seasons, Jane has tackled everything from immigration and motherhood to body image and Cuban sandwiches through one very specific, often ignored lens. And the series did it while crafting countless crime lord capers to keep us on our toes.
This desire to keep Jane’s culture as the rock of the series continues until its very last seconds. After a madcap rush to the altar that involves a £4,950 bus ride to the nuptials, one last great romantic gesture from Rafael, and an actual marathon, Jane and Raf finally end up at their wedding. Alba officiates the most important portions in Spanish, telling guests they can find the English translation in the program. It’s a powerful reminder not everything has to be English-first.
Then, Rogelio and Xo wrap the bride and groom in a traditional Mexican wedding lasso. Yes, it’s impossible not to wonder where this supposedly cherished De La Vega family heirloom was during Jane’s first wedding with Michael Cordero (Brett Dier), but you give the series a pass when emotions are running this high. Xo and Rogelio explain the lasso is a symbol of everlasting unity in marriage. Rafael tearfully tells Rogelio, “Thanks, dad,” for the first time, and all your criticisms fall out the window.
During the last section of the ceremony, Jane and Rafael get so choked up by the other’s vows they can’t even read them out loud. Then best (wo)man Petra — whose estranged love interest JR (Rosario Dawson) shows up for a heart-swelling gesture of her own — hands over the rings. Although Jane and Rafael won't stop kissing long enough to let Alba finish the ceremony, the family matriarch eventually gets to name them man and wife. Jane and Rafael are married at last.
With the wedding done, the Villanueva-Solanos can take pictures with their sprawling 17-person family — visually signalling to us just how much love lives in this world — and then retire to a tree for a final conversation. Rafael asks what Jane’s surprise ending for her book, which sold for £412,000, is.
“They make it into a telenovela,” Jane says. “Well, who would want to watch that?” Rafael asks with a playful grin, revealing the final words of Jane the Virgin. The answer is me and millions of other people.