What’s Making Me Happy This Week?: Jane the Virgin’s Game-Changing Season 4 Finale

After the historic peace summit between North & South Korea that could potentially end its decades-long war, it’s been an amazing week that gave me hope about this wretched world we live in. But that’s not the only wonderful thing that gave me joy this week. Inspired by NPR’s Pop Culture Happy Hour, let’s take a look at what’s making me happy this week.

Jane the Virgin always had a tricky balance to maintain, & almost every time it lands on its feet effortlessly. It shows the complicated lives of an intergenerational Latino family through the framework of a ludicrous telenovela, often with a self-aware grin in its face. On the surface, it may look like an uneasy compromise between two distinct tones, but it’s a smart way of adapting its source material into a different format, without losing its emotional potency nor its cultural roots; the show is adapted from a Venezuelan telenovela & the genre has deep Latin roots. The grounded aspects of the show allow to tell small-scale stories about families or tackle serious issues concerning class, sex, gender, & religion, while its usage of telenovela tropes heighten these stories in exciting, unpredictable ways without getting lost in the ridiculous plot.

And as it demonstrated during its Season 4 finale, this show still knows how to use one of the classic trademarks of a telenovela without ruining the whole show: the “classic Friday night cliffhanger.” The show has always relished in dropping huge revelations at the end of every episode, as is the norm, & this might be the biggest twist yet. Not only does it return to one of its main conflicts, it upends the show’s status quo that puts it in an exciting path once it returns this fall.

Just in case you haven’t seen it yet, there are spoilers for the Season 4 finale of Jane the Virgin.

You can always bookmark this post & return to it later.

If you haven’t seen a single episode of the show, now would be a great time to catch up.

This post will be here waiting for you.

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This episode is already busy in typical Jane the Virgin fashion, but in an episode that revolves & is full of surprises – which includes Petra revealing she killed Anezka, Alba marrying Jorge, JR shooting Petra’s killer – they reveal that Michael has been alive this whole time!

If any other show pulled off this trick, it would seem like a cynical, calculated way to extend the show & a cruel trick to play at the audience; especially after we’ve seen Jane grieve Michael’s death for a season and a half.

But for four seasons, Jane the Virgin has proven it knows how to handle its ludicrous twists & turns without sacrificing character depth. After all, the show started with an accidental insemination of a young, Catholic virgin & the show got even more unbelievable as it went on. There have been kidnappings, scheming mothers, mysterious deaths, conspiracies, secret twins & so much more, but the show is always careful to examine how these shenanigans affect the vast ensemble.

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It’s also one of the most tightly plotted shows in American television. It has foreshadowed this twist during throughout the fourth season without revealing its hand too early. Michael has often come up during the latter half of the season, & the show has dropped a few hints about where the show is headed for the next season, even using Rogelio’s quest to adapt Passions of Santos to American audiences; a character coming back from the dead is a classic telenovela trope that the show-within-a-show has used before, and it would be a shame for the show not to use it.

With the show supposedly ending after the fifth season, it’s a clever way for the show – as Jane herself noted – to return to the beginning. The love triangle between Jane, Rafael, & Michael has been one of the show’s main conflict generators, but this clearly will not be a rehash of their old dynamic. In Jane the Virgin, nothing stays the same for so long. Jane has finally opened her heart to the world after Michael’s death & Rafael is in a healthier place compared to where he was before, which opened up the possibility of romance between the two. Reviving Michael jeopardizes that, & it puts Jane at the center of an eternal question that’s bother: would you return to your past love or embrace the one right in front of you? Except this time, the former is someone who’s been mistakenly thought of as dead for 3 years.

Obviously, this won’t be resolved soon & the show will have a lot of fun untangling this bombshell without straying away from what made it great. I’m excited to find out where this will all end up, but the show’s unique blend ensures it’s going to be an entertaining, poignant ride.

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Movie Review: Never Not Love You is One of the Best Modern Takes on Love vs Career

TL;DR: Never Not Love You is a beautiful, grounded examination on how hard it is to choose between love & career, with excellent performances from James Reid & Nadine Lustre.

Countless movies have been made about the modern dilemma of choosing between love & career, yet only few of them feel as bracing or as heartbreaking as Never Not Love You. It arrives at a time where Filipinos are more receptive to emotionally realistic romance movies, & Antoinette Jadaone – who’s one of the key people who this style more palatable to audiences – delivers her most mature movie yet, backed up by one of the most popular love teams in the Philippines & real-life couple James Reid & Nadine Lustre.

The duo play Joanne & Gio, a couple who jumps somewhat recklessly into a loving relationship. Joanne is an ambitious marketing assistant who left the province for Makati City, dreaming of ascending the corporate ladder & making her parents proud. She meets Gio, a freelance artist passionate with tattoos known for his playboy streak, when he sold her a pack of stickers. It’s very clear that Gio fell hard for Joanne the moment he saw her, & since he’s the kind of person who chooses to pursue what makes him happy, he starts courting her unofficially. She tries her best to resist his charms due to his reputation, but soon they become so close they start living together; it’s fine if an unwed couple cohabitate, because c’mon guys, it’s 2018.

Here is where JaDine – the nickname for the duo – continues to prove why they are a huge Filipino phenomenon. It’s easy to root for them, since they’re just charming & charismatic as a couple. But this is a more intimate romance compared to their previous work – as much as you can be intimate in a PG-rated – that’s complemented by their childlike intensity. You can see it in how Mycko David & Carlos Mauricio shoot the movie, mostly with close-ups & handheld shots while Gio & Joanne are often bathe in bright, neon colors. Or how the wide shots capture the endless possibilities in front of them. It produces some of the most gorgeous visuals they’ve ever done, turning Makati & Zambales into a rural & urban sandbox they can freely explore. The most outstanding aspect though, is Jadaone’s rich, economical writing, as she explores their dynamic & following it thoroughly as it flourishes, while setting up possible roadblocks in their future without dragging the whole movie into a slog.

And trouble does arrive for the couple. When Gio’s father stops financially supporting him, he starts lashing out at everyone, including Joanne. He can’t live on the few, sporadic jobs alone, he doesn’t want Joanne to support him, nor does he want to work in a corporate environment for fear of losing the freedom to do what he wants. When his friend reveals that he received a job offer from one of his clients to work for their company in London with a huge salary, Joanne asks him why he didn’t take it. Leaving her behind isn’t an option for him, since he wants to have a future with her together. He asks her to go to London with him, but she doesn’t want to since she’s already up for a promotion to assistant brand manager. It causes a big fight, but in the end they both decided that moving to London is the best option for them.

That’s just the beginning of the hardships their relationship will face, & Jadaone details every facet of their journey. Gio & Joanne are clearly in a loving, supportive relationship, but they’re often at each other’s throats due to their neuroses, insecurities, & social backgrounds. Jadaone is trying to reveal something truthful & grounded without wrapping it around a unique hook – which isn’t a bad thing, considering she made some of her best work under that mode – & she mostly succeeds, revealing how frustrating it is to bridge the gap between their love for each other & what they want to achieve in life, while commenting about class & even race; even if the latter isn’t as subtle as it should be. (You can argue that putting JaDine in a serious romantic drama that’s also shot in London is a hook in itself, but I digress.)

It’s during this half of the movie where James Reid & Nadine Lustre clearly step up. James Reid is the obvious standout as the impulsive & temperamental Gio, whose intensity & devil-may-care attitude brings out the best & worst in him. Jadaone is careful not to write him as an awful jerk, but he could still be detestable in the wrong hands. Thankfully, James Reid uses the charismatic bad boy image he’s cultivated over the years to show the flawed, well-intentioned side underneath his cocky demeanor, & watching him grow emotionally over the course of the movie is engrossing to watch. That doesn’t mean Nadine Lustre is slacking off on the sidelines. Joanne is pragmatic & ambitious, & you can see Lustre carefully navigating their tricky relationship, as she moves from supporting Gio’s dreams & begrudging how further she is from achieving hers, with her resentment slowly simmer, until it completely boils over. She also has her own journey to take in the movie, & she reveals the subtle changes she made without her calling attention to it. Even the visuals become more sober & less frentic without losing its beauty, as the same visual language used earlier in the movie turned their world smaller, even as they travel & achieve more success.

It’s a complicated position to be put in, yet Never Not Love You never takes the easy way out. While the events leading up to its conclusion could’ve been tighter, it takes a more realistic stance. Being in a committed relationship is a constant act of negotiation, & as long as the love that brought them together doesn’t curdle into bitterness, they’ll survive any obstacle in their way.