Jane the Virgin, “Chapter Thirty-Eight”

Petra

Gina Rodriguez and Yael Groblas. Image courtesy of The CW

We need to talk about Petra.

This is one of the best episodes Jane the Virgin has ever done. There’s so much good in this episode in everything that involves Jane and Michael’s wedding, and the house and the biblical stuff (I really loved Jane 38:5). The flood, the smiting, the Fall, it’s all great. And just as it’s wonderful that Rogelio gets his crew to build the set of the Villanueva house for Jane’s wedding, Petra steals the episode. At the start of the show, Petra was a trophy wife having an affair with her husband’s best friend, and holding out for the prenup. She tried to get pregnant to save her marriage, because despite everything she still loved Rafael. The writers have done a fantastic job writing Petra, but Yael Groblas gives the character such warmth. Petra could have been a one note character, but she’s so much more than what she seems. Now she has nearly everything she wanted, and she’s going to leave it all behind. Petra doesn’t think she’s fit to be a mother, but the fact that she bought Jane and Michael their dream house (they’re renting it and have no idea Petra owns it), is all the proof she needs that she could be a wonderful mother. She just doesn’t believe that she can be.

Families are messy and complicated. No family is perfect, but they’re held together by love. Petra never had that from her mother, and now she has no idea what to do. When Mateo can’t sleep, Jane walks him around the halls of the Marbella (The Flood in the Villanueva house means they’re living at the hotel until it can be fixed) and comes across Petra, who is dazed. She talks to Rafael about it, and she talks to Petra. They go to a new mother’s group together, and Petra gets to talk to other people in her situation. Everyone’s overwhelmed with one baby, and she’s got two. Once she finally opens up, the other mothers realise that she may be suffering from post-partum depression. It’s a bit much for Petra to hear, and she walks out. Ever the supporting “friend” (she doesn’t know how to describe their relationship to the new mothers, but those two women certainly look like friends in that photo), Jane gets the number of a doctor that helped one of the other mothers when she was post-partum with her first child. Knowing Petra, she makes up some stuff about how exclusive and expensive the doctor is, and Petra gives them a ring.

Then the worst thing happened. The person on the other end of the phone asked Petra about family history, and she has to go and see her mother. Whether or not you had a good relationship with your parents, their opinion of you matters. When Magda says that she was never meant to be a mother and neither was Petra, she’s confirming her daughter’s worst fears about herself. I don’t have children, but I’ve had depression, and the thoughts that you aren’t good enough are awful. Your brain tells you things that aren’t true. Petra’s not able to talk to Rafael or Jane about this, just a doctor and her mother. Unfortunately, the things Petra’s brain is telling her are directly related to everything she heard her mother say about her growing up, so that visit to prison was just reinforcement of Petra’s self-doubt.

Magda’s words hurt. Petra’s depressed, so they hurt more. If Petra was okay, she’d realise that her mother was deliberately trying to hurt her with her choice of words, but she’s not. Magda knows just how to get to her daughter. Petra craves love because she never got it as a child. Now she seeks out the one person who could possibly know what she’s going through, and that made it worse. But Magda’s words directly contradict everything Petra did this week. She told Rafael to grow up and compromise for Jane. Look at everything Jane did for him. It’s difficult for Petra to open up to people, but she’s grateful for Jane. Petra wants a loving family, and she has one in the Villanueva-Cordero-Solano-De La Vegas, she just doesn’t realise it yet. Petra likes things that are rich and fancy, but she bought Jane and Michael their dream house. More importantly, she did it anonymously. The Petra we met at the start of this series wouldn’t have done that. Petra is kind, and she did something generous for people she appreciates in her life. The simple act of buying the house for Jane and Michael is all the proof the audience needs that Petra can be a good mother. She reads Jane’s letter about her family, and she’s moved. Petra’s part of that family, and she deserves their love. She just doesn’t realise it yet.

Other thoughts:

  • In an interview with Mo Ryan last year, showrunner Jennie Snyder Urman talked about how she wanted to explore various aspects of motherhood. The “culture of new mommyhood” was one of them, and Mateo’s sleep regression was a great example of that. Now we’re exploring post-partum depression with Petra, and I really appreciate it.
  • Mum, at the recap: “She’s back with Michael?”
    Me: “As it should be.”
    Dad: “It was always about Jane and Michael.”
  • My grandma’s staying with us at the moment, and she was completely lost. Chapter Thirty-Eight is not the best place to start this story.
  • I loved everything about the Villanueva house – we get the story of the swing and the porch!
  • Everyone on the show had to compromise about something in relation to the wedding and the house. Xiomara and Alba are dealing with the fact that Jane’s moving out.
  • The revelation that Rogelio built the Villanueva home on the set of his show was fantastic, and this exchange made it better: “I’ll make some tea.” “Ma, this isn’t a real house!”
  • It turns out I needed more of a break than I realised, but I’m glad to be writing about the show again.
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