Binging television shows isn’t my strong suit. There was a time in my life where I was prolific, watching 4-5 episodes in one sitting, but that is no longer the case. My priorities shifted, my attention span dulled, my interests simply changed. Life catches up with you in that way.
The art of binging a TV show is a solitary one, like painting, except with lots of sitting and snacking. In this era of “peak tv,” binging is a necessity for anyone wanting to stay current with the latest and greatest series. With Netflix, Amazon, Hulu, and countless other streaming services dropping entire six-to-thirteen episode seasons, one needs to spend an entire weekend in front of the TV in order to engage in the short public discourse on that show.
Sure, the weekly drop is still an effective method, with networks like HBO not changing their preferred delivery system anytime soon (or at least, not until HBO Max launches in 2020.) Series like Succession, Big Little Lies, and most notably Game of Thrones established a large cultural footprint by playing the long game. This, however, is increasingly rare.
Binging is also an effective way to catch up on well-regraded series that you just haven’t had time to catch up with, something I’m currently in the process of doing with Jane the Virgin, which recently ended its five season run on the CW. The entire series is now available at the press of a button on Netflix, and I decided there was no time like the present to check it out.
Jane the Virgin is a series about a young woman, played by Gina Rodriquez, who is accidentally artificially inseminated, making her the rarest of things: a pregnant virgin. The series is a send-up and an homage to Telenovelas, popular Spanish language soap operas, complete with kidnappings, evil twins, death, faked deaths, plastic surgeries, and shady financial dealings.
Even with all of those trappings, the heart of the series is a love triangle between Jane, her fiancee Michael, and the father of her child, Rafael. That love triangle is the series’ most compelling aspect, despite the fact that one thing is very clear, very early on: Rafael is endgame for Jane.
This fact is clear the moment you see them together. Their chemistry is electric, and completely believable. While Michael is conventionally attractive, Rafael is model-hot, and Telenovelas aren’t here to sell realism.
I was team Rafael from episode one. Only a few episodes into season one, Jane and Rafael are a couple, navigating their bizarre circumstances with full support for each other. I knew there would be ups and downs, I knew they would break up, get back together, and break up again. What I wasn’t prepared for was to see Rafael date other people.
Like most breakups, things are okay until the other person finds someone else, and that remained true with Jane the Virgin. So what if they were fictional characters? My enjoyment for the show tanked once Jane and Rafael parted ways, and I was faced with a choice: do I stop watching, or do I skip a few episodes for when they inevitably get back together? I opted for the latter option, and that choice has caused a bizarre, truncated viewing experience that I’ve enjoyed, but may ultimately regret.
This method has allowed me to cut out an entire relationship and marriage for Jane. The other corner of the love triangle, Michael, has become a character I barely remember is on the show, aside from the occasional mention of him and what ultimately happened to his storyline. But, I don’t feel like I’m missing something essential. The subplots are just that, and thanks to a helpful and comprehensive “previously on…” recap that precedes every episode, I’m able to catch up on who owns the hotel now, who has a health scare, and what everyone’s evil sibling is up to.
This method would not work for every show. Sending up and embracing the Telenovela structure makes Jane the Virgin uniquely suited to jumping around. One would lose a lot of value to a show like The Leftovers, on the extreme end with its nonlinear structure. Some would argue you couldn’t do it for a show like Game of Thrones, and while I agree on face value, I also think people are kidding themselves if they think that series is anything other than a soap opera with dragons.
All of that being said, as I near the series finale, a strange feeling has arisen in me: guilt. Jane the Virgin is a widely acclaimed series, well loved for its writing, performances, and genuine warmth that the show exudes. I feel guilty for not fully giving myself over to the show and allowing it to take me on the journey it intended viewers to take. I’m a little saddened at the idea that I’m just four episodes away from “finishing” the series, when in reality there are numerous episodes I haven’t yet seen.
It also won’t make it easy to go back and rewatch the series, especially so soon after I blew my way through it. The lack of commitment, whether a problem of time or patience on my part, may ultimately be unfair to a show like Jane the Virgin, when I showed significantly more commitment to series that I never really enjoyed (i.e. Game of Thrones, NOS4A2, Gossip Girl, just to name a few.) Jane the Virgin is a series far more deserving of my attention and adoration.
All of this is to say that yes, watching an abbreviated (or curated, if you’re optimistic) run of this show may not have been the best option, but it has allowed me to enjoy a series that I had put off watching for years. In the world of Peak TV, so often we resort to not watching something, rather than make a three month commitment to make it all the way through. So, I posit one final question: Am I better off having experienced this show, even in this way, or not having experienced it at all?