“Jane The Virgin” Shifts its Love Triangle in a Revolutionary Queer Direction

Jane the Virgin is easily, consistently the most superlative show on television, a feat made even more impressive by the fact that it requires dozens of cogs to turn together to make it work. It’s an affectionate homage to the absurdity of telenovelas, boasting over-the-top personalities and improbable dilemmas. It’s an organized crime procedural. It’s a family drama (and an unapologetically Latino one with no white protagonist entry point, and enough earned pathos to melt even the Grinchiest heart). It’s a feminist go-getter series. It’s a comedy that delivers the smartest, most culturally relevant long game joke-writing since Arrested Development. And, right in the middle of it all, Jane the Virgin is a love story.

The first season and a half revolved around a love triangle between Jane Villanueva; her former fiancé, Michael Cordero; and the father of her baby, Rafael Solano. In this post-Twilight, post-Hunger Games world, many audiences have reached their breaking point with the who’s-she-gonna-choose narrative — but, exceptionally, Jane the Virgin‘s push-pull actually worked. Michael and Rafael are both good guys who sometimes do dubious things, motivated mostly out of their love for Jane. The way they’re written, it would make sense for her to marry either of them, actually, and there’s an emotional resonance in her inability to choose. After the midseaosn finale this year, though, Jane put the brakes on things with both of them.

In last night’s episode, “Chapter 33,” two exceptional things became apparent: One) Jane is moving on with someone who is neither Michael nor Rafael, and Two) The show is shifting its love triangle in a queer direction.


Make ’em go “Aah, aah, aah” as you shoot across the sky-y-y!

If you’ve never seen Jane the Virgin, listen closely; it’s going to get complicated: Dr. Luisa Alver— who accidentally artificially inseminated Jane with her half-brother, Rafael’s, sperm in the pilot episode — had a long relationship with a woman named Rose, who also was her step-mother (and, it turns out, the crime lord Sin Rostro, who ultimately ended up murdering Luisa’s dad by burying him in wet cement). While following Sin Rostro’s trail, Detective Susanna Barnett discovered that Rose is actually the step-daughter of Elena Di Nola, who was married to Emilio Solano before Rose was (and who was also the infamous Miami crime lord Mutter). So Luisa’s first step-mom was also the step-mom of Luisa’s second step-mom, who was also Luisa’s lover.

In the last few episodes, Luisa and Susana have developed a real romance, so now Luisa’s caught between the criminal mastermind and the detective who’s chasing her down.

In the first season of Jane the Virgin, Luisa was used for comic relief more than anything else, but one of this writers room’s greatest strengths is rounding out one-dimensional characters. Rafael’s first wife, Petra, for example, could easily be a cartoon villain, but the show has worked hard this season to fill in her back story and anchor her misdeeds in believable helplessness and trauma, making her a sympathetic character who makes bad decisions for complicated reasons. Similarly, this season we’ve watched Luisa’s journey to find out what happened to her real mom, and we’ve seen her struggle to banish her obsession with Rose, and we’ve witnessed the tender, blossoming affection between her and Susanna.

Please note the scissoring dancers in the background.

At first, it seemed as if it was going to be a one-sided affair. Susanna needed Luisa’s help to continue her investigation of Sin Rostro, so she gently stoked the flame of Luisa’s crush on her. Michael, Susana’s police partner, teased her about it, repeatedly calling Luisa her wife and girlfriend, but Susanna shrugged it off. She is unflappable! At least she was, until two weeks ago when she shared a surprising kiss with Luisa. This week, we found out that Susanna and Luisa are now seeing each other on the sly.

Well, again, they were  — until Susanna listened in on a conversation Luisa had with Rose’s former limo driver, in which she declared her undying love for Rose in an effort to get Rose to reach out to her so Susanna can arrest her. Near the end of the episode, Susanna arrived at Luisa’s apartment to tell her she can’t pursue anything with her because she knows she’s still hung up on Rose. And at the very end of the episode, Rose, who has been missing for almost a year, returned to our TVs, alive and well ready to make the trip back to Miami.

Lesbian and bisexual TV representation has made huge strides over the last few years, but even though we’re seeing a greater quantity of characters, we’re not necessarily seeing huge progress in the quality of stories being told. For the most part, queer women who share intimate moments are filmed from a distance, or in the dark, or with their hair obscuring their mouths. Editors cut away from them almost as soon as their lips lock. They kiss with their mouths closed. And they are hardly ever used as emotional anchors for the wider audience. Jane the Virgin seems to be setting up Luisa’s Choice as the central romantic conundrum of the back half of this season, and it has done so by letting the camera linger on longing looks against a backdrop of sweeping romantic music peppered with sharp, sweet dialogue and passionate kisses. You know, the same way they’ve shown us Jane’ Choice.


Lesbians on TV: Kissing with the lights on since … yesterday, basically.

In addition to all the other genres Jane the Virgin borrows from, the ones I mentioned above, there’s another one that’s central to this show’s DNA: The classic romance novel. In fact, Jane’s career goal is to be a famous romance writer. Her professors are always encouraging her to dig deeper into clichés and flip them on their head, to find new ways to tell the oldest story, and to appeal to her audience’s head and heart.

It became obvious near the midway point of season one that Jane the Virgin couldn’t sustain its Rafael-Jane-Michael love triangle much longer. The show did it well, but there are only so many stops and starts an audience can take before fatigue sets in. Unfortunately most writers rooms (and the networks/studios that often dictate to them) are usually unwilling to forgo proven ratings catnip in favor of good storytelling. That Jane the Virgin‘s writers did it is remarkable; that they chose to center the new love triangle on three women is revolutionary. It’s almost like they’re teaching Jane by example.

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Heather Hogan

Heather Hogan is an Autostraddle senior editor who lives in New York City with her wife, Stacy, and their cackle of rescued pets. She's a member of the Television Critics Association, GALECA: The Society of LGBTQ Entertainment Critics, and a Rotten Tomatoes Tomatometer critic. You can also find her on Twitter and Instagram.

Heather has written 1718 articles for us.


  1. This makes me really happy. I was late to the JtV hype and of course when I started watching it I was IN LOVE. But then I got to somewhere around season 2 and I was just so burned out with how much of Jane’s story revolved around all of the Michael vs. Rafael stuff (do you ever have periods where you just have zero time/fucks for heterosexual romances?) that I put it down for a break and just never picked it back up. Now that I know Luisa’s getting more action (ayyyeeee) I need to start watching again RIGHT NOW.

    • Also, the show gets funnier and funnier. I think the narrator is one of the best characters on TV!

      • Yes! I loved the exchange in last night’s episode when the narrator was like “Ahem, sorry, back to you, Jane” and then Jane picks up narrating her inner thoughts. Such a brilliant device that it’s surprising to have never seen anywhere else.

  2. I love Rose as a character and god knows I love Bridget Regan, but I hope Luisa eventually finds her way back to Barnett. She deserves stability and happiness, dangit!

      • I wouldn’t mind them dragging this one out for a season, letting Luisa waffle between them the way Jane did with Rafael and Michael. I love to have my heartstrings tugged on, queerly.

        • Ohhh, please drag it out, pleeeeeeeeease. I can’t think of any other TV show (besides The L Word) that has had a queer love triangle between three women lasting more than a couple episodes. I WANT MY ROMANTIC TROPES JUST AS MUCH AS THE NEXT STRAIGHT GIRL!!

  3. I knew I loved Susanna from the second she popped up. I just love how she’s sweet and has that Midwest accent that makes me homesick and she’s so on top of shit even though the fact that she’s nice makes everyone underestimate her. What a lovely, nuanced, refreshing take on a lady cop. And she’s a nice balance to Michael when he goes off on his white savior loose cannon cop hero shit (sorry, not his biggest fan, obviously)

    • What IS Susanna’s specific accent, anyway? Because I’ve decided that I need to marry someone with said accent.

      • I hear some South AND Midwest in there, so I was thinking maybe Missouri or Arkansas? (The actress is from NYC, though, so who knows what she’s aiming for)

        • Whoa, whoa, most Missourians have a “non regional dialect.”

          I thought Arkansas or Alabama? A state that starts with A.

        • I thought she was from the South. Did she say she moved from Alabama or did I just dream that up??

          • All right, so I just need to find a New Yorker impersonating someone from Arkansas or Alabama or possibly-but-maybe-not Missouri.

    • I’m from Georgia and I now live in NYC and I sound just like Susanna (when I’m drunk).

      • okay, so i was wrong. she just has that kind of nasal quality combined with being super polite that reminds me of home.

  4. I love that we’re finally getting shows that mix Spanish and English. Like yes, lots of Americans speak Spanish, and also, America IS capable of reading subtitles, who knew? (Not the writers of Captain Corelli’s Mandoline, that’s for sure).

  5. I ship Luisa and Susanna so hard! Rose is gorgeous and dangerous and I get the pull she has, but Luisa needs to grow as a person. She needs to grow up really, and Susanna is exactly what she needs.

  6. Neat! I watched season one on Netflix on your recommendation and enjoyed the camp and genre-mixing and Jane’s family but was incredibly bored with/annoyed by the love triangle. It’s cool that they are moving away from that a bit and centering a queer story… I’m a little bit confused about how this is a revolutionary shift for queer television but maybe it’ll make more sense when I actually watch it, haha.

  7. YAS!!! Ditto to everything you said!! I love Jane the Virgin since day 1! And I super love the queer love triangle. Oh, and OH MY GOD I never noticed that painting of the women scissoring in the background! I love it, it’s like a not-so-subtle sign! LOL (so much “love” in this comment! #February)

  8. I love this show so much. But I love it 1000 times better because of what your recaps teach me about why I love it.

  9. I love this show so much, I don’t think there’s been a bad episode yet. And I can’t wait for the epic confrontation between Luisa and Rose (definitely rooting for Susanna and Luisa though).

    • It’s shocking that we’ve had a full season and a half of this show and there hasn’t been a single dud yet!

  10. And can we just add that Luisa is an unapologetic horn dog! She gets more action than anyone else on the show. How awesome is that!

    • Yes! Her opener of “What are you wearing?” made me guffaw and snort embarrassingly loudly because omigod Luisa no but yes

        • Yara Martinez is grossly underrated for her comedic timing. The way she just purred over the phone was divine.

          • I love that she’s so unabashed about the whole thing, too. Like yeah people think she’s nuts, but whatever, she owns it, and she wants what she wants and she’s gonna get it. I wish I could live with freedom from shame like that!

  11. Yeah Luisa is amazing. She has Emily Fields type game but turned up to eleven! The dynamic with her and Susanna is the stuff of fanfic dreams! She’s volcanic, the hottest, sexiest woman Susanna has ever met and Susanna is just engulfed by the flames. UGH. They would have epic sex you guys!

  12. I love this show so much and it breaks my heart that none of my friends watch it. I went out on a date with a girl who likes the show but that’s pretty much all we had in common so now I’m back to having no one to talk to.

      • Nah, she never texted me back after I asked if she watched the latest episode so I knew it was over lol

        I am trying to get the new girl I’m seeing to watch The 100 so hopefully I’ll have luck on both fronts.

  13. Literally, the only bad thing about living in a time with such an abundance of queer lady storylines is that there’s no way to justify recapping JtV, but I just want to hangout with ya’ll every week and bask in this little glowy, light filled gem of a show.

  14. I love how emotionally healthy all these comments are! Like yes, we know how hot Luisa and Rose are, but prefer stable relationships on the teevee. Queer women fandom ftw.

  15. Heather, your total love for this show inspired me to start watching it and now I am hooked. And so, so here for Luisa/Susanna dramarama. THANK YOU

  16. I’ve put the show on pause for a while, since there is so many shows on my tv-schdule and I only have so much time and bandwidth (and I has also been a little meh about the thought of more Jane/Michael/Rafael stuff because I guess I’m getting a bit tired of it *shrugs*) but after reading this, I feel like I need to try and /make/ some time and catch up. :D

  17. You explained Luisa’s complicated family and romantic relationships so well and so concisely I am stunned. It would take me an essay and several charts to try and map that all out.

    I didn’t want to hope that anything real would happen between Luisa and Susanna in the beginning, but they just took it and ran with it and I couldn’t be happier.

  18. So much love for this show!!! And it makes me feel warm and fuzzy to watch it even after watching what is becoming increasingly disappointing TV on PLL. Jane the Virgin is SO BRILLIANT and I don’t want to recycle points that have already been made, but another thing to love is the use of so many creative little devices that I just haven’t seen anywhere else. The GPS scolding her in its GPS voice after her failed flirtation! The basketball talking heads narrating her efforts to crib-train Mateo, second only to the wrestling motif in the previous season! So good and so fresh every time.

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