BINGE-R #63: Jane the Virgin + Cardinal
JANE THE VIRGIN S1
Streaming Service: Netflix
Availability: All 22 episodes now streaming (plus S2)
Following on from last Tuesday’s report on Stan’s Younger [full review here], Jane the Virgin is another option for the streaming service user who wants out, or at least a break, from anti-hero heaviness, dystopian dramas, and vengeful gods and/or their prancing Popes. I can’t say there isn’t a murder on this American comedy, which has been a surprise hit since debuting in 2014, because frankly everything happens – at breakneck speed – on Jane the Virgin. Riffing on the melodramatic turns of Latin American telenovelas, this is a knowing soap opera that generates plot at a furiously enjoyable pace.
Jane Villanueva (Gina Rodriguez), is the third generation daughter in a Hispanic household in Miami. Her mother, Xiomara (Andrea Navedo), gave birth at age 16, which ensured Jane’s conservative grandmother, Alba (Ivonne Coll), has done a number on her about abstinence. The 23-year-old is waiting until she’s married to her fiancé, police officer Michael (Brett Dier), to have sex, but that doesn’t stop her falling pregnant after a doctor’s mix-up in the first episode. The accidental dad? Her reformed playboy boss at the luxury hotel where she works, Rafael (Justin Baldoni). He wants to keep the baby but his wife Petra (Yael Grobglas), who comes from Czech crime clan stock, has other ideas.
Does it work? Mostly, yes. The visual palette is pastel bright, Rodriguez gives a winning performance as a woman whose body and emotions are in completely unexpected territory, and for all the Dynasty-meets-Desperate Housewives twists there’s no winking irony; Jane and her support structure try to make sense of these loopy circumstances. Even with a trace of magic realism and obvious satire, there’s a genuine emotional honesty to the back and forth on Jennie Snyder Urman’s series which is augmented by the forthright Latino outlook exhibited by the majority of characters. It’s smart enough to update the soap’s appeal, while staying buoyant.
>> Bonus Binge: If you want to tick the boxes marked big-hearted, sitcom, female resilience and Hispanic, then try the first season of Netflix’s One Day at a Time, an update of the 1970s comedy now focused on multiple generations of Cuban-American women in a Los Angeles household. The humour and set-up – studio shoot with a live audience – are traditional, but there’s also a contemporary edge.
Streaming Services: SBS on Demand
Availability: All six episodes now streaming
Proving that Scandinavian noir is easily transferable, just so long as you have plenty of snow on hand while shooting, this Canadian crime drama is a ready if familiar dose of murders committed in very cold blood. If you’ve watched, and enjoyed, enough criminal procedurals to nod with recognition when the coroner refers to “ligature marks”, then Cardinal may well be for you. The first episode certainly rewards archetype over originality, with crusty police detective John Cardinal (Billy Campbell) brought back to homicide after a missing child he previously pursued is found murdered. He delivers gruff commentary with a pack a day rasp, blows off his new partner, Det. Lise Delorme (Larine Vanasse), and broods over crime scene photos. Would you be surprised to discover that Cardinal’s marriage is dysfunctional?
The best quality the show has going for it is the dynamic between the two detectives, which begins with Cardinal testing the younger Delorme but then swings around as she reveals an agenda of her own. The locale of Algonquin Bay, in rural Ontario, takes time to acquire a presence beyond the skilfully arranged drone shots of whited out prairies and broken spaces, but creator Aubrey Nealon (Orphan Black) thankfully rewrites a few of the archetypes that shadow partners in crime investigation. Ultimately, Cardinal is part of a long lineage, one it seeks to serve instead of subverting. It’s a satisfying sentence for crime aficionados, but not where the casual viewer should start.
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