In Emily Nussbaum’s wonderful essay in The New Yorker, “‘Jane the Virgin’ Is Not a Guilty Pleasure,” she writes, “The performances are equally layered, particularly a breakout one by Yael Grobglas, as both Petra, Rafael’s ex-wife, and Anezka, the aforementioned evil twin. A Czech street hustler turned glam hotelier, Grobglas’s Petra glides from Carole Lombard daffiness to Grace Kelly hauteur, noir to slapstick to heartbreak, often within a scene. For two seasons, I kept forgetting that the twins were played by one person, let alone one person acting like one character pretending to be the other character pretending to be the first character.”
This season has been a true roller coaster for Petra. As series creator Jennie Snyder Urman told Vulture, they went “deep in on Petra’s heart” this season. Let us count all the ways in which Yael Grobglas totally rocked this role:
Spoilers for Jane ahead.
Petra’s Sexual Awakening
(And Yael and Rosario’s 🔥🔥🔥 Chemistry)
Okay, let’s talk about the big Petra storyline of the season: her sexual awakening. When Petra is accused of murdering her sister Anezka, she hires a lawyer named Jane Ramos (Rosario Dawson). We learn that JR (Petra’s nickname for Jane Ramos) may have ulterior motives for working for Petra — she’s being blackmailed — but after some telenovela twists and turns, JR realizes that she should be helping Petra. And then they fall in loooooooove. Well not quite, but it’s been such a fantastic story.
rosario dawson showed up on jane the virgin and petra solano immediately cut her hair into the Bisexual Bob™️ and for that i really congratulate this show on their sexual awakening realness
— alicia (@whouffaldi) March 17, 2018
When a fan asked Yael on Twitter, “what was your reaction when JR came into the picture? And what was it like incorporating this new development into Petra’s character?” Yael responded, “Absolutely a dream. Both the story and working with @rosariodawson.”
— amy (@bridgetsrose) April 4, 2018
Their chemistry is 🔥🔥🔥. As Jennie Urman (Jane‘s creator) explained to BuzzFeed, “Right away when we saw Yael and Rosario together in scenes we were just over the moon. We were like, Oh, this is going to work.” (!!!) So much so that everyone kinda saw Petra’s sexual awakening coming…
Rosario Dawson had SO much chemistry with Yael Grobglas this week's Jane the Virgin that I'm sitting here like "….are they about to make Petra bi and fulfill a lot of fan dreams" pic.twitter.com/s0csugmwqO
— A.B. (@AlannaBennett) January 28, 2018
The expressiveness of Yael’s Petra — clearly so into JR, but not sure how to show it — made viewers convinced.
— Valerie Anne (@PunkyStarshine) March 15, 2018
And when they finally kiss and have sex, the chemistry is beyond clear.
Rosario Dawson and Yael Grobglas are so good at kissing each other they inspired me to start making gifs again, bless pic.twitter.com/KW8C3YSTAr
— jj 🌈 (@snthroot) March 25, 2018
I don’t have much more to say, only some more gifs…
they didnt have to go this hard. i mean rosario's hand on yael's neck????? hellOOO??? 911???? pic.twitter.com/8BklaSVAn1
— charlie brown ♡ (@vainillacoke) March 31, 2018
+ PLUS: THE TONGUE !!!!!!! pic.twitter.com/WfKyKiWMbY
— SARA #. 👑 (@earpblanchett) April 7, 2018
— SM11 (@95tfa) April 7, 2018
Look at that ACTING!
You still with us?
Showrunner Jennie Snyder Urman explained that with Petra, she was “most interested in seeing a character that’s always so composed and imperious and sure of herself suddenly thrown on her heel, and be the pursuer rather than the pursued. And Yael is so great, so we knew she would knock it out of the park. I just really wanted to see Petra, who’s so in control, feel herself not in control and have a different kind of love story than the ones that she’s had where she’s kidnapped and stalked, or a second choice.”
The Bisexual Revolution and #20GayTeen
Let’s dive a little deeper into the decision to make Petra queer. As Valerie Anne wrote in an Autostraddle article, “Petra Solano’s Bisexuality Is a Love Letter to ‘Jane the Virgin’ Fans,” “From the beginning, Petra has always looked at everyone like she wanted to devour them, the line between seduction and destruction being very thin. The writers heard what the audience wanted — Petra and Jane to get together — and this is their way of giving it to us. In the front half of the season, they showed us why it couldn’t have been Jane Villanueva: she isn’t queer.”
Jetra, the ship, saw many fans reading Petra as queer and shipping her with Jane (Gina’s Jane, not JR). (Shipping = wanting two characters to be in a romantic relationship.) This has been happening since season one. This is key; usually when fans want a queer storyline, they don’t get it. But #Jetra was kind of fulfilled; albeit, with a different Jane. But the same Petra.
Anne also points out that, “On most other shows, upon hearing the audience reading Petra as queer, specifically reading chemistry between her and Jane, they would have cut back on the screen time they had together, stopped letting them share a frame.” But on Jane the Virgin, they value their fans. And they gave Petra a female love interest.
— ana (@jetrasdawson) March 12, 2018
“20gayteen” is the term many are using for 2018, calling it a “year of acceptance.” The term originated with the singer Haley Kiyoko, who tweeted on January 1st, 2018, “It’s our year, it’s our time. To thrive and let our souls feel alive. #20GAYTEEN #expectations2018.” Kiyoko’s tweet quickly went viral, and many fans are embracing this for 2018. Especially fans of Petra and JR.
— Eliza Loves Cami 🦔 (@LilCamiLaurCamz) April 3, 2018
While it’s only April of #20gayteen, Petra and JR have stood out to many fans.
— kim (@helasblanchett) April 6, 2018
Not only have Petra and JR been grouped under #20gayteen, but Petra’s bisexuality has been written about as part of a “Bisexual Revolution” happening on television right now. This year, many beloved characters have come out as bi (see: Rosa Diaz played by Stephanie Beatriz on Brooklyn Nine-Nine, Valencia Perez played by Gabrielle Ruiz on Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, and Nomi Segal played by Emily Arlook on Grownish).
would like to say how much i appreciate storylines of rosa diaz and petra solano as women who came out/came to terms with their sexuality later in life i’m grateful to the writers for making it happen and i think it’s beautiful
— iv (@andyapriIs) March 12, 2018
At Bitch Media, Rachel Klein wrote about “The Rise of Bisexual TV Characters,” wherein she writes about the subtle bisexuality of Eleanor Shellstrop on The Good Place and Ilana’s attraction to Abbi on Broad City. Klein argues that “the more bisexual characters we see, the less likely we are to draw conclusions about an entire group of people based on a few examples, and the more we’ll be able to appreciate the full range of human experience, in art and life.” Kathryn VanArrendonk (the best Jane the Virgin recapper) writes in an essay for Vulture (“Why Are There So Many Bisexuals on TV All of a Sudden?”), “Almost universally, the stories that these shows have found to tell about their characters coming out, about their romantic relationships, and about the mysteries of sexual attraction are more interesting than the straight stories.”
However, Petra’s coming out stands out from the rest of the other newly bisexual characters on TV. For one, she wasn’t the first bisexual character on the show. Jane the Virgin creator Jennie Urman told BuzzFeed News that they intentionally started with Adam (Jane’s on-and-off again boyfriend) coming out as bisexual at the start of season four, because, “We wanted to be able to tell that story [of Petra], but we also wanted to make sure we were balancing our representation and not just doing girls making out with girls.” Urman told BuzzFeed that Adam’s story was always meant to “work in tandem” with Petra’s story.
Two, Petra has not always been likable. Let’s take a trip down memory lane… In season one, she tries to impregnate herself to keep her marriage to Rafael from failing (while having an affair with Rafael’s BFF, Roman Zazo). After Rafael breaks up with her, as the Jane the Virgin wiki explains, “Petra goes on a downward trajectory of schemes to get back at Rafael, including trying to frame him for domestic abuse, getting him demoted by his father by revealing that Rafael underwrote Luisa’s malpratice insurance, sabotaging Rafael’s romance with Jane by hiring an escort and making a claim on Rafael and Jane’s child.”
And then… she gets caught between two exes, Lachlan Moore and Czech gangster Miloš Dvoracek. Well maybe three? Roman’s twin Aaron Zazo who is actually Roman. Basically, the entirety of season one is Petra entangled with various men and participating in various schemes. Season two revolves around a lot of crime and motherhood storylines, which we’ll spare you. After giving birth to twin girls, she suffers from postpartum depression. But then she gets paralyzed by Anezka, her twin sister, and Anezka takes over Petra’s life. She eventually breaks free…
Actually, we’re going to skip ahead — telenovelas are filled to the brim with plot, and Jane the Virgin is no exception — to season four. Petra is not a new character, nor is she changing from who she fundamentally is. The show is peeling back her layers. As Alanna Bennett writes in BuzzFeed, “It’s not a whole new character — it’s the same Petra audiences have been responding to for the past four years.”
Sometimes I worry my heart's getting too hard because the world is so hard but then I'm sobbing on a Saturday morning about the queering of Petra Solano and I'm like, "Buddy, your heart is *just* fine."
— Heather Hogan (@theheatherhogan) March 10, 2018
And that’s what makes it so special: The JR storyline is completely part of Petra’s character development and it doesn’t feel random.
🤩 The Fandom 🤩
Unsurprisingly, across social media, fans have been raving about Yael’s Petra. She’s been meme’d, tweeted about extensively, and has a plethora of fan art devoted to her.
And plenty of fan-fiction. In Autostraddle’s March Madness – “The National Championship of Kissing” — Petra and JR’s kiss came in second (!!) out of 64 couples on currently airing or recently cancelled shows.
if you then you don’t
don’t love deserve
s1 petra s4 petra pic.twitter.com/C6g6onFcsF
— amy (@bridgetsrose) April 4, 2018
Essentially: Fans are HERE for Petra. But, let’s take a step back and ask why do fans love Petra so much? Outside of the way she was written, and the way her character has developed, the credit goes to the actress who has brought Petra to life in all her glory. Yael captured the warmth at the core of Petra’s ice queen with aplomb.
yael grobglas is the queen of facial expressions pic.twitter.com/blNM4POiUy
— amy (@bridgetsrose) March 24, 2018
And ignoring her love storyline this season (which is definitely huge in the fandom), one of the best Petra moments in the entire series (I can write with confidence) was in Chapter Seventy-Seven. When Petra’s daughters tell Jane’s son Mateo that the tooth fairy is fake, Jane is (rightfully) pissed at Petra. Petra, feeling guilty, decides to dress up as the tooth fairy and sneak into Mateo’s room.
Petra somehow follows the description of the tooth fairy that has been passed down from Alba to Xiomara to Jane to Mateo and puts together a costume. When Mateo sees her, it is simply magical.
Yael brings this magic.
Additionally, this season was all about Jane and Petra falling into friendship. In Chapter Seventy-Three, as Kathryn VanArendonk recapped for Vulture, “I like Petra realizing that Jane is her moral compass, and I love Petra refusing to let Jane off the hook, charging into the Villanueva house, and doing brunch anyhow. She’s right! It wasn’t ever about Rafael, and Jane shouldn’t just get to ditch brunch.”
— jane the virgin ladies (@jtvladies) April 2, 2018
In Chapter Seventy-Nine, Jane and Petra tell each other they love each other. Platonically.
This is a big turning point in their relationship. Fans, rightfully, freaked out. One even proposed that the tiny forehead kiss that Petra gives Jane was totally improvised by Yael (“I KNOW THIS AND NO ONE CAN CHANGE MY MIND”). Everyone knows forehead kisses are the best, but as LovePanky (yes, this is a site that exists, and yes, I’m quoting from it) breaks down, forehead kisses are actually very significant. Here are some of the reasons:
1. It shows they’re thinking about you
2. It shows an emotional connection
3. It’s a quick way to show appreciation
4. It’s more intimate than a kiss on the cheek
5. It shows you their commitment to you
6. It makes you feel loved
7. It forges a deeper bond
Who knows if Yael was thinking about this article about forehead kisses from LovePanky (she most definitely wasn’t), but these small gestures — that most likely weren’t written into the script — add such dimension to the character.
And Gina and Yael’s friendship off-screen mirrors their on-screen relationship (without the twists of artificial insemination, love triangles, or murder). Gina brought Yael as her date to the SAG Awards in January, providing us with tons of loving photos.
Basically, supportive as HELL.
✨ Yael Grobglas ✨
This has been Yael Grobglas’s breakout role, and season 4 has been her breakout season.
While we’re nervous to see how the series ends (please, only happy endings), we feel confident in the Jane the Virgin writing team to bring the show to a satisfying conclusion. Yael’s chemistry with Rosario and her believability as a character going through a sexual awakening demonstrates her range as an actor. Fans are here for queer Petra, and for Yael’s Petra in general.