Expressions of shock are all in a day’s work for Gina Rodriguez on The CW series “Jane the Virgin,” which begins its fifth and final season Wednesday.
TV Critic

“Jane the Virgin” is returning for its fifth and final season (9 p.m. Wednesday on The CW) with perhaps its most preposterous twist yet — and we’re talking about a show in which the virginal main character was mistakenly inseminated by a loopy gynecologist with the semen of the doc’s very own brother, put in storage prior to cancer treatments that left him infertile.

The widely reported event that will shape the show’s last cycle is the return of Jane’s husband, Michael, four years after his death in the timeline of the show. That kind of shocking plot development is a staple of the telenovelas — Latin American soaps — that “Jane” both embraces and transcends.

I don’t want to give away anything that happens in the first episode of Season 5 except to say that of course this isn’t a magical reunion. Michael’s re-emergence — at a moment when Rafael, Jane’s donor baby daddy, seemed ready to propose — sets off an emotional storm that casts a shadow over the show’s beloved characters. Gina Rodriguez is, as always, effortlessly convincing as the very centered and sensible Jane, who becomes so unhinged by Michael’s reappearance that she quite literally takes her pants off. (You have to see it to understand why.)

Yet as ridiculous as the show might seem, “Jane” is at its heart about very real human dilemmas regarding love and trust and family bonds. Only now we have entered a new dark phase in which Jane must grapple with her roiling emotions: What do you do when your life seems set and suddenly it’s turned upside down? What if a loved one you haven’t seen for a while seems oddly different?

But the show keeps its sly sense of humor. When the ex-lover of Rafael’s ex-wife, Petra, hides in a huge bear costume while nursing a gunshot wound, the cheekily omniscient narrator can’t help but exclaim, “That must have been unbearable.”

Also unbearable is the suspense. What happened to Michael exactly? And what will happen next? In an era of binge TV, “Jane” asks us to patiently wait seven days for the next episode rather than grant viewers immediate satisfaction. And that gives us time to think about what this extraordinary TV show has just presented — and what it all means.