IIt’s hard to express how dizzy I felt when I heard about the return of Virgin River. I’m a latecomer to the show that started on Netflix in 2019, but I’ve naughtily munched on the Christmas Omicron wave all three seasons while housekeeping with just two elderly and incontinent dogs for company. Over the course of 10 days, I watched so much of the shamelessly cheesy Netflix soap disguised as drama that I actually considered moving to a small California mountain town where I happily attend and maybe get into lumberjack sports days brooding owner of a bar by the river.
I’m not the only one who had such checkered fantasies. When I first admitted to a friend that I had seen this fabulously trashy show, they immediately told me they were obsessed with it too. More and more devotees crept out of the woodwork until it seemed like everyone I knew was a big fan but didn’t have the nerve to show it publicly. Do you see, Virgin River is by no means prestige television. It depicts the oddly dramatic life of a small, isolated American community, but lacks the sophistication of successorthe quips of Better call Saulor the big-budget cheekiness of stranger things. It’s cozy and homey, and despite the occasional attempt at scandal, it does it’s job Call the midwife look nervous. That said, it’s infinitely charming. A Hallmark film with soul, Virgin River is totally comfortable in its own skin, which is perhaps why it has developed such a dedicated following.
For those who haven’t been swept away by his intoxicating imagination, here’s a little backstory. Basically, it’s a love story based on a series of popular romance novels by Robyn Carr. Mel, a big city girl, moves from Los Angeles to Virgin River to get a job as a nurse. The intern is of course grumpy and stuck, but quick Mel (family Guy language artist Alexandra Breckenridge) enchants the city and its residents, including Jack (Grey’s anatomy alum Martin Henderson), a handsome, hygienically graying local pub owner prone to occasional flashbacks to the Iraq War and who owns at least 15 versions of the same flannel shirt.
At the end of Season 3 of 2021, we left the wholesome cast with about 37 different cliffhangers happening at once and a multitude of life-changing threads hammered into one shock absorber episode at the same time. The grumpy doctor’s partner is in an induced coma and it’s not looking good. Mel is pregnant but unsure if the father is her boyfriend Jack or her dead husband whose fertilized embryos she keeps on ice. It’s a lot to deal with as Jack’s ex recently gave birth to his twins and he’s also in the process of proposing to Mel. Additionally, Jack’s colleague was lured into the woods and drugged with a promise to see his crush, who is on the run after killing her abusive ex-husband. Oh, and Jack also thinks his sister’s boyfriend – who’s also his old army pal – shot him, but we’re all pretty sure he didn’t! There are plenty of other microdramas, including the breakup of an adorable teenage couple after one of them secretly enlisted in the army, and the recent, unexpected death of a beloved villager.
All of this takes place in a stunning American setting – actually filmed in Canada. There are peaceful, epic lakes, towering pines and tumbling waterfalls. Stunning drone footage of bright green canopies and quaint wooden cottages will make you think you might as well be watching an advertisement for the national parks.
There’s plenty of eyeshadow, too: shimmery, glossy material covers the eyelids of all the female performers, who wear full glam for any activity, including jogging. Then there is the red wine. Big, juicy glasses slosh around in almost every episode, as a shortcut to a date, a heart-to-heart conversation, or just to let us know it’s past lunchtime in the sleepy, borderline booze town of Virgin River.
Still, there’s a hidden depth to the show, which has dealt with domestic violence, the opioid crisis, illegal weed farming and PTSD in its own gently cushioned way. The characters on the show are, on the whole, extremely emotionally formed. Most problems can be solved with a good conversation, preferably over a glass of Californian red, and the self-help speaks the cast’s tongues as regularly as the scenic shots of the lake at Jack’s Bar.
Season 4 promises a lot – not the least of which is a full costume Renaissance costume, according to the latest trailer – but despite the slight hint of naughtiness, I’ll be there at any moment.
Virgin River The fourth season premieres on Netflix on July 20