I’m a little late to the Virgin River craze, having just binge-watched the first two seasons in preparation for the third, but after spending quite a cozy weekend with Jack, Mel and the entire town of Virgin River, there’s absolutely nothing more I want than to go back and submerge myself in the romance, the not-so-big problems that seem so much more complicated in a small town, and oh, yes …those cliffhangers that make it impossible to stop.
Seriously, someone should have warned me that every episode of this show was going to end in a way that made it unable for me to take a break from watching.
With season 3 coming to Netflix July 9th, this feels like a great moment to talk about why you should absolutely catch up with Virgin River before that, starting with:
A show like Virgin River was always going to live or die by its OTP. The OTP is, after all, the entire point of Virgin River. It is the same in the books, though the books feel a little less Hallmark than the show does, in my opinion. Nothing wrong with either, if we’re being honest. There is no bad romance for me, unless it’s actually badly written romance, and despite what some small-minded men might say, there isn’t very much of that.
Virgin River works because the chemistry between Jack and Mel is on point. Every second of awkwardness, every second of flirting, every moment of two people making heart eyes at each other, even before they’re ready to admit they’re actually making heart eyes at each other, is perfectly played. There’s a lot of angst, and plenty of drama, but even if you get tired of that, you always end up coming back to how good Mel and Jack are for each other, and how much you just want them together.
The rest doesn’t matter. Not really.
An Accurate Portrayal of Grief
So often we see small-town stories that are about escaping something awful, and the small town ends up being somehow a miracle cure. This isn’t the case with Mel and Virgin River. Yes, the town, in many ways, was exactly what Mel needed. Jack was exactly what Mel needed. But that doesn’t mean that just breathing in the Virgin River air fixed Mel, because you cannot fix loss like that.
Grief is complicated, and it’s anything by cyclical. We go through stages, and sometimes we’re doing better, it’s been a long time, we’re good, and then it all comes crashing down. And the show never shies away from showing the messy, and relatable side of grief.
A Hero with PTSD
We’ve seen an uptick in the portrayal of heroes with mental health issues in the last few years, but PTSD, especially PTSD that doesn’t just go away as soon as the hero decides to treat it, is something that TV doesn’t really portray that well. And Jack’s PTSD is real, it’s present, but it doesn’t define Jack, even as it informs who he is.
As much as we watch shows that are focused on romance, like Virgin River, for the OTP, we need the two main characters who make up the OTP to be well-developed characters we feel for, even outside of the couple. That’s the only way we truly root for a couple if we like them both as people. And the fact that Jack looks like a knight in shinning armor, but is just a flawed man with his own issues trying to do his best …well, that makes him even more attractive.
The people in Virgin River aren’t perfect. Doc is insufferable for most of the first season, and I wasn’t even sure I would get to the point where I could love him. Hope is borderline too much at times, even when she means well. Let’s not even get started on Connie. And Lily, oh, Lily. In fact, Preacher might be my favorite non Mel/Jack character, because he seems to be one who get about 89% of the town’s common sense, which says a lot, considering Preacher’s entire storyline.
But in a way, this is all good. The people in Virgin River are messy and complicated, and they bring plenty of drama to the table, which means the drama doesn’t always have to be provided by the OTP, and it also means that there’s never a dull moment in this show ….which is the reason we watch, isn’t it?
The Small-Town Magic
Honestly, I’d give it a try just for the views. There’s something magical about the feel and look of a small-town, even if actually living in one is probably less than magical. But we all want that dream, even if for just a little while, don’t we? Especially if we don’t actually have to live it, because we have the opportunity to live vicariously through someone else.
And as Mel discovers the joys, and the sorrows, of small-town living, well, a part of us is discovering them too, and enjoying the journey, even when it doesn’t exactly go the way we want it to.
So, what are you waiting for? You’ve got a little over two weeks before season 3 of Virgin River premieres. Plenty of time to catch up, if you ask me.