Virgin River 3×01 “Where There’s Smoke” picks back from the emotional cliffhanger at the end of season 2, and then, of course, jumps forward in time, because the show – and they must be commended for it – has no intention of pretending it’s anything but what it is, a romance. Jack wasn’t getting killed off (which, honestly, should be common sense, but it isn’t because shows like When Calls The Heart exist), and they don’t really need to waste time making us believe he might die or having us sit through his recovery.
No good drama ever came during recovery, after all! At least not the Virgin River kind of drama.
One glaring absence during this episode is Annette O’Toole’s Hope, who is mentioned a few times as being away, visiting an elderly relative. It’s as good an excuse as any, it’s just that we’re so used to Hope being all up in everyone’s business that it’s almost impossible to believe she would actually leave Virgin River. What does this town even look like with her? And – did Doc ever tell her about that thing we all know is health related?
The most obvious explanation is the most obvious explanation for basically everything during the last year: the pandemic. The third season of the show did film during some of the worst of the pandemic, and O’Toole’s availability might have been limited because of that. Which doesn’t make it any less confusing to exist in Virgin River without Hope.
We don’t get answers in Virgin River 3×01 “Where There’s Smoke,” but we do get a party for Ricky, some more Ricky and Lizzie cuteness – and am I the only one bracing for pain when it comes to these two? – as well as an introduction to Brie, Jack’s sister, who instantly clicks with me, even if the show is going very hard for ambivalence when it comes to her. Sometimes characters are introduced in a way that makes it clear the show isn’t committing to just one thing with them. That’s the case with Brie, except …I don’t care. I like her.
Another notable thing in this episode, before we go into the Mel and Jack of it all, is Preacher taking care of Christopher, and have I mentioned I love Preacher and I love this relationship? I know Preacher is truly in over his head, and it’s kind of funny that he hasn’t figured it out yet, but I’m still happy to enjoy where this goes. I do hope we get some resolution regarding Paige sometime soon, but I will admit I’m really enjoying getting to see Preacher bond with Christopher. I’m a sucker for found family stories.
One thing I’m not quite enjoying is the Brady questions, just as I’ve never quite enjoyed Brady, in general. Despite that, though, I get the feeling this is the season when we see another side of Brady, because in Virgin River 3×01 “Where There’s Smoke” I had more positive feelings for him than I ever have before. If it ends up that he was the one who shot Jack, however, I will snuff all those positive feelings out and hang him out to dry myself. No one touches Jack and gets away with it.
Which leads us to Mel and Jack, the center of this show, the thing that keeps us watching. This is a nice episode for Mel, even if the focus is very different as what she usually gets. This isn’t about her dead husband, or her dead child, this is just about Mel’s childhood, and about the issues we carry with us, the ones that feel smaller on the face of the big tragedies of life, the things we interiorize and let affect our lives. Mel is happy, she’s loved, and she’s not alone, but she still doesn’t feel like celebrating her birthday. That might be hard for Jack, or even for us to understand, but that’s life sometimes.
Sometimes it’s not about understanding other people’s reasons, it’s about respecting them, and loving them throughout. And some things just cannot be fixed by love, no matter how much one might want them to be.
Jack tries, because of course he does. That’s who Jack is. He’s the type to take care of people, and he wants to take care of Mel. He wants to show her that, with him, she will always be looked after. He will always not just protect her; he will also always make her happiness a priority.
But sometimes, what you want, what you need, is just the man you love in a very, very low-slung towel, holding a coconut cupcake while “Time After Time” plays in the background. That’s my dream too, Mel. Can’t say I blame you there, not at all. Even if afterwards, in typical Virgin River style, the house somehow catches fire, and we’re left to look on with Mel and Jack while making this face:
Seriously, what is it with this show and those cliffhangers? I promise, I’ll keep watching the show, even without them! And a fire AFTER being shot? Jack needs a bodyguard or fifty, because I cannot be the only one thinking that’s more than suspect, right? Right?
In the end Virgin River 3×01 “Where There’s Smoke” is a good, strong start to the season, and quintessential to what the show typically is, a story about flawed people who have issues, and who don’t always make the right choices, but who mess up and move on and try and more importantly, who love each other, and who put kindness above everything, even when they’re making mistakes. And that’s worth investing in.
Agree? Disagree? What did you think of Virgin River 3×01 “Where There’s Smoke”? Share with us in the comments below!
Virgin River season 3 is available on Netflix.