Well, hello there! Come on in, pull up a chair by the unnecessarily lit fireplace, grab a slice of pie (which, if you’re anything like the characters on this show, you’ll never get around to eating), and make yourself comfortable because, friends, Season 3 of Virgin River was my least favorite so far, and I have A LOT to say. What’s that? You don’t have time to read over 2,200 words about a TV show? I mean, in that case I feel like you may have taken a wrong turn on the internet. But, the short version is that the scenery is breathtaking, love is slipperier than a striped bass, secrets are as plentiful as the days are long, everybody is more up in their feelings than there are stars in the sky, and plotlines are as lazy as hot summer afternoons (a few times they even made me feel like I had heat stroke). My friend and I watched the season finale together and we accurately predicted every plot point down to the last words spoken, which is impressive even for two experts in the genre like ourselves. (I put that last bit in just to brag. I’m not at all ashamed.)
If you recall, at the end of Season 2 we left Jack (Martin Henderson) on the floor of his bar, bleeding from a gunshot wound while the ever competent Mel (Alexandra Breckenridge) tried to staunch the blood with some towels of questionable cleanliness. It was a lot. We all wondered what was going to happen, and then the credits rolled. Now Season 3 is finally here and Jack is…fine. No, like really just totally fine. It’s kind of a let down. The season opens with a Very Dramatic hospital montage of Jack being wheeled in from the ambulance with urgent voice overs requesting blood transfusions and for people to CLEAR so they can use defibrillators, and then it fast forwards three weeks to where everyone is sitting quietly in the darkened bar and you momentarily think, Oh no! But it turns out that everyone (including Jack) is waiting to surprise Ricky (Grayson Maxwell Gurnsey) with a graduation party. This is actually a great analogy for the entire season.
Anyhoodle, Jack really is just dandy except for the fact that he has no memory of who shot him, which he’s only occasionally concerned about. And somehow he’s not having the flashbacks or the night terrors that he had throughout the first two seasons. Plus, throughout Season 2 we watched him sneak more and more sips from his flask, and seemingly edge closer toward losing control, while now he seems to be, and I’ll say it once again for the doubters, absolutely fine. This is very curious. And by curious I mean it seems like a plot hole you could drive his very large truck through. No matter, let’s not dwell on that which we cannot control!
Jack and Mel are still very much in love. In fact, they are so much in love that I found myself constantly bracing for them to have a falling out. On a show like this, the main couple coming together and then being pushed apart over and over again is as natural and expected as the ebb and flow of the ocean tides. So you enjoy all their schmoopy love, their fiery romantic gazes, and their lustful kisses, knowing full well that soon enough something will come between them. Obviously, I’m not going to tell you if or when that happens this season. I’m just saying it happens a lot in shows like these. But for now they are very much in love, and we hear about how in love they are A LOT. They are constantly talking about their relationship, and often at the most inopportune times. Actually, their constant prattling on about their love feels like a blatant attempt to distract us from the glaring lack of any cogent plot this season, so I can’t say I really enjoyed it after all.
One of my least favorite parts of the non-plot is how Jack really wants to celebrate Mel’s birthday in some big way, but she is very clear about just wanting to work and then come home to have a coconut cupcake and bubble bath. (Honestly, I appreciate how Mel is always pretty clear about her wants and needs.) But Jack, whose family has always celebrated birthdays in a big way, just can’t believe she doesn’t want to do more, so he spends the entire day planning lovely but unnecessary things for Mel. But then, my friends, he does something that I consider unforgivable. (And if you’re wondering why I’m belaboring this specific plot point, we’re about to get there.) He asks her to get dressed and go to his house AFTER SHE HAS PUT ON HER PAJAMAS! I’m not talking about her sweatpants. Or her loungewear. But her actual honest to goodness nighttime pajamas. The audacity! The sacrilege! I’m pretty sure I felt my soul leave my body. Once they have been donned for the evening, only a life or death emergency should separate a woman from her nighttime pajamas. Let us now bow our heads and praise the elastic waistband. Amen.
Wait. Where was I? Oh, right. Jack finally gets Mel her coconut cupcake and her bubble bath, which he draws for her at his house. Does her cabin not have a tub? I don’t know, but I bet it does. Jack joins Mel in the tub because it’s romantic and shit (I guess) and also because it’s a setup for Mel to suddenly smell smoke and then for the two of them to run out of Jack’s house as it’s entirely engulfed in flames.
This will force Jack to consider things like whether he is ready to live with Mel and what he wants his life with her to look like overall. And for a lot of goddamn people to ask him if he is okay. But look, I’m pointing this out mostly because this season has a real problem with verisimilitude. I say this as someone who is perfectly willing to suspend a lot, a lot of disbelief, but there are several scenarios that really push the limits of what’s possible in time and space. And I guess they mostly bothered me because they felt lazy when it came to the writing and plot editing. There’s a subplot where someone appears to get IVF on a whim during a weekend trip, which, I mean… I just… I guess all I can say is that it makes the whole plot of Jane getting accidentally inseminated with Rafael’s semen on Jane the Virgin start to seem downright scientific by comparison.
A lot of the plot for Season 3 is carried over from the second season, with very little of it finding any resolution in this season either. You should know that Hope (Annette O’Toole) is away visiting her octogenarian aunt in one of the Carolinas where she’ll be stuck for much of this season, which I’m not sad about. I’ve made no secret of the fact that Hope rubs me the wrong way. I find her character unnecessarily abrasive and whiny. And while many other characters have developed beyond their initial annoying first impressions—think Lizzie (Sarah Dugdale), Connie (Nicola Cavendish), or Muriel (Teryl Rothery), for a few examples—Hope has stayed as off putting as her chosen shade of lipstick. But the characters do spend a significant amount of every episode worrying about Hope’s health, safety, or emotional well-being. It seems like the emotional effort in being in a relationship with Hope is very unbalanced. As a side note, I do love that Doc (Tim Matheson) refers to her aunt as octogenarian multiple times. I want Hope to go back when the woman is in her nineties so he can talk about her nonagenarian aunt, and also so that Hope won’t be in Virgin River.
So, Doc is still dealing with his degrading vision and he’s very much trying to keep it a secret from everyone, including Mel, which seems rather misguided since she’s his colleague and all. Ricky and Lizzie are still looking for places where they can smash in private and they are still being hounded by Connie for having the audacity to be extremely horny, but responsible young adults. Give. It. Up. Connie. Ricky is keeping a Very Big Secret from Lizzie and he’s also extremely worried about what everyone else thinks, both of which are driving a wedge between them. Lizzie, however, has blossomed into an incredibly sympathetic character who is self-sufficient, clear-headed, direct, and extremely supportive. I adore the way she rolls her eyes about being stuck in Virgin River and then balks when someone raises the idea of her leaving. Or how she complains about being recruited to help out at the Lumberjack Games—obviously there would be a town festival!—but then throws herself into helping. Muriel also really grew on me this season. She’s just so comfortable in her own skin, observant, and kind. At one point she and the sewing circle ladies are joking about how when she first moved to town Muriel flirted with someone’s husband. Muriel asked how she was supposed to know he was married. They all laugh and someone points out that he always wore a wedding ring to which Muriel responds with a perfectly timed scoff and a faux huffy, “What am I? A detective?”
Preacher (Colin Lawrence) and Connie are still caring for Paige’s son Christopher (Chase Petriw) while Paige tries to figure out how to escape her ex-husband’s identical twin brother Vince. This plot line should be super dramatic, but it’s mostly mired down in domesticity. Honestly, what saves it is how absolutely charming Preacher is as Chrisopher’s de facto guardian. Can I just say how much I like Preacher? Yes, yes at first it was largely about his Genetically Blessed Face, but Preacher is just such a good egg, you know? He deserves all the good things, which he does not necessarily get this season.
Charmaine (Lauren Hammersley) is still pregnant with the twins and still barely showing. I mean, every pregnant person is different, but I feel like she has been pregnant for about 6,000 weeks and she’s still somehow in the first trimester? At first her character feels slightly less antagonistic, but sadly it doesn’t last. A few weeks ago she met a highly successful personal injury attorney named Todd (Patrick Sabongui). (She actually refers to him pretty much verbatim as a highly successful personal injury attorney and it’s possibly the most stilted line ever uttered in the show. Was that on purpose for the sake of humor? Maybe. If so, it was highly successful.) Now they are engaged and he wants to take away Jack’s custodial rights to the still unborn twins. I may have gasped. Todd is like a case study in red flags. He is controlling, unkind, greedy, and underhanded. None of this is going to end well. It reminds me of a line from Flack, a very different kind of show, when someone warns to “be wary of men whose pockets or dicks are too big, it makes their entitlement unbearable.”
Brady (Benjamin Hollingsworth) is trying to keep out of Calvin’s (David Cubitt) path and run the lumber business, which is having financial difficulties that he wants to—you guessed it—keep secret from all his workers. His feller buncher has broken and it will be $50,000 to replace it. (My reliable source tells me that in reality it would cost more like $250,000 for a new feller buncher, which is a very fun word to say.) And half of his trees are infested with pine beetles, which makes them unusable. Though, according to my cursory research on the topic, I’m not sure that’s absolutely true. Do some research Brady! Brady is also spending a lot with Jack’s sister Brie (Zibby Allen), who came to visit when he was in the hospital and, for reasons she’s keeping Very Secret, has decided to stick around. (Brie is a solid addition to the cast, and probably the first friend for Mel that feels like her equal. I hope she sticks around.) Brady and Brie feel a lot of in-their-pants feelings for each other, but their lust is somewhat thwarted by the fact that it’s unclear if Brady was the one who shot Jack. A minor roadblock on the way to a happy, healthy relationship. Look, Brady has done some not great things, but I’m pretty sure his redemption tour is coming soon, and I’m very much looking forward to it.
Can I tell you a secret? If one more motherfracking person swore someone else to secrecy this season I may not have recovered. There were secrets about diseases large and small, pregnancies, miscarriages, sexual assault, careers, and things I’m sure I’m forgetting. Will the people of Virgin River ever learn that all the secrets eventually come out anyway? And always at the worst time and in the most dramatic fashion? But, please don’t tell anyone I said that. I wouldn’t want to hurt their feelings.
Look, I don’t want you to take all my complaining the wrong way. First of all, complaining is my love language. Gah. Sorry. Saying love language made me gag a little. But seriously. I am wholly attached to these characters, their stories, and to this entirely fictional place. I am absolutely less than thrilled with much of this season. Okay. Fine. I disliked much of this season. But that doesn’t mean I don’t care. Oh, I care very much. It’s just that so much of this season felt like it was a rehashing of last season, which was a season that I already referred to as Placeholder Season. The conversations about people’s feelings, about how much they love each other, about the sunsets, about the town, about the memories, about the goddamn secrets, and on and on and on and on and on and on were eerily familiar. Much of the season feels like it lacks any traction or direction. It’s as if everyone is waiting for the next thing to happen, and in the meantime they’re just having the same conversations over and over and being kind of mopey. For the viewers it’s a little like we’re trapped in a car in the middle of a muddy field and the tires won’t quite catch, so they just keep spinning us deeper and deeper into the same mess. I feel like the writers had a strong beginning with the first season and likely know where they want everyone to end up, but they’ve gotten a little lost here in the middle. I hope by next season they’ve found some real direction, purpose, storytelling, and plausibility. I’m saying to do better, writers! Do it for Preacher! He deserves better! Protect Preacher at all costs! But I digress. As always, I will be here for the not shocking developments. I’ll keep my fingers crossed that people find more time for therapy and sleep. I sincerely hope that they have fewer Life Altering Secrets they need to keep. And for the love of all the baked goods in the bakery truck can we please get some real fucking plot development?!? Now, are you going to finish that piece of pie? Or may I have it?