TV Time: Virgin River season 4. So pretty. So slooooow.

Virgin River Credit: Netflix

As I said when I wrote up my post about season 3 of Virgin River

The more things change, the more they stay the same.

Back we go to the fictional town of Virgin River, California, a gorgeous place somewhere in Humboldt County, with beautiful rivers, mountains, and forests, quirky townspeople, amazing baked goods, and a teensy little problem with drug runners.

But romance! Especially romance!

Four seasons in, I can’t deny that I’m invested and care about these characters’ lives… and at the same time, absolutely nothing happens on this show!! Or so it seems most of the time.

Season four has 12 episodes, each about 45 minutes, so that’s plenty of opportunity to move the plot forward in a meaningful way, right?

Well, let’s take a look at the timespan of the show, shall we? Season 1 (which initially aired in 2019) included the announcement of an unplanned pregnancy at the end of the season. So here in season 4, the babies should be in preschool, right?

Nope. The pregnant character from season 1 is STILL pregnant, and according to a comment in the final episode of season 4, she’s 5 months pregnant at this point. FIVE MONTHS.

In terms of season 4 itself, as far as I could tell, it all takes place within no more than 4 weeks. So, those babies from season 1 will be born… I don’t know, season 7 or 8, maybe?

The bummer about this timespan weirdness is that all of season 4 takes place over no more than a month (possibly two), and guess what? It’s apparently not sweater season! (For context, one of my absolutely ridiculous obsessions with earlier seasons is drooling over main character Mel’s amazingly big and cozy sweaters… but this time around, they were sadly missing.)

Onward to talking about season 4. SPOILER ALERT!! I’m going to be discussing plot points from the season, so if you haven’t watched, you may want to look away!!

Season 4 continues shortly after the end of season 3, in terms of story chronology. Season 3 ended with Jack trying to propose to Mel, who interrupts so she can inform him that she’s pregnant, and he might not be the father. This would have been much more shocking if we viewers didn’t already know that she’d gone to a fertility clinic in LA while she and Jack were on a brief break and had her and her late husband’s embryos transferred. (Don’t get me started — the process is so ridiculous and unrealistic, but that’s a season 3 issue).

Jack, of course, is supportive, loves Mel no matter what, and insists that this baby will be their baby, no matter who the biological father actually is. But, he doesn’t want to do a paternity test — he’s afraid that a definitive answer might affect how he feels about the baby, so he’d rather not know.

In case you’re keeping score, that makes Jack the expectant father of three babies!

Meanwhile, he continues to struggle with PTSD from his Marine days, and seems be in denial about a drinking problem too. Also lingering is the question of who shot him (at the end of season 2) — his former Marine buddy is in prison for attempted murder, but Brady has been shown to have a heart of gold (thanks to his relationship with Jack’s sister), so we know it wasn’t him!!

What else? Other plot points this season include:

  • A kidnapped child
  • Ongoing drug business
  • Recovery from a traumatic brain injury
  • A surprise grandchild showing up in town
  • A new doctor at the clinic
  • Mel’s sister getting married to a guy she’s known for one month
  • A local teen leaving his girlfriend behind to join the Marines
  • Aikido lessons for Preacher (and a new love interest)
  • There’s a Renaissance Faire!!

And on and on. There are dramatic reveals set up as cliffhangers at the end of various episodes (OMG, the pilot of the small plane is having a heart attack mid-flight!) which get resolved neatly and easily as soon as the next episode starts (the pilot is fine, Jack landed the plane, everybody is good!).

There are weird developments –a young couple eating at Jack’s bar mention how excited they are about a glamping getaway in an Airstream, and within minutes, Jack has decided that his new side business will be… buying Airstreams to set up a glamping business! Way to jump in with zero research, Jack.

There’s a hugely over-the-top baby shower (for Charmaine, mother of Jack’s unborn twins — due sometime in 2026, perhaps?) that looks like the most painful and boring event of all times. Maybe it’s supposed to look like how rich people would throw a baby shower, but to me, it looked like a super awkward business event that’s trying to be fun. Give me baby Pictionary and silly games with balls of yarn in someone’s living room any day!

Shows with small town settings like this seem to be required to include (a) nosy residents who love to gossip (b) a sewing or knitting circle and (c) a festival or fair of some kind. Check, check, and check! The Renaissance Faire is very fun to watch while also being totally goofy. Of course, everyone has amazing costumes! They even get the new town doc to dance around the maypole, and naturally, Jack gets to play a knight in a mock sword fight. It’s awesome.

To be fair, a few plot points do get somewhat straightened out by the end of the season. Again, SPOILER ALERT, because this gives away some big reveals:

  • The kidnapped child is saved!
  • The kidnapper is also Jack’s shooter, and it looks like he’s finally been caught!
  • And….
  • … the biggest reveal…
  • Jack is NOT actually the father of Charmaine’s babies! Dun dun dun….

My biggest complaint about the show overall is that I absolutely hate the drug smuggling plotline, but it doesn’t appear to be going away any time soon. And now there’s a new crime boss in town with a surprising connection to one of the local families. You know this can’t be good. I really, really, really can’t stand any aspect of this storyline, which seems completely unnecessary to an otherwise nice show about people in a small town — but I understand that this plot is from the books, so I guess we’re stuck with the awful drug running stuff for a while longer.

Why do I keep watching this show, when clearly I have issues with it?

Because it still has enough good stuff, like…

  • You guessed it, the amazing scenery! I want to LIVE in this town, wander through the woods, and sit and gaze at the rivers.
  • We get to watch Tim Matheson! He remains a delight as Doc Mullins, and I love every moment he’s on screen.
  • Mel… well, I’m on the fence. I’ve loved her up to now, and I do love seeing her in action as a highly skilled, highly compassionate medical professional. Unfortunately, she spends a lot of this season moping and being sad — often with good reason, but it’s just not very much fun.
  • Bree, introduced last season, gets more screen time, and I enjoy her a lot too. Yay for another strong woman in town!

So, for now, I’m sticking with it! But if those babies don’t start getting born in season 5, I may finally reach my breaking point.

What about you? Who’s still watching Virgin River? What do you think of season 4?

And still the lingering question — should I give the books a try?

TV Time: Virgin River season 3. So watchable. So annoying.

Virgin River Credit: Netflix

The more things change, the more they stay the same.

Or, in the case of season 3 of Virgin River, newly released on Netflix, nothing really changes, and everything pretty much stays the same.

This show. Geez. I love watching it, but it’s also so ridiculous and laughable… and endearing AF.

So, season 3.

Note: SPOILER ALERT!! I’m going to be discussing plot points from the season, so if you haven’t watched, you may want to look away!!

Season 3 picks up soon after the cliffhanger ending of season 2. Season 2 ended with Jack lying bleeding on the floor of his bar, shot by an unknown assailant and on the verge of death. (Except he’s the main love interest and that makes him bullet-proof).

As season 3 opens, Jack is alive! He’s recovering from his bullet wound, but has no memory of who shot him. Signs point to someone connected with the illegal drug trade that once thrived in the woods near Virgin River, but there’s no proof, and the drug business is (thankfully) mostly gone from this season, after being raided and driven out.

Can I get a Hallelujah?? I hated everything about the drug-running subplots of the previous two seasons. Let’s just focus on small-town adorableness, with its quirky personalities and town gossip, and leave drug kingpins to other, darker shows.

OK, back to season 3. Some new characters are introduced, including Jack’s sister Brie, who gets involved with a bad boy and seems to like riding on the back of his motorcycle and other risky behavior. There’s also a notable supporting character missing — Hope, Doc’s sometimes-estranged wife, is out of town for the entire season, making a couple of brief appearances during Zoom calls (apparently because of COVID restrictions affecting the actress’s ability to participate in filming).

There are continuing stories about the son of a woman on the run being sheltered by her friend, teen romance, Doc’s own health issue, and a tearjerker about a local woman diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. Meanwhile, Jack’s ex is STILL pregnant and being obnoxious, and in our main storyline, Jack and Mel are in love, but face ups and downs.


Let me once again break it down into highs and lows.

The good stuff:

  • Once again, the scenery is AMAZING. I’d watch a travel documentary just showing aerial views of the woods, the rivers, and the mountains. Except Virgin River is a fictional location (supposedly in Northern California, but filmed in British Columbia). I want to go there! I want my own cabin on the river!!
  • The characters themselves are great, especially Mel. She’s a strong, professional woman with endless wells of compassion, a good friend, a devoted sister. I love her to bits and pieces.
  • As I said in my post about the first two seasons, any excuse to watch Tim Matheson in action is a gift. He’s just lovely as Doc, gruff and grumbly, but with a heart of gold and a gentle side too. This season, he gets to be particularly vulnerable as he’s put through an emotional wringer, and every time he tears up, my heart melts.
  • Small town cuteness!! There’s a lumberjack festival, for Pete’s sake!! Everyone wears flannel, there’s log rolling and a chainsaw competition, and it’s just so corny yet also adorable in all its weirdness.
  • And one more time… it’s just so pretty! Like this moment, for example:

Which totally gives me this vibe:

The bits that drive me nuts:

  • Time moves SO slowly. As I wrote in my post about the first two seasons: A character who revealed a pregnancy at the end of season one is now (2 episodes from the end of season 2) nearing the end of her first trimester. So… she’ll give birth in season 4 or 5? I guess I was being prophetic: As of the end of season 3, that same character is MAYBE in her second trimester. So expecting her to give birth in season 4 is maybe even a bit optimistic!
  • Except in one instance, time moves too quickly. A character reveals early in the season that she was diagnosed with stage 4 pancreatic cancer, is opting for palliative care, and wants to live out her remaining days at home with her family and friends. And within a couple more episodes, she’s dead. No wasting away, no depressing episodes showing her weakening and getting sicker. Just boom — she goes to take a nap after a great day with friends, and then she’s dead. So weird.
  • Nothing really changes. Ever. We start the season not knowing who shot Jack. We end the season not knowing who shot Jack. Characters have ups and downs, but the plot is SO static so much of the time.
  • We end with Mel telling Jack that she’s pregnant, and that the baby might not be his. Well, we know why that is… but it’s utterly ridiculous. While visiting her sister in LA for a few days, Mel is reminded by her sister that she still has some embryos left from her fertility process with her late husband. Despondent over her break-up (very temporary) with Jack, Mel goes to the fertility doctor’s office. Well, apparently, she walked in and got impregnated, just like that. And that made me roll my eyes so hard I thought they’d fall out of my head. This is a woman with a history of fertility issues, who’s gone through multiple rounds of IVF. She was only in LA for a few days, as far as we could tell. If she was going to move forward with having embryos implanted, she should have been on hormones, at the very least. This is not a single trip to the doctor’s office situation!!
  • Jack’s ex is expecting twins (sometime in 2025, I guess), and apparently she’s engaged to some rich guy she’s just met, and everyone talks as if Jack would have no parental rights at all… and I just don’t understand. There’s DNA testing in the 21st century, people! Why does his lawyer act as though he has no chance of being the babies’ legal father unless Charmaine allows his name to be put on the birth certificate?
  • Inconsisent supporting characters — there are certain characters whose depiction seems to change depending on what scene they’re in, and I wish the show would just make up its mind! Connie is often shown as an interfering gossip, but then she’ll turn around and offer protection to someone with a secret and acts like other people’s most trusted friend. Which is she? Same with Muriel, who in previous seasons was set up to date Doc as a decoy by Hope (never mind, it’s complicated). Muriel is sort of depicted as someone who might not be trustworthy around other people’s husbands (ugh, I hate that judge-y kind of vibe), but she’s actually completely lovely. Muriel in season 3 is vivacious, supportive, and tons of fun… so why do I feel like the show wants us to be suspicious of her when it comes to Doc?
  • Lack of diversity. There is exactly one Black named/featured character on the show. I was shocked when a Black family was seen walking by at the lumberjack games. Wait, there are families of color living in Virgin River? The show needs to open its doors a little wider, is all I’m saying.

Despite my grumbling, I freely admit that I’m hooked on the show. I just wish more would happen in a season. How long is the wait until season 4? Arrrrrggh.

And one final thing: I still haven’t read the books. Should I???

TV Time: Virgin River is so dumb. So why can’t I stop watching?

Season two of the Netflix series Virgin River (adapted from the book series by Robyn Carr) just dropped last week, and as of this writing, I have 2 of the 10 episodes yet to watch (and I will definitely finish them tonight).

Friends, this show is dumb. But it’s also incredibly watchable.

The basics: 30-something Mel Monroe is an accomplished nurse practitioner-midwife from LA who moves to Virgin River, a small rural town in Northern California, to accept a one-year position in a medical clinic.

Mel’s husband died in a car accident the year before, and she’s been consumed by her grief ever since. She’s hoping that a complete change will help her heal and move forward with her life.

What she doesn’t know is that the doctor whose practice she’s joining doesn’t want her — he’s been pressured into accepting her by the town busybody, who is also the town mayor and his estranged wife.

Mel arrives to find that the home she’s been promised is a decaying old shack, and that she’s already managed to insult the doctor she’ll be working for. On the bright side is local restaurant/bar owner Jack, a sweet, sexy man with a deep soul, who has demons of his own — he’s haunted by his memories of his time as a Marine sergeant and the young soldier in his squad who didn’t make it back.

Naturally, Mel and Jack have instant chemistry, and it seems likely that their friendship will blossom into romance. Meanwhile, Jack has a casual girlfriend who’s much more invested in the relationship than he is; there’s a town full of quirky characters to meet; and there are some unsavory types adding an element of danger as well.

So why do I think it’s dumb? But why is it so watchable?

First, I’ll focus on the good:

  • The scenery is AMAZING. While the town of Virgin River is supposed to be located in Humboldt County, California, the series was shot in British Columbia, and it shows. The rivers and mountains and forests are absolutely breathtaking. I think at least half the reason I keep watching is for the pure delight of seeing the gorgeous setting.
  • Mel herself is a great character. She’s strong and accomplished, an expert in her field, and full of compassion for her patients (even when they treat her like dirt). Over the course of the first season, we see flashbacks that establish the deep loss she experienced — scenes from her marriage to Mark, the tragic loss of their stillborn baby and subsequent struggle with infertility, and the accident that took Mark’s life. Actress Alexandra Breckenridge does a terrific job of portraying Mel’s straightforward approach to life.
  • Side note: This is shallow, but I love Mel’s wardrobe! I want to live insider her big, fluffy, cozy sweaters.
  • Tim Matheson as Doc Mullens. If you like Tim Matheson in Hart of Dixie, you’ll like him in Virgin River — he’s basically playing the same character! He’s always a delight to watch, and seems to have cornered the market on grumpy older doctors who don’t want to change.
  • Small town wholesomeness — any TV show set in a small town, whether it’s suburban Stars Hollow, Connecticut (like Gilmore Girls) or a southern town like Bluebell, Alabama (Hart of Dixie) or even a place riddled with supernatural beings like Mystic Falls, Virginia (Vampire Diaries) seems to thrive on showing town fairs, special traditions, barn dances, carnivals — you name it. Virgin River has its share of small town celebrations, just as you’d expect — even a super competitive egg relay race.

The bits that drive me nuts:

  • Manly men acting manly. Jack is an ex-Marine, as are his best buddies, and they’re all very noble and manly and protectors of the women folk. It can feel like a recruiting ad at times.
  • There’s a drug trafficking subplot that seems SO unnecessary — an illegal pot grower in the woods with bad guy enforcers with big guns, injecting an element of danger (and giving Jack an adversary to face down.) Why does a small town drama need drug runners? Why?
  • Time moves slowly. A character who revealed a pregnancy at the end of season one is now (2 episodes from the end of season 2) nearing the end of her first trimester. So… she’ll give birth in season 4 or 5?
  • Town gossip. I know, small town drama and all, but the small town gossip element is just silly. The drama between Doc and his sometimes-wife Hope is annoying as hell. They decide to reconcile, but Hope pushes him to pretend date someone else to throw people off their tracks, which seems all kinds of silly and mean to the other woman (who’s perfectly lovely and actually seems like a better match for Doc than moody, demanding Hope, who has held a grudge over a repented-for infidelity for 20 years!)
  • Teen drama. Of course one of the older women from town has her trouble-child niece come to town, and of course the niece is a stereotypical bad girl who’s leading the sweet town boy astray.
  • Let’s see, what else? Well, every possible small town drama plot point we’ve seen before, including a baby on the doorstep, a domestic violence survivor hiding out under an assumed name, petty jealousies, a surprise pregnancy, PTSD, and more.

Still, as I said, it’s highly watchable even while having moments that are absolute clunkers. Mel is really a great character, and I feel invested in her, even if it’s just watching her go on her morning runs through the forest and across the suspension bridge. I really appreciate her vulnerability as a person, which never keeps her from being the consummate medical professional.

Maybe it’s not fair to call the show dumb. It has its entertaining, heart-warming moments, and it’s definitely drawn me in.

But, ugh! PLEASE dump the drug runners and all the stereotypical small town plots already.

So, in other words:

Me: Grumble, grumble, grumble, this show is dumb.

And also me: Bring on season 3!

Query for readers: Has anyone read the Virgin River books? Should I give them a try? Or will I be just as annoyed as I am by the show?