A Wounded Heart
If Truth Be Told
Into The Light
Everybody Has a Secret
Melodramatic, soapy and sickeningly syrupy, Virgin River has an awful lot of faults across its 10 episode series. And yet, it’s also undeniably a bit of a guilty pleasure. Part of that guilt comes from the fact that this is a show absolutely reveling in an abundance of TV tropes and you’ll see all the big plot “twists” coming a mile away.
So why is this a pleasure? Well, part of that comes from the characters inhabiting this world. They manage to single-handedly save this one from becoming a complete catastrophe but of course that can only get you so far on the small screen. Given the 10 episode run, by the latter half of this season the flaws and clichés are just too great to ignore.
Before we get there though, the story itself begins relatively well. Set in the quaint mountainous town of Virgin River, Nurse practitioner Mel (later Nurse midwife apparently) is a city girl at heart and she packs up her things and heads to the country for a fresh start.
When she arrives in town though, she’s greeted by grumpy Doc Mullins who’s none too happy to see her. He believes this young girl is taking over his practice and refuses to give her the time of day.
Mayor Hope is a little more enthusiastic to see her though, but a misleading online ad leads Mel straight into a run-down, poorly managed cabin for accommodation; a far cry from the promise of luxury.
With Mel immediately out of her comfort zone and depth, the only friendly face in town happens to be Jack; a suave, rugged guy who runs the local bar. As Mel tries her best to fit in with the others, things take a turn for the surprising when a baby shows up on Doc’s doorstep; the first of several arcs that fill out this 10 episode series.
Predictably, you’ve got a love triangle in here too, busying up the better half of the final 7 episodes, while a couple of contrived scenarios midway through push Mel into Mary Sue territory – thankfully just temporarily. All of this builds up to a predictable finale that leaves the door open for a second season.
There’s a lot of flashbacks interspersed along the way too – mainly for Jack and Mel. The former sees his time in the army come back in devastating ways while Mel’s woes in the city show what drove her to leave and start a new life. These work relatively well across the season, with the supporting cast given their own sub-plots to keep things moving too.
Preacher, the quiet but loyal bartender, has his own storyline featuring a woman called Paige. This adds an element of mystery but it’s very obvious what’s going on here. In fact, you’ll very likely figure it out by episode 3.
Mayor Hope has a medical issue that threatens her livelihood too but given her importance to the story there’s never really any threat to her being killed off. There’s also a few other characters that crop up and lend their piece but ultimately this show revolves around Mel and what happens to her in town.
Of course that earlier mention of likability can only get you so far with a show like this. When you start to dive in and look at the individual plot elements, they’re as predictable as they are tired and worn out. We’ve seen this sort of show a million times before and Virgin River unashamedly leans hard into every single trick in the book.
If you’re looking for background noise and something to dip in and out of, Virgin River will likely be your jam. The likable characters do give this one some brownie points but the sheer lack of imaginative plot elements and cliché-ridden script make this a very obvious and predictable ride from start to finish.
Given the gorgeous setting surrounding the show, it’s perhaps a little disappointing that this one doesn’t have the same wow factor as the scenery. Instead, Virgin River falls into a tourist trap; luring its viewers in with promise but showing them nothing that hasn’t been done better elsewhere.
Verdict - 4/10