In case you weren’t aware, the wildly popular Virgin River series by Robyn Carr has been made into a Netflix series. I went ahead and watched it for you so that if you were on the fence, you’d be able to make a nice, comfortable viewing decision. You’re welcome. Here’s what I discovered.
You’ll Love: The scenery
One of the things Robyn Carr does best in her series is describe the lovely, idyllic small town of Virgin River in such detail that you feel like you’re right there alongside the characters. Wherever Netflix shot this show is just as gorgeous as what Carr describes in her books. I’d totally go there. If, you know, I had any desire to be outside very much. Which I don’t. But I digress…
You’ll Love: Alexandra Breckenridge as Mel
I’ll admit that I wasn’t super excited to see that Alexandra Breckenridge was the lead in this show. I remembered her as Jessie Anderson from The Walking Dead, aka, mother of the two worst children who ever showed their faces on the show. But she pleasantly surprised me here. She really is a talented actress, and she’s gorgeous, but not so unapproachable and perfect and Barbie-doll looking that I hate her on sight, you know? She looks like someone you could be friends with.
The character of Mel is pretty great, too. She’s a survivor of some pretty awful tragedies, and she’s a little beaten down, but not broken. She’s in town to recover and rebuild her life, and she does that admirably. Mel doesn’t take any crap from anyone and is damn good at her job, too. (And y’all know I love me some competence porn.)
All in all, I’d say I owe Ms. Breckenridge an apology. We’re now square for that whole TWD thing, hon. Bygones.
You’ll Love: Preacher
As I was watching, I found myself almost ready to rush through scenes with other characters just so I could get to more scenes with Preacher in them. His character is completely fascinating, and he’s not exactly hard on the eyes, either. Ahem. Here’s hoping that there will be way more Preacher in season 2. (Hint, hint, Netflix)
You’ll (probably) Hate: Martin Henderson as Jack
Look, Martin Henderson is a talented guy. And he’s not bad-looking, either. But I just don’t get a “romance novel hero” vibe from him. Like, at all. He’s just a little...boring and plain when compared to the other actors on the show.
And as a character, I found Jack to be a little clueless and bumbling at times. His insistence that his “friend-with-benefits” doesn’t think their 2-year affair is anything more than it is because she swore when they started out she wasn’t looking for a relationship was a little sad. I mean, of COURSE she thinks you’re something more than friends with benefits after TWO YEARS TOGETHER. Geez, man, take a big whiff of all the commitment clues she’s been throwing at you. I felt like he really led Charmaine on and treated her kind of crappily, frankly. Not behavior I like to see in my romance heroes. (Even though Charmaine was a total doormat and I didn’t like her very much, she didn’t deserve THAT.)
(As a quick aside: I have read the first several books in the Virgin River series, but it’s been a while ago. I can’t remember Jack annoying me in the books, though. And I usually have near-perfect recall of all things that annoy me. So, I’m guessing that my annoyance with Jack is at least partly Martin Henderson’s fault. No offense intended, sir.)
You’ll (probably) Love: Benjamin Hollingsworth as Brady
Brady’s not a good guy. He’s kind of shifty and mysterious and obviously has problems that most likely stem from things that happened to him while he was in Iraq with Jack and Preacher. But watching him struggle and try to do the right things but fail a bunch made him infinitely more interesting to me than the squeaky-clean Jack. He’s complicated and messed up, and I could see his redemption arc being EPIC. Frankly, I wouldn’t mind seeing more of Brady and way LESS of Jack in upcoming seasons.
You’ll Love: Daniel Gillies as Mark
If you, like me, were worried about what would happen to Daniel Gillies after the dumpster that was the series finale of The Originals, fear not. He’s right here, looking lovely as ever, in this show (even if he’s only seen in flashbacks...but beggars can’t be choosy).
You’ll Hate: Hart of Dixie comparisons
If you were a fan of Hart of Dixie (and if you don’t know what I'm talking about, go look it up on Netflix immediately because it’s delightful), the plot similarities between it and the first episode of Virgin River will annoy you. Fish-out-of-water city medical professional travels to charming small town where the doctor despises her on sight and tries to run her out of town. That plot/sentence fits both Hart of Dixie and Virgin River. And the biggest similarity of all? Both shows hired the same actor—Tim Matheson—to play the grumpy, unwelcoming small-town doc.
You’ll Love: The quality
Netflix doesn’t cheap out when they do an original series. They hire good actors, good writers, good production crews, and obviously scout the best locations. Virgin River really feels very high-end when compared to, say, Hallmark and Lifetime movies. So, if you like Hallmark and Lifetime movies, you’ll LOVE this Netflix series. But even as you love it, you’ll still be able to appreciate how high-end it feels and looks.
All that said, if you’re looking for some sweet and wholesome, easy-to-watch fluff that’s a cut above your average Hallmark or Lifetime movie, you could do a lot worse than Virgin River.