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. (Note: Originally published 1/13/2020, updated on 12/1/2020 to include my thoughts on season 2)
You’ll Love: The scenery
Season 1: 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…
Season 2: The scenery is still practically a main character all on its own. It's so gorgeous its ridiculous.
You’ll Love: Alexandra Breckenridge as Mel
Season 1: 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.
Season 2: I'm still liking Mel. She's a little wishy-washy in season 2 where Jack is concerned, but I can overlook it. She's still grieving, and that makes sense to me. And if it's possible, I think this actress even got MORE attractive since last season. :0
You’ll Love: Preacher
Season 1: 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)
Season 2: He's still one of my favorite characters on the show. He's just so...good at everything. I was a little disappointed that his role in season 2 wasn't bigger. I was hoping for a grand romance between him and Paige this season, but alas, it wasn't in the cards. Still, Preacher is a great reason to keep watching this show in season 3.
You’ll (maybe) Hate: Martin Henderson as Jack
Season 1: 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.)
Season 2: OK, he grew on me a little this season. I feel like he should wash his hair more (he's a little greasy in season 2, if I'm being honest), but overall, he's handling the stress that Charmaine brought into his life at the end of last season decently. He had his moments of panic, sure, but overall, he didn't lead Charmaine on and showed the makings of a good romance hero. I think he owes Preacher a big time apology and definitely owes him ownership stake in the bar after all he's done, but I'm confident that'll all work itself out next season.
You’ll (probably) Love: Benjamin Hollingsworth as Brady
Season 1: 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.
Season 2: Brady continued to be interesting in season 2. I wish he would've had more to do in season 2, but he had a nice little moment to shine in the last episode.
You’ll Love: Daniel Gillies as Mark
Season 1: If you, like me, were worried about what would happen to Daniel Gillies after the dumpster fire 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).
Season 2: Nothing new to report here. He's still dead. But still...it's nice to see him working.
You’ll Hate: The lack of diversity
Season 1: With the exception of Preacher, Virgin River is very, very white. It also seems to be very, very straight. A little (or a lot) more diversity would really help the show.
Season 2: Still very straight and white. And as a viewer pointed out in the comments, this show is set in Northern California, which makes the lack of diversity even more glaring. Honestly, if not for the scenery, I'd think this show was set in a small town in the rural south east.
And to anyone who feels the need to point out that not every show needs diversity...well, of course not every show NEEDS diversity to tell a story. But this is fiction. Why WOULDN'T we include more characters that we find in every day life? There are gay people and Black people and Asians and Latinos in small towns everywhere. Why should fiction continue to push the false narrative that all small towns are populated only by straight white people? And on the flip side of the "not every show needs diversity" argument--are you trying to say that the story wouldn't work just as well with more diversity? That, say, any of Hope's sewing circle friends COULDN'T have been gay or Black or Asian or Latino? 'Cause I think that'd be a pretty tough argument to make stick without sounding a little foolish.
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.
Random season 2 thoughts
1. There is WAY too much Hope and Doc this season for my liking. Hope was on my nerves last season, and she didn't earn herself any points this season with her whole "you should date other people so that no one knows WE'RE together" nonsense. It was immature and ridiculous and I wanted to smack Hope upside the head many, many times.
2. There is also WAY too much Charmaine this season for my liking. If there was ever a more petulant, childish, desperate, whiny, needy character on TV, I certainly can't think of one. I have no idea why Jack kept her as his friend with benefits for any length of time. She's horrible.
3. I hate Lizzie with the fire of a thousand suns. Poor Ricky.
4. I was JUST starting to like Connie...then she got all judgmental and hypocritical, not to mention nosy and nasty. Sigh.
5. Mel's former sister-in-law can choke on a giant bag of dicks as far as I'm concerned. I sincerely hope she's a character that NEVER darkens Virgin River again.
6. Mel casually takes a fair amount of verbal abuse from Charmaine and her former sister-in-law this season. She handled it quietly and gracefully, which is, I guess, in character for her. But just once, I kind of wanted to see Mel go off on one of these hags and ripe them a new one, because they deserved it.
7. Cliffhangers SUCK. That is all.
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.