Daytime drama has never looked so cinematic, but overall this soap opera falls into the same tired pitfalls of other shows in the genre. At times tedious and formulaic, while also surprisingly engaging and emotive. Season four is a real mixed bag.
This review of the Netflix series Virgin River season 4 does not contain any major spoilers.
Streaming behemoths Netflix like to cover all the many bases of the pop culture spectrum and with Virgin River they have the daytime drama genre down to a T. This quintessential soap opera follows the day-to-day lives of the titular community’s wholesome residents. Delivering a comforting slice of small town America with stunning visuals and your bog standard melodramatic theatrics. Each episode splits into multiple, intersecting subplots, addressing every member of this ensemble cast, always ending proceedings with a shocking twist or revelation. It can become quite repetitive and formulaic at times, but will surely appease long-term fans or those looking for an easy watch this summer.
Season four continues to build upon previous instalments, focusing on a handful of Virgin River’s most beloved townsfolk. Mel and Jack take center stage once again, as the couple struggle with a high-risk pregnancy and contentious paternity concerns. Who is the father of Mel’s unborn baby? Is it her deceased ex Mark or current partner Jack? On top of all this drama, Jack must face his simmering mental health issues head on and turns to the bottle one too many times. Whilst the arrival of a new, handsome doctor in town looks set to upend this perfect duo.
Other subplots include Hope’s meandering recovery from her traumatic brain injury, Brady’s unfair incarceration and many budding romances. The show mixes together sickly sweet moments of kindness, your typical soap opera hyperbole and some risqué romantic sequences. It can be quite clichéd and routine in its delivery, but Virgin River often surprises you with engaging plotting and some genuinely emotive scenes.
The series is beautifully shot as well, with breath-taking vistas, capitalizing on gorgeous Canadian landscapes. Likewise, all the show’s frequented settings look realistic and picturesque, avoiding the usual sitcom trappings, with no poorly staged sets to endure. Mel and Jack’s onscreen chemistry is top notch, with the couple going through the many highs and lows of a believable, if heightened relationship. There’s some touching moments sprinkled throughout the show too, with that small town camaraderie really hitting home and warming the soul in these tough times.
Another area that Virgin River excels in is their depiction of PTSD and the recovery of the veteran soldier. Jack’s troubled past and other character’s differing types of trauma are dealt with respectfully and authentically, which is commendable considering what a tricky topic it can be to address. They tackle Jack’s inability to face his mental health issues in a realistic and believable way. This can be frustrating to watch, but ends up being a rewarding subplot.
The show works well within these parameters, but can’t quite escape its soap opera roots. The twelve episode season becomes an endurance test at times, verging on the mundane and lackadaisical. Everyday conversations and unnecessarily stretched storylines really do offset all the good this drama has to offer. Not all of the intersecting narratives work either and the writing can be construed as laughable or lazy at its worst. Some tense arcs are resolved effortlessly, while others drag on indefinitely – there are serious pacing issues throughout. It’s quite a mixed bag of a series overall, that borders on adequacy for the most part, sometimes dipping into a sweet spot of trashy but addictive viewing.
What do you think of Netflix’s Virgin River season 4? Comment below.