Whether or not Season 4 of Virgin River will get the nod is under a cloud, but there’s already a fierce debate on as to why it should. Even if it doesn’t get past the clearing board, you can always revel in the fact that there are now exactly 30 episodes of it to watch. And if — like me — you’ve not yet watched Seasons 1 and 2 (10 episodes each), you can set yourself up for a date with Mr (or Ms) Binge.
These days (on OTT), small-town, village-like settings have become synonymous with spots where dead bodies are dredged out of woods; what ensues is a spiral of conspiracies, dark secrets and strange goings-on.
But, this time, not so much.
Virgin River is the name of a ‘Californian’ village, allegedly driving distance from Los Angeles. It’s fictional, of course, and the idyllic picture perfection is actually derived from various locations across British Columbia in Canada. This “hamlet” becomes home for an impossibly good-looking city-slicker nurse, Melinda ‘Mel’ Monroe (Alexandra Breckenridge), who’s trying to reinvent her life (the reasons are revealed later, incrementally) to give it a new purpose. Her arrival triggers into motion a host of interplays — and events — that gives Virgin River its narrative. In the process, you get the ‘outsider’ perspective into a world that seems very far-removed from modern-day realities. But it’s not that there are no problems or curious confessions or even tragedies that are waiting to be set off — it’s just that there’s an old-fashioned charm in the way things play out.
My benchmark for cosy small-town dramas is (hands down) Doc Martin — which has an added dimension of being very ‘British’ in its treatment: way more thinking, layered and, of course, superior acting… way less doctored or politically correct. Virgin River is very American in its handling, most times predictable, insanely glossy, but definitely worth a binge because you suddenly feel you are back in the midst of regular human beings (not serial killers, brooding cops, dysfunctional soccer moms or zombies) with who you can have a real connection.
By the end of it, the cast becomes your community, you embrace their quirks, join in their celebrations, mourn their losses and fall in love with romantic liaisons. Each season ends with a “cliffhanger” (as is the style with all seasons), and since the Season 2 finale was especially compelling, we can all breathe easy now that Season 3 is finally here.
But the best part is the vicarious thrill you get being thrust into “rusticity”. A place where people don’t speed-dial a 24-hour helpline and, instead, rely on “helping each other out”. Where the Internet connection is a casualty and cellphone connections are weak. Where the neighbouring village is called Clear River… and closest ‘hub’ is Eureka. Where a walk in the woods is a stone’s throw away. And where a gleaming river runs through it all, its ebb and flow eddying with metaphors of life.
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