Spoiler alert: We’re breaking down the events of Virgin River‘s Season 3 premiere. Haven’t watched? You know the drill.
After eight months of stagnant torture, the waters of Virgin River are flowing once again.
Picking up where last season’s potentially fatal cliffhanger left off, Friday’s premiere begins with Jack being wheeled into the emergency room to a haunting cover of Bob Marley and the Wailers’ “Three Little Birds.” But lyrics be damned, we were worried about a thing — that thing being Jack’s very existence, as I’m not sure I even trust those doctors. Did none of them even consider giving him an emergency plaid transplant?!
The viewers are then whisked over to Jack’s bar, where the denizens of Virgin River have gathered for a candlelight vigil. Just kidding! They’re throwing Ricky a surprise graduation party, revealing that quite a bit of time has passed since Jack’s shooting.
“In a 10-episode season, having Jack sidelined with recovery wasn’t something we felt the audience or we were interested in,” showrunner Sue Tenney explains to TVLine. “We’re centering more on the psychological aspect of [the shooting], so that was the reason for the time jump. We wanted to get into it right away.”
Despite Jack’s unidentified shooter still being very much at large, we find that life in Virgin River has returned to relative normalcy: Connie and Preacher are still raising someone else’s child in secret, Muriel is still planting seeds of sexual confusion in Doc’s garden, and Ricky is still devastatingly brainless. (At one point, he casually tells Jack, “I’m glad you didn’t die.” Remind me how this kid graduated high school again?)
That said, one key character is missing in the premiere. Hope is visiting her aunt in South Carolina, leaving Doc to face his diagnosis alone. His sporadic headaches and eye problems are a result of his macular degeneration, which could leave him blind. He’s playing it cool, but he’s concerned enough that he’s starting a confidential search for his replacement at the clinic. (Don’t tell Mel!)
There are a few other new developments afoot, like Charmaine’s sudden engagement to Todd. He’s a “highly regarded personal injury lawyer,” and if you ever forget that, his fiancée will be happy to remind you. Constantly. The restraint Mel exhibits while Charmaine regales her with the “wild” story about how she met Todd at her hair salon is truly admirable. She should be eligible for sainthood simply for not laughing in Charmaine’s face.
The premiere also introduces us to Jack’s sister Brie, an attorney who apparently dropped everything to be by her brother’s side after his shooting. A tense phone call with a presumed ex-boyfriend (“I don’t care what you do with my stuff! Stop calling me!”) tells us that Brie has some skeletons in her closet — and her chemistry with Brady tells us that she’ll probably have a few more in there by the time this season is over. (Speaking of Brady, this episode certainly makes him seem guilty of shooting Jack, unless that’s just what Calvin wants us to think.)
“She’s one of my favorite characters from the books,” Tenney says of Brie. “We were waiting for the right time to bring her in, and we feel like this is the perfect season. Her brother was shot, so her coming to town was completely organic. And then it’s a slow burn for the audience to learn what she’s going through. We took that storyline from the books, but we changed the circumstances of what happened to her. I find her compelling, strong and fun.”
Despite it being Mel’s birthday, she isn’t really in the mood to celebrate, offering lukewarm reactions to Jack’s over-the-top gifts. (Seriously, between the at-home massage and the sushi flown in on a private plane, it’s like Jack is determined to ruin all other TV men for us. And he’s succeeding.) As we learn, Mel’s birthday hasn’t been a cause for celebration since her mother died a week before she turned 11. On top of that, pretty much everything still reminds her of the baby she and Mark were supposed to have.
“Mel is still trying to overcome all of the losses she’s been through,” Alexandra Breckenridge (aka Mel) reminds TVLine. “She gets sucker punched again in a couple different ways in this third season that I don’t think she’s expecting. Something happens that takes her back, and I think she reacts appropriately — with tears.”
So Jack eventually caves and gives her the one thing she actually wants: a coconut cupcake, even though he believes the dessert’s very existence goes against nature. But just as they’re gearing up for some sexy bathtub time, the couple is interrupted… by smoke? Oh, crap! Jack’s house is on fire! Naturally, I’m ready to accuse Charmaine of arson and call it a day — but just for argument’s sake, let’s see what Tenney has to say.
“Poor misunderstood Charmaine, she’s always the one everyone goes to,” Tenney says with a laugh. “No, this is a mystery. It’s meant to be a question of who burned down the house. It’s also the start of an arc for Jack that brings a tremendous amount of emotional stress and pressure. We literally burned his house down, and there’s no easing up for him. You know, and then there’s the whole being shot thing. He’s realizing that he and Mel have a love for the ages, but they also come with baggage. Dealing with that and unpacking that baggage has always been very fun and interesting for us as writers. We peel back more of the onion every year.”
Your thoughts on Virgin River‘s long-awaited return? Grade the premiere below, then drop a comment with your full review.