Virgin River Season 4 review – a wholesome soap opera with some serious pacing issues

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Summary

Daytime drama has never felt so cinematic, but overall this soap opera falls into the same tired trappings as other shows in the genre. Sometimes tedious and formulaic, yet surprisingly engaging and emotional. Season four is a real mixed bag.

This review of the Netflix series Virgin River season 4 contains no major spoilers.

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Streaming giants Netflix like to cover all the many bases of the pop culture spectrum and with Virgin River they have the daytime drama genre up to a T. This quintessential soap opera follows the daily lives of the wholesome residents of the titular community. Delivering a heartwarming slice of small town America with stunning visuals and your standard melodramatic theatrics. Each episode breaks into several intersecting subplots, addressing each member of this ensemble cast, always ending proceedings with a shocking twist or reveal. It can get quite repetitive and formulaic at times, but will surely appease long-time fans or those looking for an easy watch this summer.

Season four continues to build on previous episodes, focusing on a handful of Virgin River’s most beloved townsfolk. Mel and Jack once again take center stage as the couple grapple with a high-risk pregnancy and contentious paternity issues. Who is the father of Mel’s unborn baby? Is it her deceased ex Mark or her current partner Jack? On top of all this drama, Jack has to face his mental health issues head-on and turns to the bottle too often. While the arrival of a new and handsome doctor in town seems set to upset this perfect duo.

Other subplots include Hope’s winding recovery from her traumatic brain injury, Brady’s unjust incarceration, and numerous budding romances. The show mixes sickly cute moments, your typical soap opera hyperbole, and risque romantic sequences. It can be quite cliche and routine in its delivery, but Virgin River often surprises you with an engaging plot and genuinely emotional scenes.

The series is also beautifully shot, with jaw-dropping vistas, capitalizing on beautiful Canadian landscapes. Likewise, all of the show’s frequented settings feel realistic and quaint, avoiding the usual sitcom pitfalls, with no poorly staged sets to endure. Mel and Jack’s on-screen chemistry is top-notch, with the pair going through the many ups and downs of a believable, albeit cemented, relationship. There are also touching moments throughout the show, with that small-town camaraderie that really hits home and warms the soul in these trying times.

Another area that Virgin River excels in their portrayal of PTSD and veteran soldier recovery. Jack’s troubled past and the different types of trauma of the other characters are treated with respect and authenticity, which is commendable given the delicate subject matter at hand. They address Jack’s inability to deal with his mental health issues in a realistic and believable way. It can be frustrating to watch, but ends up being a rewarding subplot.

The show works well within those parameters, but can’t quite escape its soap opera roots. The twelve-episode season becomes a test of endurance at times, bordering on the mundane and nonchalant. The daily conversations and needlessly drawn-out storylines really make up for all the good this drama has to offer. Not all crossover stories work either, and the writing can be interpreted as laughable or lazy at worst. Some taut arcs are resolved effortlessly, while others drag on endlessly – there are serious pacing issues throughout. It’s a pretty mixed bag of a series overall, bordering on adequacy for the most part, sometimes dipping into a sweet spot of trashy but addictive viewing.

What do you think of Virgin River season 4 on Netflix? Comments below.

You can watch this series with a Netflix subscription.

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