The one thing Virgin River needs to avoid doing (again) in season 6

Virgin River. (L to R) Sarah Dugdale as Lizzie, Kai Bradbury as Denny in episode 505 of Virgin River. Cr. Courtesy of Netflix © 2023
Virgin River. (L to R) Sarah Dugdale as Lizzie, Kai Bradbury as Denny in episode 505 of Virgin River. Cr. Courtesy of Netflix © 2023 /

In 2024, Virgin River will be going into its sixth season, and it’s clear that the hit Netflix romantic drama series has found an indelible and unbeatable recipe for keeping viewers on the hook. Between the lovable characters and dramatic situations, everyone can’t get enough. But there’s just one mistake Virgin River season 6 needs to avoid repeating.

It’s a bit of an inside joke about the series’ painfully slow-moving timeline. I mean, prior to finally giving birth in the season 5 Christmas episodes, Charmaine had been pregnant since the first season. The first season! When has there ever been a pregnancy that long on television? The first five seasons of the series have all taken place within the same calendar year. That’s severely limiting.

Moving at such a glacial pace that the trauma piles up to unsustainable heights has been at the show’s detriment. Because the show has taken place over the span of less than a year, Mel has still been grieving the loss of her husband and baby, finding new love with Jack, celebrating a pregnancy, questioning the paternity of that pregnancy, losing the pregnancy, discovering the man who raised her wasn’t her biological father, and so on and so forth.

Obviously, Virgin River shares DNA with primetime soap operas. It’s not overtly melodramatic and over-the-top like a traditional soap opera, but the storytelling maneuvers are very much in line with the genre. But the one thing primetime soaps usually employ is breakneck pacing. Think about the likes of Melrose Place, Dynasty, Gossip Girl, Grey’s Anatomy, and other popular primetime soaps. If any of the twists on those shows all happened within a calendar year…

And to another point, yes, Virgin River is relatable. Unexpected tragedies of all kinds, big and small, happen in real life all the time. But to continue to watch these characters, Mel especially, continue to experience such heart-wrenching life events in a small amount of time truly wrenches the heart. Would there be a way for the show to move a bit faster without losing any of the heart and emotion that’s so synonymous with its appeal? I think so!

How Virgin River can pick up the pace in season 6

Jumping off from the two Christmas episodes that ended season 5, time jumps are the way to go. The holiday episodes moved the timeline ahead by at least a couple months, and it was the wisest choice the series has ever made. Ever. However, from now on, we shouldn’t have to wait until the the end or beginning of a season to press fast-forward. Time can pass in between episodes or even in the same episode. Simply put, we don’t need to see every single second of their lives.

I know fans want to spend as much time as possible with these characters because obviously we love them. But the story unfolding practically in real time is doing that same story a disservice. As I said earlier, it’s severely limiting. It’s why Charmaine was pregnant for almost five real-life years. You can only do so much with characters when they’re stuck in a specific year for no reason.

Because the new showrunner, Patrick Sean Smith, and writers seem to be more game to try new things and mix it up, we could be in for some changes in season 6. Now with Lizzie pregnant, we could either see the cycle repeat itself, which would mean that she would give birth in season 10 (shuddering at the thought), or she could, you know, actually have the baby in season 6. Smith has already teased season 6 will begin with a time jump, and that’s a promising prospect.

Apart from time moving faster to begin with being the key method to, well, make time move faster, the show could also craft tighter arcs within the character-based stories. There’s no doubt that season 5’s wildfire episodes were two of the series’ most compelling. That’s not to say we need a natural disaster each season, but opening the characters up to situations beyond matters of the heart and interpersonal conversations will inherently liven up the show.

And those situations shouldn’t be all about emotional and personal damage. Smith has also teased that Doc and Hope will be healthy in season 6, ending their individual series-long health battles. Mel and Jack will be an ever bigger focus as they look to build a home and family together. Already, there appears to be more joy for the taking in season 6, and that’s super heartening. I wish for the writers to be fearless because you never know when the end could be near.

So much of the series has been about relating to its core audience and giving them a space to feel whatever they have been going through in their lives. If you don’t have a community like the sewing circle, now you have one. It’s wonderful and should remain a priority. There aren’t an overwhelming amount of show with the power to reach out to a wide age range in quite this way. Still, doing so in such a short span of time onscreen has cause a trauma pile-up for the people of Virgin River.

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