Showrunner Sue Tenney answers our questions after watching season 3, and teases future bombshells.

By Maureen Lee Lenker
July 10, 2021 at 10:00 AM EDT
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Virgin River

Warning: This article contains spoilers about Virgin River season 3.

For a small town, Virgin River is certainly an eventful place.

The Netflix series debuted its third season July 9, and it was 10 episodes packed with twists and turns that ultimately left us with more questions than answers. Jack (Martin Henderson) and Mel (Alexandra Breckinridge) seemed to finally be on track for their happy ending after his recovery from his shooting, until she announced her desire to have a baby, leading them to break up and get back together (and for her to attempt IVF in the meanwhile).

Doc (Tim Matheson) and Hope (Annette O'Toole) were finally preparing for a re-commitment ceremony, but a hurricane and her aunt's health kept Hope M.I.A most of the season. Until a car accident landed her in the hospital with a life-threatening brain injury.

Preacher (Colin Lawrence) continued to watch over Christopher (Chase Petriw) with the added threat of Wes's brother, Vince, looming. That came to a head at season's end with Preacher being knocked out and abandoned in the woods by Paige's supposed "friend" and Vince lying in wait for Connie (Nicola Cavendish) and Christopher.

Then, there's the newest face in Virgin River, Brie (Zibby Allen), Jack's sister. She came to Virgin River to nurse a broken heart after a sexual assault, but along the way, she found herself falling for Brady (Benjamin Hollingsworth). But Brie is now left to wonder if she's fallen for the wrong guy again as Brady is arrested for Jack's shooting.

Not to mention, the entire town is now in mourning after the death of Lilly (Lynda Boyd).

With so much happening, we called up showrunner Sue Tenney to get the answers to some of our burning questions (and if you want more on Mel and Jack's future, we've got you covered here).

Virgin River
Credit: NETFLIX

ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: Season 2 ended with Jack being shot and rushed to the hospital, but beyond the first few moments of season 3 leading us to believe we're seeing Jack's wake, we move past any uncertainty about his fate. Why did you want to bypass any life-or-death drama on that front?

SUE TENNEY: We're always looking for ways to cut deep into a story and a time jump allowed us to do that. Once we had established that Jack is going to survive the shooting, it's the psychological component of his recuperation that's most compelling. We did have people quite beyond themselves at the cliffhanger, which was great, because that means your audience is super engaged.

Lily's death is such a tragic part of the season. So many viewers come to Virgin River as a comfort food thing, was there any concern that having a cancer storyline might be too heavy? What made you want to go all in on that?

We tend to like to take on heavier subjects and make them manageable. It allows for an emotional release. No one shied away from the cancer aspects of it. My father died of cancer. We're very cancer aware. I have friends who have cancer. We feel like it's one of those touchstones that I don't think there's a lot of people out there that aren't really touched by it in some way. We felt like we could ground it, and hit some big emotional beats with Mel. I pitched it to the network and they loved it. That is what makes great drama in some ways is when you have to say goodbye to characters that you love.

Brie is new this season. Book fans have been waiting for her to show up. Why was now the time to introduce her? And what made you want to pair her off with Brady instead of Mike, who is her other half in the books?

I love her in the book, and so does [author] Robyn Carr. So, bringing her in was always a [goal], but it was — when? We really wanted to be it organic and natural to the storyline. It made sense that she would be there because Jack was shot, and that she would end up staying, and then what we like to do is put a mystery, some backstory in there, to to give it a little bit of that Virgin River swing. In the book, she ends up with Mike. At a certain point — I hope it's many, many, many, many, many seasons from now — I will put the characters back to where we found them. They end every book happy. But until then, we like triangles and we like the drama and we like the character of Brady, who wasn't very big in the books. He's really been a fantastic foil. There's bad guys like Calvin and Jimmy, who are just bad, and then they're good men or good people who make bad choices, and that's who he is. The entire series for Brady will be becoming that person that Jack always believed in.

It seems like Brady is definitely being set up, but Mike is now entangled in their lives. So, might we be headed to love triangle territory?

We are. We're definitely headed in that territory, but like we like to do on our show, it's a slow burn.

Will we eventually learn who shot Jack?

Yes, I can say that. Yeah, definitely. We have a lot of twists and turns coming, and that actually will go beyond a third, fourth, if we're lucky, fifth season.

You resolve Jack's fate quickly but not the identity of his attacker. Did you contemplate having him remember this season or did you always want it to be a slow burn?

I always wanted it to be a slow burn. I liked the idea of putting Jack in a vulnerable situation, which is he can't remember something simple. The mental toil for him not being able to remember that piece of time that's just disappeared is a stressor for him. Everything is a stressor for him because of his background with PTSD. So, we always envisioned it in that way.

Mel has been through so much in terms of how she thinks about pregnancy and motherhood. What made you want to make her main journey this season and conflict with Jack be about having a baby?

It's in the book, but it's different in the book. We actually complicated it a little bit more. Her having children, her being able to have a child that is her arc going forward. It felt like the right season for that to come up. It felt really organic and also we've got Jack and his situation, where he's having children with a woman he doesn't love, who's marrying a man he can barely stand. That also adds fuel to the fire.

How does Charmaine (Lauren Hammersley) fit into all of this? Tom (Andrew Zachar) seems like bad news, so how soon might she work that out for herself?

Charmaine is such a wonderfully complex and relatable character. Everyone has loved somebody that didn't love them back. She's always going to be in love with [Jack], but she's doing her damnedest to move forward. And then, she got a husband. We have a pretty big bombshell for her coming in the following season, if we have a season 4, that's going to blow everybody away.

virgin river
Annette O'Toole as Hope on 'Virgin River'
| Credit: netflix

We don't know a ton about Hope and Doc's past, specifically when it comes to their children – how might this grandchild complicate things or give us insight into that past?

It's going to do both. It's going to complicate and it's going to bring insight into Doc and into Doc's beginnings. Also, everything is going to be complicated. The father of the grandson that shows up and the woman that he has a child with and all of these things are pieces that will all be dealt with in the coming season.

Ricky (Grayson Maxwell Gurnsey) seems pretty set on the Marines, so what is in store in the future for he and Lizzie (Sarah Dugdale)?

I've always really loved both of those characters. She's older; she was a bit different than she is in the books. But their commitment to one another is fantastic, so they're in a place where you have to break apart to come back and be stronger together. Ricky has to see his future through. She has to figure out what her future is and what she wants. In the book, he goes and serves and gets injured and comes back to Virgin River. I can't say how much I'm going to use of that, but we're not loading it up for him to just go, "I'm not going to be a Marine." Because that was such a big part of the book and the lore.

Preacher has been very intent on protecting Christopher, but Vince is still a threat and now he's in the house with Christopher while Preacher is knocked out in the woods somewhere. How worried for them both should we be?

You should be because that's what we want you to be at the end of the season. Given a fourth season, we're going to bring everything together with Paige and Preacher, and it's going to come to a very dramatic end at the end of season 4.

Is it safe to assume this woman who attacked Preacher is now no longer Paige's best asset?

Yes. But I don't think we've necessarily seen the last of her. She's a very interesting character and her motivations and why she does what she does. We haven't seen 100 percent the last of her, but it's not like she's going to show up at Jack's and order a burger.

If you get a season 4, how would you tease it overall?

The ride continues. What you've come to expect from us from season 1 through 3, you can expect it to be just that much more in season 4. The ride will continue and be really fun and really emotional and funny and all the elements that the audience loves about the show. All your favorite characters are going to be tested, and new love will spring up in places and possibly revive old love.

Virgin River season 3 is on Netflix now.

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Virgin River

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  • TV Show
seasons
  • 3
rating
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  • Netflix

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