Netflix's cozy drama Virgin River returned for its third season on Friday, with 10 new episodes of romance ready for fans to binge. While the major season two finale's cliffhanger was quickly dealt with — Jack (Martin Henderson) survived the shooting! — there is still plenty of mystery afoot in the small town. "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 told 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."
While the shooter still remains unknown after the premiere, a whole new mystery is introduced in the first episode: who burned down Jack's house? As the episode ends with his home ablaze, fans are already theorizing who lit the flame. Tenney was quick to rule out Jack's ex, Charmaine (Lauren Hammersley).
"Poor misunderstood Charmaine, she's always the one everyone goes to," Tenney quipped. "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."
While the show may have packed the aftermath of a shooting and arson into the first episode back, Virgin River is ultimately comforting viewing. Star Alexandra Breckenridge spoke to The Huffington Post in December 2020 about the enduring appeal of "cozy" romances like Virgin River and why people are so drawn to them. "Sometimes you don't want to watch something that's gonna really take you down some kind of analytical path," Breckenridge explained. "Sometimes you really want something that's just basic and cozy; a beautiful small town where people fall in love. Emotions are heightened right now and this show provides the perfect sort of soft landing and entertainment for people dealing with loss or going through what they're going through [with the coronavirus pandemic]."