There is plenty of drama that plays out on-screen in Season 3, but there was drama off-screen as well, due to COVID-19. While much of the show’s cast was able to return, Annette O’Toole, who plays Hope McCrea, the town mayor and wife of Doc Mullins, was unable to be in Vancouver, British Columbia, for filming. The result is that Hope is said to be visiting an elderly aunt in South Carolina when a hurricane knocks out power and strands her there. The character appears a few times via FaceTime, but when Hope’s best friend, Lilly (Lynda Boyd), dies from pancreatic cancer in the second half of the season, she books the first flight home.
Unfortunately, the bad news doesn’t stop with Lilly’s death. Thanks to a problematic rental car, Season 3 ends with Hope involved in a car accident, and she suffers a traumatic brain injury that will surely impact where the character goes in Season 4. Because all of this happens off-screen, though, the emotional impact is lessened. However, the writers did the best they could with an unfortunate situation. One’s personal health is more important than any TV show, so it’s hard to be too critical.
Looking ahead to Season 4, Hope’s injury opens up several new storytelling pathways. It affects not only Hope and Doc, who had been planning to renew their vows, but the entire town, given Hope’s position as the mayor. And much like how Season 3 focused on Jack’s recovery after being shot in Season 2, Season 4 may focus on the emotional story of Hope’s recovery and all that entails. It’s a lot to take in, but “Virgin River” has proven it knows how to balance drama with romance to create a wholly enjoyable experience.