Virgin River Showrunner Patrick Sean Smith Defends Season 5 s Polarizing Tragedy That Brings Mel and Jack Closer Than Ever 276

Alexandra Breckenridge, Martin Henderson.
Courtesy of Netflix

This post contains spoilers for Virgin River season 5.

Virgin River showrunner Patrick Sean Smith knows Mel Monroe’s fertility journey is a polarizing story line — but he has no regrets about the way it’s being depicted. 

Season 5 of the Netflix hit, which premiered in September, kicks off with Mel (Alexandra Breckenridge) pregnant and engaged to new love Jack (Martin Henderson). Her happiness is cut short, however, when she realizes she’s suffered a miscarriage while in the midst of delivering someone else’s baby. 

It’s a heartbreaking moment that many fans feel pushes the character too far — especially after previously giving birth to a stillborn when she was married to her late husband, Mark (Daniel Gilles). While death and loss have been a constant in Mel’s life, showrunner Patrick Sean Smith feels that her enduring a miscarriage gives the show an opportunity to delve deeper into the difficulties of her fertility journey.

“It was an opportunity to not blow past something that has defined Mel’s character that felt like an important topic to explore even further,” Smith, who joined the series as showrunner on season 5, told Glamour in an interview published on Thursday, October 5. “So it felt like an organic way for it to come up. The past few seasons have been very defined by her trauma and his trauma, and this is a shared trauma. We now see this couple struggle their way through this loss together because it was the one thing that literally killed her last marriage.” 

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During the first few seasons of Virgin River, flashbacks provide glimpses into Mel’s fractured marriage that can’t recover after the loss of their child. It’s quickly followed by Mark’s tragic and unexpected death. For Smith, allowing Mel to process grief with another partner — Jack — was an important part of her growth. 

“Mel and Mark could not survive the trauma of the reproductive issues that she experienced, so to see Mel and Jack in that same situation, but actually persevere and come out stronger and closer, that felt [like the most logical] reason for me to do it because I feel like that gave them so much more depth, and so much more love,” he explained. 

The choice to depict the actual miscarriage on screen — Mel sees blood on her underwear and gives herself an ultrasound to confirm the news — was also something Smith carefully thought through. It was also a choice he revealed  Netflix gave no pushback on. 

“The network didn’t flinch at it. I think you’re always wondering if there’s a softer way to dramatize something that’s traumatic, but at the same time, we couldn’t come up with something that felt as important to show,” he said. “We also wanted to be clear what was happening with her in that moment. This was an opportunity to show a woman go through a very specific experience, and if you’re going to do it, do it.”

Virgin River Showrunner Patrick Sean Smith Defends Season 5 s Polarizing Tragedy That Brings Mel and Jack Closer Than Ever 277
Courtesy of Netflix

Virgin River is certainly no stranger to the themes of grief, loss and tribulation. The series — which premiered in December 2019 and is based on the books by Robyn Carr of the same name — centers around Mel, a nurse practitioner who leaves Los Angeles to move to a small town for a new life after her husband’s death. Mel’s work in the medical field, along with the story being based in the woods of Northern California, gives endless opportunities for tragedy to strike. 

Season 5, in particular, threw its characters through the gauntlet more than ever before, with a devastating wildfire threatening to burn down the town, Mel’s miscarriage, surprise paternity reveals, multiple pregnancies and a sting operation to take down a major drug supplier. It also doesn’t shy away from any aspects of female reproductive health, highlighting chronic illnesses like endometriosis — which rarely are represented on TV. 

Despite the heaviness, Virgin River always seems to maintain a quaint and comforting feel about it — which Smith reveals will be explored even further during its holiday episodes later this year. 

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“It’s just Virgin River holiday coziness times 10,” Smith told Glamour of what to expect from the two bonus episodes, which air in November. “The cast is wonderful and so talented, and the whole crew did an incredible job this season. It was a lot more than they’ve had to do in the past, so I don’t want to try to match that intensity every season; otherwise, it’s just turning into Virgin River 911. At its heart, the show is about love, community, romance, second chances, and getting through life. I’m very proud of the season.”