If you live in Virgin River, you were probably saved by Preacher.
Not in a religious sense. But the aptly named Preacher, cook at Jack’s Bar, the riverside grill of the beloved fictional locale, essentially delivers the entire town at one point or another from certain death, a downward spiral or heartbreak. The character is the focus of the Netflix show, but somehow he’s not at its center. As the series prepares for its fifth season, Preacher deserves his own life – and his true love – but both could be in danger.
John “Preacher” Middleton, played by the wonderful Colin Lawrence, is a former Marine and a longtime friend of fellow veteran Jack Sheridan (Martin Henderson), he from the bar. The beloved series, adapted from the novels of Robyn Carrfollows the adventures of a nurse named Mel (Alexandra Breckenridge) who moves to a beautiful, small town in northern California, fleeing tragedy.
Everyone in Virgin River is running from something. And trouble keeps finding them.
If the characters did what was best for them, we would never have any stories at all.
We view the events of “Virgin River” primarily through Mel’s lens, and we see her denying, turning away, or never considering romantic prospects at all that might be better for her than longtime handsome Jack, who has a drinking problem, a commitment problem, and is allegedly very fertile. But if the characters did what was best for them, we would never have any stories at all.
Colin Lawrence as a preacher in ‘Virgin River’ (courtesy of Netflix)Admittedly, Preacher is one of the most eligible characters in town. He can cook; he does it for a living. He is dashing; he plays the king in the strange Renaissance festival that pops up in the middle of town for some reason. He is also a handyman. Do you know the friend you’re kidding that you can call when you need to get rid of a body? Well, it’s Preacher. He literally does.
The woman he had seen, the baker Paige (Lexa Doig) kills her estranged and abusive husband Wes in self-defense, and the devoted preacher takes care of the cleanup. This includes the body, disposing of large evidence like a car – and caring for the person Paige leaves behind when she flees: her young son, Christopher (Chase Petriw, standing as one of the only miners in town).
Colin Lawrence as a preacher and Chase Petriw as Christopher in ‘Virgin River’ (Courtesy of Netflix)Not only does Preacher step into parenting for the boy, but he does it solo while balancing work and keeping secrets from Paige. “Virgin River” always does an interesting juggling act by looping very realistic stories – the domestic violence that Paige survived – with outlandish stories: Wes has a twin brother (!) who picks up Paige and finds Preacher, does drugs and kidnaps Christopher.
This kid is really hard to keep tabs on, but he ends up reuniting with Preacher as Paige sacrifices herself, making a trade with the evil twin brother for her son. If you’re still with us, let’s get back to all the noble preacher does here.
Colin Lawrence as a preacher and Lucia Walters as Julia in ‘Virgin River’ (Courtesy of Netflix)He is in love with Paige, who lied to him but did it to protect herself and her son. Once Paige is gone, Preacher steps into the role of the child’s guardian without hesitation. He finds her a day camp. He reassures him. He spends every moment he can with the child, and Preacher also forms an unlikely alliance with Connie (Nicholas Cavendish) who helps look after the boy in a sort of grandmotherly role. Connie may be an apron-wearing thorn alongside her petulant niece Lizzy, but she provides solid care for Christopher, and Preacher can be counted on. She’s one of the only people he box depend reliably.
Another surprising and appealing aspect of “Virgin River” is cross-generational friendships like these (friendships new writer Patrick Sean Smith hinted at Salon that we’ll see more of in Season 5). But it’s frustrating that a character as dedicated and loving as Preacher is so lonely.
Colin Lawrence as a preacher and Nicola Cavendish as Connie in ‘Virgin River’ (courtesy Netflix)The character of the preacher is solitary. He trusts a fault, believing not only Paige (who has good reason to lie) but a woman claiming to be his friend, whose reasons for lying include being an accomplice to the twin and betraying Preacher. The preacher is often betrayed, frankly.
When your boyfriend never shows up at your sister’s wedding and you need someone to find him drunk in his truck, Preacher is the one you call. When you try to kayak drunk in a choppy current, Preacher will warn you. When you need rescue from a remote cabin where you’re a hostage, Preacher will find you. In addition, he knows martial arts.
But who saves the saviour?
Colin Lawrence as John “Preacher” Middleton and Lucia Walters as Julia in “Virgin River” (Courtesy of Netflix)
Is Preacher really a tragic hero, whose selfless devotion to others will ultimately lead to his downfall?
Season 4 gives Preacher an iota of happiness as he begins a relationship with his aikido instructor, Julia (Lucia Walters), who seems like a decent person. But once Paige comes into her life, Julia is out. Can you blame her? (The most emotionally sane people in “Virgin River” seem to be going out of town.) And Preacher is back to save Paige. It’s hard to express meanness toward a survivor of domestic violence, but Paige’s character can be a bit gritty, especially in the way she expects Preacher to always pick up her tunes.
The preacher bails out others at the expense of himself, displaying a kind of co-dependency in his attraction to and need to be the caretaker – his need to be needed. If he didn’t save everyone all the time, would they still love him? Would he still have a place in town? Or is Preacher really a tragic hero, whose selfless devotion to others will ultimately lead to his downfall?
“Virgin River” didn’t exactly follow the books, and we don’t know if twin brother Vince is alive or dead, though a instagram picture apparently shows the actor at a table read for season 5. If the brother is back, it may be more difficult for Preacher, the stalwart character who always helps others. Preacher seems to take responsibility for Paige. It takes a lot – and it shouldn’t. Yes, Preacher plays a king in Ren Faire, but he acts more like a knight.
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Jack recently asked Preacher to witness his wedding. Preacher is now a partner at Jack’s Bar, having turned down a fancy new job for him (there he is again with that loyalty). But the noble character who once said, “I believe there is nothing fairer than defending those who cannot defend themselves,” deserves his own help, his own happiness, and a love that will last.
about “Virgin River”