A new rivalry has emerged in season 5 of Virgin River between the small town’s notorious bad boy, Dan Brady, and local police detective Mike Valenzuela.
Though the ex-Marines served together alongside Jack (Martin Henderson) and Preacher (Colin Lawrence), they have never seen eye to eye.
To cope with the transition to sleepy civilian life, Brady (Benjamin Hollingsworth) fell into local criminal operations with Calvin in the past, while Mike (Marco Grazzini) has always adhered to and enforced the law.
In part 1, Brady appears to have reformed, as the young veteran becomes more involved in the community and his relationship with Brie flourishes.
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Until this season, Mike (Marco Grazzini) remained on the outskirts of this close-knit community, showing up in a professional capacity whenever his friends needed him, such as when Wes's twin brother Vince tried to attack Paige and Preacher in season 4.
Mike develops a more prominent role when Brady is recruited into Melissa Montgomery’s drug smuggling through Jack’s new caravan park in season 5. It’s taken Jack most of season 3 and 4 to trust Brady again after his involvement with Calvin in the past, but Brady won Jack over and Brie’s heart.
In an effort to take down Melissa, Brady offers to go undercover for Mike, so there is an inside man to provide evidence of her criminal activity. Mike is initially sceptical about Brady’s intentions, knowing of his shady past, but he reluctantly agrees.
In order to protect his girlfriend, Brady doesn't tell her about his undercover work or the truth about Melissa’s operation. His paranoia about Brie’s safety only increases when his colleague Jed is murdered, after he volunteered to cover a shipment arrival so Brady could spend more time with Brie.
Later, Brie calls Brady out on his lies, as he denied knowing the man who died on the lumberyard site. Brie says that she "can’t handle being lied to", so Brady tells her the truth. Yet, now he’s broken her trust, she struggles to believe him.
Brady distances himself from Brie, which Mike encourages him to do, before Mike starts to turn up at places that he knows Brie will be. The ex-marine opened up to Mike about the difficult time that Brie was having, as she brought her abusive ex-boyfriend and colleague to court on a charge of rape.
As the trial begins, Brie says she doesn’t want Brady to join her at the courthouse. Instead, on the challenging day, when she needs support most, Mike is there for her. He turns up at the court, saying he is conveniently there to give evidence for another trial.
This is even though he didn’t disclose this to Brady in their previous conversations or give any details about his case to Brie, which begs the question, why was he really there?
When Mike knows that Brie can’t trust Brady, he begins to weave himself into her life more. Gradually, Brie’s focus shifts away from her lying, rebellious boyfriend to the supposedly reliable, trustworthy man in front of her.
From an audience’s perspective, it seems that Mike manipulated the situation to get what he wanted. He exploited the general consensus in town that Brady is untrustworthy, as Mike knew that even his closest friends still have their doubts about Brady’s morals.
Even though Mike knew the whole situation - that Brady’s criminal activities were a front to help the police - he let Brie think the worst of Brady, and even took advantage of the situation.
Eventually, Melissa discovers Brady is working as a police informant and kidnaps him, as Jack discovers the truth about Brady’s involvement. Mid-fight, Mike shows up with back-up, but one of Melissa’s thugs tries to shoot Brady and Mike jumps in front of him.
It’s only when Mike wakes up after this wound and corroborates Brady’s innocence that Brie’s perspective of Brady begins to change.
By this point, she has already started having feelings for Mike, so ends her relationship with Brady. However, Jack apologises to Brady for doubting that his involvement in Melissa’s scheme was all for show.
In the delightfully festive episodes in part 2, Brie is still with Mike, as Brady enjoys a whirlwind romance with newcomer Lark.
Yet the exes bump into each other at the Christmas show, and Brie jokes about Brady’s lies, before she apologises and adds "that isn’t fair". Clearly confused about how she misjudged Brady, the couple almost kiss under the mistletoe in the season 5 finale.
Part of Brie’s confusion is the fact that the supporting men are defined by dichotomies on the show. Jack is the complicated, troubled leader of his ex-Marines, who has all the nuance of a leading man, who associates with good guy Mike, bad boy Brady and good guy Preacher, who has done bad things for the right reasons (namely helping Paige dispose of her abusive ex-husband Wes).
Yet these limited stereotypes are finally being challenged in season 5.
Previously, Brady was the epitome of a bad boy – leather jacket, motor bike and all – but season 5 has shown he’s changed. Brady acted with the best intentions, looking out for Brie, and risked his life to protect Jack’s business.
He has been a much better boyfriend to Brie and been as genuine as he could be in the complicated, life-threatening situation he found himself in. It might be time to reassess whether the new 'good guy' Mike is actually as trustworthy as he seems.
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