So that last episode of “Nashville” was crazy, huh?
For those of you who haven’t yet seen it and plan to, STOP reading this right now and get to your DVR or streaming service and watch it. For the love of all that is good and holy, WATCH IT!
For those of us who have, continue reading.
I’ve been watching this beloved show since its October 2012 debut on ABC.
After the first couple seasons, my wife joined me as a certifiably devoted “Nashie,” as they call us.
Like you, we’ve become attached to the likes of Rayna James (Connie Britton) and Deacon Clayborne (Charles Esten), Juliette Barnes (Hayden Panettiere) and Avery Barkley (Jonathan Jackson), Gunnar Scott (Sam Palladio) and Scarlett O’Connor (Clare Bowen).
So when Rayna, the queen of country music, succumbed to her injuries suffered in a tragic and wholly unexpected car accident, we were shocked and saddened.
Well, maybe shocked isn’t the right word.
Going into Season 5, after it was picked up by country music channel CMT, it was widely reported that Britton signed a shorter 10-episode contract. Though, back in August, there was hope she could be convinced to stay longer.
As we began to see, I believe in Episode 8, that wasn’t the case.
There was a bit of subtle foreshadowing in that episode you may have missed.
If you remember, we see Daphne (Maisy Stella) get her first period, and Rayna, her mother, comes to the rescue.
In a later scene in Rayna and Deacon’s kitchen, we learn that Rayna wants to be there for Daphne because Rayna had to experience that aspect of womanhood alone since her mother was dead by that point.
While that could be excused away as Rayna simply being a good mother, take it in the context of what happens next and the pieces start falling into place.
Later, we see Rayna’s stalker corner her in her Highway 65 office. She escapes, relatively unscathed, only to be broadsided by a truck while riding in a police car back to her house.
After the shocking end to Episode 8, all seems to be well in the next episode as her doctor tells of the tough road ahead, with the idea she’ll be coming home soon.
But then, in a twist, Rayna sees her mother seated in a chair in her hospital room.
Deacon walks in and wonders to whom Rayna is speaking. When she says her mother, Deacon freaks out. And rightfully so. Is she walking toward the light? Are people beckoning from the beyond?
But the doctor says what we all may have been suspecting, that it was simply the heavy pain medication. Nothing to see here.
“(I)n my mind, Rayna knows she’s dying in that moment,” said “Nashville” showrunner Marshall Herskovitz in an article on ew.com. “Even if the doctors say, ‘It’s OK, it’s just the drugs,’ from that moment, if you watch carefully, everything she does has an urgency to it to impart to the people she loves the things she wants them to know. Because she knows she’s going.”
And we know what happens next.
So what now?
Well, according to the previews for Thursday’s episode, there’s going to be a custody war for Rayna’s kids, Maddie (Lennon Stella) and Daphne, as Rayna’s ex-husband and disgraced former mayor of Nashville, Teddy Conrad (Eric Close), and Rayna’s sister, Tandy Hampton (Judith Hoag), return to the show.
We also see a devastated Daphne as she cries to Scarlett and says no matter who she chooses to be her father, someone will be hurt.
If you remember, back in Season 1, we find out while Daphne is Teddy’s daughter, Maddie was, in fact, Deacon’s child.
But during Season 4, as Maddie was fighting for her emancipation, she detailed Deacon’s past violent outbursts.
The dust has settled since then, but will the past come back?
What’ll happen to Highway 65?
What about Deacon?
What about the show in general?
Speculation has run wild from Rolling Stone to all of us devoted Nashies.
But here’s what I do know.
CMT is the best place for “Nashville.”
Its new network allows time to explore storylines it couldn’t before without the pressure of reaching some magical ratings number.
For example, would Juliette’s newfound spirituality after her plane crash have been welcomed on ABC? No doubt CMT’s audience would be more accepting.
As a result, I think you’ll find a show that’s deeper and fuller and more entertaining as it plays to a specific crowd. A country music crowd. The same crowd who pushed and pushed and pushed for the show to be picked up by another network.
And the show’s first few episodes set ratings records for CMT, according to The Tennesseean.
“Nashville has found its rightful home on CMT, and we’re thrilled with the show’s creative resurgence,” said Brian Philips, network president. “We are generating record-breaking numbers and delivering a new audience.”
Those numbers have fallen off a bit, according to tvseriesfinale.com, but the past four episodes have seen an increasing audience as the show gained momentum toward Rayna’s departure.
Personally, I believe the show to be in good hands, and I look forward to what happens next.
If the storyline behind Rayna’s death is any indication, we’re in for a great remaining 14 episodes. And, hopefully, many more seasons.