Sometimes in a first season, you have to consider whether a show is doing something poorly, or whether the show is simply doing what it intends to do, only that particular thing might not be appealing to you as a viewer. It's always smart to give a show time to finds its direction and rhythms, but at certain points, maybe those directions and rhythms aren't what you hoped they would be.
As much as I like Nashville, and as much as I want to love it, I'm struggling with its inability to let any character stay happy—heck, even content—for more than a couple of scenes. On one hand, I recognize that this is a primetime soap; no one is ever going to be completely happy and the drama is always going to present. That's what Nashville is. But on the other hand, there's a growing sense of restlessness and perhaps even overly dramatic interpersonal conflicts that are hard to swallow. I know what to expect from this show, yet I can't help but think that it's trying a little too hard to keep everyone angsty so they can write more spiteful mid-tempo ballads.
The biggest offender here is the continued tension between Gunnar and Scarlett, which has devolved into a series of unnecessary half-truths, secrets, and histrionics to the point where it's damn-near unbearable to watch. As I touched on last week, I don't think that their relationship should be devoid of drama, or that they should be writing sappy acoustic duets every week. However, because the writers clearly wanted to avoid telling another story about a man who's jealous of Scarlett's ability (and props for that), they decided to come up with multiple reasons to pull she and Gunnar apart almost immediately after they came together. Depression and despondence after his brother's death wasn't enough. Last week gave us Will's dramatic kiss, which only created more awkward, arguably unneeded tension between the three of them this week. And then on top of that, there's the hoopla over Gunnar using his brother's journal to craft "angry" (sure, show) music that's put him on the solo artist track.
It's simply way too much. Why can't Gunnar just tell Scarlett what happened between he and Will? He didn't do anything wrong, and really, Will didn't do anything wrong either. It was a mistake, sure, but I don't buy it being as big of a secret as the show has asked me to. Furthermore, while I don't want to limit the importance of artistic integrity, it's difficult to invest in Gunnar's use of his brother's music. If I'm not mistaken, his brother was never even a small-time musician who recorded this song or had official publishing rights to it; he wrote words in a journal, and also played guitar. Also, he is dead. Is it bad taste that Gunnar claimed that the song (which is, by the way, kind of terrible) was his own? Of course. But could he avoid all sorts of drama by acknowledging that he's singing it to honor his dead brother (and thus give it more true weight)? Uh, yeah. It was dumb enough that he lied to the producer multiple times about the tune's origin (as if music producers care), even dumber that he kept it from Scarlett too, and borderline stupid that Scarlett reacted as if he'd committed a truly heinous crime. I get it: Music is important to these people. But the context in which this is all happening does not fit the attention the show keeps giving it.
With his brother's death, the show provided a good reason to start reshaping Gunnar from meek and lovesick to darker and dirtier. But with all this additional nonsense, he barely resembles the person we knew earlier in the season, or the person who Scarlett supposedly loves. I totally understand why the show wanted to pull them apart a little bit. We've watched them grow together, but if they're going to be long-term characters on the show, they need to have individual stories that aren't just about googly eyes and acoustic guitars. What's more, just because we can understand why a show is doing something doesn't make those choices good.
You might think that I'd say the same thing about Rayna and Deacon, who are as prototypical will-they-or-won't-they as it gets, but at least there are some tangible and logical reasons why the two of them cannot quite make it work. For one, all the water under the bridge Deacon mentioned in this episode does matter, no matter what either one of them says. They spent many tumultuous years together and have basically spent a decade-and-a-half waxing nostalgic about those sorta-terrible times. It's not going to be as easy as they want it to be because it never was. And that's without considering the likelihood that Deacon is Maddie's birth father.
Still, I'm torn over the suggestion that, now that Rayna is sleeping with Deacon, she almost cannot control herself in the desire to tell him the truth about Maddie. I don't doubt that the urge is there, but it's been there for a long time, and the way that she immediately blew up their temporary happiness because she has this secret was at least somewhat silly. The writers made a smart decision by bringing Deacon back to Rayna in that penultimate scene in the car, because it sure looked like he was headed straight to the bottle and some really dark places. I don't doubt that he's likely still headed that direction, but I do appreciate the restraint to withhold that move until the season finale. Again, this is the story that has to be told. Deacon has to learn about Maddie. I simply don't get Rayna's inability to let it all lie for even a few days so she could enjoy a reconciliation with the man she's been in love with for most of her life.
At this point, it's clear that Juliette's descent is only going to continue through the end of this season. With Dante seemingly out of the picture, she took right after her mother and started drinking heavily, losing Deacon even quicker than expected, making a fool out of herself in front of Marshall Evans, and trying to seduce temporary band leader Avery (good for him for resisting; see, he doesn't suck!). A random drinking problem could be eye-roll-inducing, but A.) It runs in the family, and B.) Juliette's been through the ringer lately, even if most of the damage was self-inflicted. As a result, the revelation that Dante holds a sex tape and is blackmailing her for more money didn't come as much of a shocker. I don't know what other contemporary celebrity cliche stories the writers are going to tell with Juliette in Season 2, but I'm interested to see just how far the show wants to push her downward.
With only a couple episodes left in the season, we know where Nashville is headed. Nevertheless, it's not the predictability that bothers me; it's the way the show tries to combat predictability by piling on more and more. The show isn't in melodramatic bad Desperate Housewives territory, but it also seems unwilling or uninterested in allowing characters or romantic pairings to be happy, if even for an episode. If we know that any glimmer of happiness will almost immediately lead to more (and sometimes excessive) tension or drama, it's difficult to root for or care about these people. Things are going to get better before they get worse, but I hope the writers discover a way to keep tension high without overdoing it.
– There was a lot more music in this episode than there was in the previous two. For all the slack Juliette gets within the show, her new songs are pretty wonderful. And again let me repeat: Gunnar's stolen song pretty much blows.
– I enjoyed Teddy and Maddie's scenes. Eric Close is capable of being likable and charming when he's not saddled with pretty miserable material. Nashville's commitment to depicting a divorced family is admirable.
– It makes so much sense for Avery to become Juliette's new guitarist that I'm stupefied that I didn't recognize it coming at me.
– I will miss Sue, and to a lesser extent, Stacy. Though she did just let herself in.
– This Week in Pointless Nashville Politics: Coleman blew off Tandy and Teddy and his wife praised him for it. Number of Subway mentions: Unfortunately zero.
– What an opulent yacht.