“I Don’t Wanna Talk About it Now” – Nashville

Screen Shot 2013-10-13 at 1.27.09 PMThis week’s Nashville was a bit of a disappointment. Not because of it’s content, which was pretty good, really (though, admittedly, not great), but because of its closing scene. Because of Juliette. We’re not disappointed in the show, we’re disappointed in her. But we’ll get to that later.

The episode, one could say, revolved around Edgehill’s big Stockholders Showcase. There were offshoots – divorce, Teddy and Peggy (but still no Lamar) – but, by and large, everything had some thread running back to this concert. The concert itself was largely uneventful, other than that it deepened the ever-widening rift between Jeff and Rayna while pushing Gunnar and Zoey together. It was those offshoots, those arcs that played around the edges of the concert, that provided the majority of the week’s drama.

Teddy and Peggy, first. With the exception of Juliette’s, this arc exhibited perhaps the most drastic change from beginning to end. Starting out with a distant Teddy doing the ‘honorable’ thing by supporting Peggy, financially, it ended with Continue reading

“Never No More” – Nashville

Screen Shot 2013-10-05 at 7.39.34 PM“Never No More”, the second episode of Nashville’s second season, is more what we had come to expect from the ABC hit. Given space, a little at least, from Rayna and Deacon drama, the show once again flourished. This episode allowed us, now that Rayna is well(ish) and Deacon is out of prison, to really explore what the rest of the season could offer us.

And that’s going to be a lot. Certain important arcs – Peggy’s fake pregnancy and Lamar’s wife-killing – were left out entirely, perhaps detrimentally. Every time we saw Tandy on screen, we were desperate to know her reaction to what she learned about her father’s past. But it was swept under the rug in favor of exploring Rayna’s present and Juliette’s past.

But that was fine. We actually enjoyed the episode, in spite of those notable absences. Rayna’s recuperation was, blessedly, given little focus. Used solely as a crutch to support a brief pseudo-rekindling of her romance with Teddy, we weren’t subjected to a full arc of her gadding about in pajamas and looking poorly. Instead, she launched right back into work, allowing us to fully relish the season’s new ‘big bad’, Jeff Fordham.

His first episode on screen and he’s already caused all kinds of drama, and given us the shape of the season to come. Treating Juliette as replaceable, stealing Will from Rayna (a strand that should prove interesting moving forward, as Will will now find himself working with his former paramour), telling Rayna he has no faith in Scarlett or Highway 65… he’s already Continue reading

“I Fall to Pieces” – Nashville

Screen Shot 2013-09-29 at 10.06.56 PMStrong return from Nashville, ably upping the drama after last season’s already drama-filled finale. Straight out of the gate, we’re going to deal with those major cliffhangers of last season. “I Fall to Pieces” takes place two weeks after the finale, so everything is more or less settled.

First up, Rayna and Deacon. Last we saw of the pair they had just been in a horrific crash and it wasn’t clear which of them, if either, would survive. We strongly suspected that Rayna would, at least, for obvious, show-related reasons. This first episode back doesn’t kill us with suspense – we learn early on that Rayna is in a medically-induced coma and that Deacon is in jail, charged with driving under the influence and reckless driving. He was mounting absolutely zero defense despite the fact that none of the charges were founded in fact, wanting to punish himself for his role (however indirect) in Rayna’s near death. Rayna’s coma was played to great effect throughout the episode – as a source of guilt for Maddie, as a publicity boost for Juliette, as a kick in the face for Lamar – and Charles Esten impressed with his angry, vitriolic insistence on self-flagellation. We were happy that this storyline wasn’t dragged out ad nauseum, though, with a final moments resolution seeing Rayna wake up and Deacon’s release from prison. Another special mention here for Charles Esten, whose reaction to the news that Rayna was okay was perfection. And neat flashbacks seen during Rayna’s coma gave us a new view of her and Deacon’s relationship, and explained a lot. They also let Rayna off the hook for the Maddie situation – it was Tandy who pushed her not to tell him.

Then there’s that Gunnar/Scarlett proposal. The resolution of this particular cliffhanger left us wondering if ABC have some rule about how they can’t have more than one engagement in any given season. Beckett said yes to Castle, so Scarlett can’t say yes to Gunnar… It’s a pity. We loved these two together. But Continue reading

“I’ll Never Get Out of This World Alive” – Nashville

Nashville-121-03In many ways, this Nashville season finale did not live up to the tone set by its preceding episodeThat episode, so wrought with drama, disaster and death, perhaps set the bar too high for its successor to ably leap. Don’t get us wrong, this finale episode was fantastic. It just felt a little ‘less than’…

The main thrust of the episode focused on the fallout from Maddie’s discovery of her true parentage, with some nice side moments involving Juliette’s grief, Gunnar and Scarlett’s relationship, Avery’s love for Scarlett and friendship with Juliette, and the US Attorney’s Office sniffing around Teddy’s history with the Cumberland Project.

That Cumberland Project issue provided us with the first cliffhanger of the episode – a dual cliffhanger, if you will. From the moment Dashell Brinks called Teddy, the whole arc became a whodunit, of sorts. Who tipped off the Attorney’s Office? The list of suspects is more or less confined to Lamar, Tandy, Peggy and Coleman. (We have discounted Rayna because we just don’t think she’d stoop that low.) One of the episode’s final scenes showed Dashell approaching Tandy, who was clearly surprised to see him, so that counts her out (though she’s certainly likely to sell her father out in light of their confrontation during the episode – that should make next season more than interesting). The fact that Dashell wanted to talk to her about Lamar’s involvement probably counts Lamar out. Our instincts tell us that it was Peggy, rather than Coleman, perhaps in a bid either to win Teddy back or pay him back for dumping her.

That could, potentially be backed up by the first of this finale’s main cliffhangers, and the second half of that dual cliffhanger. When Teddy went to appeal to Peggy’s better nature, and to ask her not to turn on him, she revealed that she had already spoken to the investigators and refused to take a deal in exchange for ratting him out because Continue reading

“A Picture from Life’s Other Side” – Nashville

Screen Shot 2013-05-20 at 11.33.33 PMWithout a doubt one of the best episodes of a season just filled with great episodes. It was so good that we found ourselves wondering what the writers could possibly do with this week’s season finale to top it. What cliffhanger could they possibly engineer to top (Spoilers!) Jolene Barnes’ murder-suicide? That came completely out of left field and created a whole new paradigm for the show. Yes, it scarcely felt like Nashville anymore. This was straight from the pages of the most drama-filled dramas out there, and felt incongruous when compared to the relatively light-hearted and occasionally tongue-in-cheek offerings that we usually get. This was serious.

Juliette’s gutturally vocalized and visceral reaction on finding her mother’s body was surprising, even shocking, and our final view of the young songstress alone in the dark and in tears did more to shake up the show than Tandy’s mutiny, Teddy’s restraining order, or Gunnar and Scarlett’s split ever could. Juliette had long ago disowned her mother but, having finally reaccepted her into her life, her sudden loss will likely send Juliette spiraling. The manner of the murder-suicide also raised issues of motive which will likely come back to bite Juliette in the ass, if not in the season finale then certainly in Season 2. The cops will be investigating Dante’s death and, if they do their jobs right, will almost certainly recover the SD card Jolene thought she had disposed of. Will Juliette become a suspect? Will the cops wonder if she asked her mother to do what she did? It seems likely that the arc won’t end here, but it remains to be seen whether it takes the dramatic latter route or whether the writers will opt for the more restrained but no less upsetting angle of Juliette falling apart. Previous episodes hinted at a Juliette on the very edge of alcoholism. If this doesn’t push her over, nothing will.

Other aspects of the episode that are worth discussing are those mentioned above. First up, Tandy’s mutiny. She is Continue reading

“Why Don’t You Love Me” – Nashville

CONNIE BRITTON, CHARLES ESTENThis week’s Nashville was really the Rayna and Deacon show. There were other storylines – Coleman earning our respect for life, Teddy and Maddie bonding again, Juliette teetering on the edge of alcohol abuse, Gunnar’s 90210­-esque song stealing, Avery sitting in as Juliette’s band leader when Deacon quits, CMA announcements – but the main focus, as it should have been, was on Rayna and Deacon. And what a crazy whirlwind that was! There were so many ups and downs in just this first episode post-hook-up that we’re amazed they made it through it in one piece. But they did, and it was adorable. We’re not sure how long it can last, or how long it can remain at this relatively low level of drama. Teddy did raise an interesting point. How will Rayna be able to truly be with Deacon when she’s hiding their daughter from him? In the final moments of the episode, the strain was already showing. Should we be expecting a finale in which the truth finally comes out?

There were a few other storylines with the potential to become arcs in the next season, or even to begin in this one. Chief among these is that Coleman-related plot. This week, he turned down Tandy’s backing and an almost guaranteed turn in the mayor’s seat. He passed it up because he didn’t want to be in Tandy’s pocket any more than he would have wanted to be in Lamar’s. He also quit as deputy, not wanting to be part of Teddy’s vanity-project government. He wants to be a clean, honest politician (apparently a rare commodity in Nashville). The episode heavily hints at a future run at the mayor’s office – perhaps next season will see Teddy’s embezzling past come to the fore – and, were that to come to pass, we know we’d be supporting Coleman.

Moving on to the scandal that is Juliette’s life: as if he weren’t already enough of a skeeze, Dante took being an asshole to a whole new level this week. After screening Juliette’s calls, and using one of her credit cards to buy a $17,000 diamond ring for his (presumed) fiancée, he Continue reading

“Take These Chains from My Heart” – Nashville

Screen Shot 2013-05-04 at 4.07.29 PMWe love that Nashville has been taking so many breaks between episodes. Ordinarily, that would be a total pain in the ass but, with Nashville, it actually makes everything that little bit better. After a week or so of being without the show, every episode back reminds us more and more of why we love it to begin with. It always feels fresh. And it gives us a chance to pine for those stories that we’re most interested in so that, when they reach their conclusion, or even move forward just a little, we really appreciate them. Like the season-long Deacon and Rayna arc. Instead of being fed up of it, we get constant space to breathe. It never becomes too much. And we enjoy Rayna and Deacon episodes like this one all the more. But let’s not jump ahead.

There were a few central threads to this episode, starting with the fact that Rayna was back in Nashville and finally felt free of her marriage. This led her to hooking up with Liam, which kinda made us cringe. He has been combined with Michiel Huisman’s Treme character, Sonny, in our minds to become this sleazy, unreliable, rock bottom kind of man. It makes us sad that Rayna would sink so low. But you have to hit rock bottom before you seek help, so he certainly served his purpose.

The Dante storyline came to a conclusion this week. We called it. Sort of. He Continue reading

“My Heart Would Know” – Nashville

60202950Well, we’re a little disappointed. Not because “My Heart Would Know” wasn’t a good episode, because it was. We were just expecting more to be made of Lamar’s heart attack and the way Rayna dealt with it. Yes, it took up the majority of screen time (or at least half), but it felt in a way like the writers were pulling their punches. This was an opportunity for Rayna to really confront her feelings. In fact, that’s possibly what the writers intended. It just didn’t come across to viewers. Deacon heard something in Rayna’s voice message that was missing for us. A desperation and a sense of confliction that we just weren’t feeling. We are loath to say anything disparaging about Ms Connie Britton, but she just didn’t carry it this week. There were nice moments – her speech to the unconscious Lamar, for example – but all in all it fell flat.

The rest of the episode was by turns irritating and fantastic. The irritation should be obvious – Juliette Barnes. Week after week she becomes more of a thorn in our side, and makes it harder and harder for us to enjoy the show. We understand why she’s necessary. She’s the perfect antithesis to Rayna. She’s selfish, she’s arrogant, she’s overly sexualized and over-confident. She’s the perfect antagonist and without her the show just wouldn’t work. But does she have to be so… Juliette? This week saw her drive all the good forces – Deacon and, surprisingly, her mom – out of her life, and saw her embracing the exact wrong person. Asking Dante to be her manager may have been a good move for her career, but it spells disaster in her personal life. And by pushing away Deacon and her mom she’s going to be alone like never before. We don’t see that going well for her. She’s on a path of self-destruction and, right now, we’re just waiting for it to come to a head. We’re anticipating a Britney-sized meltdown.

That irritation was easily and ably dispelled by Continue reading

“I Saw the Light” – Nashville

Bit of a mixed bag from this week’s Nashville. We think we loved it. Think being the operative word. Parts of it were completely predictable – Juliette hooking up with her mom’s sober companion, Dante, for instance, and Scarlett’s contract becoming a bone of contention between her and Gunnar. Nothing – with one or two notable exceptions – was particularly surprising, or different. Not that that’s a bad thing. Nashville has a formula, and that formula has been working. But a little splash of something new could be fun. Something beyond the politics and the music.

Storylines that play into that will be very much evident over the next few episodes. First up will be the reaction to Lamar’s death (or near-death – it’s unclear as of yet whether or not he survives his heart attack). There will be a lot of warring emotions if he dies. Relief on the part of Teddy, Coleman and Peggy, and a very confused grief for Rayna. Her relationship with her father has never been simple, so it should be interesting to see how she copes with his death.

Dependent on that may be Deacon’s decision to leave the road for Sue and Stacey and, a little bit, for himself. We have to wonder if he’ll be so determined to leave if Rayna is grieving for her father. Part of us hopes he will. We like Stacey, and we like her with Deacon. But another part of us is hoping that this will finally be the thing to bring together Deacon and Rayna.

This week’s paranoid conspiracy theory? Continue reading

“When You’re Tired of Breaking Other Hearts” – Nashville

I took the weekend off. I had some personal stuff I was dealing with (and needed some time off to have a little fun, too). But even when I have time off, I’m working. And all weekend I had one thing in the back of my mind – Nashville. The ABC show returned from a brief hiatus this week, coming back with a (literal) bang and a whole lot of exciting developments. But, in spite of that, I was struggling to come up with any way, any way at all, to talk about it here. It’s a failing of mine, I guess. Intros and conclusions. I suck at both (as with writing, so with life). So I decided to try the one thing I do when this happens. Be honest, admit my failings, write a soft open just like this one (in which I explain to readers that I suck and couldn’t think of an insightful or interesting opening), then dive right into the review. So here it goes…

The episode was pretty much dominated by family issues – Teddy and Rayna post-divorce, Juliette and her mom, Gunnar’s grief over his brother – but also delved into a few side issues. All in all, it gave me a few interesting insights into various characters.

For instance, I’m beginning to see a new side to Juliette. An almost softer side. As she becomes more and more a part of her mother’s life and recovery, she’s opening up and becoming kinder and really seeing that she’s not the centre of the universe. It’s a chicken and egg situation, really. I don’t know whether Juliette’s becoming nicer because she’s spending time with her mom or spending time with her mom because she’s becoming nicer. It’s impossible to separate the two. I’d like to think, though, that it’s all because of the influence of Rayna and Deacon.

Rayna is the strict older sister that Juliette always should have had. She’s not willing to bow and scrape for the young starlet, nor is she willing to let her get away with acting the maggot (it’s an Irish phrase – learn it, and use it wisely). She’s pulling Juliette up and forcing her to be better and do better. Deacon, on the other hand, is becoming a father figure. He is teaching her to respect herself and be kinder to others, all while offering a ‘no judgments’ shoulder to cry on. Together, they’re exactly what she needs. While the changes have been subtle, and slow to materialize, they are appearing. But where does that go from here? She can never completely change, or the show will lose that Rayna v. Juliette appeal. She has to be the antagonistic, irritating (but at times incredibly sweet) counterpart to Rayna’s sanctimony and preaching. Both characters are fantastic, and Nashville couldn’t survive without either one.

Teddy Conrad is another character I’m gradually coming around to. At the start of the season I really didn’t like him, but I’m beginning to see that, in many ways, he’s the backbone of the show. Here is a man who has always struggled against the more powerful figures in his life. He has been at the mercy of Rayna, and of her father. But he keeps rising up and acting the noble, kind man. For a while in the middle of this episode – when Maddy is in hospital – I thought we had lost him. That kindness was gone, to be replaced by a bitter, angry, stubborn, selfish boy. But he came around in the end. He will always put his children first (even the one who isn’t his). He represents everything good about compromise and magnanimity – something that is often lacking amid the drama that the other players are constantly embroiled in. In many ways, he represents normality. But that doesn’t mean he is safe from drama himself. I sense a big serving coming his way, soon. As Lamar learns of Teddy’s appointment of Coleman, and of their joint decision to take the stadium away from him, it speaks of trouble to come. All that remains to be seen is how Teddy will deal with it. Will he be able to retain everything good about himself in the face of the onslaught from Lamar? And what vignettes of information will Lamar leak now that he has no reason to protect Teddy?

And, while we’re on the subject of characters about whom my opinion has changed, let’s talk about Avery. Nothing too deep here. He’s still an asshole. But, this week, I found myself not hating him for the first time since he walked on screen. In burning his tapes and walking away from Dominic and his manager, perhaps to the detriment of any future career prospects, we had a newfound respect for him. He may be a dick, but he has his principles.

Looking briefly at the lighter side of the episode, Deacon has a new love interest in the form of his vet, Stacey (Susan Misner, The Following, Hope Springs), I don’t know what it is about her, but she is the first of Deacon’s hook ups who I have been willing to accept as a stopgap measure for Rayna. I know Deacon and Rayna are long-term (or will be, eventually) – they do have a child together, after all, and I suspect it won’t be long until Deacon finds that out – but Stacey is so likeable that I actually want to see them together for now. It won’t last. It can’t. But I won’t hate her while she’s here.

And, finally, staying with the romance theme, we turn to Gunnar and Scarlett. Here’s a couple I have no doubts about. Or had, at least… Throughout the episode, I knew they’d make it work. Now that they had finally caved into their feelings, there’s no way it wouldn’t. Even when Gunnar was being an ass and Scarlett was being (justifiably) stubborn I knew that, by episode’s end, they’d be back in each other’s arms. And I wasn’t wrong. But now I have fresh concerns to deal with. Gunnar’s grieving process (getting wasted) meant that he missed their performance for Rayna. Consequently, Rayna is offering Scarlett a solo performer’s contract. This puts Scarlett in the same position that Avery found himself in a few weeks back. Will she make a different choice than he did? I think she has to. And that she will. But hopefully they won’t drag this decision out for too long. I can’t deal with any more Gunnar/Scarlett uncertainty than is strictly necessary… – K

Quoteworthy: “I feel like I’m in quicksand, on one leg, blindfolded. But you know – nothing I can’t handle.” – Rayna