‘Nashville’ Has a Lot of Soap to Clean Up As Things Come Down to the Final Chorus
Even if I didn’t like Nashville, which I do, I would watch Thursday’s series finale just to see if they can possibly wrap everything up.
Nashville airs at 9 p.m. ET on CMT, which graciously picked up the show after it was dropped by ABC. It’s been a prime-time pleasure, thanks in significant measure to incorporating a lot of good music.
Often it’s been more country-folk or country-pop or sometimes country-gospel, and that’s also good, because contrary to what some of today’s commercial country music would suggest, country has covered a wide range over the hundred years it’s been recorded.
Like Empire, Nashville has made legitimate music a seamless part of its storyline.
And okay, like Empire, Nashville has also incorporated a lot of soap into those storylines. In fact, that’s what I’m wondering this week: With the amount of lather Nashville has generated, how can it possibly clean it all up and towel off in just one hour?
It’s safe to say that every character in Nashville has an unresolved drama, and most have several. Many of those involve romances, and when that’s not feasible, like for 14-year-old Daphne Conrad (Maisy Stella), we’re looking at a career crossroads.
As with most dramas that have an announced endpoint, we know where we want most of the dramas to go, usually because that’s where they should go. For example in Nashville, the eternally insecure Scarlett O’Connor (Clare Bowen) should end up with Gunnar Scott (Sam Palladio), and not just because Bowen is Australian and Palladio is a Brit and they’ve both spent the last five years in Southern accents.
They’re just a fit. Each is exactly whom the other should be with. They know it, too. They’ve just been taking wrong turns for five years. The finale should put them back on the road. Together.
That is not a lock, even though most finales try to be reassuring and heartwarming in these matters.
Most finales also start wrapping things up a few episodes before the end. If they don’t close a story, they telegraph where it’s going and the finale confirms it.
Nashville hasn’t done much of that, with one possible and notable exception. Juliette Barnes (Hayden Panettiere) seems to have made a real effort to redeem herself to her husband Avery Barkley (Jonathan Jackson).
Avery seems receptive, and the fact they have a daughter may well bring out his saintly side. But Juliette has been jerking him around for years, and sorry, but we’re going to need more evidence that she’s hung up her diva suit for good.
Also, Avery seems to have a real romantic connection to Alannah Curtis (Rainee Lyleson), and while she has told him it’s over, that’s something people say all the time on soaps.
If Avery goes back to Juliette, that could leave Alannah — who’s a much nicer person than Juliette — with only Brad Maitland (Jeffrey Nordling), this season’s worst slimebag.
Okay, Alannah could expose him. But a truly heartwarming ending would not leave Alannah out there alone.
Meanwhile, we’ve got Deacon Claybourne (Charles Esten) wondering if it can work with Jessie Caine (Kaitlin Doubleday, who we have to note here is an alumna of Empire). Jessie is the ex of the aforementioned slimebag Brad Maitland, who has threatened to kill her parental rights if she keeps seeing Deacon.
No real reason for that, by the way. Brad is just being nasty. But it’s a central issue that needs to be addressed one way or the other on Thursday. Thinking out loud: If Alannah can cut Brad off at the knees, maybe that liberates Jessie, too. That would be partly heartwarming.
Less crucial, but no less emotional, Deacon’s older daughter Maddie (Lennon Stella) has to decide whether to take up with the poetically named Twig Wysecki (Dylan Arnold), who kept her from finding out that the star she had been dating, Jonah Ford (Nik Luken), had not yet broken up with his prior girlfriend.
Twig, now an ex-member of Jonah’s posse, has always had a secret yearning for Maddie. Did we mention Maddie’s also an emerging star herself? So hmmmmm.
The most interesting semi-outlier here is Will Lexington (Chris Carmack), who early in the series was outed as gay, which is widely considered a death sentence for a country music career.
He’s worked through that, not without a lot of pain and stumbling, and he has had two relationships, one with songwriter Kevin Bicks (Kyle Dean Massey) and one with exec Zach Welles (Cameron Scoggins).
Both fell apart, and there have been no signs either is about to rekindle, leaving the possibility that Will will end the series as alone as he feared being a gay artist in country music would leave him.
However it ends for Will, the writers of Nashville get points for the gay storyline, as they do for the inclusion, however brief, of a couple of black characters.
It would be easy to write a country music story with neither.
In any case, those are just the main stories. It would be nice to know what happens to a bunch of supporting characters, too, like Deacon’s manager Bucky Dawes (David Alford) or Avery’s and Juliette’s loyal and very patient assistant/nanny Emily (Kourtney Hansen).
Not to mention Deacon’s father Gideon (Ronny Cox), who seems to have slipped off the wagon again. Alcohol should get a special Emmy for best supporting role in Nashville.
They’ve got an hour, minus commercials, to sort all this out. I want to see how they speed-wrap.