Since last we were in Dixie, Nashville received a back-nine order from ABC. And though the five episodes since the pilot have been occasionally bumpy and often unfocused, I’m glad to see the show get a full season. Finding steady footing, especially in a drama, can take that long. It can take longer. Which is why I’m remaining patient throughout the episodes we’ve seen so far, trusting in Callie Khouri that there’s a plan to compress the show more efficiently further down the line.
Because, as it stands now, I think we can all agree the show has a bit of a focus problem. That was never more obvious than it was in last night’s episode, which tried to tackle too much in too brief a time frame. The consequence of this lack of focus is that often certain elements of an episode feel half-baked, or else resolve in unearned, unsatisfying ways.
Which is how I feel about a lot of what went down in “You’re Gonna Change (Or I’m Gonna Leave).” Keeping Deacon and Rayna apart feels like a mistake, as theirs is the best chemistry on the show. I understand why it is they have to go separate ways as characters, but the show seems to have placed Deacon in an altogether different Nashville. And we simply don’t know him well enough to be terribly interested in his past addictions and transgressions. What the show promised in the pilot was an examination of two musical partners who long for lives they’ve given up. That’s the space I want to explore Rayna and Deacon in, and I hope we get a chance to do that soon.
In that vein, the pilot also seemed to suggest that Rayna and Juliette would be more involved than they end up being, which is not at all. They haven’t even shared a scene in the last three episodes. Again, lack of focus. It can’t be both Rayna and Juliette’s show in a forty-minute drama. They have to merge these two storylines together in some way, but if they are, I don’t see the makings of it just yet.
When it comes to Scarlett, Gunnar, and Avery (who occupied far too much space last night), things have really wandered off-course. I liked what the pilot implied would happen—that Rayna, in some fashion, would take Deacon’s niece under her wing. Record her songs, make her an opening act, what have you. What happened instead is disappointing, and I don’t believe Rayna has shared a scene with them since episode two. I’m not sure why the show gives Avery more than a line or two, as he’s incredibly unappealing and feels totally superfluous in the larger scheme of the show. When Scarlett was on Deacon’s porch last night, suitcase in tow, I was thrilled. This may mean Avery is long gone, though, I have a feeling that’s only wishful thinking.
So, enough talk about what isn’t happening and some on what is: Rayna’s writing a record, which is exciting to me. The song they’ve been associating with Rayna’s transition into a more current, grittier, electric sound is, “Buried Under,” which Britton kills. The would-be music video at the end of the episode, shot from an iPad in Liam’s studio, was dreamy. Tami Taylor as country singer continues to be one of my favorite things to have ever happened on TV. There’s some pushback from her label about the sound and Liam, the anti-establishment producer, but the show is smart to make these minor roadblocks pale in comparison to Rayna’s passion and no-bullshit disposition. She’s going to get this record done, and I really hope that means we’ll get to see Rayna on the road. That’s an element of the show that could really be wonderful, transcending some of the soapier cliches it has taken a liking to recently. I want to see her away from Nashville and away from her family and away from Deacon. I want to see her play.
Teddy’s campaign is picking up speed after Lamar calls in some favors and gets his opponent, Coleman Carlisle, pulled over for a traffic violation. Unexpectedly, Coleman is in possession of the Oxy prescription Deacon took from Juliette mom’s that he then snatched away from Deacon as his sponsor. Rayna doesn’t like the sound of it, but for once her father isn’t as evil-intentioned as she believes. It’s pure coincidence, albeit a bit unbelievable. I’d like to see the political element of the show—which is now merged, with the introduction of Peggy as Teddy’s old flame/partner in embezzlement, with Teddy’s family life—fizzle a bit as the race ends, but for now, I’m interested enough in the scandal of it. (Though I fear America is in a post-election haze, and probably isn’t all that interested in a fictional one right now.)
Juliette’s more or less in the same position she was last week: damage control after the cancellation of her tour. Her publicists set her up with an up-and-coming (though disappointing, in Juliette’s humble opinion) football player who’s got a good-guy vibe she’d like to see Juliette closely associated with. Except their fake date goes south when a paparazzi gets too close for comfort, and Juliette has to buy his silence lest he release pictures of an angry, rage-face Not-Tim Tebow. It’s safe to say that I’m less than interested in this subplot. There’s already too many cooks in the kitchen, no need to bring more faces in.
That’s the lesson the show needs to learn and relearn. It needs to stop adding, subtracting, dividing, and instead begin compressing and merging—bringing these stories together in a way that makes sense. The filter for what makes it into an episode should be far more specific than “This also happened in the city limits of Nashville.”
Also, more Connie Britton music videos. Never a bad idea.