Wednesday, October 17, 2012

'Nashville' Review - 1.02 I Can't Help It (If I'm Still in Love With You)

        On the newest episode of ABC's Nashville, Teddy's mayoral campaign moves forward and Rayna reluctantly endures an investigation that reveals some explosive family secrets; Coleman Carlisle starts the groundwork for his campaign when he discovers that Lamar is poised to brutally expose his longtime friend; Juliette continues to try and steal Deacon away from Rayna; and Scarlett is torn between songwriting with Gunnar and her commitment to Avery.

        Nashville had one of my favorite pilots this season and I was anxious/nervous to see the second episode - especially since ABC did not send it out in advance. While this episode doesn't flow quite as well as the pilot, he does succeed in telling us exactly what in wants to be as a show that overall feels very natural, fresh and unique. My anxieties have been calmed and I am now officially on for the rest of the season.
        The pilot offered a clear distinction of this show as an ongoing series but I questioned how briskly or calculated it would be in terms of character and plot in its weekly episodes. Most primetime soaps are very diverse and go through plots and twists and character growth and decay on an exponential level. That structure can work really well when done right - ABC's Revenge and TNT's Dallas are perfect examples and I love both of them. But Nashville should not be that kind of soap nor does it actually want to be. It wants to be relaxed and focus solely on the characters and their shared histories and ever-changing dynamics. When the show embraces it calm and collected moments, the cast really excels. The more dramatic soap material is noticeable in this work which doesn't quite work as well. But I have found myself so enthralled by most of this characters that I don't really mind when they sometimes are handed some overworked material.
        I have a sense that Callie Khouri and the rest of the writers have a great understanding of pace and character history. Every story has had just the perfect amount of time onscreen to smoothly receiving a positive reaction. We are subjected to exposition dialog - in the scene where Rayna and her husband are vetted - but even those help world-build and are just enough to add character details without overwhelming the audience.
        What has struck me as my absolute favorite part of the series is the parallels being set up between the Rayna-Deacon and Scarlett-Gunnar relationships. Those comparisons are so well-done and executed that it really helps ease the age/story gap. Conversely, each woman's significant other - Teddy and Avery - aren't as well integrated or compelling to the main country story but I still feel like their presence is necessary to the overall narrative.

So what did everyone think of the episode? Will the show always end with a fantastic duet at the Bluebird? Is the political storyline too tangential? Share your thoughts in the comments.