Wednesday, December 5, 2012

'Nashville' Review - 1.08 Where He Leads Me

        On the fall finale of ABC's Nashville, Rayna looks at what's really important to her after hearing Teddy's side of the story about Peggy; Juliette feels a sense of belonging with Sean's family; Gunnar risks his partnership with Scarlett when he confesses his feelings; music producer Dominic Wells (Wyclef Jean) invites Avery to Atlanta to work together; and Deacon gets an amazing offer to tour.

        When ABC premiered Nashville two months ago, I was quick to note that it was one of the best drama pilots developed for the season. What was not to like about the pilot? It boasted Thelma & Louise scribe Callie Khouri as its head writers and included critical darlings Connie Britton, Powers Boothe and Hayden Panettiere in its cast. It took also on a venture to a world we have never seen before on TV - that of country music and Nashville. Every single character was well-written and multi-layered that happened give the overall episode such a great sense of freshness. Succeeding have not quite lived up to that very high standard. The All About Eve aspect of Rayna and Juliette's relationship essentially vanished. Rayna continuously stopped around and argued with Deacon. Juliette ceased to be anything more than just a witch with a capital B. The Scarlett-Gunnar-Avery love triangle disolved into its own separate show with each character falling into one stereotypical role - the jerky boyfriend, the girl who's awkward and doesn't now how good she is, and the supportive and in love best friend. The political subplot that was terribly distracting and unnecessary from the beginning kept getting more and more screentime and kept getting less engaging the more time we spent with it. Worst of all instead of bringing all of these revolving elements together, each story kept expanding out into their world to the point that it seems very rare for certain characters to interact.
        Last week's episode "Lovesick Blues" finally got things back together and working again. The fire between the Rayna and Juliette characters is so strong that I can't even fathom why the show is so reluctant to put them together more often. After such a steller hour that got many of the main players back together to rock out in the country music world, I was so hopefully that going into tonight's winter finale that they would keep that momentum. Sadly I was wrong. This episode regressed many of the characters back into own various subplots - doing vastly different and mildly more entertaining things however. All of those various plots finally came to very pinnacle moments that I guess were the best of those stories so far even though I can't stand many of them. Rayna regressed back into the scorned woman stomping around everywhere yelling at people and I think I may only like this aspect of the character because it's Connie Britton playing it. Deacon is off getting and accepting tour offers from another band which couldn't feel more like a distinction/tangential story to his connection to the main plot even more. For the life of me, I cannot stand anything that is happening with Avery or his music career or his cougar lover or the Wyclef Jean producer.
        On the plus side though, the show is dealing with the love between Scarlett and Gunnar right away. Claire Bowen and Sam Palladio have insame chemistry and fantastically complimentary voices. But I also feel that I only like them as characters when they are singing some heart-wrenching song. The music and communicate a message through lyrics and emotion continues to be the strongest overall aspect of this series. When Gunnar sings at the Bluebird cafe, he has us all wrapped up into what is happening on the screen and longing between these characters. Similarly, Juliette's performance at the church was a very strong character moment for her. In fact, the episode's whole Juliette story is really strong because it tackles a different dimension for her character while also feeling totally in line with what we know about her. She was actually really likable throughout the hour whenever she was interacted with Sean and his family. Her nasty side did make a reappearance when her mom was mentioned again but overall she was that great tragic character that I respected. Of course, the "Will you marry me?" cliffhanger was predictable and totally cliche and unlikely to last very much longer but it still felt like something that she would do.
        In conclusion, it does seem as if the show is making some progress as Rayna is now open to doing a co-headlining tour with Juliette. Her response is proof that this character has already changed so much from the one we first saw in the pilot two months ago. Then, she was adamant on disallowing Juliette to cling on to her fame. Now, after everything that has happened with Deacon and then Teddy and then that phenomenal duet with Juliette, it is a pleasure to see her be more receptive to the idea. The story of the two of them touring together is a very strong piece that many have been hoping the show would build to sooner than later and now it seems as if it is just right on the horizon. With that prospect in mind, it sure likes like I'll be staying on this ride for the next few months. 

So what did everyone think of the episode? How close are you to checking out of this series? When will the country music scene - minus Avery - be the sole focus of the show? Share your thoughts in the comments.