Wednesday, May 14, 2014

REVIEW: 'Nashville' - Rayna & Will's Albums Drop and Scarlett Sings with Gunnar Again in 'On the Other Hand'

ABC's Nashville - Episode 2.22 "On the Other Hand"

As Will's album climbs the chart, Rayna enlists Teddy's help to plan a huge, free concert at LP Field to draw attention to her own. Zoey, Avery and Gunnar rock out at a benefit for Deacon's favorite charity, Sober House. And Scarlett makes a decision about her future in Music City.

Throughout its first two seasons, Nashville has been a very hit and miss kind of a show. It's had a couple of great moments - its pilot is a great episode of television, Hayden Panettiere sells everything she is asked to do with such conviction. And over time, the show has found a more consistent voice. It's cut superfluous characters (Bye Coleman & Lamar!) and has focused on the stories it does well - the inside track of the country music scene. Yes, there are moments of complete melodrama that are still very irksome. That Scarlett goes insane and drinks and takes pills arc was just soooo bad. But the show has a very solid core now and has been able to build interesting stories around it.

So we're now at the second season finale which is probably the most I've enjoyed Nashville since the pilot - even though it's almost a completely different show now. It's an emotionally satisfying finale with every major character getting their chance to shine - though I'm still bewildered by the continued use of Teddy and Maddie, the moody teenager. If the first season finale was all about Nashville at its most melodramatic and soapy over-the-top-ness, than the second feels emotionally earnest and earned. The show has learned from past mistakes. A lot of stuff still happens here - Rayna gets marriage proposals from Luke and Deacon, Juliette and Avery break up?, Will reveals he's gay to Layla and Gunner and Scarlett mend fences and she decides to stay in town (I think). That's a lot of plot-based stuff that's happening because it's the finale. But it also did play like the natural progression of story beats. I may not have liked Scarlett for a ton of this season. But seeing her calm, cool and collected here - as well as singing with Gunnar again - is wonderful. Similarly, I hate that Avery and Juliette broke up because I love them together. But Panettiere and Jonathan Jackson were absolutely breaking my heart in the absolute best way possible. The show is trying to dig deep into the emotional complexities that fuel Juliette. And that is very fertile ground to dig.

Additionally, it's just such a strong moment of self-reflection for Rayna. She has come a long way this season and had a lot to deal with. She has started her own label. She's dealing with Maddie and Deacon. She's trying to have a relationship with Luke. She's dealing with the weaselly Jeff at every turn. And yet, she ends the season in success. Despite everything that life has thrown her way, she has survived and she is incredibly grateful for that. We've never really seen her as a spiritual woman but seeing her pray and be thankful truly was the highlight of the finale.

And then, of course, her life gets even more complicated after that. Will gives her a very public declaration of love and she can't help but be swept up in the moment. I truly do believe that she loves him even though his capacity on the show has largely been the non-Deacon Deacon. He always feels like her second choice. And she's already gone down that road once before with Teddy. That just makes that final moment of Deacon coming over to her house and saying that they should be together even more profound. They've had to work as some kind of weird family unit this entire season. And Deacon is finally at a good place in his life again. Sure, he could go off the rails at any moment in time. But he truly does seem like he's at the perfect place in his life to be the man Rayna's always wanted him to be. So, that leaves her with a choice - Deacon or Will. The season ends on that cliffhanger and hopefully the show picks up next season with a very definitive answer.

Some more thoughts:
  • "On the Other Hand" was written and directed by Callie Khouri.
  • I do, however, wish there was more memorable music this season. The only song that I remember by name is "Black Roses" sung by Scarlett. The rest all seemed to string together.
  • Also, it's Rayna's concert at LP Field and the show doesn't let her sing by herself? She's either duetting with Juliette or Luke. Let Connie Britton be confidently up on that stage by herself!
  • I'm so glad its the pressures of his album launch that force Will into confronting who he really is and not Layla barging in on him and the new trainer guy. This situation gives him the power even though he is completely defeated in that moment - and her completely shocked.
  • I haven't reviewed the show since this news was made but Will Chase and Oliver Hudson are both being made series regulars for season three. And I thought the show was done supporting superfluous characters!
  • Scarlett: "Are you drunk?" Avery: "If not, then I wasted a lot of beer."