Wednesday, September 23, 2015

REVIEW: 'Nashville' - The Outcome of Deacon's Liver Transplant is Revealed as Juliette's Stardom Rises in 'Can't Let Go'

ABC's Nashville - Episode 4.01 "Can't Let Go"

With Juliette's starring role in the Patsy Cline biopic, she is at an all-time career high, but is hitting a personal low. Avery, separated from Juliette, tends to baby Cadence at his parents' home. Rayna, along with her family and friends, grapple with the chilling aftermath of Deacon's liver transplant.

Nashville had a very up and down year in Season 3. The finale brought about some great moments for the characters. Will finally came out of the closet. The romantic tension between Gunnar and Scarlett hit a natural turning point. Juliette continued to be amazing even though she was heading down a very dark spiral - to the detriment of Avery and baby Cadence. But it was also overwrought with the soap antics of Deacon and Beverly's lives being placed in peril. That cliffhanger wasn't that great. It felt formulaic and aggravating. Rayna and Deacon happily being together has always been met with some new plot-driven obstacle. They are never allowed to just be happy with their lives and relationship. The whole liver transplant arc did give the characters plenty of strong emotional moments. But it also fueled the show with a ton of over-the-top hijinks meant to engage the audience in the most draining way possible. It wasn't that surprising that the show ended the season the way that it did. The premiere has a lot of ground to cover - and it largely does so while also manipulating the audience's emotions and expectations.

It's no surprise that the show didn't kill off Deacon. The biggest question was whether or not Beverly would survive the surgery. It would have felt too anticlimactic for Deacon to go out like that given that he has always been built up as the one Rayna is destined to be with. Beverly isn't an important character on the show. She does have a connection to Deacon, Rayna and Scarlett. But the show could get just as much story out of her being alive or dead. The end result is a weird limbo state. She is connected to machines keeping her in a coma in order to keep her alive. Deacon is struggling with the fact that he's the reason she's in this predicament. And yet, Rayna and Scarlett are right to point out that it was her choice. By the end of the premiere, it even seems like Beverly is on the mend and may be waking up from this coma in a few days. Of course, she hasn't yet which means the show can still swiftly kill her. It's just an awkward place to start the season for the characters. A one month time jump allows for certain things to go forward drastically in the story while others have to cling onto some semblance of stasis. This was one of them. Judgment can't really be made until the audience knows where this story is going.

The much more promising and entertaining story from "Can't Let Go" is Juliette's continued descent into personal destruction despite new professional highs. She is proud to be performing again. She's on top of the world as the debut of the Patsy Cline biopic is building even more buzz around her. She appears to have everything together with her public persona. She makes no mistakes when in front of the press or on stage. All of her personal darkness comes out when she's away from the cameras. She has surrounded herself with new friends who don't know her well enough to be concerned about her mental and emotional state. They all like to party and nothing more. It's devastating watching as Juliette continues going down this path. And yet, she's making the choice to push away all the people who care about her and want to help. She reaches out to Rayna but is quickly thrown back into the party. She is able to fulfill a dream and sing Patsy Cline's "Crazy" with Steven Tyler! Her career is so strong at the moment. But she is still struggling with her emotions. Avery is waiting to work on their marriage together and she has abandoned him and their daughter. Rayna actually flies to Los Angeles and Juliette just throws hatred her way. Juliette needs help but she also has to accept that she can't continue on this trajectory. It's great to watch when she is in over-the-top diva mode but there's also an incredibly dark sadness also happening with her at the moment that's different and just as strong for a story.

Juliette also provides a hint as to what Rayna's ongoing story will be for the season. The public apparently see Highway 65 as a vanity project and nothing more than that. Rayna has found success for herself under this independent label. But she hasn't launched anyone else to that same level of success and stardom. Granted, Juliette was already a star when she first joined the company. But all of these new professional highs have come from what Luke and Jeff have done for her. Scarlett and Sadie were artists Rayna was passionate about. She put the entire focus of the label on their careers but both had to depart in order to deal with personal problems. Rayna needs to launch another career in order to gain some legitimacy and momentum in the industry. Rayna as a businesswoman has always been an interesting story avenue for the character. Embracing that more could be a compelling place to take her this season.

The rest of the episode is a mixed bag of results. Basically the premiere feels the need to address every story that is currently happening. So lots of characters pop up briefly to remind the audience what is going on with them. Will struggles with how to fit in in a world that knows he's gay. He doesn't feel like he belongs anywhere. He was in the closet too long on the show. There's still some hesitation on the show's part of him fully embracing his identity. But it's at least moving forward. The show could also embrace some weird Three Men and a Baby hijinks now that Avery and Cadence have moved in with Gunnar and Will. That has potential for hilarity - though could get tiresome rather quickly. All three of the guys are thematically connected because they are all having relationship problems. Scarlett and Gunnar continue to act on their romantic connection but she struggles with her feelings because she is committed to her relationship with the cute doctor. It seems inevitable that the show will try doing a Gunnar-Scarlett romance again. But the audience will have to wait and see to know if the show figured out what didn't work the last time the two were paired romantically. It's a precarious situation for the show. This premiere does enough to establish what the season will be about but it also spends a lot of time addressing some major plot concerns from last season. Still looking forward to seeing where all of these stories will go though.

Some more thoughts:
  • "Can't Let Go" was written by Meredith Lavender & Marcie Ulinand and directed by Callie Khouri.
  • It's not that surprising that Juliette's role in the Patsy Cline movie is allegedly gaining Oscar buzz considering ABC is the home of the Oscars. Will that be another awards ceremony event episode coming later this year. Nashville loves those kinds of stunt episodes.
  • It's only noticeable that Oliver Hudson and Eric Close are no longer series regulars on the show this season because the show makes it a point to say that both characters still have an impact on the narrative. If no one talked about them, it wouldn't be such a big deal.
  • However, expect to see more of Layla this year considering Aubrey Peeples was promoted to series regular status. She spends the premiere lingering on her relationship with Jeff and hoping that he'll put her first no matter what because they are in love. This also feels like it's going to end horribly - though that could lead to some interesting songs for her.
  • Time is also wasted on Daphne and Maddie fighting over Teddy sending both of them letters from prison. Daphne is young and remains hopeful that her father is innocent. That became annoying the second it was introduced. It will certainly make the season long if that stays something the show spends a lot of time talking about.
  • Deacon says he and Rayna are planning on getting married as soon as Beverly gets better. Is that something the audience can realistically look forward to sometime this season?