Thursday, October 22, 2015

REVIEW: 'Nashville' - Rayna & Layla Write a Song While Avery & Juliette Finally Talk in 'Stop the World (And Let Me Off)'

ABC's Nashville - Episode 4.05 "Stop the World (And Let Me Off)"

Rayna pushes back on Layla's romantic relationship with Jeff, and Markus pushes back on his producer, Avery, which does not go well. Maddie joins Colt on Luke's tour, giving the teens opportunities for more freedom than Maddie can handle. She turns to Juliette for advice and shocks Luke with the results. Deacon and Scarlett head to Natchez despite their falling out. Gunnar enlists Kevin and Will's help to pick up a new woman.

"Stop the World (And Let Me Off)" is a complete mess of an episode. It still overly enjoys wallowing in sadness and grief with a number of storylines. And then, other stories feel way too formulaic and familiar to the point where they just don't seem exciting or original. Some character dynamics are starting to become stale. The stories of the season have been percolating for a little bit. It's time for a change up to occur. Some stories are starting to pivot. But the big ones are still feeling way too comfortable with the groove they are already in. That makes this episode feel lackluster in a way that's just not as campy fun as the show usually is.

The only story that genuine works in this hour is the conversation Rayna has with Layla about her future in this business and her relationship with Jeff. It has been well documented that Rayna hates everything about Jeff. And yet, she remains open to him being a part of her business because her artist relies on him in more ways than one. It could become so complicated later this season as Jeff reverts back into his sleazy music business CEO persona. There's a chance of that happening despite all the character work the show has seemingly been doing with him through this romance. That's something to be concerned about for the future. But right now, it's great seeing Rayna and Layla respect where each other is coming from and being able to come together to create great music. It's a simple story that feels fresh in a universe that is getting more and more stale and bland with each passing episode.

The show was able to get one more week out of Avery threatening to file for divorce but not actually doing so until the very last moment. Every episode this season has featured a story of Juliette spiraling out of control while Avery is in Nashville trying to do right by their daughter. They continue to be great characters but it's starting to feel like the story isn't actually going anywhere. Every week Avery gets renewed hope that Juliette will reach out and become a great mom and wife again. And then, Avery is hit with a crushing blow that makes him lose all faith in her again. Here, he actually does sign the papers but waits on sending them to her because she finally reaches out to him. Unfortunately, it's too late. Cadence almost dying and Juliette seemingly not caring at all is the final straw with him. He actually commits to it this time. And yet, the trust isn't there to think that the show will actually go through with it. The premise is starting to wear a little thin. Juliette does rid herself of her bad influences. But that doesn't seem like enough meaningful change to her life in a way that can return her to a good place with the rest of the characters in this world.

Similarly, it wasn't an exciting prospect to have Deacon and Scarlett not speaking to one another. They are still lingering on the pain of Beverly's death. They are remembering all the bad times they had with her. They act as if they weren't able to say goodbye or mend their relationships with her before she went. They had a whole episode where she woke from the coma and both apologized for all of the bad things that they've done. This episode forces Deacon and Scarlett to come together again in order to go through Beverly's apartment. They are angry with each other. This story is also filled with flashbacks to times where they treated Beverly poorly. They are extremely overwrought and make no sense with the way the story was structured this season. All of this tension was very poorly conceived. There's the hope that it's all over with now that Deacon and Scarlett have talked. But that unfortunately doesn't mean they are ready to move on either.

But that's not the worst story of the episode either. That honor goes to the continued adventures of Maddie Conrad, a "misunderstood" teenager who just wants to sing. Who honestly cares about what happens to Maddie? Here, she is allowed to go to Luke and Juliette's big concert where she can have some alone time with Colt. She's upset because she doesn't know how to feel about this freedom and the chance to be more intimate with Colt. That leads to Juliette bringing her up on stage to perform one of the classic songs from Season 1. That then creates a big uproar because Luke and Rayna are furious that she was able to do that. Again, it feels simply like a scolding parenting moment that feels out-of-place with what the show is really good at doing. Rayna isn't able to express herself to Maddie over her concerns about her life decisions like she is with Layla. Why not? It's not abundantly clear which continues to make the tension between mother and daughter seem dull and lifeless.

Some more thoughts:
  • "Stop the World (And Let Me Off)" was written by Meredith Lavender & Marcie Ulin and directed by Jan Eliasberg.
  • Markus is continuing to prove to be more hassle than he's worth. He's demanding when he wants to be but also a huge distraction as well. The fame has gone to his head a lot. Sure, both he and Avery make mistakes during their first day recording together. But a story never really seems to be there in order to create meaningful conflict.
  • Will realizes that he wants to be a performer and not just a songwriter. That seems to create tension with him and Kevin. And yet, it was never really shown when he committed to just being a songwriter in the aftermath of coming out. Plus, that song that Luke performed wasn't good at all.
  • It was painful watching Gunnar trying to flirt with a new girl from Juliette's tour. Him babbling and sharing too much was completely awful. And yet, he still got the girl for some reason!
  • It also seems like Luke is having a flirtatious banter with his new image consultant - because he always needs a love interest as well. And yet, she doesn't want to mix business with personal even though she is tempted to. That probably won't last long. 
  • Who cares about Maddie and Colt having sex? It's something the show barely gives any time to. And yet, it's still suppose to be seen as a big deal for both characters.
  • How could Deacon remember that Beverly spent the holidays alone eating a TV dinner without him or Scarlett if that happened after she hung up the phone?