TV Review | ‘Nashville’ picks up after tragedy in season one
Published: Wednesday, October 9, 2013
Updated: Wednesday, October 9, 2013 02:10
In an ad for the second season of ABC’s “Nashville,” the program’s leading ladies, Juliette Barnes (Hayden Panettiere) and Rayna Jaymes (Connie Britton), lounge in the middle of what looks to be field of grain. Rayna, the show’s principal heroine, sits on the keys of a sleek, obsidian piano as Juliette perches on a platinum throne adorned with shining guitar necks. Both don sparkly, formfitting outfits and wear stilettos. How they are able to walk in a field of grain wearing these outfits, one can only guess.
But don’t be fooled by their costumes and shiny props — the stars of “Nashville” are much more fragile than they appear.
Last season, ABC provided viewers with a quintessentially catastrophic finale, replete with cliffhangers including an unanswered marriage proposal and a surprise pregnancy. The largest bombshell of the finale, however, occured when Rayna and Deacon Claybourne (Charles Esten), her on-again off-again boyfriend, got into a potentially fatal car accident in the episode’s last seconds. The car flips — then the screen goes black and the credits roll.
The season two premiere of ABC’s “Nashville” is appropriately titled “Fall to Pieces.” Rayna lies motionless in a medically induced coma, while Juliette, torn up about her mother’s season one suicide, appears midway through the episode at a makeshift altar to honor her.
Juliette further demonstrates her softer side by playing a Rayna-themed slideshow at her album debut concert. After revealing the slideshow and encouraging fans to raise glow sticks in hope of Rayna’s recovery, she proceeds to perform one Rayna’s songs as a tribute to her fellow singer. Juliette, who had been embroiled in an intense rivalry with Rayna, plasters on a sweet smile and pretends to support her, winning praise from her fans. On the surface she manages to convince the crowd that her concern is genuine, but the viewer is quickly reminded that Rayna’s condition does not truly affect Juliette. As she struts out of the venue to shed her celebrity skin, Juliette flicks a glow stick, the symbol of her support for Rayna, out of her sight like a used Kleenex.
Along with the Rayna-Juliette drama, an episode of “Nashville” would not be complete without the Scarlett-Gunnar saga. The season two premiere reveals that Scarlett O’Connor (Clare Bowen) has rejected Gunnar Scott’s (Sam Palladio) marriage proposal. Though the reason for the rejection is not clear, audiences can deduce that Scarlett’s upcoming tour and rising fame have something to do with it. The duo sings a sentimental song at Scarlett’s farewell party at the Bluebird Cafe, and, though sparks are present, the scene is ultimately melancholic. To make matters worse, Scarlett’s ex-boyfriend Avery Barkley (Jonathan Jackson) continues to lurk about like a hungry coyote, waiting to catch Scarlett on the rebound. While he has definitely been humbled by both his loss of fame and his loss of Scarlett, Avery’s reputation as a subpar musician and subpar human have not changed in season two. He also now rocks a quasi-mullet, sufficiently adding to his coyote-like semblance.
At the episode’s close, “Nashville” is not ridden with gloom — at least not entirely. Viewers learn that Deacon, the struggling alcoholic who caused the car accident in the season one finale, will not rot in a jail cell for vehicular homicide. Teddy Conrad (Eric Close), Rayna’s ex-husband and the current mayor of Nashville, is in a major bind regarding the pregnancy of his mistress. Due to his present circumstance, Teddy is unhappy — which is enough to make any “Nashville” fan gleeful.
The viewer does feel a flicker of hope that Juliette may actually care about Rayna’s well being when she visits Rayna in the hospital and speaks to Rayna’s daughter in a kind, sisterly manner. Perhaps this is a sign that the old talent versus new talent tussle is finally drawing to a close.
Overall, the premiere is not action-packed, but rather information heavy. Scarlett and Gunnar can still sing a sob-worthy duet, Deacon still needs to lighten up and someone should seriously consider escorting Avery to a barbershop. Viewers can sleep soundly knowing that Rayna will probably not die or remain comatose for too long (because, frankly, the show would fall apart without her). “Nashville” has returned with melodramatic gusto and continues to give new meaning to the phrase “Southern hospitality.”