Season 5 of CMT’s “Nashville” has been quite the ride thus far. After moving from ABC, the series returned strong… And though it did hit a few snoozer episodes midway, we get it now — they were a preamble to the shocking death of Rayna James (Connie Britton). The grief of this great ensemble, mourning their star was presented with such care and brevity, it made for some the best moments in the show’s history.
As midseason finales go, Thursday night’s (March 9) “Fire and Ice” was pretty great. With so much happening already, all “Nashville” needed to do was continue on the up-and-down journey of getting past Rayna’s sudden death. Maddie (Lennon Stella) dealing with opportunities flowing in, and the chance for stardom banging on her front door was the main storyline… Until the final scene, in which it’s Scarlett (Clare Bowen), of all people, to give us that lasting OMG moment.
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As Deacon’s (Charles Esten) niece, Scarlett has taken over as caretaker in the Jaymes/Claybourne household: She’s doing laundry, cooking for the girls, continuously checking in on Deacon — and he needs it; until late in the episode we were seriously wondering whether was going to succumb to the misery and take his own life, or at least crawl back in the bottle. Watching Deacon watch old videos of Rayna, crying so hard he couldn’t breathe, took the wind out of our souls. So when he flips on the behind-the-scenes footage from when he and Rayna were recording their duet album, and hears for the first time a one-on-one interview about how Deacon never gives up, it’s both moving and reassuring.
Knowing the tattered condition of Deacon’s heart even before his wife’s death, everyone understandably worried about the kind of bender he’d end up on — and though he’s not back at full speed, and maybe never will be, it’s nice to see that Rayna’s faith in his transformation, self-respect, and unknown strength wasn’t misplaced.
Her inadvertent pep talk gives Deacon the confidence to break out of hibernation: If Rayna saw him right now locked inside his bedroom crying while his girls are lost outside, and Highway 65 falling apart, she wouldn’t just be disappointed — she’d be shocked. It’s a powerful realization for which Deacon finds the strength to get up, and bravely continue on, if not for him, for his girls.
Scarlett also put her life on temporary hold after Rayna’s death: We thought her unrelenting commitment to Maddie and Daphne (Maisey Stella) was for Deacon’s sake, but there’s another reason she’s practicing full-time mommery and so hesitant to go back on tour with Gunnar (Sam Palladio).
“I’m pregnant,” she says. And when Gunnar asks if it’s his, Scarlett says, “I honestly don’t know.”
Throughout Season 5, there’s been quite a shift in the sweet Scarlett we’ve become accustomed to over the years. She’s always been a talented, independent woman, but it wasn’t until the intense music video shoot with director Damien George (Christian Coulson) that she took charge of her feminine power — we thought she’d stay elfin and vague forever, and though we’ve loved her more self-assured, imminently reasonable incarnation these past few years, she was definitely still a girl in a lot of ways.
This year, she walks different, talks different — she seems to really think of herself as a grown woman now, which is nice to see. For a fairly long time, at this point, Scarlett’s been the sanest person in any room she enters — it’s nice to see that pay off for her.
It was Damien who was so unrelenting with his encouragement, finally convincing Scarlett that anybody thinking she’s selling sex, and not music, is a “they” problem, not a “her” problem, and it was high on this newfound confidence and freedom that Scarlett in essence broke up with Gunnar, then spent 24 hours shacking up with Damien.
But maybe Scarlett should’ve asked Juliette (Hayden Panettiere) how she used to balance sleeping with multiple men at the same time!
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Juliette would’ve said: “Use a condom. I actually had this exact problem right before Cadence was born, and it was miserable for everyone involved.” Remember? Hooking up with horrible Jeff Fordham (Oliver Hudson) while also trying to win back Avery (Jonathon Jackson)?
Man, Juliette used to get into some stuff. Now she’s just busy appropriating gospel, playing some kind of long con on God and pimping out her only friend, teenager Maddie Jaymes. And where’s her physical therapist — will we ever see her again? She was great.
We’re not slut-shaming Scarlett — we don’t do that, and anyway it’s Scarlett, we’d have her back even if she slept with half of Tennessee. High-five her, even. But not knowing who her baby’s daddy is will affect so many people than just herself. Gunnar would love to start a family with Scarlett. He’s the kind of guy that will show up at every doctor appointment, even if the child turns out not be his. And if it’s Damien’s? We can see her just not even telling him at all. Maybe she’ll shun both men and raise the child herself. Maybe she’ll move in with the Jaymes-Claybournes and form some kind of commune — we would tune in for that.
Honestly, our money was on Maddie getting pregnant before Scarlett, so at least that’s a point in the show’s favor. And audiences now have a long wait — “two to three months,” to be not-so-exact — according to a TV Line quote from executive producer Marshall Herskovitz, before seeing how this messy situation shakes out.
“There will be a time-jump equal to the amount of time we’re off-air,” he says — so clearly we’ll know right away if Scarlett’s decided to keep the baby just by looking at her. And as for the father? Guessing he’ll still be in the dark, just like the kid. (What on Earth will she name the baby? How do you top “Cadence” — where do you go from there?)
Finally, we wanted to give a special shoutout to the once-again tearjerking Rayna celebration of the episode — a rough storyline about that duet album they were making turned into something incredible, an idea so simple and perfect that we were shocked we didn’t think of it: The rest of the cast, from Will (Chris Carmack) to the Exes to (sob) Deacon himself singing along to her rough tracks was exactly the opposite of ghoulish, and had us in tears for the entire montage. Great work, very solid Bedford Falls-esque work from our new showrunners all around.
“Nashville” will return with the second half of Season 5 sometime in Summer 2017.
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