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Nashville Season 2 Finale Recap: Ring Tones

Well, that was nail-biting, nerve-wracking, and potentially life ruining. No, I’m not talking about last night’s season finale of Nashville, but the torture ABC put us all through before finally renewing the show. In case you’re not the sort who follows the drama of the network upfronts (a.k.a. “people who confuse me”), Nashville was literally the last show that ABC renewed last week. I mean, freakin' Revenge got renewed before it did. Don’t Trust the B---- was green-lit, renewed, and then canceled again, just to prolong our agony.

But yes, our little show has been picked up, for a full 22-episode season. And hooray to that. Can you imagine if last night were the series finale and not the season finale? We all would’ve died — and immediately launched our individual careers as Nashville fan fic writers. (Chapter One: “A Deacon of Hope.”) (Off topic: I have no idea how the canceled Mixology ended its season, but I sure hope all those horrible people ended up alone.)

And frankly, I’m glad that last night’s Nashville didn’t end with a car crash or other such calamitous event — not every season finale needs to end with literal explosions. In a way, this good but uneven episode was somewhat emblematic of a good but uneven season.

Let’s break it down, shall we?

Think back to the first episode of season one. Who would’ve imagined way back then that one day Rayna would be holding Juliette’s hair as she vomited and that the two of them would be high-fiving over Rayna’s takedown of Jeff Fordham? I’m getting misty here.

But seriously, I loved every bit of Juliette’s arc last night and Hayden Panettiere killed it, as usual. The irony of Juliette trying to get fired from Highway 65 by drunkenly staggering into Deacon’s Recovery Center benefit was just perfect — and the fact that Rayna refused to give up on her was more meaningful than even Rayna knew. (Also, very glad that all the retching was just an inevitable reaction to sex with Jeff Fordham. Had Juliette been pregnant with his little devil spawn, I would not have been happy. Then again, never say never.)

But I have no idea why Gunnar and Zoey felt so compelled to tell Avery about Juliette’s indiscretion. All their shifty, nervous looks were driving me insane. Stop snitching, you two! (I was doubly annoyed that they told Avery because, as per Rayna’s good advice, Juliette was about to confess herself.)

Still, Juliette’s final scene, where she told Avery about all the men who used her when she was young, and her plea, “Please don’t make me be alone again!” hit me right in the feels, as the kids say.

The reality-TV show that Will and Layla are filming continues to be a source of unintended hilarity. Much like their awkward relationship with social media, the writers of Nashville seem to have never actually watched a reality-TV show. The Will and Layla Show is so stiff and staged, it feels like something out of the 1950s, especially with Will directly addressing the camera (“Good night, everyone!”) and the producer lady chiming in with her commentary: “We have a surprise for you! It’s Jeff Fordham!” Will’s whole “I agreed to do a reality-TV show about my life but get those cameras out of my face, man!” routine also seems a bit contrived. What did he actually think he was signing up for? But at least Gunnar finally convinced him to talk to Layla, which he did, ushering her into a private room, breaking down in tears, and coming clean about being gay — all the while not noticing the flashing red light of a hidden camera in the wall. (Somewhere in Brooklyn, Solange and Jay Z are getting post-traumatic flashbacks.)

Anyone else not totally sure how we’re supposed to feel about Gunnar and Scarlett at this point? Are they one of the show’s OTPs? Or are we supposed to actually buy this whole “Gunnar Loves Zoey” scenario? One of Nashville’s continuing problems, which they will hopefully address next season, is the character-as-artificial-romantic-roadblock. The fact that, in last week’s comments section, more than one of you had forgotten who Megan was speaks volumes. Five episodes ago, both Deacon and Teddy were in love with her. Now she doesn’t even qualify as an afterthought.

Which leads us back to Gunnar and Scarlett. They shared a tender moment last night and Gunnar performed his song for her, with Scarlett providing convenient backup vocals, and damn it was pretty (even if harmonizing along to your own love ballad is my new definition of narcissism). I’m happy that we got our Gunnar and Scarlett song and I love that, when Nashville goes all Grey’s Anatomy — i.e, sad montages accompanied by a sad song designed to make us all cry like little babies — it uses original music sung by two of the leads, making it all the more resonant. But what exactly am I supposed to be feeling about Gunnar and Scarlett? Because if they’ve been secretly in love this whole time, they sure had a strange way of showing it.

Of course, the most consequential event of last night was Luke’s proposal to Rayna and the subsequent fallout. I had a little bit of an internal debate when Luke got down on one (trick) knee at the concert. My first thought was: That is so rude and presumptuous of him to put her on the spot like that and propose in front of all those people! My second thought was: If Deacon had done the exact same thing, would I have been all, “Squee! Dying! Cuteness!”? (Probably.) So Rayna said yes, although it was the most awkward, diffident acceptance of a marriage proposal I’ve ever seen. More, “If I say yes can we get off this stage?” than “You are my heart’s desire and all I love and need in this world.” And then Maddie and Deacon exchanged a meaningful look, which apparently called Deacon to action.

And now I’m about to Share My Unpopular Opinion™: Unlike my ambiguous feelings for Gunnar and Scarlett, I know for a fact that Deacon and Rayna are end game and I also know that they are meant to be together and are actually in love. But … but … we didn’t really see much of that this season, what with Deacon claiming to be in love with what’s-her-name and Rayna gallivanting around town with Luke. If anything, what the show established, beautifully, was Deacon’s burgeoning relationship with Maddie. And yes, that photo Maddie framed with the whole family onstage, with Deacon and Rayna making moon eyes at each other, was everything, but I still felt like I needed more. Deacon’s proposal came a bit out of left field for me. (The problem with all these roadblock relationship characters is it’s hard to know which ones are fake and which are real. Fix that, show!)

Closing riffs:

  • Oh, so much glorious shade thrown at Jeff Fordham last night, but I think Juliette’s “Thanks for the worst minute and a half of my life” was the one I will treasure the most.
  • Indeed, if Nashville was just a whole show of Juliette and Rayna teaming up to take down sexist assholes — Thelma-and-Louise-style — I’d totally tune in for that.
  • Is it just me or has the show gotten a little more God and country in the last two episodes? Last week, they were doing some major flag waving at the army base. This week, Rayna literally got down on her knees and counted her blessings and thanked God for that “wonderful man” — Luke? (Maybe when she was down there she also prayed for renewal. Hey, whatever works.)
  • Still feeling sorry for Teddy over Maddie’s treatment of him. Still not sure what do with these new feelings of suddenly feeling sorry for Teddy. (I’m going through Teddy puberty.)
  • Tandy was ... in last night’s episode. (That’s all I got.)
  • A seven-carat ring?!? Damn, girl. Screw Deacon, I’m on Team Luke! (I kid, I kid … )

I wouldn’t say Nashville had a full-on sophomore slump, but I definitely preferred season one. However, in my experience, season three is when all good shows really hit their stride. Will it be true of Nashville? Thankfully, we’ll get to find out.

Photo: ABC