Forever and Always
Charles Esten as Deacon, Connie Britton as Rayna.
It’s been so long since the last episode of Nashville, I clung to that “previously on” montage like it was a life raft. In short: Dysfunctional soulmates Rayna James and Deacon Claybourne are still getting married, Juliette is still in a treatment center, Jeff Fordham is still dead, and … other stuff happened, too.
We start the day before the wedding. Deacon and Rayna are going to get married at a glorious lakeside property, once a favorite of Rayna’s mother. “I miss her most every day,” Rayna says of her mom. Then she glances at Deacon. “I … know you miss Beverly.” (Nice save.) Deacon pauses for an awkwardly long time before saying, “I do.”
They have a rehearsal dinner where Maddie sings and Daphne half-sings (but mostly sulks) and Deacon has a piece of pie with whipped cream on the table in front of him that he doesn’t eat and it drives me slowly mad. But I digress.
Any theories on why they gave us this fairy-tale lakeside property and then cruelly snatched it away and crammed everything into a barn? Like, I know the literal reason — the paparazzi discovered its location (being a celebrity is rough, y’all). Call me cynical, but I feel like there must’ve been some logistical reason as well, like the fact that shooting outside is more expensive because you can’t work at night. Anyway, if the producers thought that a time-lapse video of fixing up the barn for the wedding was going to make up for the loss of our perfect wedding site, they were sorely mistaken.
The paparazzi story line actually does serve another purpose: It gives Maddie a chance to see Deacon angrily punch a cameraman, which freaks her out. (If you recall, she also saw him throwing things and punching walls after Beverly died. Not to mention the time he got drunk and almost killed her mother … )
In a weird way, this episode reminded me a bit of the Oscars (work with me here). You know how the Oscars were both a celebration of Hollywood and a giant “oops, we screwed up on diversity” apology fest? That’s sort of what this wedding is. On the one hand, it is the merging of two impossibly beautiful, talented people who are deeply in love and obviously meant to be together. On the other hand, let’s face it: Deacon’s got more issues than Country Weekly. And it kind of feels like the show is justifying this marriage as much as celebrating it.
“She thinks I’m a monster,” Deacon says, after finding out that Maddie is a little afraid of him. In that moment, I rolled my eyes, because I knew it meant that Deacon was going to go off on one of his self-destructive, self-loathing (dry) benders and leave the wedding. (If I hadn’t already seen the commercial where Deacon and Rayna were beaming at each other from across a wedding aisle, I might’ve lost it.)
Anyway, Deacon goes to visit Beverly’s grave, just to keep up with the charade that he misses her (heh), and Frankie Gray, his co–bar owner — who I guess is an important character now? — gives him a little pep talk.
“You know this is your disease talking,” Frankie says, after Deacon tells him he doesn’t deserve Rayna.
“That doesn’t mean I shouldn’t listen to it,” he replies. (Actually, Deacon, that’s exactly what it means.)
“Beverly’s dead, but you’re alive,” Frankie reminds him. “You can let that drag you down, or you can fight like hell to stay up.” (Frankie Gray dispenses Deacon’s Man Wisdom™ almost as well as Deacon.)
Meanwhile, Rayna is spending all of her time defending her decision to marry to Deacon. First she tells Tandy — yes, we have a Tandy sighting — that she better get in line or get out. (Tandy gets in line.) Then she huddles with Maddie and Daphne. Deacon is a “person who feels very deeply,” she explains to Maddie, adding, “Like a certain 16-year-old I know.” She did not just compare Deacon to a pubescent teenage girl. Maddie is apparently satisfied by this analogy. As for Daphne, who had been feeling left out, Rayna explains that Deacon is joining their family, not the other way around. Group hug. As always, Rayna fixes everything. Except for one tiny thing: The groom is nowhere to be found.
“I don’t know what we’re supposed to do,” Rayna says.
“You should put on your dress,” Deacon says rakishly, materializing in the doorway. (I truly thought they were going to drag this out longer.)
Before we get to the actual ceremony, let’s catch up on everyone else, shall we? First, a fun fact: Will Lexington is in the episode! I know, right? It’s just that if you blinked, you missed him. He’s still dealing with the fallout from Wade Cole being a big ol’ closet case, but I guess we’ll be revisiting that … in an episode that is not this one.
Scarlett and Gunnar are still pretending they’re not in love, which is adorable. In fact, Gunnar is trying to help Scarlett hook up with random guys at the wedding, with little success. But honestly? I think I could’ve forgiven that one hottie for being a taxidermist. Do not throw out the taxidermist with the offal, as the expression goes.
(Also, a sidenote to the Nashville hair and makeup department. You had one job over the hiatus: Fix Gunnar’s atrocious hair. Mission NOT accomplished.)
Avery, meanwhile, is covering for Juliette, pretending that things are still hunky dory between them. And this is stressing him out way more than it should. The show tries hard to demonstrate how the wedding is a nonstop barrage of hellish small talk for Avery, but when he has his little meltdown, I confess that I laughed. (Sorry.) Look, I think Jonathan Jackson is a great actor — seriously, one of the best on the show — but that moment just didn’t ring true for me.
Speaking of panic attacks, Layla shows up, wearing all black and these severe bangs that make her look a bit like Emily the Strange. She’s still mourning Jeff, but wants to support Rayna, and then Colt — who is attending the wedding as Maddie’s guest (Luke was apparently not invited, perhaps they feared for the cake) — spills his guts to her and tells her that Jeff died stopping Juliette from jumping off the roof. From there, Layla promptly runs off to the bathroom to vomit. Because it’s just not a real wedding until someone has a panic attack and someone else rage-vomits.
Rayna walks down the aisle, looking radiant in a form-fitting, off-the-shoulder gown, and everyone beams. However, I am disappointed because I wanted Deacon to cry at the sight of her. They’ve been waiting 20 years for this moment! We’ve been waiting four seasons and a “winter hiatus” — which is not even a real thing! We deserve big sloppy man-tears, damn it! (We get those. They just happen to come from Bucky.)
They exchange vows. Deacon finally gets a little misty and says, “You are my one true love.” And when Rayna hands him the ring, she says, “I give you this ring, forged in the fire of our love” — which sounds like some Game of Thrones shit, if you ask me — and, just like that, they’re married! Praise Dolly.
Then, there are a few cute moments. Deacon says, “Ready to do this, Mrs. Claybourne?” and Rayna says, “That’s got a nice ring to it, but you know I’m never changing my name” — at which point, once again, a giant, Beyoncé-style FEMINISM sign drops behind her. Deacon dances with Maddie and tells her that if she’s ever afraid of him — or for him — she should tell him immediately, which is sweet. But then comes the moment that finally broke me. I swear, I hadn’t cried once until this point, but I was helpless in the face of what happened next: Deacon, who had just finished dancing with Maddie, gestures for Daphne. And Daphne looks all abashed and adorable, then turns to Rayna and says, “Does he mean me?” and Rayna gently pushes her toward Deacon and they start to dance. R.I.P. me.
See you in three more months, Nashies! (Just kidding, we’ll be back next week.)