Here we are, gathered to mourn the end of Nashville. We started four years ago with an aging queen of country contending with low-record sales, a young star making “crossover” country, aspiring songwriters, and a rock ‘n’ roll bad boy. At our sudden end we are blessed with a reunion of the show’s power couple: Gunnar and Scarlett (who really ought to break up, since The Civil Wars did); Will Lexington and his cute, industry boyfriend; Juliette en route to her husband and daughter after a real bender of postpartum; and the Rayna and Deacon clan (Teddy who?), who suffered a hiccup when Maddie emancipated herself to become a teen idol.
For a show about the industry, the focus of those couples is a relief; in the end, the supposed rivalry between Juliette and Rayna was that important. On the one hand, that’s fantastic, isn’t it, that the soap opera wasn’t about women fighting? And yet, with the show complete, my dream of Rayna guiding Juliette into adulthood remains unfulfilled. It’s a misguided dream, now, because Juliette may have self-actualized in the finale, skipping the Oscars red carpet to tell the world that her manager’s death was an accident, caused when she herself tried to commit suicide, and now it’s time to apologize and act like a real adult.
For a long time though, what Juliette “needed” was a mother figure. A recurring theme in the show has always been motherhood: Rayna struggled to straddler the world as a superstar and a present mother, and juggled her own feelings of uncertainty following the death of her mother some decades before; both Scarlett and Juliette had deeply flawed, abusive mothers who died suddenly, causing anguish and grief in many ways. That the finale included a tribute to a foster care group is not surprising, as the show has often examined the difficulties of parenthood and the many ways one makes and blends a family.
That Nashville ends as it introduces the prescient storyline of a predatory music producer surrounded by “get over it” lackeys is disappointing. Seeing how the fictional story unfolds after the end of Heathcliff Beru‘s career would have been incisive and fascinating. Even when Nashville spiraled wildly out of control it wove contemporary culture into its universe. Surely Rayna’s open letter would have done more than return Maddie to the family. Perhaps Juliette, Layla, or other singers would have stepped forward as women did in real life. This is a real conversation we’re having, and it’s a shame we won’t see how Nashville would have contributed.
Best of its storylines last night though, was its cliffhanger. Satisfied that everyone is receiving his and her happy ending, Avery waits for his estranged wife at the airport when he is called to come inside, because his wife’s private plane sent out a distress signal.
Juliette is flying to Nashville from Los Angeles, where she lost the Oscar race, after portraying Patsy Cline in Shenandoah Girl. The role was Juliette’s dream (I’m sorry she didn’t win); Cline died in a plane crash in 1963. There is no better send-off than this one.