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'Nashville' Returns for Final CMT Season
June 6, 2018  | By David Hinckley
 

Nashville is tuning up for its final chorus.

Prime-time’s best country music soap launches its last eight episodes Thursday at 9 p.m. ET on CMT, which gave the show two additional and welcome years after its four-season run on ABC.

While part of the deal here is that CMT is quitting the scripted drama game, it’s also true that Nashville is coming to the end of its natural life.

Last season it killed off its central character, Connie Britton’s Rayna James, and while it subsequently doubled down on the dramas for its many other characters, there’s a point at which the mix-and-match romances, misunderstandings and bad decisions start to feel familiar.

That said, Nashville has remained interesting for two reasons: good characters and legitimate music.

There’s a wonderful moment in Thursday’s episode where 18-year-old Maddie James (Lennon Stella, top), elder daughter of the late Rayna, falls into the partying lifestyle of her rock-star boyfriend Jonah (Nic Luken) and gets drunk for the first time.

The next morning, back home, Maddie comes down for breakfast with her father Deacon (Charles Esten, right) and sister Daphne (Maisy Stella) and can barely hold a bottle of water.

Deacon, who has battled demon alcohol his whole life, takes her to her room, where she tells him she just has a headache.

He barks back: “You think I don’t know what a hangover looks like?”

It’s a good line that becomes a great line because we know so much of each character’s backstory.

Maddie, who inherited her parents’ musical talent, has been one of Nashville’s best stories. How do you navigate the world of show biz as a teenager? You get a lot of things wrong and a few good things right. Maddie has always hit character notes that felt true.

The grownups, likewise, score high for intentions and not always for execution.

Deacon’s temper, a residual product of his drinking days, is now jeopardizing his relationship with Jessie Caine (Kaitlin Doubleday), which took a lot of adjusting for both of them in the wake of Rayna’s death.

Specifically, Deacon recently had an altercation with Jessica’s slimy ex-husband Brad Maitland (Jeffrey Nordling), and Brad is using it to try to get custody of Jessica’s son, arguing that she’s consorting with a dangerous man.

Meanwhile, Juliette Barnes (Hayden Panettiere, right) is still off in Bolivia, or somewhere, thinking that she’s found her true inner self with the help of a creepy cult. That leaves her husband Avery (Jonathan Jackson) back in Nashville with their daughter.

Avery is also trying to restart his musical career with his long-time pal Gunnar (Sam Palladio) and their friend Will Lexington (Chris Carmack), who’s had a tough road as an openly gay country singer.

That opens the door for another round of complications, one involving Will’s ex and one involving Gunnar’s notoriously bad luck with relationships.

One of the ongoing questions with Nashville is whether Gunnar will get back together with Scarlett (Clare Bowen), since they are clearly meant for each other and just have been too dumb to admit it.

On the musical side, Nashville continues to use country music, or sometimes a country/pop/folk hybrid, as effectively as Empire uses hip-hop and R&B.

Nashville has spawned dozens of albums and live tours, and that has reflected well on the show itself. The music has been integrated into the stories, not tacked on.

Prime-time soaps, more than classic daytime soaps, do have finite lifespans, and Nashville isn’t an exception.

The last chorus feels like it’s still got some spark.

 

 
 
 
 
 
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