Of the many, many criticisms a thumb-headed TV recapper such as myself might throw at the ABC smash hit Nashville, the one that feels most pressing, most regularly, is the show's seeming disinterest in doing anything really dramatic. Every once in a while it will dive into a particularly soapy pool, as with Scarlett's recent meltdown, but mostly this show -- this Hydrox cookie of a show -- is content to be dramat-ish, closely resembling a soap opera without actually following through and, you know making stuff happen.
If you needed an episode that more clearly conveyed this skittish relationship with conflict and the basic tenets of dramatic storytelling, than Nashville's season two finale gave it to you. Let's review some of the lingering plot threads/possible points of interest heading into Wednesday's episode:
- Jeff Fordham is using his brief dalliance with Juliette to blackmail her into returning to Edgehill
- Will remains a closeted homosexual
- Rayna worries that her label will fold before she can even get it off the ground
- Avery doesn't know about his girlfriend's night with Jeff Fordham
- Scarlett is planning on leaving Nashville
- Deacon wonders if he might finally be ready to make a go of it as a family man
- Teddy is just bummed, man, and not unrightfully so
To be fair, by episode's end some of these plots have at least been tended to. Avery finds out that Juliette slept with Jeff, and breaks up with her (sort of); Will comes out to his wife, Layla. But even with these, and certainly with the rest -- there's just no there there, you know?
Nashville spent an exorbitant amount of time this season exploring Scarlett's rise to fame, from her first stabs at record dealing to touring to drug-abusing. She had a busy year! So why, then, pull back at the very end and keep her lingering on the edge of leaving Nashville? Not gone, not even on a bus -- but stuck at the Bluebird with Gunnar (someone with whom there's been no romantic backslide to even hold onto) thinking about staying. I guess we'll have to wait all summer to see whether she leaves the restaurant.
Will's final moments this season ring equally anticlimactic in the wake of what had been, at points, an actually interesting and culturally relevant story arc. "But he finally comes out to his beard!" you say. "And come on -- a recording device picked up on the confession, too, which means crazy shit will go down next year!" And that's the problem -- we've reached a cliffhanger that's less a cliffhanger than a failure to firmly address a problem in the now. The best season finales actually give you something to work with: a kiss, a fight, a confrontation. There's action and consequence, not merely the threat that either of those things might happen four months from now.
But across the board, that's what Nashville gave us Wednesday night: a lot of sound and fury (more accurately: whispering and vague passive aggression) that ultimately signified nothing. Were there moments that stood out this season as okay? Sure! But okay isn't a default setting any second -- let alone third -- season show should have, not with this talent behind it. Nashville, please...try and learn some new tricks on your summer vacation. Connie Britton's most enthusiastic supporters here at Bustle really wish you'd make their Wednesday nights more exciting.