Deacon Can't Die On 'Nashville' Season 3, Because He & Rayna Are Closer To Happiness Than Ever

In its lifetime, we've said goodbye to some minor yet important characters on Nashville, like Rayna's crooked, conflicted dad and Gunnar's wayward brother. But despite putting its main ensemble in the path of various dangers, the show has always let them pull through and live to see another storyline. (Think Rayna and Deacon's car accident, Will contemplating suicide, and Layla's overdose.) This time, willthe series pull the trigger — so to speak — and have Deacon die from his cancer during Nashville Season 3?

Story-wise, it's tempting. Deacon's alcoholism and history of letting Rayna down have been the main barrier to their happiness. They love each other — desperately — but Nashville keeps reminding us that love may not be enough when it comes to country music's most star-crossed lovers. Rayna is no fool; she knows that alcoholism is a daily struggle, and that Deacon has demons that will probably never fully leave him alone. And while she can be proud of him for his progress and supportive of his life and career, it's easy to see why she has been hesitant to restart their relationship. Her children, her business, her brand — all of these are under her express care. There are a million ways that Deacon could negatively impact any one of them, whether due to a relapse or other trigger.

Which brings us back to Deacon and his liver. A big chunk of his storyline this season has been him coming to terms with the reality of his health situation. To me, it feels a little bit like a way of wiping Deacon's slate clean. When he survives this— and he will — he'll finally be fully forgiven for his destructive past. Wouldn't it be a little gauche for Rayna or Scarlett to keep on harping on the mistakes of a guy who just survived cancer?

When Deacon overcomes this, finally, he and Rayna can really be together. And that's what we've been building towards this whole time, right? Rayna tried being alone, and she tried to be happy with the stable guy — the one who made total sense to both her and the tabloids. But Luke Wheeler didn't take. Her daughter and Deacon are growing closer all the time, Deacon is reaching new levels of zen with the help of Scarlett's boot camp nursing, and Rayna admitted yet again that she's always, always going to be in love with him. Rayna is our hero; Deacon is her endgame. Nashville can't just kill him off now.

And there's more evidence to add to the list. Deacon Claybourne is a fan favorite, y'all. Charles Esten plays a rugged dreamboat that the show's mostly female fanbase (hello!) has been into since the pilot. Also, with most of the ensemble in the up-and-coming country category, we need a contemporary of Rayna who's in the same age bracket. (Teddy doesn't count, because he's Teddy.)

With Deacon out of the picture, Rayna might as well be playing nanny to all these ingenues and confused young men. Besides, if we lost Deacon, Nashville would also be losing one of its best musicians. The Opry, the Bluebird — they just can't take that kind of blow. So prepare for some more angst-ridden hospital scenes, but I suspect an 11th hour liver donation is in our and Deacon's future. Images: Mark Levine/ABC; whentherightonecomesalong/Tumblr