I’m not sure, on reflection, what I was expecting from a new season of Nashville, particularly one with thirtysomething’s creators Marshall Herskovitz and Edward Zwick as showrunners. And the first couple of scenes didn’t help, exactly: Rayna driving – driving! – through a small town, stopping to refuel, and hearing an elderly blind musician singing ‘The Wayfaring Stranger’. Then back three weeks, to the aftermath of a plane crash, which is of course the consequence of the season 4 cliffhanger finale. The only survivor – Juliette – is lying in a field, clinging to life, when she’s ministered to by a local, an African-American woman who then sings to her to keep her conscious, and who appears to Juliette to be some kind of angel. WTF is going on?
Well… what’s going on is, I think, is that this is a new a CMT show called ‘Nashville’ that looks a little bit like the cancelled ABC show Nashville, but isn’t quite the same thing. For sure, there are similarities. The Girls are back, for one, and even though Rayna has wasted a fortune on buying Older Girl out of her Lennox Hill contract, she is, if anything, even more obnoxious than before, particularly to her annoying younger sister. (She apologises by the end of the episode. Which does at least represent progress, even though there isn’t a jury in Tennessee which would have convicted any of her family members of murder had they decided to deal with OG in a way she might understand.)
Juliette has survived her plane crash, but is, for now, confined to a wheelchair, having sustained paralysis which might or might not be temporary. Given that she was truculent and self-pitying before, it will readily be appreciated that she’s not had any good reason to change. “I love you!” simpers St. Avery. “We’ll see how you feel in a few weeks”, pouts Juliette in response. Hayden Panettiere, incidentally, is still bringing the awesome in the acting department. And Gunnlett is still a thing, which is really all I want.
What’s happening with Rayna, though, is less clear. Highway 65 is running short on cash – should have left OG where she was, babe, and spent the money on something more rewarding – and Rayna has taken a corporate charity gig in Silicon Valley, where she’s fêted by slightly sinister tech zillionaire and self-styled fanboy Zach Wells. But she’s having panic attacks while flying – maybe a Juliette thing, maybe not – and decides to drive home, which is where we came in. She’s already told Zach that she hasn’t recorded in a while because she doesn’t have anything to sing any more, which sounds unlikely. And Juliette revisits the site of the crash in order to track down her Magical Negro – not the show’s first, either – and finds her singing gospel music in a church. I have no idea where this is going.
Or where the show is going, to be honest. I think that ‘Nashville’ is a slower, calmer Nashville, shorn – for budgetary reasons – of a few cast members, and running at about half the speed of its namesake. Neither of which are necessarily bad. Also, there were occasions on which the dialogue took off in unexpected but enjoyable directions. I’m far from convinced, but after being somewhat bored during the first half of the episode ended up… kind of enjoying it?