Nashville has finally returned from its mid-season break, after a cliffhanger ending which was frankly far more suspenseful than season one’s finale episode. Of course neither Rayna (Connie Britton) or Deacon (Charles Esten) were going to be killed off, but I didn’t expect freaky old Peggy Kenter to bite the dust either! She was a relentlessly entertaining character, especially when she fell into the soapy trap of pretending to be pregnant and then had to fake a miscarriage (episode 8). On the other hand, her death managed to draw better acting from on-screen hubby Teddy (Eric Close) than we’ve seen so far.
Thankfully Will (Chris Carmack) didn’t step under that train, as the plot surrounding his sexuality is becoming ever more intriguing. After sleeping with Edgehill employee Brent, with whom he shares some history, Will took to the (not-quite-Brokeback) mountains with only his self-loathing for company. This gave the costume department a great opportunity to dress Will and Gunnar (who came to find him) in more than just checked shirts and jeans, and a convincing mountain-wear look was created. Though the perfection of Gunnar’s (Sam Palladio) quiff after sleeping in a car kind of ruined any sense of realism… Then again, Palladio has modelled for V05. Hopefully the revelation of what makes Will so disgusted by his attraction to men will be worth the wait.
Perhaps it’s religion, another key theme of this latest instalment. In a bold move, Nashville depicted Bible-bashers turning against Juliette as a result of her involvement in the break-up of the Wentworth’s marriage. Things went from bad to worse when manipulated video footage in which Juliette appeared to declare ‘there is no God’ went viral. Despite missing out to Dancing on the Edge’s Jacqueline Bisset at the Golden Globes, Hayden Panettiere is, as usual, fantastic in this episode, although it doesn’t give her the same opportunities to be as double-edged as she’s often been. In her opening performance of “Dreams”, a Civil Wars-esque ballad, and later as news of ‘Anti-Juliette Feeling’ plays on TV she’s all-out vulnerable.
Elsewhere the show provides a vehicle for a career-paused Kelly Clarkson to maintain her profile – it’s just a shame she really can’t act, especially as she didn’t even get to perform.
Nashville is always a welcome sight on my screen, but this season it’s suffering from uninteresting and underdeveloped new characters (Gunnar’s girlfriend, anyone Deacon has a fling with), and is poorly paced. I come away from each episode frustrated by the fact that plot developments which are clearly going to happen haven’t yet. But of course this is an effective method of stringing audiences along, the current gambit being the potential for a relationship between Juliette and Avery (Jonathan Jackson), a character whose development has been drastic yet believable.