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The hour was exceedingly busy, tying up many of the show’s plot-lines. Scarlett declared her love for Gunnar just as he was about to announ...

‘Nashville’ Finale Review: Angels Flying Too Close To The Ground

The hour was exceedingly busy, tying up many of the show’s plot-lines. Scarlett declared her love for Gunnar just as he was about to announce that he and Autumn were an item; the Exes broke up professionally, but by the end, had finally come to their romantic senses. The Emancipation of Maddie Conrad/Claybourne reached a peak when she was set upon by a predatory producer, and only an internet intervention from her mother, Rayna, brought her to her senses—hugs between mother, daughter, and Deacon all around.

Will came face-to-face with his homophobic nemesis Cynthia Davis, and conquered his fear of defending his sexuality on a nation-wide public stage. And there was a rather masterful untangling of the Juliette/Avery/Layla triangle of story-strands, with Layla exposed as an adroit manipulator of both others’ emotions and the media via a final reveal (to the characters) and resolution (for the characters and the audience) about the death of Jeff Fordham. 

My overriding thought was that if Nashville had presented its female characters the way it did in this episode more consistently throughout its run—which is to say, if Nashville had stayed true to the spirit of the superb pilot episode co-creator Callie Khouri had written to launch the series in 2012—there might not have been a need for the Twitter hashtag #BringBackNashville. By compelling Scarlett to overcome her natural reticence, by having Maddie realize her mother had some wisdom and a full, difficult life achieving her own dreams, by having Juliette demonstrate extraordinary grace in the face of the most trying circumstances (you try withstanding blackmail and heartache after post-partum depression and rehab), Nashville suddenly became what many of us fans wanted it to be: Not just a wonderful soap-opera take on the country music industry, but a wonderful soap-opera about women in control of their lives, and the men who love them for being strong. 

Sure, there were Nashville’s usual ridiculous moments. How richly ironic that the memory of a creepazoid like immoral manipulator Jeff Fordham should be redeemed simply because he tried to save a suicidal Juliette and, thanks to the rewriting of history she needs in order to move on, he receives a posthumous status of (Juliette’s word) “hero.” How foolish the see-saw emotions of Scarlett and Gunnar seemed, right to the end. (Kudos, though, to Alicia Witt for her Autumn, an adroit portrayal of a woman going for what she wants.) 

But there was also a lot of satisfying stuff here. Certainly the surprise for me was the way Nashville revealed that it has always considered Juliette’s journey the most significant one in the series, the one that needed its best effort to make somewhat three-dimensional and convincing. 

And despite Avery’s kiss-off line to Layla—“Okay, you’re crazy and we’re done”—Layla was given, in this episode directed by Khouri (the writer of Thelma and Louise), a dignity of romantic purpose that deepened her motives into something more complex than “crazy”: She is an artist devoted to expressing a vulnerability in her music that she’s come to understand she cannot display in her professional life, or she’ll be steamrolled over by the (mostly male) cynicism around her.