Recap and review of Nashville – Season 1 Episode 14 – Dear Brother:
Sometimes I worry that Nashville tries to do too much. Case in point, “Dear Brother.” It’s an episode so stuffed with story that it hardly has room to breathe. I also feel it’s somewhat hurt by centering on Gunnar (Sam Palladio) and Scarlett (Clare Bowen), who aren’t yet at the point, as characters, where they can carry their own story. Both are serviceable actors, and really talented singers, but their story tonight didn’t resonate very much until the last ten minutes of the episode. In fact, those last ten minutes almost make the slog worth it. But even separate from that storyline, we get the return of Lamar Wyatt (Powers Boothe) and a bunch of mayoral politicking that isn’t nearly as interesting as the show probably thinks it is. That said, it’s not as if the episode was actively bad, as there’s plenty to like about “Dear Brother.” However, it might have been better served taking a leaner approach to its storylines. For instance, I don’t know that we really needed to see Avery (Jonathan Jackson) this week. But then, do we ever need to?
Much of the episode deals with the news of Rayna (Connie Britton) and Teddy’s (Eric Close) divorce hitting the newspapers. I was surprised at how maturely both parties handled the divorce, even if Rayna and Teddy come to a momentary spat over Maddie having found out about Peggy from the conversation her father had over the phone. It’s increasingly laborious work for Teddy to keep his life from falling into disarray, particularly with the press hounding him at every turn, and Lamar Wyatt attempting to strong-arm him into appointing a Wyatt crony as deputy mayor. Teddy calls a press conference and claims that rumors of Rayna’s infidelity are unfounded, and that their divorce was a mutual agreement. In addition, he announces the appointment of Peggy (Kimberly Williams-Paisley) as his financial adviser, which is at least partially motivated by his blossoming relationship with her (because, really, you don’t appoint someone guilty of embezzlement as your financial adviser). In private, he cuts ties with Lamar, telling him that he has no power to boss him around, especially now that he’s no longer his son-in-law. He then cements his break from Lamar by appointing Coleman Carlisle (Robert Wisdom) his deputy mayor.
Lamar, for his part, never intended to torpedo Rayna’s marriage when he encouraged Teddy to run for mayor. He apologizes to her for that, in a rare show of fatherly solemnity. For all his faults as a father, he implores Rayna to never allow the press to make her ashamed of who she is, and it’s a strangely poignant moment, coming from one of the few unambiguous villains of the series. Rayna takes the advice to heart and meets up with Deacon (Charles Esten) at his surprise birthday party, against earlier advice against it from her publicist. In effect, she begins the process of truly starting over with Deacon. She sings a new ballad that she wrote, presumably about him, and then has a fairly touching conversation with him, talking about how she wants to “do right” by Deacon. It’s an emotionally-resonant continuation of one of the series’ strongest arcs, to the point that I don’t particularly mind that they’re drawing out consummating the reignited romance between the two. However, there’s a romance the show seems to have no trouble consummating this week.
When Gunnar angrily confronts his brother Jason (David Clayton Rogers) about the gun he’s brought into their house, it creates a conflict with lasting repercussions. Jason claims he needs the gun, but Gunnar doesn’t want to hear it, especially after Jason claims that Gunnar owes him eight years of his life, since he’d never have gone to prison if Gunnar hadn’t chickened out and abandoned him at the scene of the robbery. In a fit of rage, Gunnar tosses the gun into a stream and leaves his brother behind. At Deacon’s surprise party, the police arrive and ask him to come with them. Tragically, it’s to identify the body of Jason, found in an alley in town, beaten to death. Gunnar falls to pieces, blaming himself for casting his brother out and taking away his only means of self-defense. Scarlett pleads with him not to blame himself, and then, because in the world of TV, sex heals everything, she kisses Gunnar. And in a matter of moments, Gunnar has his shirt off, and it’s on. It doesn’t feel right, to me, that Scarlett would pick this, of all moments, to decide that she’d like to bang Gunnar. Then again, I imagine she was simply relieved to see him alive and unharmed, as she’d spent all night worrying about him, wondering where he was. Perhaps all that concern made her realize how much he meant to her? Even then, it still felt like a very un-Scarlett thing to do, to balm his wound with sex. That said, those final moments, from the identification of the body to Gunnar’s return home to Scarlett, was extremely compelling. It redeemed much of what didn’t work about their plotline this week, at least for me. I’ll be interested to see how this changes their relationship, particularly as bandmates and songwriting partners.
There’s also a storyline in which Jolene (Sylvia Jefferies) falls off the wagon at the surprise birthday party Juliette (Hayden Panettiere) throws for Deacon, and while it’s heartening to see how Juliette evolves, particularly as it concerns her changing relationship with her mother, it felt strangely hollow this week. Matters aren’t helped by the presence of a counselor (Jay Hernandez) who seems to serve little other purpose than to be a new romantic interest for the country starlet. I’d rather see the soft love triangle with Deacon continue, honestly, since there still isn’t closure there, as far as I’m concerned. She clearly still cares about him. I mean, hey, she got him a dog! Sure it’s woefully irresponsible to foist a dog on someone who doesn’t want one, but…yay progress? Oh, I would also be remiss if I didn’t mention the continued puppy dog exile of Avery Barclay, who continues to be on the outside looking in, as far as his old haunts are concerned. This is taken to its literal extreme, as he’s exempted from the guest list for Deacon’s birthday party, and can only look through the window as Gunnar and Scarlett sing onstage, with Deacon and Juliette discussing how the duo is “the real thing.”
Nashville usually isn’t this busy with its storylines, yet there was a lot to digest here. Hopefully, they narrow the focus in future episodes, in order to tell a story with better flow. This wasn’t a bad hour of television, but it was a little haphazardly plotted, and that kind of inconsistent structure can do more harm for a show than good. Sometimes, less is more.