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Nashville – Recap: Family Matters

Recap and review of Nashville – Season 2 Episode 14 – Too Far Gone:

We’re just over halfway through Nashville Season 2, and the storylines are finally beginning to meet back at the middle after spending way too long completely separate from one another. The biggest inclusion is blending all this drama between Teddy (Eric Close), Tandy (Judith Hoag), and Lamar (Powers Boothe) into the main fold with Rayna (Connie Britton), who’s only ever been on the periphery of this storyline. But other plotlines are also converging in interesting ways which we’ll get to soon enough. In short, “Too Far Gone” is a crucial episode, a pivoting point for the stories as we get deeper into the second half of the season.

Credit: Mark Levine/ABC

Credit: Mark Levine/ABC

So Lamar is finally coming home from prison, and Rayna is absolutely thrilled, completely unaware that there’s a ton of discord beneath the surface on Tandy’s end. But while Tandy keeps trying to avoid the welcoming party Rayna’s girls are throwing for Lamar, Rayna ultimately talks her into showing up. But only for a little bit, as Tandy can hardly stand to make eye contact with her father. Rayna picks up on the awkwardness, but it isn’t until she has a talk with Teddy, who offers his theory that Lamar was responsible for Peggy’s murder, that she begins to piece together her sister’s real role in her father’s incarceration. Rayna confronts her sister, and Tandy admits that she was the one to sell their father out. Her reasoning is that she remains convinced that Lamar murdered their mother. Rayna is incredulous, and basically blows Tandy off, having grown sick and tired of all the lies in the family.

Nashville - Rayna confronts Lamar over trying to kill Teddy

Credit: ABC

Rayna confronts Lamar and demands the truth, and it’s at this point that the patriarch breaks down. He tearfully recounts the night of his wife’s death, as she had gathered up her bags and head out the door, having made the decision to leave him once and for all. He got in his car to chase after her and, upon seeing her in the rearview mirror, sped up to avoid him. Rayna’s mother crashed into an embankment, and was already dead by the time Lamar got to her. He panicked and left her, and the grief and guilt has ravaged him ever since. Rayna is understandably stunned, but she’s not done demanding answers just yet, as she tells him about Teddy’s theory. She asks him, point-blank, if he tried to murder the father of her children — and Lamar’s silence tells Rayna all she needs to know. She forbids Lamar from ever coming near her or her children ever again. “As far as I’m concerned, both my parents are dead!” Rayna declares as she storms off. Connie Britton is tremendous throughout all of this, as her performance is actually rather understated, given the soap operatic bombast that such a storyline might call for. Sure, she gets loud, but she never becomes histrionic. It’s not the kind of tawdry, hammy acting you’d see in a lesser primetime soap. It’s a carefully measured, naturalistic performance that really sells the drama better than roaring excess would have.

Nashville - Lamar Wyatt dies

Credit: ABC

And the added bonus here is that the stakes have been raised for Rayna, as this outcome essentially draws a further divide between herself and her family. I’ve been waiting what feels like a lifetime for all this Lamar stuff to start paying off, and it finally has, particularly in the conclusion to the episode. Lamar confronts Teddy and accuses him of spreading lies, at which point the Mayor lashes out and says he’ll make sure Lamar pays for Peggy’s death. And, right on cue, Lamar clutches his heart and slumps down. And, as Lamar pleads with Teddy to call for help, what does Teddy do? Why, nothing. Because of course. Is it a bit expected and melodramatic? Absolutely. But I’m not sure I’d have it any other way. Hell, at this point, the only downside is the loss of Powers Boothe, who really was one of the show’s best actors. But I feel like his loss is outweighed by the positive that some of the excess storyline fat will be trimmed, allowing for leaner, more focused storytelling.

Nashville - Juliette hides from the media

Credit: ABC

Juliette (Hayden Panettiere) is in hiding, laying low over at Avery’s (Jonathan Jackson). She doesn’t want to face the media since people are still in an uproar over her speech at the Grand Ole Opry, among various other things, since Juliette can never be allowed to catch a break. However, domesticity doesn’t really suit Juliette all that well. She completely fails at making toast (seriously, who thinks toast gets made in a microwave?), and Avery becomes annoyed when she replaces all his furniture. As he astutely warns her, just because she has her eyes closed doesn’t mean she’s invisible. He encourages her to get back out there, but she’d rather continue hiding from her gal-pal/assistant Emily (Kourtney Hansen). But she’s eventually tracked down due to Avery being a terrible liar. Emily encourages Juliette to get back in the studio, but since the resolution to her storyline is tied directly into Deacon’s, we’ll have to take a bit of a detour…

Nashville - Season 2 Episode 14 - Recap and Review - Too Far Gone

Credit: ABC

Deacon (Charles Esten) asks Avery to act as sound engineer for the recording of his live album at the Blue Bird. Avery readily agrees, and Deacon is all set to play the show, which includes a lovely ballad he wrote for Megan (Christina Chang). But he and Megan end up getting into a big blow-up once Deacon catches her comforting Teddy. He basically accuses her of having a Messiah Complex, and implies she only got involved with him because he was a rescue case for her ego. It seems their relationship is all but over until Avery talks some sense into Deacon for being so indecisive. Megan arrives at the Blue Bird, they apologize to one another and smooch it out, and ugh, I’m just not feeling this relationship at all. Not even a little bit. But hey, Deacon’s ballad really is sweet as all get-out, and the storyline actually ties back into a relationship I do care about, as Avery lets Juliette listen in on Deacon’s set as he’s recording, and this is what convinces her to come out of hiding. However, she says she’ll only return to the studio if Avery is her engineer, and he agrees only if she promises to return his old furniture. Adorable. And effective, since Juliette badly needs to get out of this funk, and Avery is the perfect catalyst as the Deacon to her Rayna. Except you might say the roles are reversed, as Avery is the supportive Rayna-type encouraging the damaged, occasionally self-pitying, Deacon-like Juliette. Either way, it’s a good fit, and gives both characters something interesting to do together other than bang.

With that said, I’m not nearly as enthusiastic about the storyline for poor, sweet Scarlett (Clare Bowen), whose caffeine pill addiction is beginning to take hold. She’s recording the best stuff she’s ever done (not that we hear any of it), and she doesn’t want to slow down for a minute, for fear of losing out on the creative spark. And so she keeps downing pills, creating a minor conflict when the pills wear off and she nearly ends up sleeping through her music video shoot with Rayna. The handful of seconds we see of the music video are pretty much the best thing from the storyline, as I’ve been wondering when the show was going to get back to showing that side of the industry (seriously, a Rayna James music video?! Sign me the hell up! Seemed like a total Shania Twain homage too, from an aesthetic standpoint). Her hyper, cheery disposition at the Blue Bird has everyone raising eyebrows, but nobody really suspects the worst just yet, which means nobody is going to catch her before it’s too late. And I’m not sure I want to sit through a Scarlett addiction storyline. But I suppose it’s coming, one way or the other. I’d love to be wrong though.

Also a bit of a snoozer was Zoey’s (Chaley Rose) storyline, as she attempts to get hired as a background singer, only to get rejected at the audition for not having a demo and head shots. She laments her lack of accomplishments to Gunnar (Sam Palladio), who states that being a waitress at a cafe/bar is somehow as worthy of excitement as working with a major record label, which is a bit silly, even if I could see where he’s coming from (having a job at all should be something to be happy about, in this economy. That said, I feel for Zoey, as nobody should ever have to settle when their dream is at stake). Gunnar also tries to imply that being his girlfriend is also something she should be taking comfort in and…eh, Gunnar goes back and forth for me from week-to-week. I think he’s ultimately a good guy, but the show has been writing him really inconsistently this season. But at the very least, he’s mostly good this week, for reasons we’ll get to in a bit. But first, Zoey decides she’s more than good enough to be a background singer, and so she storms into the record executive’s office and hands her a recording of her church solo. Zoey admits she doesn’t have a head shot just yet, but she has serious talent and deserves a shot. If nothing else, Zoey’s initiative makes her much more likable and memorable, if only because we’ve seen so many people give up fame (Juliette, Deacon), luck into fame (Scarlett, although there’s no denying her talent), or take their fame for granted (Will). Zoey clearly wants this, and it doesn’t appear as though she plans on making the same mistakes as her fellow characters.

And on that note, let’s get to Will (Chris Carmack). He’s back to being moody — far moodier than last week. He rejects a ballad Gunnar has written, since it doesn’t fit in with his Florida-Georgia Line style of uptempo songs you can drink beer to. But Gunnar insists that he needs such songs to round out his album, especially since it’s being released on the same day as Rayna’s long-anticipated album. Brent (Derek Krantz) drops in on Will for a progress check, and Will takes out his frustrations on his ex-lover, saying that all the songs the label as sent him suck. When Gunnar warns Will that his tension around Brent will clue people in on their past, Will complains about Brent to Jeff Fordham (Oliver Hudson) and ends up inadvertently getting the guy fired. Brent lashes out at Will for getting rid of his only ally at Edgehill, and it’s only half as bad as the talking-to he gets from Gunnar, who accuses Will of avoiding obstacles instead of dealing with them. Gunnar reminds Will that he once tried to kiss him, and wonders if Will will see him as an obstacle to be removed some day. This all leads into the climax of the storyline, as Will takes inventory of his actions, and lets out his emotions into the ballad Gunnar wrote. However, when Gunnar overhears him and applauds him on how beautiful it sounds, Will angrily declares that Gunnar will be the only one who ever hears him sing it. The storyline is kind of meandering at this point, as Will erodes sympathy by essentially lashing out at the world. I get that this is what the character is meant to be, right now, but it’s getting a bit tiresome as each week plays on the same general emotional beat. I do like that Gunnar continually challenges Will and calls him out on his B.S., as that’s a necessary component of allowing the Will Lexington character to grow and develop in an organic fashion.

“Too Far Gone” is a solid, necessary pivot-point episode, as we get deeper into the second half of the season. The stories really are coming together quite nicely, even if individual plots aren’t always that interesting from week-to-week. As a primetime soap, I still find Nashville to be as compelling as it ever has been, and that’s largely thanks to great music (seriously, I’ve constantly been refreshing iTunes to find Will’s song) and acting that remains remarkably underappreciated. I really did enjoy the episode, and I’m hoping that when the show returns on Feb. 26th, it’ll maintain the quality of this week’s hour.

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