‘Nashville’ Season Finale Review: ‘Before You Go Make Sure You Know’ Is Beautiful, Infuriating

Recap and review of Nashville – Season 3 Finale – Before You Go Make Sure You Know:

I don’t think I’ve loved and hated a finale this much in a long time. Nashville ended “Before You Go Make Sure You Know” on a series of cliffhangers that would have been downright cruel had the show not thankfully been renewed by ABC. Hell, even with the renewal, it’s infuriating to end a season like this.

Yet, even with that being said, parts of this finale were beautiful, and among some of the best drama this show has ever done. And really, the fact that I’m so infuriated that the show ended on a series of cliffhangers is tied to how much I care about this story, these characters, and this show overall. Shows just don’t draw that sort of response from the viewer unless the viewer cares, so even while I’m mad at this finale, it’s only because the wait for Season 4 is going to be more excruciating than it would have been otherwise. The truth is, there was a lot this episode did well, and that’s worth singling out. For one, the performances were uniformly excellent, with Jonathan Jackson doing some of his best work of the season, while Charles Esten and Connie Britton continued to find new layers to the Deacon/Rayna relationship. Chris Carmack also does a great job of finding the heart of the Will Lexington character, so that his sudden burst of bravery and pride doesn’t feel sudden, but rather like a culmination to his character arc. Of course, it’s also a credit to the writing that this episode is as well-paced and compelling as it ends up being. The show takes a foregone conclusion (Deacon will live), and adds doubt by subtly hinting at a future in which Deacon is, to put it bluntly, six feet under. That ending cliffhanger, while cruel, stokes the embers of doubt in the viewing audience, so that we’re essentially held in suspense. I can see why the writers went in that direction, even if I don’t agree with it. The performances and the drama surrounding Deacon’s health almost makes it too good of a storyline to drop after this season. So it makes a certain sense to prolong it just a little while longer. Still, I imagine this finale will tick more than a few people off.

Nashville - Season 3 Finale - Before You Go Make Sure You Know

Credit: ABC

Yes, Deacon (Charles Esten) and Beverly (Dana Wheeler-Nicholson) go in for surgery, but the end result of the transplant is inconclusive, as Caleb (Nick Jandl) comes out at the end of the episode to tell Rayna (Connie Britton) that he has “some bad news.” And that’s it. The episode ends there. It’s absolutely maddening, to a degree that almost goes beyond infuriating, since it continues to play on our innate sympathy for Deacon and Rayna’s situation. In a sense, it’s like the show is getting off from torturing these characters, to a point that borders on exploitation. I mean, that’s an absolutely ridiculous notion for me to have, considering these are fictional people, but I think it speaks volumes of Esten and Britton’s work that they ultimately feel as real as they do. But the question remains: who flatlined? The show seems to want us to believe it was Deacon, which is precisely why I feel it’ll be Beverly, since the show could easily get another season out of Deacon’s survivor’s guilt, while Rayna continues to feel similar angst over having put Beverly in that position with her pleas (as Beverly explains, once Rayna showed up with that check, she didn’t really have a choice anymore: she’d either be the jerk who needed to be paid a million dollars to save her own brother or the jerk for whom a million dollars wasn’t enough). It could be a solid storyline for Season 4, with far more possibilities for sustainable drama than if Deacon is the one who dies. I could see either scenario, but I think Beverly is the more likely death. But even if, through some miracle, both Deacon and Beverly pull through, and the flatline is just one big herring, Rayna will still have a lot to deal with in Season 4. In short, Teddy (Eric Close) gets arrested after his deal with the Feds falls through, and while it’s hard to really feel too much sympathy for him, his pain over not being able to speak to his girls is heartbreaking. Although Maddie (Lennon Stella) and Daphne (Maisie Stella) don’t notice their father’s arrest on the TV in the hospital waiting room, they’re bound to find out sooner rather than later. And it’s doubly sad for Maddie, who now stands to lose both fathers in the span of a day.

Nashville - Season 3 Finale - Before You Go Make Sure You Know

Credit: ABC/Mark Levine

But outside of the drama itself, the episode is home to some wonderful moments of character development. After being a worry-wart since learning of Deacon’s illness (and understandably so), Rayna comes to accept that it’s out of her hands, and chooses to have faith that Deacon will be okay, despite his recurring nightmares in which he dies. Deacon proposes to Rayna and asks her to marry him right there in the hospital, but Rayna says their love deserves better than a wedding in this environment. She expects him to be alive and well for their wedding, and it’s this faith in the future that marks Rayna’s growth as a support structure for Deacon (and for her girls). Their “vows” in Deacon’s hospital room is a similarly gorgeous little moment, as they dedicate themselves to one another, despite the lack of any rings or an official ceremony. It’s the culmination of a very long journey for this relationship. But not all culminations can be as touching, although they can still bring out the best in a person: Avery (Jonathan Jackson) shows immense maturity when he essentially lays down the law with Juliette (Hayden Panettiere).

Nashville - Avery leaves Juliette in Season 3 finale

Credit: ABC

Whether it’s mental illness or not, Juliette has been absolutely insufferable these past several episodes, and this may have been her nadir as a character, as she throws a snow globe at Avery while he’s holding Cadence. Avery DEMANDS she leave, and although Juliette tries to reconcile with him later, he’s in no mood to mend fences, particularly once he learns she went to Jeff (Oliver Hudson) to help her with her new album when he wouldn’t. Juliette refuses treatment, and actually goes a step further by bailing on Rayna and signing with Luke Wheeler (Will Chase), firing Glenn (Ed Amatrudo), and putting together a plan for her rejuvenated career. Naturally, this is all a bridge too far for Avery, who decides he needs to put Cadence’s safety and well-being above whatever love he feels for Juliette. He leaves her, and while my heart breaks for him, it’s hard not to applaud his bravery. This is a guy who fought like hell not to fall back into the trap of loving Juliette, but who couldn’t help but feel for her. While he’ll likely fall right back into it with her next season, his resolve in doing what’s best for his child, and to Hell with whatever Juliette thinks about it, is commendable. Some might feel it’s wrong that he’s taking a child from its mother, but it’s clear that her illness makes Juliette more of a potential harm to the child than even she realizes. This is absolutely the right move for Avery, as hard as it may be. If nothing else, Juliette proves his instincts right by telling Luke she’s more ready than ever to start touring, showing that she values her career more than her family, at the moment.

By that same token, I think Will (Chris Carmack) made the right decision for his own psychological well-being by finally coming out of the closet. After getting Kevin (Kyle Dean Massey) to issue a denial of the tabloid report about Will’s sexuality, Will comes to realize he just can’t keep denying who he is anymore. If he keeps leaving in the closet, he’ll never find peace. So he decides to throw caution to the wind and just come out. It’s possibly the most triumphant moment in the history of the show when Will declares, “I’m gay. And I’m not ashamed of it.” Although it costs him the respect and love of his father, in addition to a gig opening up for Luke, Will has finally found some measure of peace, letting Kevin know that he loves him. It’s an absolutely beautiful development that ranks up there with the best this season’s had to offer.

Nashville - Recap and Review - Season 3 Finale - Before You Go Make Sure You Know

Credit: ABC

But, once again, there were stories I wasn’t feeling as deeply. On the one hand, Jeff finally admitting to Layla (Aubrey Peeples) that he loves her seems like a step forward. On the other hand, the fact that it’s compelled by Layla discovering that Jeff was the one who sent the tweet that got her fired from Jade’s tour is a big step back. Similarly, all the growth Layla has apparently shown this season evaporates when she hears Jeff tell her what she’s been wanting to hear from him all along, that he can’t be without her. It’s a toxic, self-destructive relationship, but Layla can’t help being drawn into the damage. Say what you will about what he could do for her career, but I don’t think Layla will ever truly be well until she’s free of the toxic relationships in her life. Conversely, I’m not sure Scarlett (Clare Bowen) or Gunnar (Sam Palladio) will ever have peace again until they give their relationship one last shot. They have a beautiful musical moment in which they croon together on a park bench, and it feels a lot like the Gunnar and Scarlett of old. But, as the song ends, they come to recognize the intimacy of the moment, and lean in for a kiss. This, despite both parties being in relationships with other people, as Scarlett is with Caleb and Gunnar is with Kiley (Alexa PenaVega). The last thing this show needs is a love rhombus, but I guess there are worse things the show could do than to put these two on the path towards romantic reconciliation. Much like Rayna and Deacon, these two are meant for each other, whether they realize it or not.

“Before You Go Make Sure You Know” is about as beautiful and infuriating as Nashville gets. But the good easily outweighed the bad here, in my opinion. I’m anxiously looking forward to Season 4, as I think this finale will prove to be a major turning point for many of the characters, whether anybody dies or not.

But what did you think of the finale? Sound off in the comments!

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