Come into an opera expecting a slapstick and you’ll end up disappointed. I have heard a lot of arguments from people lately, saying that Nashville should define itself as either a soap or a serious drama. First off, soaps are serious business. Have you seen a good Latin American telenovela or a high-profile primetime soap? The fact that they have different styles is what people confuse with low quality. Yes, soaps are cheesy, some overly so. And yes, cheesy drama is also easier to make than more psychological-cut one, at first, at least. Try keeping the love affairs, terminal illnesses, dark secrets and back stabbings interesting episode in and episode out, though, and you’ll notice how the card castle starts to crumble down rapidly. If you don’t believe me, just watch a lousy Latin American telenovela or some (inexplicably) high-profile primetime soaps. Nashville does precisely the latter, with perfect formal execution and more dignity than many acclaimed “serious drama” series.
Secondly, who ever said that genres are fixed, hermetic compartments? Yes, we’d love for everything to be black or white. Us humans like separation cause it’s easier to process logically, but in the question of what was first, the show or the genre, the programme is the winner. So, Nashville doesn’t have to be either one. It is a soapy, serious drama and it has never aspired to be anything else. I mean, it’s just a show about country singers, but there has been driving in front of fast running trains for adrenaline rushes, like thirty different loves stories gone wrong, a murder suicide and a spinning car crash in only one season. It is unequivocally a soap of sorts. So, don’t let the fact that its acting, directing, art and photography are so great fool you. If you like Nashville, you like a soap and may it be your guilty pleasure or just make you feel guilty, that’s what you’re gonna get.
With that said, there were some low points in the premiere. I’ll give you that much. Some of it was overly cheesy, like Rayna’s mother’s death-by-car-crash-as-well plot, and some was just very poor writing, like Peggy’s miscarriage right after her pregnancy. I mean, we get that Rayna’s just like her mum. She has a very similar love biography. Hell, Rayna herself probably is the daughter of Watty White as much as Maddie is Deacon’s. Still, both in a car crash? Really? And the fact that Lamar is to blame… I don’t buy it. That has Deus Ex Machina written all over it.
Still, I thought the episode was mostly great. I loved how most of the plots progressed, and I was very worried they wouldn’t. The fact I like most about Nashville is how it’s both twistfully unexpected, and deliciously predictable at the same time. I value that in a show, cause I love feeling like I was smart enough to guess where the story was going, but also quite enjoy being surprised. It helps me feel like it’s “my” show, cause “I would have gone on the same direction they did”. That’s something that series like The Following don’t have, and why I got bored with it pretty soon when I loved it at first, while the exact opposite thing happened to me with Nashville.
Maybe that’s just my way of watching television, but because of it, I wanted there to be an element of surprise without it being unrecognizable. I loved that in Rayna’s plot, as well as Deacon’s and Maddie’s. From day one I knew there would be a coma, that Deacon would feel responsible for the crash, and that Maddie would think it was all her fault. However, I didn’t expect Rayna to get out of it so quickly, Deacon to take actual legal responsibility for it, or Maddie to find comfort in Juliette. See what I mean?
Those were great plot progressions, in my opinion, and some of the main reasons I loved the episode. Also, Juliette’s reaction to it all was fantastic. I love how she’s the bitch that lives in all of us, except she actually lets it out. I mean, who doesn’t hate when the blind guy in the singing competition wins only cause he’s blind? If he’s got amazing talent, then it’s a different story and all the more reason to love him, but otherwise… Juliette feels overshadowed by Rayna and she says so. Doesn’t give a crap about what people think of her, and it’s liberating. Still, in the end she feels guilty. She feels human, and we get to see it, which is precisely one of the best aspects of Nashville. It’s got solid, round characters that balance out the over the top plots the writers throw at them (and that’s what I mean by a soapy, serious drama hybrid).
The one plot twist I didn’t feel comfortable with at all, was Scarlett and Gunnar’s. It didn’t seem coherent with Scarlett as a character to have said no. It felt even less plausible for them to suddenly break off communication and become grudge-holding enemies. However, it got a little more realistic towards the end, so I liked how they managed it. I also get where the writer’s came from with that decision, cause them being engaged wasn’t really much of a plot for season 2, but then they shouldn’t have done it in the first place.
It’s Peggy’s pregnancy all over again. If there’s gonna be no possible consequence, then don’t throw it around in the finale just for the shock effect. Ryan Murphy does it all the time, but that’s the most hated thing about his shows. Well, maybe that and sudden singing, but that’s another story. However, I think the issue with Peggy’s miscarriage was the timing. They needed to spread it around the season more. Doing it right off the start, right after we learnt she was pregnant felt like the easy way out; no matter the good intentions they might have had by doing it to progress the storyline.
Still, with all of this, the words come to mind that I think was Lena Dunham who said once in an interview. She was talking about the second season of Girls and the challenges of writing it, and she said that second seasons were very hard because you had been imagining up your characters for so long, and thinking of their stories, and what was gonna happen to them if the show ever sprouted into existence. However, once it all happened, and you had to think about their plots for a new year in record time, you froze, because they were suddenly almost real people, your children, and you had to make things actually happen to them. So, I get that writing a second season is hard. It can become boring and repetitive pretty easily, which is why some shows aim too high and drown their characters in drama that ends up killing the series.
Nevertheless, I think Nashville won’t be either. I liked the episode. It showed progression, without being exaggeratedly complicated. Yes, the writers didn’t show the restraint I was so proud of last season, and their dialogue was over explicative at best, but I can give them a free pass for this once, and I trust they will remount pretty soon. Either way, the show is so well executed that I can’t help but fall in love with it. Hopefully next week, ratings will pick up and, like Rayna, the show will get better soon. Anyway, I’ll be here to talk about it.
Luis Ruiz – @LuisR_Ruiz