Alexandra Kowal ‘14 / Emertainment Monthly Staff Writer
Nashville is ABC’s deliciously soap-opera-like drama about famous country singer, Rayna Jaymes (Connie Britton), and her rivalry with up-and-coming country pop princess, Juliette Barnes (Hayden Panettiere).
Season two ended on a cliffhanger, as Rayna was forced to choose between her current romantic interest, Luke Wheeler (Will Chase), and her old flame, Deacon Claybourne (Charles Esten). The season three premiere revealed that she had chosen new love over old and decided to marry Luke.
“How Far Down Can I Go” largely deals with the aftermath of that decision. It permeates the episode, affecting many of the characters’ lives: Deacon’s relationship with his daughter, Maddie, hits a rough patch, while Rayna and Luke are hounded by the media about their engagement.
Maddie and Deacon have always had an interesting relationship, as neither knew they were related until recently. However, in trying to forge a relationship with her biological father, Maddie cannot let go of the fantasy of Rayna and Deacon being together. She directs her anger at being denied a new, perfect family at Deacon. The episode has an emotional moment when Maddie accuses Deacon of not fighting to be with her mother and Deacon reveals that he had asked Rayna to marry him, but she rejected him. From then on, Maddie’s relationship with her mother becomes strained and the animosity stays unresolved.
Meanwhile, Rayna is happy to be engaged to Luke, but dislikes the way everyone is inquiring about her personal life. Ever the consummate professional, she is completely devoted to getting her new record label, Highway 65, off the ground. In the midst of her struggle, Rayna learns that her new song has been bumped to number two on the charts by fresh sensation, Will Lexington (Chris Carmack). Rayna, never satisfied with being less than number one, vows to get back on top. This sets her on the path to truly living in the public eye, something she may never be able to escape and might have to deal with for the rest of the series.
However, Will does not have it as easy as people might think. He’s in a sham marriage and his wife, angry over the fact that he married her despite being gay, is dead-set on exploiting him in any way possible. Couple that with the fact that they’re currently doing a reality show together, and that’s one great recipe for disaster. It’ll be interesting to see where the show goes with this in the upcoming episodes.
Continuing to pile on the drama, the main subplot of the episode revolves around Juliette’s unplanned pregnancy. While getting over her breakup with Avery (Jonathan Jackson), and preparing for a movie role to play Patsy Cline, Juliette must also deal with this colossal secret. She continues to be the diva she’s always been on the show, but she is also at one of the lowest points she’s ever been – and this was after having a junkie mother, an almost-released sex tape, and more in previous seasons.
The episode concludes with Rayna choosing to open up a little about her personal life in order to create a more relatable public persona. This is intercut with Juliette visiting her doctor, where she gets a huge surprise.
Nashville never slows its pace; it rapidly switches from character to character as if afraid the viewer will be bored if the show lingers on one storyline for too long. However, the amount of characters and storylines contained within each episode can easily become confusing, and at times, it all veers into the melodramatic. But overall, “How Far Down Can I Go” continues Nashville’s tradition as an enjoyable high-stakes show to watch.
But one thing that was striking about this episode was its lack of memorable musical numbers. For a show rightfully praised for its high quality of music, “How Far Down Can I Go” was a disappointment. Although Gunnar (Sam Palladio) and Scarlett (Clare Bowen) have a brief reconnection through their singing, and Rayna takes to the stage at the end to conclude the episode, there was really nothing special about the songs this week.
Perhaps the writers wanted to dive into the characters’ lives more in the first few episodes, rather than concentrating on making hit songs.
But Nashville is, at its core, an ode to country music. Without the music to complement the stories, it’s just another drama with too many larger than life characters.
Nashville airs Wednesdays at 10pm on ABC.