November 1, 2012 - 7:11pm
BY GIBSON JOHNS AND KAYLA UPADHYAYA
ABC’s new musical soap “Nashville” explores the ups and downs of the country music industry. Daily Arts Writer Gibson Johns and Senior Arts Editor Kayla Upadhyaya recap “We Live in Two Different Worlds.”
Kayla: So I was complaining a couple of weeks ago about how fast “Nashville” is clipping along, but the more I think about it, the more I realize that dynamics haven’t really changed — especially when considering last night’s episode. Yes, we were introduced to some new characters — like Hailey, a new love interest for Gunnar (this love triangle has suddenly become a CW-style love quadrangle) and Peggy/Margaret, who is keeping secrets with Teddy that I actually don’t really care about at this point. But beyond their additions, most of the character dynamics remain the same this week. This isn’t necessarily a complaint. I think it’s important to take time — especially on network television when you have such long seasons — to make gradual steps when it comes to character relationships and growth, but I’m worried that the show could start to feel like its in a stasis. Even with the “major” changes that happened this week, the big picture is still very much so the same as it has been since the pilot.
Gibson: I’m not sure I totally agree. Sure, “Nashville” does have a few issues with pacing and keeping a balance between moving too quickly and introducing too many storylines in one episode, but that balance takes time. After all, it is only the fourth episode. But I do think the show has progressed: Rayna and Deacon’s relationship is now over for the time being, Juliette and her mother’s relationship is evolving while her career plummets, this week was our first time seeing Deacon and Teddy interact, among other things. Up until this episode, I did feel like certain relationships were going in circles, but things changed last night. It's getting more exciting and things are becoming more complicated.
Kayla: I’m definitely happy that Rayna finally said she intends to fire Deacon. She has really been struggling with the decision, and it’s one that I am actually happy the show took its time with even when the endgame was clear, because watching Rayna working through the complexity of the situation has been very effective — particularly because of Britton’s fantastic fluctuations. Now that I think about it, maybe the reason why this episode in particular felt a little stagnant was the lack of music. About 12 minutes in, I was getting antsy because I hadn’t had my fix of bluesy tunes. So imagine my level of disappointment when the first — and only — song of the episode didn’t come until about a half hour in. I’m glad “Nashville” isn’t overdoing it with the musical numbers — wouldn’t want them to start replacing any sense of narrative with song and dance in the way “Glee” started to do in its second season. But an episode without a Gunnar-Scarlett duet is kind of like an episode of “Friday Night Lights” without a Coach Taylor pep talk. As for the Rayna-Deacon developments, the scene between the two just after their country club performance was one of the best of the episode. The opening scene that shows the two of them together in bed was pretty dumb. I'm very picky when it comes to dream sequences, since they're usually just a way of telling instead of showing. I like the slight surprise of the fact that it’s Rayna’s sex dream and not Deacon’s, but again, it seems like a cheap way of saying “SHE STILL HAS FEELINGS FOR HIM!”
Gibson: I wasn’t a fan of the opening dream scene, either. If it had been real, though, my feelings about it would be completely different. Anyway, I agree that that scene following the country club performance was a great one. The break in Connie Britton’s voice when she said she didn’t know what to do was simply perfect. As much as I would rather see Rayna with Deacon, I'm glad that we finally got a verdict as to which way their relationship is headed. There was no way Rayna would leave her husband for Deacon after all this time and in the middle of his campaign. Regarding the music (or lack thereof), I totally wish there had been more of it! I’m glad that at least it was Rayna who sang the one song because she sings the least, but the absence of a Scarlett-Gunnar duet was tragic. Speaking of Scarlett, I had completely forgotten that Deacon was her uncle, which I kind of like. It was a surprising reminder when they got lunch and Deacon told her that he knew all too well about how it felt to “keep up.” It’s the first time in a while that these parallel plotlines (Deacon-Rayna-Teddy and Avery-Scarlett-Gunnar) have intersected and it felt like appropriate timing. Like Rayna, Scarlett also had a decision to make — or at least something to say to Avery.
Kayla: I thought the exact same thing! I had kinda forgotten that there really is a tangible connection between Scarlett and Gunnar and the rest of the show’s main players. I'm glad that scene reminded us of that. These relationship parallels have a lot of interesting story potential, and it was great to hear Deacon giving some insight from his own experiences. What do you think of the Teddy revelations (if they can even be called that) this week? I was a little worried about where this whole Peggy thing was going. If she and Teddy were having an affair, it would just seem like a convenient way for Rayna and Deacon to become a possibility. But it sounds more like Peggy is involved in Teddy’s seemingly nefarious financial activities. I’m not sure if it’s because Eric Close is giving a very flat performance or because the writers haven’t quite figured out who the character is or because Close is playing against Britton, but whenever Teddy has a storyline outside of Rayna’s issues, I start to lose interest.
Gibson: Yeah like I’ve said before, in my opinion Teddy is the show’s weak link. I think the lack of clarity in what this whole sketchy financial past/Peggy situation is has more to do with the writers trying to keep us hanging on (it's getting more annoying than suspenseful, honestly) than Close’s dubious acting. But I think our mutual lack of interest is because of his acting. Not that he's a horrible actor; he's just kind of … boring. If we don’t get a clear answer for what’s going on with his past and how Peggy relates back to it, then it will really start to weigh the show down, I think.
Kayla: I kind of feel similarly about Rayna’s father, and definitely not because of the acting — Powers Boothe is phenomenal. But he’s not so much of a character as he is a plot device, and that can start to be problematic. Poor soap villains are drawn very one-dimensionally. But great, complex soap villains are not an unheard of concept: Just look at Victoria Grayson on “Revenge” or Bud Hammond on “Political Animals.” Unfortunately, Lamar is the former at the moment.)
Gibson: That’s a great point. And it’s funny we're saying this when just last week we had seen a completely different side to him when we learned about his late wife’s affair. We saw emotion outside of his aggression. But I’m afraid you’re right — it’s hard for me to see him becoming more than a plot device or an obstacle that will inevitably be passed. Sure, he has money, but he doesn't have as much actual power over these characters as he thinks he does. Going back to our disagreement about the show’s progression: I feel like we’ve gotten a lot of forward movement when it comes to Juliette. In four episodes, Juliette has gone from a character who seemed to have no confidence issues to one with more problems that anyone else. Her manager almost bailed. Her drug addict mom is getting better but still distracting her. Her tour is postponed. I definitely feel like the show is progressing, but the progression isn’t perfect. I also want to address Juliette’s semi-meltdown. More specifically, the scene where she dumps out the contents of her mother’s backpack looking for drugs and breaks down in tears, only finding a picture of her as a baby in her mother’s arms. We are beginning to get shades of Britney circa 2007 (Juliette driving a white SUV out of her gated community surrounded by pestering paparazzi) and it’s making her even more of a strong character. We’re seeing so many emotions from Juliette, and I attribute this to Panettiere's underrated acting abilities.
Kayla: I agree. This episode belongs to Juliette — and really Hayden Panettiere. I do like how her mother’s entrance has set her entire life askew. But I also think the plotting is a little sloppy. I get that stealing the nail polish can set off a whole slew of scandalous backlash, but her tour getting canceled? That I don’t entirely buy. Plus, I don’t really view the tour cancellation as a game changer: It’s just a way of moving the pieces into play for that eventual Deacon-Rayna-Juliette tour.
Gibson: Yeah that’s definitely true. The sponsors pulling out was a little bit … aggressive. But I guess they see it as a sort of sign of things to come. First stealing nail polish, then walking out of a GMA interview, then what? Who knows. I’m hoping that this isn’t just a one episode thing because that would also contribute to her meltdown being a slightly sloppy story line. It needs to be a process of dealing with her mother and things with Deacon and her uneasiness with the image she’s created for herself as a musician. She can’t solve her problems overnight.
Kayla: That is for sure. On the GMA interview, I love how much of a crush the writers must have on Robin Roberts: “She's fair, but she’s thorough!” So true. Moving back to Scarlett and Gunnar’s side of things: I like the addition of Hailey to the mix. She seems wonderfully sassy. Plus, Gunnar is getting some! I hope she serves more purpose than just making Scarlett jealous. I’m enjoying what is being done with Avery and Scarlett’s drama. I don’t know how you feel, but I actually don’t hate Avery, especially after this episode, which does a great job of making the character more than just a controlling boyfriend. Yes, he’s an asshole. Scarlett deserves better. But I also understand why he’s so adverse towards her success.
Gibson: Funny point about Robin Roberts: I had noticed how two fellow-ABC shows were featured on this episode (“Good Morning America” and “Katie”). I was fine with the GMA reference, but the “Katie” one was a little much. Anyway, yes Hailey is a great addition not only because Gunnar is finally getting some, but also because it will add more dynamic to the love triangle (now, as you said, a quadrangle). I was worried that each episode would just be Gunnar hopelessly devoted to Scarlett, but that changed last night. I agree about Avery, too. I don’t like him, but I don’t dislike him either. His feelings aren’t reprehensible — he’s unsurprisingly jealous of Scarlett's sudden success — but if he’s going to ever have his taste of fame himself, he’s going to get it himself and not with her help. He’s been going at it for years and wants whatever success he finds to be self-made. The front that he was putting up about being completely supportive of Scarlett and not jealous was clearly just that: a front. I’m glad that it didn’t last long. There was no way he could bare it.
Kayla: Their story is very interesting at the moment, and so long as it continues to be, I’m all for waiting out for any Gunnar-Scarlett love developments. And you’re right. Gunnar is immediately more interesting now that he isn’t pining.
Gibson: I can wait for any romantic entanglement between Scarlett and Gunnar, too. Although, doesn’t Scarlett and Avery’s demise sort of seem inevitable? As much as I understand his reasons, his hostility is toxic, and Scarlett is already realizing it. But I guess it may be too late now that Hailey is in the picture. Again, I’m so glad that this has gotten more complicated! Maybe its outcome isn’t as predictable as I thought it was.
Kayla: Oh, I certainly think that Scarlett and Avery will not last. And it’s not necessarily because they’re falling out of love with each other. On the contrary, Scarlett is very much so in love with him — Clare Bowen does a great job of capturing this — which is making their story all the more tragic. But like Deacon said, sometimes people just grow at different paces, and that's really what's happening here. It’s also what I presume happened between Deacon and Rayna, on top — or perhaps because of — his drug problems. Speaking of which … I thought all of the blocking leading up to Rayna and Deacon's fundraiser performance was excellent — both in the scene of just Rayna and her manager and the more explosive one with Lamar, Deacon, Teddy and Rayna.
Gibson: That was the other real standout scene for me, as well. Rayna’s nerves in anticipation for her return to the country club were both believable and made for a rare funny scene that highlighted, again, the depth of Britton’s acting chops. She can do funny, too, y’all! I’m also glad we finally got Deacon and Teddy (and Lamar) in the same room together and that it ended up being as explosive as I would expect it to be. Overall, I thought this episode was an improvement from last week, as it gave us some real progression while also introducing some intriguing new characters. By the way, my favorite moment of the episode was when Rayna called her sister the “Mouth of the South.” It reminded me of something Tami Taylor would say.