Hayden Panettiere

Hayden Panettiere plays Juliette Barnes a young country star in Nashville.

“Just give me a chance to explain,” pleads Juliette Barnes (played by Hayden Panettiere) in the second episode of this season of “Nashville.” “In a moment of weakness I put my career first,” she tells her husband, Avery (played by Jonathan Jackson). 

But this admission of guilt is short-lived and it’s not long until Juliette jets off again, leaving her husband and newborn daughter in the dust and proving to viewers that it’s going to be a long and aggravating season. 

ABC’s “Nashville” started its fourth season on Sept. 23 and so far the show has not been quite as good as its first three seasons. 

The will they/won’t they stay together question for Juliette and Avery has been going on for two seasons now and it’s getting a little worn. And after season three’s cliffhanger ending was cleared up within the first few minutes of the season opener, the follow-up drama was rather dull. 

The music has also been subpar this season. Mick Jagger even came on for a guest performance in the first episode in which he and Juliette sang a cover of Patsy Cline’s “Crazy,” and it was largely unmemorable. In the second episode, though, country music star Rayna Jaymes’ (Connie Britton) daughters, played by real-life sisters Lennon and Maisy Stella, performed a song at their school talent show which is always a treat since the two harmonize incredibly well together. 

“Nashville” has an incredibly large and strong cast. Connie Britton stars as Jaymes, an aged country singer who used to be the best in the business. Now, with a family and the realization that she just can’t appeal to the younger demographic anymore, she has started a record label that she hopes will allow current country singers to thrive in. While Britton is incredibly talented, the show gives her gritty emotional scenes infrequently. She’s constantly there to mop up everyone else’s tears, but she rarely has any to shed herself. Supporting castmates include Chris Carmack’s Will Lexington, a country singer who struggles with finding an audience and record label since he’s gay, and Oliver Hudson’s deliciously detestable label executive Jeff Fordham help round out an extremely talented cast. 

The fact that the show is actually shot on location in Nashville helps create a realistic and aesthetically pleasing backdrop. Air shots of the city pepper opening scenes and landmark locations, like the Bluebird Cafe and the Grand Ole Opry, which are frequently used to reiterate the history of the country music scene. 

The best thing that has happened for “Nashville” viewers this season is that Eric Close, who plays Teddy Conrad, the father of Maddie and Daphne, is no longer a series regular.  In the past, Teddy’s high points have included divorcing Jaymes (which freed her up to be with Deacon Claybourne) and his low points have included standing idly by as his former father-in-law died of a heart attack in front of him and making shady deals as Nashville’s mayor. And, as of recent, Teddy’s storylines have become yawn-worthy. As he got carted off by the police in season three’s finale, “Nashville” viewers unanimously breathed a sigh of relief.

“Nashville” has also started to deal with death in new ways. The show is a drama, but for some reason characters never really deal with death. I thought death was supposed to be a rite of passage for dramas? In the past, “Nashville” has only killed off completely unlikeable characters, like Jaymes’ shady father and Peggy, Teddy’s short-lived second wife who faked a pregnancy and a miscarriage. But it’s clear that “Nashville” is going to give us some good, emotional death scenes this season. First, there was Deacon’s death scare, which he is now fully recovered from, thanks to a liver transplant from his sister Beverly. But last episode’s cliffhanger ending showed viewers that it’s still too early to put away the tissues. 

And, as Juliette’s baby cries through her entire performance and the realization that she’s now stuck with a newborn child sets in, it becomes clear that Juliette’s “moment of weakness” isn’t so much a moment, but a more permanent, indefinite period of time. And with that tantalizing ending, I begrudgingly settle in for the rest of the roller coaster that will be season four of “Nashville.” 

Since the season has just begun, there’s plenty of time for the show to iron out the wrinkles in its storylines, and there’s also time for new fans of the show to catch up in time for the finale. 

 

Emmy Freedman is a junior media arts and design major. Contact Emmy at freedmee@dukes.jmu.edu.