'Nashville' Ends on a Shocking Cliffhanger: What Does This Mean for Rayna?

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Warning: Spoiler alert! Do not proceed if you haven’t watched Thursday’s episode of Nashville. If you watched "If Tomorrow Never Comes," which aired Feb. 23, read our full recap to find out what happened to Rayna.
Is Nashvilleabout to lose one of its own?
The CMT country music drama ended its latest episode on Thursday, ominously titled “Stand Beside Me,” in the most shocking way possible, and in turn, left one of its main characters' fate dangerously up in the air. After getting into a brutal, episode-ending car accident, the fate of Rayna James (Connie Britton) -- one of the moral centers of Nashville -- is in serious limbo.
Here’s how it all went down: Rayna’s stalker, Carl Hockney (Linds Edwards), somehow makes his way into the Highway 65 offices, holding the country superstar hostage. Pleading with him to spare her life for her family, Carl becomes even more incensed, holding his knife to Rayna’s neck as police storm the premises.
But after Rayna’s last-ditch effort to talk Carl off the ledge works, he succumbs to police, dropping the knife and letting Rayna go. Whew. You’d think the worst was over, but in pure Nashville fashion, there’s one more gut-wrenching surprise.
With Rayna safe from harm, the police put the singer into one of their patrol cars so she can go home. A hysterical Rayna calls Deacon Claybourne (Charles Esten) -- completely oblivious to what she just endured -- and is heartbreakingly unable to form sentences or mask her true emotions as she breaks down crying.
And, just when you least expect it, the police car Rayna is in gets hit by an oncoming car in a violent crash.
Photo: CMT
Rumors have been swirling since last fall that Britton may be departing Nashville. The Emmy-nominated actress has called the speculation “crazy” and recently told Parade “the rumors swirling around are really fun.”
“I cherish this role. I cherish this character. I cherish this cast and this crew,” the 49-year-old actress said to the mag. “I feel very fortunate that I get to do this and I absolutely do not do it alone. So for you to say that I’m the heart of Nashville, I’m so grateful for that, but honestly nothing I do would exist without everyone else. And our show wouldn’t still be here without the fans.”
Not exactly a denial, either.
Back in December, Nashvilleco-showrunner Marshall Herskovitz addressed whether he and the writers were concerned that Britton or Hayden Panettiere wouldn’t be returning full-time and if they had to ever consider killing a character off.
“We were presented with the show as it was,” he said to ET. “There were changes we wanted to make in-house as stories were told, but these were the two centers of the show. So we always assumed we would bring them back, both of them.”
Considering how grim things look for Rayna at the end of Thursday’s episode, maybe we should be very worried.
Nashville airs Thursdays at 9 p.m. ET/PT on CMT.