Warning: Spoiler alert! Do not proceed if you have not watched Thursday’s spring finale of Nashville. For more on that shocking final scene, read our interview with Clare Bowen.
Nashville wrapped up the first half of its fifth season with a gut-wrenching midseason finale on Thursday, as Rayna Jaymes’ closest friends and family moved on from her death in very different ways. But it was the final scene that will leave fans talking.
Before we get to that shocking bombshell at the end of the episode, much of the focus was set squarely on what life looks like without Rayna in it -- and boy is it ugly. Deacon (Charles Esten) suffered the brunt of it, spending much of the episode devouring any and all of Rayna’s memories, through journal entries, old footage and her final interviews as he felt pressure from Highway 65 to release the unfinished duet they were working on to save the record label.
Ultimately though, Deacon came through to the other side, finally agreeing to finish the track, but only with the help of Scarlett (Clare Bowen), Gunnar (Sam Palladio), Juliette (Hayden Panettiere), Maddie (Lennon Stella) and Daphne (Maisy Stella) -- all after watching one of Rayna’s final interviews where she praised him for always “coming up stronger than he was before.”
“He’s just incredible that way. He never gives up and now to be able to feel that strength in my life every day and to see him being that way with our children and to know that he is the best father that they could ever ask for, and the best part about it is, that I know that he’ll never give up on me or my girls, or on our record, or on any other damn thing I drag him into,” Rayna says in her last studio interview, which served as the catalyst for Deacon to continue on. “He’s going to be there.”
Sure enough, the recording session for Rayna and Deacon’s duet-turned-ensemble record served as one door closing and another chapter beginning, and it was beautiful to see everyone coming together to send Rayna off one final time.
Following her family’s emotional musical tribute at the CMT Awards, Maddie became a national star, making the rounds on programs like The Daily Show With Trevor Noah and Harry Connick Jr.’s daytime talk show. Rayna’s eldest daughter became so engrossed with her 15 minutes of fame that she nearly became unrecognizable; thankfully, she had the awareness to recognize that before it was too late.
After some insistence from Juliette, whose desire to manage her career piqued Maddie’s interest; she decided to take the plunge and follow in her mother’s footsteps, leaving Nashville to conquer New York City.
Meanwhile, Scarlett reluctantly agreed to go on tour with Gunnar after rejecting the idea to help care for Deacon and the girls, but she had one not-so-tiny wrench to throw in the plan.
“One thing you need to know… I’m pregnant,” Scarlett reveals to Gunnar, whose stunned face says it all.
“Am I…?” Gunnar sputters out.
“Honestly, I don’t know,” she confesses.
Nashville co-showrunner Marshall Herskovitz told ET that the final episode before the break offers “a glimpse of what it’s like to try and have a life without Rayna, but it’s incredibly difficult.”
“People move on in life -- the show will move on and there is a show post-Rayna. Eventually, people will be comfortable with a show post-Rayna,” he said, before speaking more specifically to the remainder of the season.
“The second half of the season does a balancing act between the new events that happened in these characters’ lives, the ways in which their lives moved on and the fact that they’re still hurting -- some of them reeling, some of them undone -- by this terrible event. You’re going to see both, just as you would in real life,” Herskovitz hinted. “You feel your grief, yet life demands that you move on.”
Nashville returns this summer on CMT.