Nashville

Nashville Season 5: Is the Revamped Series Worth Your Time? (Rayna/Deacon Fans, Listen Up)

We’ve seen Nashville‘s Season 5 premiere: Let’s talk, y’all.

ABC’s Nashville was a rollercoaster: Often fun, but with dips and curves that came outta nowhere, leaving you a little woozy in their wake. CMT’s version of the country-music drama, on the other hand, is like lazy river tubing on a summer afternoon: not much happens — and for the most part, you’re OK with it.

Moments are allowed to bloom. Songs are allowed to play out. Emotional beats are allowed the time they need to hit home. On the whole — and particularly when characters we’ve known for years are given the space to work through some Big Stuff — it’s a welcome change.

Which isn’t to say that the new iteration of the series, now under the showrunning auspices of thirtysomething‘s Marshall Herskovitz and Ed Zwick, is perfect. The abrupt switch from breakneck plot-jumping to take-your-time storytelling is jarring, particularly for those of us who’ve watched the show from the pilot. (Here’s hoping that will smooth out, feeling more normal as the season rolls on.)

Similarly, some of the choices the show has made regarding character development don’t exactly track with what we know about the Music City denizens. We won’t spoil you, but Rayna, for instance finds herself having an existential crisis that feels a little manufactured. Yes, she’s shaken by Juliette’s barely surviving her plane crash, and Highway 65’s prospects aren’t great… but hasn’t the First Lady of Country Music faced far worse in previous seasons without it mussing a hair on her pretty red head?

Meanwhile, the Juliette story that Nashville has set up for Hayden Panettiere’s return has a ton of potential: Can a character who routinely believes the worst about life and herself pull herself out of a very dark place and grow along the way? Will this be the season that Ms. Barnes overcomes her tendencies, accepts the good things she’s got (cough Avery cough) and matures in a way we haven’t yet seen?

Speaking of good things, here are a few other premiere tidbits that feel like positive changes:

* Rayna and Deacon’s relationship has never been in such a good place. Ever.
* At an important moment, Scarlett draws from her life experiences to act as a wise woman, and it’s very believable.
* The much-discussed slower pace of the action is a boon to the show’s central relationships. Can’t be said enough. Avery and Juliette, Deacon and Rayna — they finally have time to talk!
* Music moves the story along and has a prominent place in the narrative in a way that’s been missing from recent seasons.

We’ll be back with a full recap after the premiere sneak peek airs Thursday (CMT, 9/8c). Until then, hit the comments with your thoughts, hopes and predictions!