Nashville Season 5 Review CMT Reboot

The Verdict's In: Nashville's Good Again

We’re five episodes into Nashville‘s fifth season and now seems as good a time as any to say it: The country-music drama is back.

If you’ve read TVLine with any regularity over the years, you know that I’ve been a loving but tough critic of the show, which had a strong start on ABC in 2012 but meandered after Season 2.

Rayna and Deacon’s love story, once the series’ guiding light, became muddled like stirred-up sweet tea, thanks to car crashes and relapses and teen daughters with delusions of maturity. Gunnar and Scarlett, at first a captivating window into the way the music biz treats those wanting to become stars, soon became the on-again/off-again relationship seesaw common to pretty much every primetime soap couple. And Juliette, one of TV’s great spitfires at Nashville‘s outset, found herself mixed up in a booze-and-pills/accidental death storyline that seemed like it lasted forever.

Much has been made of how the episodes currently airing, helmed by thirtysomething executive producers Marshall Herskovitz and Ed Zwick, have been slowed down to get away from previous seasons’ hectic feel. But I’d argue that Season 5 so far has strong momentum: In each episode, we get movement on at least one big question — who’s Rayna’s stalker? Will Juliette ever move her legs again? — while the rest of what happens on screen either supports those storylines or sets up action that’ll transpire in the future.

It’s a commendable feat, bringing this series back to equilibrium while keeping the parts we loved intact. When Rayna and Deacon spent a recent scene chatting about work as they went about their nightly pre-bedtime rituals, they felt very much like the same people who pined for each other while singing “No One Will Ever Love You” at The Bluebird in Season 1 and who got pretend-married in a hospital room during one of Season 3’s high points. (The fact that, while watching said scene, I can ignore Deacon’s ill-advised Season 4 fisticuffs with his Alcoholic Anonymous sponsor after being accused of stealing “yer damn dead sister’s liver!” is merely icing on this very satisfying cake.)

Yep, I’m feeling very optimistic about the season as it moves ahead. We’re not even a quarter of the way through the episode count, and already I’m cheering for Maddie to learn and grow from her complicated new relationship with Clay. And if you had told me a season ago that I’d ever champion any airtime spent on Rayna and Deacon’s entitled teenager, I’d have slapped you silly with Deacon’s guitar strap.

So if you watched Nashville but drifted away, it’s time to buy a new ticket to the Ryman and find your seat: The show’s just gettin’ started.

Comments are monitored, so don’t go off topic, don’t frakkin’ curse and don’t bore us with how much your coworker’s sister-in-law makes per hour. Talk smart about TV!

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  1. Bernie says:

    I wholeheartedly agree. I am so grateful to CMT for giving this show a much-deserved second chance.

    • bryce says:

      But isn’t it all pointless if Connie really leaves. For me, yes. Every second that I watch this show where Connie and Hayden don’t have scenes together is a second where I’m waiting for Connie and Hayden to have a scene together. Their chemistry, used perfectly sparingly so far, is what draws me in. When one leaves, there’s no point for me.

  2. I am disappointed. My favorites are Avery & Juliette, and do not like the treatment they have received in 2 episodes out of the 5. In one episode, they did not appear into 25 minutes into the show, and were only shown a couple of minutes. Then last week no Avery and Juliette had what 40 seconds of airtime. Shameful to treat the best 2 actors on the show like this. Yet Deacon & especially Rayna hog each episode. There better be a couple of episodes where those 2 get the Juliette/Avery treatment with no to little airtime.

    • nate says:

      do you not see the cast of this show? Juliette and Avery can take a backseat for 1 episode.

      • They have had to take a backseat for 2 episodes now while boring Deyna has not. Time for Deyna to have to skip 2 episodes. Sorry but I do not want to see the rest of the cast as I only watch for Juliette and Avery. If not for them, I would be done with this show.

        • KEviNTUCKY says:

          Okay, let’s completely rework the show to make you happy. Then Nashville will have one viewer for their Nielsens. It’s an ensemble show and one needs to be cautious of overkill. I’m sure this couple will get their fair share and it will all be somewhat even in the end. If you are only enjoying the one couple though, you are really either missing out or not appreciating the contributions of the other couples. Much as I like them as well also, it’s not the same show with just Juliette and Avery as the main focus.

    • Bwhit says:

      I’m a Gunnar, Scarlett and Will fan and they’ve been pushed back way more than Juliette and Avery but I don’t mind that much because the show is much improved.

  3. Completely agree… if anything says how much the show has changed it was this past week with the taping of the Ex’s video. I could make up a mountain of garbage that could have been thrown at us, but instead we saw Gunner and Rayna being supportive, Scarlet standing up for herself and the video producer acknowledging her feelings. It was a total departure to what has happened in season’s past. I loved it!

  4. Karen T. says:

    I have to agree, even though I’ve stuck with the show from Day 1, it did start to get overly melodramatic and bogged down with too many plotlines. This season’s showrunners, who I had every confidence in, have slowed it down and gotten back to the basics of what made this show so good. I’m only afraid about what I heard about Connie Britton’s shortened season, but otherwise, bravo to helping to remake a good show back into a great one!

  5. Donna says:

    I don’t get CMT on my cable, so I’m actually bummed to know that I’m missing something good. LOL

  6. Iakovos says:

    Thank you for this article! I agree with every word, but am just happy someone is preaching some NASHVILLE gospel. It is really good. I call it COUNTRYSOMETHING as the magic hands of the THIRTYSOMETHNG creators are so evident in crafting this season’s stories.

    • Doug Henning says:

      Since Nashville is on Hulu, you can jet over to Thirtysomething on there to see that show which holds up pretty well for something 25-30 years old. Loved the old style portable phones from that late 80’s early 90’s era. Nashville has been pretty good in this season. I know it’s got pretty high ratings from that network.. I wonder how the ratings on the repeats do. I know on my cable system( Xfinity), it promotes Nashville a lot in the cable guide.

  7. Kay says:

    Huh, maybe I’ll give it a try again, then. I stopped a couple of seasons back- loved it in the beginning, though.

    • Ann says:

      If you loved the first season, then yes, definitely come back! This season has really shifted, tonally, back to its origins. They even brought back music to this show.

  8. Traci says:

    I am loving Nashville right now, Gunner and Scarlet have always been my fav’s, I hope they finally keep them together!! I do like Juliette and Avery, but they have to make room to show all the stories.

  9. IceTear1 says:

    I wouldn`t say Deacon/Rayna relationship going that bad, it’s always been heart of everything. More as whole Luke drama in between wasn’t necessary. Though I like Luke separately.

    Writing is for sure better now and this can shape up to be best season.

  10. Rachael Buford says:

    This synopsis is exactly right. I don’t know why ABC would give up on such wonderful show….but I’m glad CMT picked it up. I’ve ALWAYS been a fan. GREAT show!

    • therealjonpalmer says:

      I agree about ABC. Even though I’m not big into too many of the various 10 pm dramas on the networks (I’m more of a sitcom guy) I always enjoyed watching ‘Nashville’ after the powerful 8-10 block of Wednesday night ABC sitcoms.
      I was furious that ABC cancelled ‘Nashville’ and swore that I wouldn’t watch whatever ABC came up with to fill that slot. However, I couldn’t keep that vow. I’m a political junkie. When I saw the previews for Kiefer Sutherland in ‘Designated Survivor’ I had to check it out. I’m hooked. It is awesome.
      But, as long as ‘Nashville’ is on the air I will be watching it–no matter what channel it is on, or who comes or goes from the cast. (Pretty funny considering I generally dislike country music.)

      • Kathie says:

        I’ve wondered if I were the only non-country music fan who loves the music of Nashville. I started watching it out of curiousity and probably because nothing else was on that I usually watch. I immediately became interested in the story and hooked on the music. Amazing, because I’ve always disliked “mainstream” country music. I also realized that the actors were playing and singing on their own, which really impressed me, because I knew that some of them were known only for acting.
        Eventually, I wondered of there were sound track CDs available. At Walmart, I found Season 1, parts 1&2 and season 2, part 1. I haven’t found later additions in the store, so I think I will get a full set from Amazon and keep it up-to-date.
        I like the new streamlined story lines. I did think there were too many plots to keep track of. Seriously, 5-6 cliffhangers at the end of each season? Overkill!

  11. ellajasper says:

    I would still love to see more music. Otherwise, great show now!

  12. Jim says:

    The show is finally what it always should have been.

  13. MMD says:

    What brought me back was was the news that Marshall Herskovitz/Ed Zwick were going to be the new show runners as I have always enjoyed their story telling methods in the past. If it had been any other show-runners I probably wouldn’t have even bothered to give it a second look because I felt it had totally gone off the rails.

  14. Kathie says:

    I’m enjoying the new writing, but will be totally bummed if the rumor of Connie Britton’s leaving is true. She really didn’t deny it.

  15. Cate says:

    Totally agree, this season has begun really well. It’s drama not just melodrama now. Real and interesting stories for all the cast instead of the annoying Maddie emancipation/ suoerbrat story, Juliette’s recovery, Scarlett standing up for herself. Plus no one has talked about going on tour yet! I always found Luke super dull so I’m glad he’s gone. Just hope Connie Britton does indeed hang around as I’m not sure they show could survive her loss. Just much better writing this season so thank you CMT for saving Nashville!

  16. Loletta says:

    I agree this season has been amazing so far, loving every min of it. I love Deacon and Rayna, they are my favorite couple on the show but I watch the show to see the entire cast so ppl who only watch the show for a certain character or couple that does not mean everyone else is BORING(as you put it). Every character or couple will have their time to shine they are only 5 episode in this season. Thank you TV Line for the article, beautifully written.

  17. Patty says:

    Great start to the season I love the fact you’re bringing some spiritually to the show

  18. Lee Graham says:

    I’m disappointed in the new season. I want the old Juliette back. It wasn’t broke so why try to change it? The fans rallied behind the old show. They didn’t want a new one. We need more music and less of the kids.

  19. Paloma says:

    I’m loving Nashville again. It’s cut out all of the crap I hated (and FF’d past) and brought back the music and given the characters reasonable but still interesting lives. I like what they’ve done with Will, though sorry to see him break up with Kevin. But that’s real. I like the Maddie and Clay storyline. Love Deacon and Rayna. Juliette’s journey. Poor Daphne, though, really has nothing to do except come along and fix her sister’s songs from time to time. Give Daphne something to do please but nothing melodramatic.

    Anyway, great job this year. Looking forward to more.

  20. I am so glad you picked up this show. Loving the writing.

  21. Staci says:

    Excellent job on getting storylines back on track and interesting again! Thanks to CMT from me as well!

  22. Sarah says:

    I’m loving the revamped format a lot. I like it when new showrunners respect the history AND make it make sense! I want to see it stay focused on the three power couples, but was okay that Kevin might not have been Will ‘s soulmate. Will has a great heart–he never wanted to hurt Aubry, and he’s great fun when hanging out with Gunner & Avery, and it would be great to see what he’s been through turned into some great songs. Last relationship request is for Emily to get a life while becoming a closer friend to Juliette..

    I’d also love to see more real music incorporated into the stories like it was the first season, to see some unexpected pairings on stage, or some known country stars working with our songwriters and sliding in about out of the stories without it being a big deal. More mountain bluegrass, cajun, or even some latin country. It’s hard to wake down a Nashville street without hearing a few new things.

    But overall am happy as cowboy’s punch about it all

  23. Trinidad Froede says:

    Am so glad to watch Nashville, but don’t care for where the story lines are going. Always love Juliette and Rayna.

  24. sarah t says:

    The only thing I would change would be to add maybe 1 to 2 more original songs per episode. I still feel like songs are a little light compared to S1 but that also might be due to budgeting constraints. Overall though, much improved!

  25. Ally Oop says:

    I couldn’t agree more. I have been loving this season so much so far.

  26. Bree says:

    What a strange ‘verdict’ after all the negative comments about last episode, more specifically about the mansplainy overtone and Scarlet & Gunnar’s music video fiasco.

  27. CeCe says:

    I love this show so much!! I thank god that if I miss a show its on Hulu so I can get my fix. Thank you CMT for bringing it back and getting it back on track.

  28. E. D. Boddy says:

    What I don’t get is why they bury Rhiannon Giddens’s name in the closing blink-and-you-miss-it credits, instead of at the top of the show like other guest stars. Do they think she’s not a big enough name?

  29. Phil says:

    TVLine, this is probably too late to be read, but but next time you have an interview, can you ask them if the actors had to take reduced screen time in the new season? Or if it’s a writing choice. Maybe everyone has one or two less episodes in their contracts this season (or 11 – Connie), and this is how they’re doing it.
    So Will made that big decision to break up with Kevin and all we see is him… eating craft services at his roommates’ video shoot? Ooooohhh-kay. Weird narrative choice there.
    Daphne needs a plot line. Why couldn’t she meet a boy who is bipolar? Yes, way too young, but I like the idea of Maddie sitting at a desk and being made to do nothing for a few more episodes. Also, Maddie, you are literally sitting in a hospital – a parents’ worst nightmare. Text them back!
    Rayna is both more involved in plot lines and less this year – she showed up to support Gunnar and Scarlett, but did nothing about the big issues she saw. She hasn’t seen Juliette in four episodes?
    Not a mention of Layla yet – I get it, she’s on tour, or in Los Angeles, but “Layla’s album sales are going great!” would really help.
    I like the slower pace and the actual conversations that are happening, but they are repeating story points too often – Avery/Juliette is in rinse repeat, Scarlett/Gunnar are in fix/repeat and this episode didn’t advance anything but that, once again, Scarlett is weird.

  30. Silver says:

    I must be watching a different show or something, because in my opinion this season has just been plain awful! I’ll admit last season was a bit all over the place, but it was still enjoyable. This season is full of cliche plot points (really, a stalker storyline?) and characters acting incredibly out of character. There’s no excitement anymore, just dull, drab and predictable drama. The only good thing I can really say about this season is they made Maddie far less of a brat (still don’t like her, but it’s a tad more tolerable now.) At this point, I’m really considering giving up on the show and sticking to watching reruns.

    • kylielynne says:

      I feel exactly the same! I kept searching for comments and reviews that mirrored my feelings and I can’t find them – I’m starting to feel like maybe they’re airing a different version of the show in Vancouver! And I’m currently watching Season 1 with my sister for her first time, and yet it doesn’t feel like a “return” to the show’s roots – because even the show’s roots are far more exciting than what’s on the screen now!

  31. DEBRA says:


    • Alice T Shields says:

      I don’t like the new season. Very disappointed. All hunky Deacon gets to do is stand around in the kitchen; don’t like the Maddie story line: don’t care for the stalker story line; would like Deacon to get mad and knock the crap out of somebody. Not enough singing and where is the Bluebird?

  32. kylielynne says:

    I feel completely the opposite! I have absolutely loved the way this show has been going, but something about Season 5 feels… muted. Everything seems so much smaller. And somehow the accents have gotten SO much thicker. I get it, they’re from Nashville, but why the sudden change? And moments that in past seasons would have seen characters getting a lot more dramatic/emotional, instead are quiet and resolved so quickly it just feels inauthentic based on the character traits we’ve seen develop since the start. I don’t know if it’s because they lost the connection with ABC, but the venues/sets feel smaller, cheaper even, the characters are duller, it’s got a way thicker religious undertone which I get appeals to many, but feels like a huge jump, and even the songs are worse. What once felt high energy now feels like it’s aimed at a much tamer, bored audience. I am impressed with how they’re finally changing Maddie’s terrible behaviour, but I feel like the wrong moments are getting the wrong amount of screen time. Put them back on a stage, or in the blue bird, or at the beverly, or on the road! Stop with the watered down house scenes. #RantOver

    • Alice says:

      It does seem like a different show to me too.

      • Alice says:

        I had not finished. Would the real Deacon Claybourne please come back. I waited for Nashville to come back; was so happy it did but they’ve lost the characters especially Deacon. I hate the story line with Maddie ; why do they have to put her with someone who is older and bipolar ; the church story line is so unlike Juliette. I want her to yell and cuss at poor Avery. lol I just don’t get it. Am so disappointed. What happened to the Beverly and the Blue Bird and GOOD singing. They had to bring back Luke for a decent song? I thought he was gone from the show ; I like him but I’de rather hear Deacon sing rather than being Rayna stay at home dad. OK I’m done for now.

    • Jake says:

      Agree. It’s like they never leave their homes anymore.

  33. Jake says:

    Seriously I have to disagree. I’m a big fan but this year is BORING! And Maddie! Write her OUT ALREADY!! Nobody cares about her and her teen problems. If I wanted to watch teen drama I’d watch the CW. There is just something missing this year and as I watch I find myself wishing the episodes would end already.
    Up to the point with Gunnar and Scarlett- the back and forth and maybe maybe not…. MEH

  34. Kathryn cole says:

    I am really disappointed in the new season. It seems really flat. None of the characters appear connected in the way they were on season 3 &4. I loved Luke in season 4 and was really sorry he left. Layla was also interesting. More Maddy is not a good idea. Juliette is just plain boring as are Deacon and Rayna. Bring back the others, make it busy again.

    • Alice says:

      So is Connie Britton really leaving the show. It seems like it is likely after that car wreck at the end of last week’s show. She has denied it but maybe she didn’t want to ruin the story. Still wanting more music ; more of a normal acting Deacon and Gunner. Deacon should have been the one to rescue her from the stalker. The little bit of music this week that boyfriend of Maddy’s…give me a break. He needs to go and bring back the real Deacon and his band and a normal Scarlett and Gunner and some singing from Juliette. The storyline on Maddy’s little sister was disgusting. Losing my interest fast and I loved loved loved the original Nashville. It’s way way too different from the real Nashville.

  35. Paul McQueen says:

    no Rayna, I.m done

    • Alice says:

      I think the show has been better. The last two after Rayna death has had better writing, great acting from Charles Esten, a little more singing . Loved this week’s show how the whole cast came together to finish rayna album. Looking forward to see where all the stories go in the next part of season 5. Shocker from Scarlett at the end of Thurday’s show.

  36. Paula says:

    Watched the last 5 episodes of Nashville all at one time and it was the most emotional and best written serious of episodes dealing with such a tragic and sad topic. Both my husband and I were in tears as the cast dealt with such a serious & sensitive subject. Bravo to the writers in the way they handled this situation. As a fan Rayna is definitely going to be missed but the talent of the other actors I believe can continue to make this my favorite sitcom. I’m so glad it was saved on CMT and cudos to the great writers.

  37. Kelly says:

    I’m sorry. You can’t remove THE main character of this show and think it’s going to survive. I LOVED this show. I was hooked. Rayna James was the backbone of the entire plot. Her relationship with Deacon and her daughters were the basis. There is nothing now to keep me watching. You can’t change the character base and the entire story line after 5 seasons of investment and keep my interest. Personally, I’m done. I don’t care who Scarletts baby daddy is and what happens from here. Epic fail CMT. You had a great revival story, but now you tanked it. I won’t be watching any further. I am content with the Season 5 mid season ending.

  38. Rikki says:

    I think CMT is doing a great job with Nashville’s storyline, however, the show is starting to have a soap opera feel. The lighting is so dark that it has turned the upbeat, light-hearted show that I loved to a depressing drama. Also, you would have thought that CMT would make the show more about the music. It is disappointing.

    • Alice says:

      I actually like Nashville without Rayna better. I like the new story lines with Deacon and the kids and Scarlett and Gunner. I am glad the boyfriend for Mattie is gone and that the Bluebird Cafe is actually back in the picture. I am anxiously waiting for Deacon to sing. Juliette is the same Hateful pitiful thing with poor Avery doing everything he can to make her happy. More music please.Four stars.