After so many seasons of Nashville, Rayna and Deacon’s wedding was inevitable. The two have been through addiction, paternity mysteries, car crashes, comas, cancer, attempted (by other people) infidelities. Any other will-they/won’t-theys would just be ridiculous at this point.

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Of course, a drama-free wedding would be a boring way to fill an hour (just like other people’s weddings!), so for Nashville’s mid-season premiere, the show has to pull in some conflict. Which thankfully means the return of Tandy! Who unfortunately only fuels the flames of petulant teen and tween Maddie and Daphne. Actually, with all these girls have been through (including an incarcerated father, perhaps never to be seen again), it makes sense that Daphne would feel a bit put out over Maddie’s glee that her mom and dad are finally getting hitched. (As Rayna herself says: “About damn time.”) Still, the harmonies of the two Stella sisters continue to deliver the prettiest songs on this show, with “All We Ever Wanted” the perfect heartfelt rehearsal dinner number.

It also makes sense that Tandy wouldn’t necessarily be over all the years of pain Deacon caused her sister, or that a sober Deacon would not necessarily be a perfect one. Connie Britton as Rayna James continues to be this show’s absolute rock: never doubting Deacon, fully calling him out when he feels like he doesn’t deserve happiness, getting both girls on board with this major life change with a single pep talk. It would be annoying if she wasn’t so awesome.

Our Nashville supporting players continue to swirl around their own romances and conflicts. The three former member of The Exes (can’t we get Avery back into the band again?) attempt to help each other dodge painful party conversations and/or facilitate hookups for their friends. Scarlett and Gunnar fixing each other up is about as pointless as Deacon and Rayna doing so, but one end game at a time, I guess. Poor Avery is bombarded with questions about Juliette (I have similar questions, although TV Line reports that Hayden Panettiere will return in episode 14, after battling post-partum depression, just like her character). Frankly, without Juliette, the show loses a bit of steam. While Jonathan Jackson should be credited for turning around one of the most heinous characters on television into one of the most compelling, he always sparks more when she’s around. As it is, he and his roommates briefly cross paths, Will takes his guitar case and huffs out after being blackballed by Wade Cole, and god only knows what poor Emily is getting out of schlepping Cadence everywhere and babysitting her almost constantly. Rayna’s Highway 65 success is tossed a line at the beginning of the episode, leading to a platinum single even though Marcus, fortunately, has hit the road. So about the only intriguing plot development is that the now bizarrely twisted Layla (must have been that Jem hologram) wants Avery to produce her album, after Colt spills the truth about what happened the night Jeff Fordham (another sorely missed character) died. Colt, hilariously, seems to have lost some appeal for Maddie as he’s now mostly concerned with chores and curfew.

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But this all seem pretty inconsequential compared to the main event. If only the ABC promo monkeys hadn’t spoiled it for us that this wedding was going on no matter what, so that we know Deacon’s ride to the cemetery is just a detour, not a departure. But we’ve been waiting on these two for so long, we’ll take it. Along with the mostly drama-free nuptials and Deacon realizing that yes, he does deserve happiness with Rayna, and the chance to see more of these two as an actual couple dealing with their lives, family, and careers, and not just star-crossed lovers who moon at each other from the opposite sides of the stage. Connie Britton has a gift in the way she makes her TV relationships seem not only real, but something all of us should emulate. Deacon and Rayna, and the love they incorporate to give to their daughters, is that kind of relationship, which many shows try to draft, but few pull off. Whatever else Nashville has given us, it features one amazing fictional couple.

But, this is Nashville, so there’s even more: The wedding song that Deacon gives to Rayna at the end. Maybe you didn’t choke up when Deacon sang “From Here On Out” to Rayna on his acoustic, but then you may be made of bronze, and I am not. The music has always been Nashville’s easy shortcut to deeper emotions, something no other show offers (now give or take a Crazy Ex-Girlfriend), and the wedding songs here certainly delivered. (So did the show’s nod to its own history with the “When The Right One Comes Along” reprise at the ceremony.)

Now that that’s settled, we can look forward to whatever else Nashville wants to throw at us: The eventual melding of Scarlett and Gunnar, Juliette’s return, and Avery producing Layla’s new record, although if the show creates a match between those two, there’s no song in the world that could keep me watching. But, I’ll always still buy the tracks the next day on iTunes.

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Stray observations

  • Celebrity country-music star cameos: Fun or awkward? Or possibly both?
  • Clare Bowen (Scarlett)’s brother, Timothy James Bowen, wrote “From Here On Out” with Stephanie Lambring and Andy Albert.
  • This was just a Nashville check-in for this long-awaited momentous fictional occasion. But I still watch this show every week, so it’s possible that I will check in again soon.

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