Nashville, Season 1

Has Nashville Become A Dream Ballet? 
Talking television.
March 6 2013 1:30 PM

Nashville, Season 1

VIEW ALL ENTRIES

The water is wide.

gunnar 2-27
Sam Palladio as Gunnar on Nashville

ABC

Death crept into Nashville last week. It slid under a white sheet and lay waiting at the morgue for Gunnar to find it, after he and Scarlett wowed a star-packed audience at Deacon’s surprise party with a ballad called, appropriately, “I Will Fall.”

There was death and also water. “ I see the water washing over you,” sang Juliette in her enormous, echoey new house. “We are water, we flow and flow.” Donate, Jolene’s addiction counselor, listened from the doorway—and then he asked the young artist why she didn’t seem invested in helping her mother get “clean.” Water became something vast, capable of covering, dissolving—and purifying. In their last interaction before Jason was murdered, Gunnar and his brother stood on a bridge, and Gunnar threw his brother’s gun into the Cumberland River.

“Pour me something stronger than me,” Rayna begged Deacon at the Bluebird, in a song. (We know the song is special because we saw Rayna composing it at the piano, in a moment of emotional extremity, and because she asked Watty White over to hear it when she finished.) Things stronger than Rayna in that scene included her love for Deacon and her devastation at the public unraveling of her marriage. But in the context of the show in general, the stronger something could just as easily have been alcohol, which drags Jolene under after weeks of sobriety, or the helpless sense of filial responsibility that prompts Juliette to desert a soiree she spent the episode planning, or the death waiting for Gunnar under the white sheet.

Advertisement

Indeed, much of what the Nashville universe pours out for its characters seems stronger than they are. I wouldn’t describe Rayna, Juliette, Gunnar et al. as weak, but the show has a way of flooding them with experiences that leave them lost and overwhelmed. The AV Club describes Nashville as a “show where nothing happens,” but this isn’t exactly right: Enormously significant things happen to the characters all the time—the characters just don’t wield a lot of agency. They almost seem to spend the series trapped in one of the dream ballet sequences from musical theater, reliving and reflecting on and elaborating what has come before, wondering what’s next.

What is next for Nashville? We don’t even know when the season will end, let alone how. But the show’s mood is undergoing a sea change, from frothy and bright to lyrical, forlorn and elemental. The water is wide. We cannot get o’er.

Katy Waldman is a Slate staff writer. 

TODAY IN SLATE

Politics

Smash and Grab

Will competitive Senate contests in Kansas and South Dakota lead to more late-breaking races in future elections?

Stop Panicking. America Is Now in Very Good Shape to Respond to the Ebola Crisis.

The 2014 Kansas City Royals Show the Value of Building a Mediocre Baseball Team

The GOP Won’t Win Any Black Votes With Its New “Willie Horton” Ad

Sleater-Kinney Was Once America’s Best Rock Band

Can it be again?

Technocracy

Forget Oculus Rift

This $25 cardboard box turns your phone into an incredibly fun virtual reality experience.

One of Putin’s Favorite Oligarchs Wants to Start an Orthodox Christian Fox News

These Companies in Japan Are More Than 1,000 Years Old

Trending News Channel
Oct. 20 2014 6:17 PM Watch Flashes of Lightning Created in a Lab  
  News & Politics
Politics
Oct. 20 2014 8:14 PM You Should Be Optimistic About Ebola Don’t panic. Here are all the signs that the U.S. is containing the disease.
  Business
Moneybox
Oct. 20 2014 7:23 PM Chipotle’s Magical Burrito Empire Keeps Growing, Might Be Slowing
  Life
Outward
Oct. 20 2014 3:16 PM The Catholic Church Is Changing, and Celibate Gays Are Leading the Way
  Double X
The XX Factor
Oct. 20 2014 6:17 PM I Am 25. I Don't Work at Facebook. My Doctors Want Me to Freeze My Eggs.
  Slate Plus
Tv Club
Oct. 20 2014 7:15 AM The Slate Doctor Who Podcast: Episode 9 A spoiler-filled discussion of "Flatline."
  Arts
Brow Beat
Oct. 20 2014 9:13 PM The Smart, Talented, and Utterly Hilarious Leslie Jones Is SNL’s Newest Cast Member
  Technology
Technocracy
Oct. 20 2014 11:36 PM Forget Oculus Rift This $25 cardboard box turns your phone into an incredibly fun virtual reality experience.
  Health & Science
Medical Examiner
Oct. 20 2014 11:46 AM Is Anybody Watching My Do-Gooding? The difference between being a hero and being an altruist.
  Sports
Sports Nut
Oct. 20 2014 5:09 PM Keepaway, on Three. Ready—Break! On his record-breaking touchdown pass, Peyton Manning couldn’t even leave the celebration to chance.