One episode was provided prior to broadcast.
Not exactly the crown jewel of ABC’s line-up since the invention of TGIT and the Shondaland whirlwind that began a few seasons into Scandal‘s run, Nashville still feels rightfully different from the network’s other dramas, and that’s a good thing. The show isn’t nearly as fast-paced as How To Get Away With Murder, or as fiendishly intricate as the now-defunct Revenge, but it nearly wins for simply not being those things. The characters click, the dramas sizzle, and the music swells and croons, creating a show that – four seasons in – still feels as sincere and charming as the myriad amounts of southern drawl coming out of its characters’ mouths.
The season 4 premiere picks up a month after last year’s everyone-knows-Deacon-isn’t-dead cliffhanger that actually manages to generate a few minutes’ worth of suspense before providing viewers with a solid answer to the obvious question. Unfortunately, Deacon’s sister Beverly (Dana Wheeler-Nicholson) isn’t doing so well after agreeing to subject herself to surgery in order to help Deacon (Charles Esten) overcome his cancer scare.
The first episode of the season also picks up the pieces with Juliette off on a jet-setting tour of Hollywood after the big premiere of her movie coincides with the release of her new album on Wheelin’ Dealin’ Records, owned by Rayna’s former fiance Luke (Will Chase). Luke isn’t paying much attention to Juliette, though, and neither is Jeff (Oliver Hudson) or Layla (Aubrey Peeples), both along for the ride on her new tour. As Rayna (Connie Britton) decides to once-and-for-all wash her hands clean of Juliette’s drama, a last-minute phone call courtesy of the diva from the bottom of a hotel bathroom floor threatens to change her mind yet again.
Nashville still revels in the will-they-or-won’t-they aspect of nearly all of its plots, from Juliette and Rayna (are they friends or not?) to Scarlett and Gunnar (does she love him or not?) and, thankfully, it’s yet to feel long in the tooth even four seasons in. Gunnar (Sam Palladio) and Scarlett (Clare Bowen) may be the first ones to cross that threshold if their issues aren’t repaired soon, however. It doesn’t help that Scarlett’s ultimate decision far too easily mirrors Rayna’s big arc earlier last year in choosing between the stable choice (here, Dr. Caleb, played by Nick Jandl) and the everyone-wants-you-to-pick-him choice (Gunnar, duh). We all know where this is heading, but, for now at least, it’s still fun to watch the two awkwardly dance around the issue not only among friends at home, but in collaborating on songs at work.