Samantha Highfill
August 10, 2017 AT 10:00 PM EDT

Spoiler alert: This post contains plot from the season 5 finale of Nashville.

Nashville ended its fifth season on a high point… for some characters. Not only did Zach and Deacon seem to settle their Highway 65 feud, but Juliette finally redeemed herself, and Deacon left things in a great place with his daughters. However, Scarlett, Gunnar, and Will all found themselves newly single, and then there’s whatever happened with Alyssa and Deacon.

EW spoke with showrunner Marshall Herskovitz about the biggest moments from the finale.

Jessie and Deacon

When asked about that hug, and generally speaking to the evolution of Deacon and Jessie’s relationship, Herskovitz says, “There was a lot of discussion among the writers and even the actors about what direction to go with [the relationship], and I think Callie Khouri was the one who really articulated it best. She said, ‘These are two people who are in such incredible pain individually that there’s no way either of them could be in a relationship at this moment.’ Once she articulated that, it helped us understand how they could become friends.”

From there, Herskovitz says he’s enjoyed watching as the relationship has grown on both fans and actors alike. “I don’t think anybody knew what to think in the beginning, and watching Twitter as each episode goes by, watching people warm up to this woman as they begin to trust her and see what she’s contending with in her own life, it’s been quite a happy experience for all of us.”

Jake Niles Getter/CMT

Juliette’s redemption

After a season of struggle and a few questionable choices, it was Juliette who came up with the master plan to save Highway 65 by working with Mackenzie Rhodes on a story. In the end, she sacrificed her own image to save the label, giving Mackenzie the details on how she stole Maddie’s song. As Herskovitz puts it, “We want to believe in the possibility of growth in a person.” And considering how much Juliette has been through this year, from the plane crash to a failed album, he says, “We want to feel that something came of all that. I feel that she earned that moment — the whole season, maybe all five seasons, led her to earn that moment of owning what she’d done.”

The last of Alyssa?

After taking the stage last week, Alyssa’s final scene involved an unexpected kiss with none other than Deacon. And yes, he was just as surprised as the fans. But according to Herskovitz, that kiss scene was first written a bit differently. “It was originally designed to be much more of a sense that she had felt that there was a sexual tension between them from the beginning, but we didn’t end up playing that. So it ended up being something much better, to me, which was this revelation of her character. That speech she gives, which I just adore, where she says, ‘I just see people’s pain too much, it’s just exhausting.’ It made me just love her. So I think it ended up being this incredibly warm, sweet moment.”

When it comes to Rachel Bilson’s future on the show, the official word is that her character’s story has concluded for now, though — as they say — it’s always possible.

Season 6

So, what’s next? “A couple of new characters,” says Herskovitz, who took over as co-showrunner alongside Ed Zwick in season 5, and plenty of new stories.

“What’s amazing is it was much easier to come up with stories for next season than it was for this season,” he says. “We had to make a pivot in this season, and we had to find a different way to tell stories about these characters, and once we established that, we opened up all these new pathways. So many of these people are going to be in different circumstances [in season 6]. Gunnar and Scarlett — what’s that going to be like? What’s Will’s life going to be like? What’s going to happen with Deacon and Jessie, if anything? There’s so many questions going into next year. Questions lead to story, and we’ve got too much story already. We’re actually quite excited about what’s coming up for next year.”

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