NashvilleSeason 5, Episode 1Air Date: 1/5/17Connie Britton
Credit: Mark Levine/CMT

You know it’s a dreary day in Nashville when Deacon Claybourne (Charles Esten) is the brightest beacon of light in an episode. That’s more or less the situation when we rejoin our friends in the country music capital over at their new CMT home.

The season 5 premiere picks up where we left off: Having barely survived a plane crash, Juliette Barnes (Hayden Panettiere) — is angry (what’s new), but she’s also scared and helpless, which makes her attempt to deal with being the sole survivor of a devastating accident all the more realistic. Here’s hoping the brush with death sets Juliette on a positive, life-affirming course instead of fueling her regression into the selfish and destructive monster we’ve seen rear its head in previous seasons.

Meanwhile, the normally unflappable Rayna Jaymes (Connie Britton) is facing an existential crisis of her own. Feeling overwhelmed in the face of a flagging record label, mothering the bitingly bratty Maddie (Lennon Stella), and dealing with the familiar problem of staying relevant in a changing industry, the country superstar finds she needs a moment to pause and reflect on her situation. Toward the end of the premiere, Rayna opts to return from a trip to the West Coast by car rather than airplane. Just like the long-distance cross-country drive gives Rayna time to process her inner turmoil, the slower pace of the season premiere gives the audience the opportunity to soak in, and therefore believe, each of the characters’ despair.

The shift to CMT — and the subsequent easing up on the show’s former breakneck pace — may be the best thing about the new season. Like any good country song, the episode is more about developing the narrative and less about the cheap thrills. It’s refreshing to see the show settle into a new rhythm where necessary attention is given to each (potentially smaller) storyline. Rather than cramming in multiple subplots, the main story arcs are given time to breathe and, in turn, we have more time to invest and care about the outcome. On the downside, that probably means more time to explore Maddie’s teenage angst as the season progresses. But with all those emotions flying around, there’s plenty to fuel the next album.

Tune in for the cliffhanger resolution; stay for the sweet tunes.

Episode Recaps

Legendary music icon Rayna Jaymes struggles to maintain her place in the spotlight while dealing with the ambitious rising pop vixen Juliette Barnes.
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