In The Wayfaring Stranger We Check in with Our Four Leading Ladies
Nashville is back! And it remembers it’s a show about country music and the women who produce it! This episode was everything I was hoping for from the new showrunners. We spent a long time with Juliette and Rayna, giving them each time to figure where they are in their lives and where they want to go next. They had an amazing heart to heart talk together, the kind of scene I’ve always wished the show would give them more of. The scenes were allowed to breathe, with long pauses for reaction shots. Dialogue is obviously important, but body language can be just as important to character and relationship development. With less racing from scene to scene and fewer characters to service, the episode allowed us to sit back and watch people cuddle, or have awkward pauses in conversation.
Rayna’s having yet another mid-life crisis, and yet another younger man shows up to guide her through it. Seriously, kudos to the show for never giving Rayna an admirer who’s even equal in age to Connie Britton, never mind older. But maybe she could turn to her sister, or someone other than a lover or potential lover, during these moments sometimes? Isn’t she friends with any of her female contemporaries who are going through the same things? Does it always have to be a new man?
Juliette is the sole surviver of her plane crash, and is sung to by an angel while they wait for the first responders. Her injuries leave her in a wheel chair for the next few months, at least. She struggles with surviver’s guilt, and how to move on in her relationship with Avery. Avery, as always, is there for her. They return to the crash site to discover that the angel was actually a church choir singer. Juliette appears to find some peace listening to her sing in the church. If I know Juliette, this is a temporary situation. She’s not bult for peace or sitting still for long, but she is a fighter. It’s so good to have Juliette back as a main character again, and see her having scenes with Avery. My biggest wish for the show is to focus on their relationship again.
Maddie is back at home, trying to get along with the family, and writing songs. When she gets stuck on one, Daphne finishes it, even though Maddie didn’t want her to. I’m not sure what the show is going for here. It’s completely normal and acceptable for a kid Maddie’s age to be trying to form her own identity separate from the family’s, and Daphne’s. It’s not selfish of her to want Daphne to wait to be asked before she helps, or to feel suffocated by only being allowed to be creative within the confines of the girls’ singing duo. Daphne’s feelings are normal and understandable, too. It’s just one of those tough parts of growing up. But the show only told us that Maddie was being a brat about it. Hopefully the show will continue to let Maddie be a separate person without continuing to force her into the rebellious teenager role. Both girls can have their creative projects together and apart, just like the adult characters. It feels like Maddie is being groomed to take over as third full lead after Connie Britton leaves later in the season. This whole episode was spent reeling her back in from the mistakes of last season, so her plot direction after this is still a mystery.
We didn’t spend much time with Scarlett this episode. She and Gunnar appear to be okay, and their careers are in limbo for the moment after Autumn kicked them off her tour. This episode is meant to be the first half of a two part premiere, so we’ll likely see more of Scarlett and Gunnar, and Will (and hopefully Kevin) in the second half on January 5th.
The music from the episode was blended nicely with its themes. Each of the three focus characters had a song that was paired with her story, and that was reprised throughout the episode, weaving the songs in and out of the story. Rayna got the title song, the folk song The Wayfaring Stranger, a song which had resonated with her and inspired her since childhood. She became a singer because of Bill Monroe’s version, which she watches on Youtube during the episode. Juliette’s song was the Luther Barnes gospel song The Other Shore. The song is sung a capella to her by the bystander who finds her after the plane crash, played by Gabrielle Gardener, who has a beautiful voice. Maddie writes her song throughout the episode. It’s eventually finished by Daphne, and they sing it together. I believe the song is an original. If anyone else has identified it, let me know!
The new season is off to a good start. The showrunners promised renewed focus on the characters and music, and this episode, at least, delivered.