Nashville 3×21 “Is The Better Part Over” Recap

Spoilers Ahead

For the second to last episode, “Is The Better Part Over,” set up everything for the finale in a rather promising way. 

Episode Summary: When word gets out about Deacon’s cancer, he begins to feel like a ghost, and Rayna’s strength crumbles after she loses all the hope she’s built up. Scarlett and Gunnar make a career-altering decision for The Exes. Jeff continues to be the worst manager/friend/boyfriend (whatever he is) around. A blast from Will’s past comes in the way of his and Kevin’s relationship all while the media catches them cozying it up on vacation. Avery and Emily finally begin to see Juliette’s suffering postpartum, but an intervention doesn’t go as any of them had hoped.

Review | Analysis:  This week’s episode of Nashville did a great job of playing with my emotions and nothing says good television like evoking real emotions for viewers. However, as gripping as it was, it wasn’t a favorite, with the exception of a few great scenes, the rest felt more like fillers. And while it’s entirely understandable considering the finale’s next week, as a fan who’s not looking forward to a hiatus, I wish we were given more. That said, this review will be a bit shorter than most.

It feels as though the writing’s trying desperately hard to make me hate Jeff and it’s working. And if that’s not what’s being done, then woah. I’m disgusted and that’s a feeling I don’t feel often. Plainly, simply the emotional and verbal abuse needs to be stopped. At any point during situations like this, I’d try to find something hopeful to keep me invested in the storyline, but when it comes to Jeff and Layla, there’s nothing. He’s scum and she deserves better. And if there’s something I’m most bothered by it’s the ridiculous contract he made her sign. Has someone been watching The Little Mermaid? Seriously dude, run away and play with some squirrels. You’re unsuccessful because you’re a self-seeking abusive little ______. Fill in the blanks, kids I’m too frustrated to even bother with him. I’m going to need Layla to punch him in the face and find another person to represent her – Jeff’s not growing as a character any time soon and it seems the only way he’ll do so is if he loses everything. And that’s all my sanity allows me to say about him because if I keep going, I’ll want to claw my own eyes out and I’m not okay with that.

I’m all for Will Lexington finally hearing the words I love you from his father, but I’m not interested in seeing him try to be someone else. Listen to your boyfriend, stud – he’s right. And when it comes to Will being honest about his sexuality, I’m sincerely hoping it’s not because of the media’s leaked pictures. It should be at a time when he’s ready to do so. Also, Luke seemed a bit shocked, but I had figured that he’d at least maybe suspected it, and if there’s one thing I’d love to see from this storyline, it’s Luke supporting Will as the fatherly figure he’d always wished for. Luke’s a wise and compassionate man, we’ve seen him give so much when he wants to, and I’m really looking forward to him approaching this situation with Will in a way that’ll make him feel safe, welcomed, and adored.

What is even happening with Teddy? I mean honestly, does anyone actually pay attention to his storylines unless it’s involving his girls, I automatically either zone out or laugh at the ridiculousness of his actions. I mean really dude, get your shit (language!) together and stop doing illegal stuff. As I’ve been saying since the season resumed from its hiatus, unless Teddy’s actually punished for the fraudulent activity he’s continuously taking part in, he’s not going to grow as a character.

I almost wish the show didn’t make it so incredibly easy for me to root for Gunnar and Scarlett, but really how am I supposed to stop when the camera pans to them during an emotional song sung by the real King and Queen of Country – Deacon and Rayna? It’s inevitable. However, I’m such a fan of Caleb and how happy he makes Scarlett so even though I’m very much over this triangle, for the first time ever it actually doesn’t bother me. That said, I’m not too fond of Kiley and Gunnar as a couple – as friends, heck yes give me a solid friendship raising a child together! I’m here for that storyline, but as more than just friends, the two lack a great deal of (romantic) chemistry. Serious question: will Clare Bowen and Sam Palladio ever stop being such incredible scene partners? Their duets floor me and I’m so excited The Exes have signed with Highway 65.

And finally, although it’s not in the way I had hoped, I’m thankful the writers have finally addressed the fact that Juliette’s suffering from Postpartum Depression. I honestly cannot remember a single time I’ve seen such an important issue addressed on television, and the show’s taking a great risk. Diva Juliette is so unpleasant and we’ve come so far with her character that I don’t want to see her resorting to her old ways in this process. Her dedication to music is astounding, but her behavior’s far from just. However, here’s where I don’t have much to add because what’s bound to occur next week will undoubtedly shatter my heart in ways I’ve not asked for. When she’s finally confronted, she naturally denies it. And I’m fascinated to see where writers take this storyline because it needs to be seen more often on television. The only thing I’m hoping for is that the writing actually makes viewers sympathize with Juliette. I almost feel I speak on behalf of everyone when I say it’s nowhere near easy to care for Diva Juliette. In order to really understand what’s going on with her, we need to see her fall apart. We need to see her heart in the midst of all this conundrum. I’m refraining from judgment because I feel what’s in store for the finale will showcase the importance of PPD more than tonight’s episode. It’s most certainly a promising storyline if done right. And it’s going to require a great amount of discussion, along with some great performances by both Jackson and Panettiere.

So, how many times do you ugly cry because of Deacon and Rayna? While I’ve lost track at this point, each time I feel the actors can’t astound me any more than they already do, we get a scene as distressing as this week’s and I’m resorted into a sobbing mess drowning in my own tears forced to (re)watch interviews of Hemsworth and Evans laughing to make myself feel better. Also, write run-on sentences because my emotions are all over the place.

You know a scene’s significantly evocative when it’s difficult to re-watch because it’s taken me an hour just to get through Deacon and Rayna’s breakdown. Charles Esten and Connie Britton delivered a full range of emotions – a heartbreakingly raw form of helplessness necessary to expose the fears both characters are trying desperately to conceal. Britton completely and utterly floored me with the childlike vulnerability she delivered – a form of sadness we’ve yet to see her give into because no threat has been as atrocious as the idea of losing her other half. You don’t just hear the despair as she attempts to speak while sobbing, you see in it her expressiveness which Esten plays off of with an even more terrorizing cry of misery.

And that’s what makes the scene so discomforting – while Deacon’s trying greatly to console her, he’s falling apart and thereby reminding viewers that these characters are as real as it gets. They can only be strong for so long before the daunting uncertainties creep up on them forcing them to give in to all the pain. Deacon and Rayna have gone through too much heartache in their lives, but neither of them could ever imagine the perfect future without the other. And that’s what makes this moment so gut-wrenching – they’re forced into a hopeless situation where neither of them knows how to be strong. They finally have it all, and they’re at the healthiest they’ve ever been, but tomorrow’s not promised.

And this heartrending emotional moment made their performance at the Bluebird that much more beautiful. Britton and Esten have remarkable chemistry, thereby the exquisite vulnerability and soul they bring to their duets effortlessly make divine music. It was enchanting to watch them perform such a gorgeous song that essentially spoke on behalf of what’s happening with them – whatever the future holds, they’re in it together.

Is anyone honestly surprised at Beverly’s choice to finally donate her liver? Although the look she gave Rayna was anything but kind and while I’m not sure what she’s planning, it’s definitely not going to make Rayna’s life any easier.

What are your thoughts on this week’s episode?

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