Some TV shows are just TV shows. Nashville is not one of them. For 4 years we’ve taken this story to our hearts because it’s special, because the people who make this show believe in it and in the message it puts out there.
We don’t mean any disrespect with this letter; it comes from a place of love only. Nor do we intend it to undermine any progression of storylines following what has happened on CMT’s outing of Nashville. We are, however, devastated, to lose Rayna Jaymes in the way we did last week. And we wish now to ask the creators of this show for an alternative (and optional) ending that can give us closure, or, hopefully, enable us to find enough peace to keep watching.
We understand that Connie wanted to leave the show, and that everyone else is doing the best they can under the circumstances. We love them all, Connie and everyone still working hard on the continuing story. What is so jarring is the way we lost Rayna – or that we had to at all at the hands of death.
Rayna’s voice was the first on the show, that of moral and reason and truth. We’ve lived this journey through her eyes; Deacon’s demons, his struggle to overcome them, Juliette’s cyclic nightmare born of her past trauma, Rayna’s wish to help them propel themselves to a better place. And Rayna’s own pain – her abusive past, her place in the world as a woman with a career and family and tumultuous love, her fight to keep her heart open and stay true while battling the things and people that have threatened to pull her down.
Her story has always been one of hope. You can overcome your past, be your authentic self and strive to do good, even when you have to dig deep. You can love truly even when it hurts, and achieve what you dream of. To have her die as a result of inescapable trauma feels so jarring to the character we have cheered for and learned from, this strong woman who is so important – and rare – in pop culture. In a world driven by men, she is a female voice that rises above judgement and limitations others try to impose. She has inspired us to become better versions of ourselves, but that inspiration lasts only so long as the story is true to itself. To lose Rayna at the hands of men (her father, the stalker, the truck driver) takes all she’s taught us and sets light to it; a story of such hope has become its opposite. If Rayna of all people can’t escape the trauma heaped on her from birth, how can anyone? Are we all fated to succumb to the mistakes and inflictions of others? Are we to believe she was doomed all along? Are we to believe we all are?
And then there is the ballad of Rayna and Deacon. Such a beautiful, angst-filled story of real love, that no matter how hard has always been fuelled by hope. To have them fight to get to a place they could hold each other’s hearts in their hands, finally, is now such a heartbreaking testament to time lost. And it isn’t that Nashville has shied away from tragedy – it has always been truthful in its reflection of co-existing pain and beauty. But Rayna’s death and the misdirection that preluded it has come with a level of brutality that she didn’t deserve, and that has blindsided fans who have believed in her triumph and determination. Art for so many is an escapism from the sometimes unbearable suffering of real life – since last week’s episode we have been flooded with messages from people saying they have lost their happy place, that it’s become the antithesis of escapism and is instead now agony itself, defeating its own object in how it has taken its message and turned it on its head. Rayna’s loved ones may now go on to deal with their grief thanks to her empowerment throughout their lives, but the inspiration she’s instilled in us has caved in on itself regardless of what comes next, with the notion that trauma will kill you – and your hopes, dreams and loves – regardless of what you do.
Of course the show must go on, and we respect everyone who is making the best of a bad situation to try to make that happen. We would love to be able to support the story that follows, but the pain is so great in losing Rayna that it would be difficult to continue without an alternate and less tragic resolution to set our hearts at rest. As such, several fan accounts have joined forces to represent the voices of many fans with this letter.
The fans of this show are deeply invested – we always have been. The relationship is a unique one; we’ve fought against cancellation on numerous occasions, and when ABC pulled the plug we refused to let it be so. You could say we learned from Rayna and co. to never give up on something we believe in. There is an incredible legacy of a story here that we wish to enjoy for years to come, and for newcomers to discover in syndication etc. and love just as we have. But after last week our hearts are broken, and the story is tainted – to cherish what came before is to cherish the story of a brave woman overcoming the challenges of a male-dominated world to prevail over her difficulties, sexism and ageism, only to ultimately be claimed as a victim.
We’ve seen miracles happen with this show, and we are so grateful to have been a part of this world thanks to everyone who has brought it to life and continues to do so. We ask you, with all our hearts, for one more miracle – to give us an alternative ending, one where Rayna lives and can as such live on for us and continue to inspire us; one that will give us some peace to end this chapter of the story with. Some will undoubtedly end the journey here; some may be able to continue to watch and show support to this wonderful cast and crew rather than having to turn away because they are so traumatised.
Of course we wouldn’t ask anyone to complicate this second chapter of the show – we would love an alternative ending to live online (perhaps the CMT website as downloadable content – we would all be more than happy to pay for peace!) or on a season 5 dvd release, as is the case with many shows and as was so with Juliette’s plane crash. The shooting of an alternative outcome didn’t jeopardise the story to come, it acted as a possibly-needed resolution for fans who would want to think of these beloved characters living on happily. We wish the same for Rayna and those who love her. An ending to a story frames its legacy; the story lives on forever in those who love it – it LIVES in the very first place because of an unspoken agreement between creators and fans. We bring it to life and treasure it together.
This season was laid out from the start as a gift to fans. Real life situations have meant a very unfortunate outcome, which we absolutely respect in its difficulty, but the biggest gift we could wish for now would be another version of this ending. Some TV shows are just TV shows. This one isn’t. And we dare to hope for one last miracle. #thesongisntfinished