'The Wayfaring Stranger' opens with a plane crash. That's rather symbolic, since that's where the previous creative team left us - with a plane crash. The new minds of the show don't try to pretend that all the ugly things never happened - in fact, they commit to addressing those ugly things with far greater honesty than we've been used to - but at the same time, this episode is all about moving away from that.
I doubt most people thought we'd get here, but here we are. In one episode, Nashville establishes itself as the best music-centric drama on television.
After the opening scenes with Rayna travelling the countryside in a fancy retro car and Juliette's plane going down, the show settles into all the things it should've been about in the first place.
Unlike most of the fare through seasons 2 through 4, this episode is entirely steeped in music. In fact, it's a rare minute that doesn't feature some singing. The theme of the "wayfaring stranger" is tying up the entire storyline, and it's perfectly chosen. Rayna and Juliette are both the wayfaring stranger, with dark clouds over them on a way rough and steep. The show is the wayfaring stranger; someone who became a stranger to us over the series' run, travelling to a bright land with no sickness.
The show goes about systematically both addressing the issues and effecting the repair of the stories destroyed by the show's past missteps. Rayna and Deacon, Daphne and Maddie, Juliette and Avery, Scarlett and Gunnar. It doesn't steer away from all the pain of previous installments, instead choosing to work through it. It does this through scenes where they actually put the main characters of the cast in the same room and give them a chance to work together, revitalizing the stellar personal relationships which were the only reason so many of us stuck with the show.
The scenes with Rayna and Juliette and with Deacon, Scarlett, Gunnar, Maddie and Daphne are all a joy to watch and come across as far more natural and meaningful than the synthetic drama we've been fed for three years. It's simple. Nobody falls out of character. These people's hopes, worries and fears are all eminently relatable. There's no fuss about it. It works.
For lack of a better word, the final scene with Connie Britton and Garth Shaw is perfect. It's meant to give hope. It's a statement telling us Nashville is done with the bullshit.
This is a short review. It doesn't need to be any longer. This isn't an installment sprawling out in all directions, confused about what it is. It is a promise.
Traveling through this world alone
And there's no sickness, toil or danger
In that bright land to which I go'