After the Season 1 finale-ending car crash on “Nashville,” we knew that the Season 2 finale was going to be more emotionally shocking than life-or-death situation shocking. But that still didn’t prepare us for the heartbreaking and game-changing “On the Other Hand” on Wednesday (May 14).
Pretty much every single character on the ABC southern drama had to deal with some life-changing news, from Rayna to Juliette to Will to Deacon to Luke to Teddy to Avery to Gunnar to Scarlett … seriously, nothing will be the same when Season 3 airs this fall.
Rayna, Deacon and Luke
After publicly proposing to Rayna onstage at her album launch concert — pretty much guaranteeing that she’d accept, because you can’t reject someone in front of millions of people, sneaky! — Luke and Rayna were pretty comfortably planning on spending the rest of their lives together. But seeing Luke propose to Rayna awakened something in Deacon, inspiring him to go over to Rayna’s house later that night.
After bonding with Maddie and coming a long way in his sobriety, Deacon knows he’s matured and is finally the man Rayna always wanted him to be. He can love her the way she needs. He knows that they’ve tried before and failed, but he’s changed now. He professes his love to her and tells her it’s always supposed to have been them together, and it can be. He gives her her ring back years later and leaves before she can give him an answer, but based on the way she was kissing him back when he kissed her, things aren’t looking too good for Luke in Season 3.
Juliette, Avery and Jeff Fordham
Juliette was struggling with Jeff’s blackmail all episode long, until her guilt got the better of her and she got way too drunk at Deacon’s charity event when Avery sings a song he wrote for her. Rayna notices the drunk Juliette, and after refusing to nullify Juliette’s contract with Highway 65, she heads over to her home to see what’s going on. Juliette drunkenly confesses her hookup with Jeff, and then pukes, and Rayna even holds her hair back! Major props to Hayden Panettiere for her authentic portrayal a crying, puking, drunk girl in this scene. Just perfect.
When Juliette feels a little better, Rayna tells her to confess the hookup to Avery before he hears it from someone else, but Gunnar and Zoey beat her to the punch. Avery comes over to see a crying Juliette and knows it’s true. She says it was a mistake and meant nothing, and he wonders if “it” ever means anything to her. She says it does with him, but he can’t believe that. He tells her she doesn’t know what it truly means to love someone else, and he’ll “have to learn to get over” how much he loves her. She begs him not to leave her alone, but this looks like the end of Avery and Juliette.
The silver lining of Avery finally learning the truth means that Rayna and Juliette are free to give Jeff Fordham the middle finger. Rayna has Juliette’s back (they’ve come a long way since Season 1, haven’t they?) and they even snake a big promotional deal out from under him at the last minute, ensuring that Highway 65 beats out Will’s album and Edgehill Records for the No. 1 spot on the charts.
Scarlett, Gunnar and Zoey
At the beginning of the finale, Scarlett decides to go back to school at Ol’ Miss and leave Nashville behind for good. She says all her goodbyes, but doesn’t go to see Gunnar until after he asks Zoey to give Scarlett the song he wrote for her. She finally goes to see him for the first time since their fight about Zoey, and he apologizes for dragging her onstage at the Bluebird in the first place way back in Season 1, kicking off her failed music career. It’s clear that he’s been blaming himself for her breakdown this whole time, but she tells him her breakdown wasn’t his fault. He just believed in her, and “even loved” her “for a little while.”
Scarlett thanks Gunnar for the song he wrote for her, admitting it’s the only thing she can listen to these days, so he sings it for her, and they end up duetting one last time. It’s beautiful, incredibly emotional and has a major effect on both of them — Gunnar tells Scarlett not to go, and it’s hard not to assume that he has a personal reason for wanting her to stay. Since Zoey’s about to leave on tour with Juliette, is there a chance at reconciliation for these two?
Gunnar, Will and Layla
The pressure from living a lie about his sexual orientation and the cameras always on him for his reality show with Layla finally took their toll on Will. After Will finds out Rayna’s album stole the promotion that was going to cement his album as No. 1, he broke down crying in front of Gunnar, saying that everything in his life means nothing now.
Like we said, literally nothing will be the same after “On the Other Hand,” and honestly, the emotional cliffhangers in the Season 2 finale were way more effective than the car crash in Season 1. “Nashville” Season 3 is going to look a lot different when it returns in the fall.