After months of having to explain to people that Rayna James (Connie Britton) would obviously survive her car crash because she’s the star of the show, Nashville finally returned to our TV screens last night. And it brought with it all the music and the drama and the tears that went along with the first season. I’m not too proud to say that I didn’t choke up at the end of the episode. That I didn’t want to crawl into that hospital room and give Maddie and Daphne a huge hug (while simultaneously asking them if they’d like me to join their singing act). However watching them watch their mother wasn’t even the most emotional part of the show for me. It was watching Juliette Barnes react to the whole incident that affected me the most.
Wnen Nashville first started last fall, I hated Juliette Barnes. Partially because they originally portrayed Juliette to be just as insufferable as my (imaginary) nemesis Taylor Swift, but also partially because I didn’t like Hayden Panettiere. Why didn’t I like her? To be honest with you, I have no good reason. But I remember when the show first started, I thought it was madness that she nabbed a lead role. However her performance throughout the first season proved me wrong over and over and over again. She’s not only an incredibly talented actress, but she’s also managed to turn an incredibly unlikable character into someone sympathetic. In that respect, she reminds me of Chloe from Don’t Trust the B in Apartment 23. Kryten Ritter managed to create the first likeable sociopath in primetime TV.
As much as my heart hurt for Rayna James in the first season as she struggled to hold on to her success and to her family, it hurt more for Juliette. Despite being an incredibly famous pop star with millions of fans, she’s actually revealed to be an incredibly damaged young woman who was forced to raise herself while her mother did drugs. You come to realize that her she didn’t choose stardom for the fame — but rather for the escape that it gave her from her horribly depressing childhood. And despite spending years building up a defensive fortress around herself, the effects of her mother’s addiction still reared their head at the end of last season.
Which brings us to this season and how Rayna’s coma is affecting Juliette. While it’s easy to see her as a monster for being upset that a coma will usurp her album sales, it’s important to remember that her career is literally all she has in her life. Especially now that her mother’s gone and Deacon’s out of her life. If Rayna lost her career, she’d still be surrounded by people who love and support her. If Juliette lost her career, she’d have nothing. The one semi-stable adult in her life right now, her manager, would be gone. And that’s why I’m able to feel so bad for her when she complains about Rayna’s coma ruining everything. Yes, it’s the mutterings of selfish brat. But it’s also the mutterings of someone who’s scared and someone who’s always one bad break away from losing everything. Last season it was the release of a sex tape and this season it’s the failure of her new album.
So even when she takes advantage of Rayna’s coma later in the episode by turning her concert into an impromptu Rayna James tribute, it’s okay with me. Throughout her entire life, she’s had to do what she’s had to do to survive. This is just one more thing she had to do. By the time she comforted Maddie in the hospital, she’d won me over completely. Again. Despite being an incredibly unlikeable character, she managed to make me root for her.