Thanks to Rayna's (Connie Britton) untimely end in the first half of Nashville Season 5, we're now facing a country music show without its biggest country star. Luckily, the gaping hole where Rayna used to be has been filled by far less frivolous drama for her daughters.
From the jump, it's pretty obvious that Nashville isn't going to dedicate the back half of its season to missing Rayna. Scarlett (Clare Bowen) and Gunnar (Sam Palladio) are too caught up in baby drama to remain steeped in grief, Deacon (Charles Esten) has Highway 65 problems coming out of his ears, and besides an offhand comment Maddie (Lennon Stella) makes about wishing she could ask Rayna for advice, she and Juliette (Hayden Panettiere) have jumped headfirst into music.
The lone outpost of Rayna-related grief is Daphne (Maisy Stella) who has spiraled into full-on depression thanks to the death of her mother. Even here though, the story seems to be more about Daphne's mental health and struggle to return to normal than about paying tribute to Rayna.
These new story arcs are definitely missing the key ingredient that is Rayna James, but overall the tone and pace of the show feels lighter now that we don't have to dedicate the same amount of time to telling Rayna's story each week.
Additionally, now that Maddie and Daphne are no longer "Rayna's daughters" first and complex characters second, they've been giving meatier storylines to work with. Daphne is sure to run into the designated "bad influence" street girl again, who's sure to impede any progress she makes battling her depression. Meanwhile, Maddie's music career has taken center stage with Juliet as stand-in mentor for Rayna — without the obvious "stop trying to control me" screaming matches that we got between Maddie and her mother.
As the second half of the season progresses, we'll have to keep a close eye on the hole left by Rayna, but so far, it's not the crushing blow we expected it to be.
Nashville airs Thursdays at 9/8c on CMT.