“Nashville” sang its swan song Wednesday, but the writers clearly didn’t plan it to be the end. The Season 4 finale was filmed before the writers discovered the show was canceled. The series finale of the ABC drama ended on a cliffhanger that left the life of a beloved character in danger.
At the beginning of “Nashville” Season 4, episode 21, Daphne (Maisy Stella) is nervous about playing with Rayna (Connie Britton) at a charity concert. It’s a sold out arena in New York and the biggest crowd she has ever played. Her parents are more nervous about their older daughter’s career, though.
Maddie’s (Lennon Stella) label has set her up with Vince Pearce (Vincent Ventresca), a famous producer. Deacon (Charles Esten) and Rayna find out by stalking Maddie’s social media — the only way they can find out what their kid is up to. Rayna says Vince nearly raped her when she was Maddie’s age.
Vince told Rayna that they had to sleep together if she wanted to get ahead in the music industry. He tried to physically pull her back onto the couch when she attempted to leave, but Rayna managed to get away. She tells all of this to Deacon, who is obviously upset.
Rayna goes to Lennox Hill to try to protect Maddie. Her label head isn’t very understanding. She says being hit on is just something that female artists have to deal with. Rayna decides she has to “go old school” to talk to her daughter. She writes a letter.
She can’t send it directly to Maddie, so she has to publish it for the world to see in the Huffington Post. Deacon says she is brave. “The thing is, when something like this happens you just don’t say anything, and I don’t even know why,” Rayna explains. “I guess because you feel vulnerable and ashamed.”
As she sends the letter off, Maddie is already alone with Vince. Rayna might be too late, but she’s done all she can.
Rayna has to perform at her charity event, but Deacon suddenly isn’t there. Bucky (David Alford) says that he had to take care of something urgent. Rayna goes on stage with Daphne.
— Nashville (@Nashville_ABC) May 23, 2016
While Maddie is having some drinks alone with Vince, she gets a text from a friend with a link to her mother’s letter. Rayna writes about her experience and tells Maddie that she is working with the same producer. “No young woman should have to feel pressured or shamed or tricked into a sexual situation by any man, especially the ones we’re supposed to trust,” Rayna’s letter reads.
Maddie tries to leave, and Vince is offended. He says he thought she was an adult, and Maddie says if she needs to do this to have a career, she doesn’t want it. He pushes her back onto the couch and puts a drink in her hand.
“Please, don’t,” she says as Vince starts touching her legs.
“Maddie!” Deacon shouts. He found out where she was on social media and decided to break his restraining order to protect his daughter.
Cash (Jessy Schram) comes in as Deacon is taking Maddie away. Maddie is angry that Cash wasn’t there to protect her when she needed her. Cash apologizes and swears it will never happen again. Deacon says it’s Maddie’s choice: she can go with him or Cash.
Maddie goes with Deacon to the arena to reunite with Rayna and Daphne. “Mom, Dad, I want to go home,” she says.
— Nashville (@Nashville_ABC) May 26, 2016
She isn’t the only one who gets a happy ending. Scarlett (Clare Bowen) and Gunnar (Sam Palladio) reunite after a couple weeks apart. Scarlett decides to tell Gunnar that she’s in love with him. At that moment, Autumn (Alicia Witt) comes in to reveal that she is Gunnar’s new girlfriend.
Autumn says Scarlett is playing games with Gunnar. She offers a solo opening gig to Gunnar, if he wants to leave his band mate.
Gunnar asks Scarlett if she meant that she loves him or if she wants to manipulate him. She tells him to forget it and says she has had to forget plenty of the dumb things he said in the past. Gunnar hates how often she brings up their history and says he isn’t sure they have a future together.
The two decide to break up and play a final show together. After an emotional duet, Gunnar kisses Scarlett on stage. It seems the Exes aren’t breaking up, but they might need a new band name…and a new job. Autumn says they’re fired.
— Nashville (@Nashville_ABC) May 26, 2016
Elsewhere, Will (Chris Carmack) wants to be on Cynthia’s (Mandy June Turpin) conservative show, but she doesn’t want to let him have air time. He even plans a protest with his ex, Kevin (Kyle Dean Massey). Will and Luke (Will Chase) play a show outside of Cynthia’s studio. A large portion of the crowd supports them, but Cynthia has plenty of her own fans who boo them.
The talk show host agrees to let Will on the program, but he only has 15 minutes to prepare. Will realizes the host is afraid of him. He tells Cynthia to let him get a word in if she isn’t afraid. Will says that she doesn’t want to let him speak because her audience will recognize him as a person that they know. “I’m a human being, a good man, a good son. There’s nothing to be scared of,” he says.
Will walks out to a cheerful crowd, and Luke leaves him with Kevin. The ex-boyfriends share a kiss before the end of the night.
Not everyone gets a happy ending in the “Nashville” series finale. Layla’s (Aubrey Peeples) album is doing really well, and she wants some support from Avery (Jonathan Jackson). When she hears that Juliette (Hayden Panettiere) wants Avery and Cadence to visit her in Los Angeles, Layla thinks it’s Juliette’s way of being controlling. Avery can’t be convinced, though. He says Layla needs to get used to Juliette always being in his life. He’s heading to L.A. with his daughter to be with Juliette while she campaigns for her Oscar.
Just as Juliette’s personal life is calming down, the past comes back to haunt her. Photographers start asking her if she was with Jeff (Oliver Hudson) the night he died.
— Nashville (@Nashville_ABC) May 25, 2016
Juliette tells Glenn (Ed Amatrudo) about what really happened. She blames herself for Jeff’s death. Glenn still wants to know how the tabloids could have made this discovery. Juliette says she told Layla, who she wouldn’t blame for talking to the press.
When Layla sees the headlines, she looks shocked and tells Avery they can’t go to L.A. Avery needs proof, though, and so does Jeff’s sister, Kate (Kate Orsini). She wants to open an investigation and sue Juliette for wrongful death. Layla calls Jeff’s sister and tells her to talk to Colt (Keean Johnson), who saw everything.
Juliette tells Avery to cancel his trip and deals with this lawsuit. She is willing to pay Kate $3 million to settle. She doesn’t even want to negotiate the payment down, but Kate has to publicly retract her accusation.
Glenn confronts Layla on the phone. He knows she had to be the one to tell the press, even though she denies it. He decides to no longer represent Layla, who claims she already has everything she needs. Layla, of course, tells Avery that she fired Glenn.
Avery finds out from Luke that Colt was the one who told Layla about Jeff months ago. “What was I to you?” Avery asks his girlfriend. “A target? Some kind of revenge?”
Layla swears her feelings for him are real. She says that she has to show Avery that Juliette is a horrible person. “You’re crazy, and we’re done,” Avery says.
Juliette is at the Oscars and feels like a horrible person. She skips the red carpet, finds ABC News reporter Deborah Roberts and tells the truth about what happened. She says she has been trying to put her life back together ever since the night Jeff died saving her. She doesn’t want sympathy. She just wants people to know the truth.
“I have never been prouder,” Glenn tells her.
Avery calls Juliette and realizes that the night Jeff died must’ve been right after he served Juliette divorce papers. The country star says that she is the only one to be blamed. “I meant what I said before: we’re still here,” Avery says.
— Nashville (@Nashville_ABC) May 26, 2016
Juliette walks out on the Oscars and gets a flight home. She says she has somewhere she’d rather be.
Avery is waiting at the airport for Juliette’s private jet to land. He gets a call from Emily (Kortney Hansen) that Juliette didn’t win the Academy Award, but they don’t think she’ll care. An airport employee asks Avery if he is waiting for Juliette.
“We received a distress call,” the man says. They lost contact with Juliette’s plane. The “Nashville” series finale ends without revealing if Juliette is still alive.
Fans may never know if Juliette dies, but the show could come back. Lionsgate is actively looking for another network to pick up “Nashville” for Season 5, and they’ve asked fans to tweet #BringBackNashville to support their efforts.