PEOPLE.COM: Six seasons, two networks and one leading lady’s sudden death later, the complicated crooners of CMT’s Nashville took their final curtain call.
Thursday night’s series finale concluded with Deacon (Charles Esten) performing his ballad about the simple things, “A Life That’s Good,” with his father. The rest of the drama’s musicians like Juliette (Hayden Panettiere), Scarlett (Clare Bowen), Avery (Jonathan Jackson) and Gunnar (Sam Palladio) gradually join him on stage. The camera pulls back, breaking the fourth wall to reveal the entire set. Their characters melt away, and suddenly they’re themselves, actors relishing one last jam session. The crew comes, out, too, and Connie Britton — who played country queen Rayna James until 2017 and returned in a tender finale flashback — takes her rightful place center-stage.
“Rayna got to do the impossible. She got to come back from the dead,” Britton, 51, said in a statement. “I got to do the most wonderful, which was to go back to my Nashville family and celebrate all the hard work and love and care that went into that show. Being on the Ryman stage, reunited with 6 years of cast and crew, is a moment I’ll cherish and never forget. I am grateful.”
And 52-year-old Esten — who’s now on tour singing songs from Nashville — opened up to PEOPLE about his thoughts on the finale, Britton’s return and what’s next.
TVGUIDE.COM: Happily ever afters were a dime a dozen in the Nashville series finale, and honestly, we wouldn’t have had it any other way!
In the final hour of the show, we got to see Deacon (Charles Esten) finally forgive his father, the girls embark on their own journeys as young artists, Juliette (Hayden Panettiere) and Avery (Jonathan Jackson) reconcile, Scarlett (Clare Bowen) and Gunnar (Sam Palladio) embark on new chapters in their lives, and about a million other lose ends tied up in a nice bow. Perhaps most satisfying of all though, we got to see one final moment between Rayna (Connie Britton) and Deacon!
Rather than give us a dream sequence or some kind of message from beyond, Nashville decided to keep Rayna’s return grounded in reality, making it a flashback to her and Deacon’s wedding night. The memory of Rayna forgiving Deacon for all that had passed between them — no matter how hard — was exactly what Deacon needed in that moment before going on stage to forgive his father. It was a beautiful tribute not only to Rayna’s character, but the relationship between Rayna and Deacon that was such a staple of the show from the very beginning. We even got to see her perform one last time in the final number with the entire cast!
“Rayna got to do the impossible,” Connie Britton said of the finale. “She got to come back from the dead. I got to do the most wonderful, which was to go back to my Nashville family and celebrate all the hard work and love and care that went into that show. Being on the Ryman stage, reunited with six years of cast and crew, is a moment I’ll cherish and never forget. I am grateful.”
To get his thoughts on what it felt like to reunite on that stage one last time, TV Guide also spoke with Charles Esten, who breaks down that touching reunion, all those finale twists and turns and his tenure on the ABC-turned-CMT drama in this interview.