Nashville returns for season 3 on September 24 and now it’s the perfect time to start thinking about some of the things we learned at the end of last season. Let’s start with thoughts about Scarlett, Gunnar and one of the most beautiful (and poetic) scenes ever made in Nashville – harmonizing at the Bluebird cafe to the sound of ‘It ain’t yours to throw away’.
The final episode of Nashville season 2 was packed with drama and emotional highs and lows.
Interestingly enough, most of it skipped the one character that spent most of the season on the verge of a nervous breakdown and not so long ago even spent time in the psych ward – Scarlett O’Connor.
The Scarlett we meet in the finale is miles away from pills, hospital gowns, passive-aggressive behavior and on-stage breakdowns. She’s calm, level headed, gentle, and supportive.
It’s the ‘old Scarlett’, the one we missed and, to be honest, almost forgot existed. But it’s also a ‘new’ Scarlett, a less naive one that just learned some harsh life lessons about the consequences of attempting to live a life that doesn’t suit her just to please others.
A lot of that change in her state of mind can be attributed to her decision to go back to School and leave behind Nashville, as well as the music business.
Scarlett made that decision as part of her attempt to “reboot” her life. She tried to trace back her steps, find the last place she was happy in, go back there and start over – this time, solely for herself.
When we see her in the final episode it’s already after that decision was made. Therefore Scarlett spend a large portion of the hour in packing and saying goodbye .
The last person on her list is Gunnar Scott her ex-boyfriend/ ex-musical partner and so just between Juliette’s heartbreaking confession and Deacon’s heartfelt proposal, Scarlett walked into the Bluebird Cafe, maybe for the last time.
Unlike their recent encounters, this was a friendly one. Gunnar was attentive and Scarlett came in peace. She could even offer comforting words to Gunnar to ease his guilty conscience:
“You never made me do anything, you just believed in me…Even loved me for a little while. I loved you too.”
It was truthful, straightforward, kind and concise.
It was Scarlett at her best.
Gunnar’s reply was the song; a chilling ballad about the struggles of artists and their complicated relationship with their art. In real life it was written by Pam Tillis but in the Nashville universe it was written by Gunnar and inspired by Scarlett’s breakdown:
“That same road that brought you here
Will sure as hell take you home
The life you left behind will have you back
You’re tired of paying dues in worn out shoes
and Broadway blues
And any fool will tell you
the damn ol’ deck is stacked
What if you’re just a vessel and God gave you something special
It ain’t yours to throw away
Every time you open up your mouth
Diamonds come rolling out…”
The haunting lyrics touched Scarlett’s heart and so she gradually joined the singing.
During the second verse she even sang some lines that describe Gunnar’s journey to find recognition as an artist and a performer:
“… You drew the last slot
you thought it was your shot
but now it’s just one more chance blown”
It was an beautiful, poignant moment that also echoed to the pilot episode and to their first musical collaboration.
Once again it was night, once again it was the Bluebird café, once again their voices blended together in perfect harmony and once again it was magical.
But it wasn’t the same. So much has happened since that faithful night.
The main difference was the fact, that this time the ‘magic’ of the moment didn’t sprung out of surprise and a sense of discovery but out of love.
When Scarlett and Gunnar sang ‘If I didn’t know better’ it was pretty clear that what we are witnessing is something extrondinary.
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The song, the setting, their voices, the chemistry, the nativity and the surprise – all of this combined, lured us, the viewers, in and made this moment special.
At that moment Scarlett and Gunnar discovered something new about music and themselves and we felt as we’re discovering them and Nashville.
Fast forward two years later and to the both of them harmonizing after a long time apart and it’s still extraordinary but we are not surprised by it. What we are is emotionally connected…and so are they.
This song relighted that unique spark between them and reminded them why it all started. It wasn’t big labels and promises of success that attracted them – it was music, and more specifically, the music they make together.
For both Scarlett and Gunnar it wasn’t a smooth sail.
For Scarlett music was a her sanctuary and a way for her to immerse herself in something bigger than her. Sharing that place with others, in the name of owning her talent made her lose herself until all was left of her was an empty vessel.
It was particularly evident after her breakdown when all the people around her reacted. Each reaction revealed that their concept of Scarlett was a projection of themselves and when everyone stopped projecting and took a step back it quickly became clear we don’t know who Scarlett is.
We realized that Scarlett reduced herself, in an attempt to please others and not break under pressure, to a place where we only knew her through the eyes of others. We didn’t know anymore what she really wanted and why because she didn’t know it herself.
In Gunnars case it was his struggle to be seen the way he perceives himself – as a performer first. But what he got in return was a respect for his songwriting skills that in many ways he felt he owed to Scarlett who “pulled the good music out of him”.
Both places are frustrating and difficult – Scarlett feeling like an empty vessel and Gunnar, invisible.
But their journeys weren’t in vain because they thought them some valuable lessons.
At some point during this season, Gunnar said to Scarlett (referring to their meeting with Kelly Clarkson) that all he felt with her was the music. Scarlett seized to speak to him after that.
That’s because for her THAT music was her savior, and for Gunnar it took a little longer to realize how hard it is to get JUST music across. The music is so many things and it bigger than them and it owns them in a way.
So when they met at the end of their part of the journey it was like two old war comrades exchanging war wounds and acknowledging that at the heart of everything there is an undeniable truth that ALL they have is the music, and that’s a lot, because it’s not who they are or what they do – it’s a gift.
That moment where they sang ‘it ain’t yours to throw away’ was a moment of surrendering to music and creation in its purest form.
At that moment, it was no longer an experiment or a game like in the pilot episode; it was a declaration of love for the thing that brought them together and launched them to their journeys and almost destroyed them. It was an ode to muse and music.
That moment was music.
And all they and we, the viewers, could do, is surrender….and what a beautiful surrender it was.
So when Gunnar said to Scarlett he doesn’t think she should leave, it was him surrendering to music.
But is music just music? No, as they know now, it’s also love and friendship, and struggle and beauty and freedom….its life. So what Gunnar said was: Don’t give up on life in its fullest and don’t leave mine because I want to live to the fullest as well.
It was him acknowledging the rarity of their musical bond and the importance of it in his life. Scarlett emotional response imply that she feels the same.
The question is of course how they’ll choose to react to this discovery. Whatever they’ll choose, once they surrendered and accepted the gift, they can’t run for long.
It became their destiny and that’s something that is ain’t theirs to throw away.