‘Nashville’ Season 4 Review: Maddie’s Storyline Is Really About Rayna

There has been lots of (bad) talk about Maddie Conrad on Nashville and her emancipation storyline. Personally, although there were moments I wished were executed better, I don’t think any of these things.  

About Nashville Forever 

I think this story is actually pretty inevitable because it didn’t start just when Maddie met Cash, saw Deacon punch a wall or had a boyfriend, got up on a stage with Juliette and had sex.

LENNON AND MAISY STELLA-CONNIE BRITTON-NASHVILLE-1X02

It started much earlier back in the days she still wore glasses and wanted to jump out of
the car to watch her idol Juliette Barnes filming a music video but her mother locked the doors to keep her inside.

Nashville Stories: Why and How I Became A Nashville Fan? 

To me, Maddie’s story is a combination between yes, an ordinary teenage rebellion but also a painful disillusion that comes from discovering your parents are only regular people; growing pains of a sensitive girl who struggles to establish her own identity while living in the shadow of a very dominant and successful mother; artistic needs searching for an outlet at any cost; privileged life in music city that bring fast and relatively easy access to success and lots of unresolved family issues that reached a boiling point.

Is it harsh, extreme and painful? Yes! Is it unrealistic? I’m sorry but no! 

It’s also the one thing that truly puts a spotlight on Rayna’s behaviour as well as to everything that’s wrong in her relationship with Deacon. You see, Maddie’s story more than it is about Maddie, it is about Rayna.

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IT’S ALL ABOUT RAYNA-

rayna-sera-confrontee-a-l-arrivee-de-jeffNashville is an ensemble show but on top there is only one person – Rayna Jaymes.

The queen of country music stands tall on top of the Nashville pyramid as she is the shining, strong, independence, good and wise ultimate Nashville hero.

Only Nashville is not exactly a sci-fi show filled with superheroes or an idealistic show interested in educational role models. If anything, it’s a show that loves exploring the messy complicated reality behind and beyond images.

In other words, Rayna is not superwoman or Tami Taylor.

More About Rayna Jaymes 

She is, however, a very powerful woman. That means, among other things, she is the one making all the difficult decisions. The way she goes about it, if you’re still looking for role models, is quite admirable because she always stays true to herself and her values.

But as I said, she’s not perfect….thank goodness.

There’s a scene on Nashville season 2 where Deacon goes to visit Rayna at her house after her father dies. He was worried about her and it isn’t hard to see why since she keeps insisting everything is fine and retreat to formal good aristocrat southern behavior by offering him tea.

Deacon refuses the tea and urges her to open up and talk to him.

Rayna-215-bitterness-5When she keeps refusing, stating he wouldn’t understand, Deacon says that if there’s anyone who would understand it’s him, because he was there.

To that Rayna reply, “You haven’t been here in a long time”.

The emotion that came out of her in this line is something we rarely see in Rayna – bitterness.

Rayna is not a bitter character and for the most part her strength is celebrated (as it should). But her reaction in that moment is a reminder that “steel is forged in fire” and it burns…

For her (or anyone for that matter) to succeed Rayna had to trust herself and make others trust her.  After all, if you don’t believe in your dreams, who will?

Her talent to do so, that probably developed more and more over the years, became a true assent when it comes to her career and in many ways turned her to this powerful, confident knows-her-worth, beautiful woman we know and love.

It became also an assent in other areas in her life because knowing who you are is crucial in every situation and every relationship.

But, as Deacon once said to her, not everyone is as strong as her, and so although she forged her way through, she couldn’t find others to match her power that she could fully trust and share the burden with. That’s where the bitterness comes from; Rayna is not just naturally strong and resilient – she’s also someone who had to be one because no else was.

More About Rayna’s Power Complex

Rayna is the manager, protector and fixer by default in her life for herself and others. But being like that all the time in all areas of life comes with a heavy price – it’s exhausting, it can make you very lonely and can lead to severe errors in judgement because you’re convinced your way is the only way and you have no one to trust but you.

..and that’s where Maddie comes in.

Rayna and Maddie fight-snow-417

Where do you draw the line?

Rayna loves her daughter with all her heart. She will do anything to protect her, but when does a mother’s protection turns into being over protective and controlling?

Is it when she hides from her the truth about her father? When she avoids sharing with her her feelings about him and the circumstances that led to major decisions that impact her life unless she puts lots of pressure on her? Is it when she constantly expects her to just trust her and follow her lead? Is it when she encourages her to explore her art but answer to every initiative from her, first with a big no and only after a struggle with a yes, but on her terms?

To be honest, I really don’t have the answer for these questions because even if you don’t live in the heightened Nashville reality these type of questions are ones all parents face in one point or another.

When is trying to be a good parent becomes the exact thing that prevents your kid from growing and how do you navigate in this grey area?

Rayna’s default behavior is to control the situation. To some extent it’s understandable because she does have lots on her plate and for the most part really knows better, but not all the time.

A Life That’s Good Tells The Story of A Family and Nashville 

Maddie’s rebellion and fight for independence started very early and every season we witnessed another degree of escalation in this conflict. That happened partially because Maddie grew up and partially because Rayna didn’t really change her behavior.

Maddie kept asking for the truth and was very persistent in her insistence to be a musician. Rayna kept hiding things from Maddie and tried to control not just the pace of Maddie’s growth as an artist but also the type of voice she puts out in the world.

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Now it got to a point where this conflict can’t be contained anymore and there aren’t anymore distraction to stall it. There isn’t a car crash, cancer, divorce and marriage to the wrong or right person hanging above their head; there isn’t an outlet in the form of a new cool like-minded dad and not even a boyfriend. One performance at sound check or one night at the Opry and talent shows are not enough and when you live at the heart of music city and basically born into this business you also know it’s attainable…it’s in arm’s reach.

Maddie’s choice to  stop waiting, take control into her own hands and basically leave the conversation with her parents and primarely her mom whom she doesn’t trust anymore is harsh, extreme and heartbreaking.

It’s also probably, just like going to Deacon and telling him he is her father, the only thing that truly puts a spotlight on Rayna’s decision-making process and pressure her to change.

Can Rayna adjust? It’s hard to tell. So far Rayna has been consistent in her behaviour where she changes her behaviour usually as a reaction to Maddie and not the other way around and it’s often too little too late.

It All Comes Back to Rayna and Deacon-

Oh, yes, there’s another thing. Maddie’s story is exactly the thing the exposes everything that’s wrong in Rayna and Deacon’s relationship.

3 Sides To a Nashville Proposal

Maddie is the result of many things. One of which is the way Rayna and Deacon handled their relationship over the years.

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In that context, her emancipation is like another metaphoric car crash.

Once again, Rayna’s attempt to do the right thing led her to control not just her side of the relationship but the entire situation. The others just had to deal, accept and trust her.

Deacon, with his own set of demons, chose in the past to escape to drinking or to aggressiveness.

Maddie just chose to leave.

This is a road to hell paved by the best intentions and the question now is not whether Maddie comes home or not but will this “crash” help Rayna face her “tragic flaw”and help her and Deacon break their tragic cycle.

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Will Deacon stay and be fully present this time? Will he rely on his own strength and not seek it outside himself (primarily in Rayna)?

Will Rayna accept some of the blame and allow a merger of error? Will she be willing to open up, share what’s in her heart instead of pushing it down, and truly listen? Will she accept the fact her way is not always what’s best for everyone?

Deacon made a long way fighting his demons. Now it’s Rayna’s turn to make a change. 

After all, that’s what they have been fighting for – to be in a committed relationship and not repeat the same mistakes.

Rayna must learn how to be herself without having to control every situation. She needs to learn how to fully trust someone else and how not to act as if she’s alone…because she’s not, not anymore.

Watching this story I have only one question: Will Maddie, the one that (literally) opened the Rayna and Deacon Pandora box years ago, become now through her actions, the catalyst for their healing?

It will require lots of willing hearts.

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28 comments

  1. This storyline is awful because emancipation is not for rich brats who are trying to escape their parents’ rules, parents who are loving and caring, even if far from perfect as you’re rightfully pointing out.

    Emancipation is for teenagers who have NO OTHER CHOICE than support themselves because they come from abusive families or families that can’t take care of them. Emancipation is not an option for them, it’s a burden.

    We need a bit of perspective here.

    So, while I enjoyed reading your take on the Rayna/Maddie’s dynamic (and found it interesting), emancipation in the context of this storyline IS completely unrealistic.

    (And one little thing that bugged me, I’m sorry but snarking at other fans’ opinions in your introduction doesn’t reflect good on you.)

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    • Hi. Thanks for the comment. I changed the introduction because snark wasn’t my intention and I didn’t want it to take away from my I said but I stand behind the rest.
      No, I don’t know if I personally would have chosen to take it that far as emancipation as a writer but I think it’s a legitimate as a story because even if the act itself can be debatable it’s not out of context and because if something exists as a tool it doesn’t mean only the people for them this tool was originally designed for can use it…it’s much more commonly use than you (may) think. Not to mention the fact Maddie is a rich kid with access…as I mentioned in the article. That doesn’t mean I necessarily like what she’s doing but understand it and as a story think it has value. You obviously don’t agree 😉

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      • I’d like to add that even when I disagree (and here I strongly stand by my opinion about this storyline 😉), I always enjoy reading your thoughts. I may have come off a bit too strongly in my response but your introduction really put me off (first time it happened with one of your articles) and then I maybe read the article with a less open-minded attitude. I apologize about that.

        Liked by 1 person

      • That’s fine and that’s why I changed it. I wanted to summarize some of the things that have been said for those who may not have read other stuff but not come off snarky. It came out wrong so I erased it and thank you for pointing it out. Try real hard to run social media accounts and site that give room to all opinions and conduct a (hopefully) real conversation. I don’t enjoy reading aggressive things and certainty not writing them. That’s also why so far stayed out of this debate. Wanted to make sure I really have an opinion instead of just reacting and that I feel it’s worth sharing.

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  2. As I already told you, I agree that Maddie’s story was inevitable. She’s been strongly determined that music is what she wants since we met her in season 1, and she’s been waiting for her mom to realize, which never happened. Or maybe Rayna realized, and knows how talented is her daughter, and how people would try to spoil her in the music business.
    Anyways, I don’t think emancipation’s storyline is realistic at all. Even though Rayna’s being overprotective, and little indulgent, there’s a lot of kids in worse conditions than Maddie’s which have to deal with it because there’s no other way for them, and not just because their moms “won’t let them being an artist”.
    Of course Rayna makes mistakes, I agree that she’s not perfect, and I love her for it, but I think she’s being overprotective because she knows what it is being 16, on your own, and in music business. And maybe Maddie needs to be on her own to realize that, and Rayna won’t let her be, but which mom would let her kid face the reality in the hardest way? I’m not a mom, but I think I wouldn’t.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hey! Thanks for reading and for the comment. As I said at another comment, not sure I would have gone as far as emancipation as a writer. Having said that I also know it is much more commonly used especially between the rich and privileged that one would imagine Just go to L.A…
      I fear the choice to use emancipation instead of letting her just run away take away from this whole conflict that has been building up for 4 seasons, so I tried to focus on the conflict instead of the act itself. Then again, without it we probably would not be discussing the conflict so…I don’t know. Also like you don’t know what I would do as a mother. Its a tough one and real dilemma. Some prosper from early Independence and some fall.

      Liked by 1 person

      • I wrote a bit longer earlier, but it didn’t post.
        Are we forgetting that Rayna did the EXACT same thing to her father, because he wouldn’t support her???
        The difference is he wouldn’t support her but Raynaud will support her daughters. Maybe she’s been down this road and knows the business and is trying to protect her children from any of the bad situation she may have been in at such a young age …
        She is a GREAT MOTHER!!!
        Second … What about this CASH GIRL???
        She’s is an opportunist and in my opinion a preditor …
        I think it’s absolutely sick at this woman is trying to encourage a 16-year-old to Mansour paid herself and her family.
        I know people like this in real life and their absolute users and are just looking for a payday them selves. This person is bad news he has caused basically all of this.., Not (Just) Rayna.

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      • Hi Nicole! Thank you so much for reading and commenting! First off I want to say I agree – I think Rayna is a great mother! I think she’s a great character in general by the way. From my side, nothing of what I wrote came to suggest she is not, only that the conflict between her and Maddie is more complicated and less one sided than some suggested. From where I see it, Maddie is more than just a brat and that’s what I tried to show. I also tried to show that Rayna has her own flaws – that doesn’t make her a bad mother, just human. I think it’s exactly her painful memory from her father that made her want to protect Maddie so much and try to support her as much as she can. But she did it her way and Maddie wanted to do it in another way and this push and pull beeen going on for a long time now until it explodes. I don’t know if Rayna could have done something different with Maddie that would have led to a different result and Cash sure isn’t helping but I do think her behavoir with Maddie teaches us something about a pattern that damages her relationship with those closest to her and especially Deacon. To me, the situation now is an opportunity to grow. Even the best people always have something to learn and that’s what makes life intersting and one of the things I actually love about Rayna – she’s not perfect, she’s human 🙂 Hope that makes sense!

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  3. I really appreciate the perspective, but after the huge downer of Juliette’s rejection of her daughter, we were promised the writers would lighten up. After all, this is supposed to be entertainment. And we have seen a real talent for writing comedy. It doesn’t need to act like a sitcom, but come on, it’s almost too depressing to watch.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Well, can’t argue with that! I love the story because it’s interesting and all but would sure love for this family to move to lighter storylines. Thankfully we have Juliette back now and got to say the way she handles her life now and especially Avery is quite amusing..

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  4. I agree that Rayna is being too overprotective. She of all people should understand Maddie’s feelings and should be doing more to get her started with her career. After all Rayna does own a music label!! She was in the perfect position to control the pace and venues. That is why storyline is so frustrating, too unrealistic to think that Rayna would have forgotten how it felt at that age. She had to know couldn’t keep Maddie under wraps. But we all know there has to be drama for the show to continue, just not sure if it needed to go this far. I think if it helps Deacon and Rayna see relationship issues and work on those it will be a positive in the long run. Just don’t mess with Deyna as a couple!!

    Liked by 1 person

    • thank you Laura for reading and commenting!! Personally think we have nothing to worry about in regards to Rayna and Deacon because I believe this story was created at least partially for this exact purpose – to force them to face their problems and work on it. As for the unrealistic element, I wonder if Rayna is acting like it because she forgot how it is to be her age or because she remembers all too well and knows how hard it so she’s trying to protect her from it the only way she knows how. After all, she keeps saying she’s only trying to protect her and there were scenes where Rayna talks about how similar Maddie is to her when she was her age. What do you think?

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  5. I love the article and you have put words on things I haven’t thought of in that sense before. Rayna has been very controlling, starting by not telling Deacon about the baby, all to protect Maddie and to keep the control she didn’t have before. Parenting also, I think, is a constant (internal sometimes) battle of keeping control and giving freedom, that never stops being difficult.

    I have always enjoyed watching Maddie, cause she seems to me like the most normal teenager in her behaviour. My own teenage daughter is in the brightest, happiest and most helpful mood one minute, just to be angry and super-provocative the next. It becomes quite entertaining to watch Nashville together with my daughters. “I’m not THAT bad…?” the older one states/asks horrified of what Maddie does to Daphne sometimes, and I’m like “well… sometimes you are”.

    The emancipating thing came as a bit of a shock, but it all make sense to me. Looking back, just as you say, Rayna has been quite controlling, just giving her tidbits of freedom to please her for the moment, all well under her control – a performance at the Bluebird and one at the Opry, but not much more. And Maddie is not a normal teenager in some senses, the tumultuous paternity issue aside, she is very privileged, very talented and she has access to a grownup world, where she actually could take part and support herself. And in the entertainment industry emancipation is not unheard of for sure.

    I agree, I don’t always like the way the story has been told, sometimes lacking both finesse and nuance, but I do like the story! Both what it is to Maddie, Rayna and Deacon, but also how it affects Daphne, maybe specifically Daphne, the little sister. And we ARE watching a television drama (with a dash of soap) that is not shy to be just that… dramatic!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Wanted to add, that I don’t feel that Rayna necessarily has been overprotective, it makes total sense from her perceptive, she does not want Maddie to have the same life she had as a 16 year old, but from Maddies side of course it seems ridiculous that her mother won’t allow her to live the same life she had.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Yes, agree! She really knows how hard it is. Guess it’s even worse when you know what’s waiting for her than when like Rayna’s dad you are just against it in general for selfish reasons. That’s also what proabably makes it a really good conflict – both are right.

        Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks so much!!! Love so much your input on it! it’s really tough and you shed a light on the everyday nuances that comes with parenting a teen. Mayne Rayna and Maddie needs to watch Nashville together for therapy and to get some perspective…
      Certainly hope the way the story was handled during this week’s episode (417) will continue because it was wonderful! The nuances, the music, the acting…everything!
      And yes, emancipation was shocking to me too but not THAT shocking. After hearing a friend recently telling me how he basically manipulated his mom and dad when he was 15 to fly him from the US to the UK on his own to travel for two weeks I would not have been surprised if Maddie would have stolen Juliette’s jet instead. She wanted to do something drastic and fast and that’s the fastest solution she could find. The good thing about it it gives us court scenes…which means lots of (hopefully) good family drama.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. I actually like this storyline but feel
    Like the show has piled on so much heart ache for the family with the Deacon cancer-Beverly dying thing that this is so hard to take. This Maddie SL is actually pretty organic (compared to the drawn out Beverly dying and Deacon buying a bar SL for example) and I wish this had been drawn out more before the wedding (the one talk with girls on day of wedding was sort of hilarious) but I feel like there’s plenty history’s& baggage already to work with without adding more Deacon acting out, more bringing down the folks who’ve already been beaten down, which actually takes away the focus from Rayna. Because I agree this is about her. Rsyna has been missing the cues from her daughter all along. When you protect someone too much you’re saying you don’t have confidence in them. Why should her daughter be denied her destiny when she wouldn’t let her father deny hers? It’s pretty hypocritical actually. And with all Maddies been through its do obvious she needs an outlet. She can’t be a ‘normal’ teen, she hasn’t had a ‘normal’ life. She should be questioning the adults in her life.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Hey!! Been waiting to hear what you think! Thank you so much for commenting!!…and I couldn’t have said it better myself even if I tried…and I have in this VERY long article!! Yes, my least favorite story of this season was the whole Drama after Beverly’s death and how suddenly she was a saint and Deacon bought a bar. I try to pretend it didn’t happen (like Gunnar’s cousin story last season). I also agree they should have given it even more room (despite what TVline and many fans think) and hope it will at least will be dealt withlike it was this week until the end of the season because I thought it was great.

      Only thing I slightly disagree (again;)) is Deacon, as you can imagine but I definatly hope this round of his lashing out and self hatred combined with Rayna’s breakdown will be the one that will force them to finally address all of it and move forward for real. He will still be him and she her but that doesn’t mean it will have to create constant drama.

      Realy love what you wrote that we you protect somone too much you’e aying you don’t have confidence in them. Gonna use it!

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  7. Thanks Shira! Even the Deacon drama woukd probably be okay by me for this Maddie SL if they hadn’t made him a blubbering fool over the Beverly stuff. Brooding hot head is how I see Deacin from S1. So again my reaction now is based on the context of the show, IMO, spreading the characterization of D all over the map in a way that has made it harder for me to believe he’s the love of Rsynas life. Still a big Deyna fan, but think that character got off track.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I don´t have any problem seeing them as true love. The thing I have problem with is the imbalance. Just noticed on rewatch that it seems Rayna doesn´t ever really apologize lying to him about Maddie but all blame is always on him. So that couples therapy episode was actually pretty good, making clear the problem. Rayna need to take her side on the blame and Deacon needs to give up a little his self hate. They are pretty balanced at this point anyways on mistakes.

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  8. Oh, just to add (lol), I think D’s aggression isn’t just self loathing, I think it’s also possibly real anger from his childhood that he hasn’t come to terms with. Plus he never had a good role model to shiw him how to deal with anger in general, in a constructive way (except for Cole–I so miss Cole!)

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  9. Shira, I loved reading your views on the Maddie/Ranya emancipation situation…
    I agree for the most part, but there are holes in your story …
    First I think you forgot to mention that Reno herself did the exact same thing and left her fathers home because he wouldn’t allow her to do what she wanted to do only 16 years old so may be a part of this is karma …
    With that being said she also knows how hard it can be at that young of an age and she probably doesn’t want that for her daughters …
    She doesn’t begrudge them success she’s only been a protective mother , who knows the “Business” well…
    ALSO, are we forgetting that there is a main factor in all of this? Cash and her manipulation of a young girl ???
    This I find THE MOST TROUBLING… And so should the audience…
    In my own life I have experienced people trying to take advantage of a family member who is slow, but has her independence. Even with all that being said she really never lived on her own without someone taking care of her.
    Then some strange lady comes into her life and filled her head with all of these things that she could do on her own. Needless to say this turned out to be one of the most awful incidences that have ever happened … While my family member who is emotionally inept, went along with this scoundrel, she was I fact used for a meal ticket and someone who weaseled her way into having my family member sign over this opportunist, her rights to be my family member’s trustee…

    If I were Rayna, I’d beat the crap out of Cash… But, unfortunately, the law protects the wrong people sometimes…
    Cash is a preditor and frightens me.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hi! Replied in length on the other comment you made. Sorry it took time to publish. I didn’t get into the Cash element of the story in the article because it was long as it is but I certainly agree she’s a bad infulence and that her relationship with Maddie is toxic. It’s not that uncommon in real life though to be in toxic consuming friendships especially in early age. I don’t think however it had such an affect on Maddie’s life if she wasn’t searching to escape from the control of her parents and build a career at any cost. The more she got access to that career and the possiblity of freedom the more she wanted it…that’s my opinion anyway.

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      • Yes, I see your point and I agree…
        I just can’t figure out Cash’s motives.
        They frighten me (even in a character) probably because I have witnessed people like her in “real life”…
        Thanks for the response!!!

        Liked by 1 person

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