I watched many TV shows over the years and witnessed many characters die. But this one feels different because Nashville and Rayna Jaymes were different. There are many reasons for it, but two are crucial: Rayna Jaymes is a woman, and Nashville is a show about music
Grief is real in every shape and form, including over fictional characters. It touches something profound and tangible within us. To me, the death of Rayna Jaymes on Nashville CMT, the character Connie Britton portrayed perfectly over the last 4.5 years, feels
More: My Story – How Nashville Inspired My Life
Rayna Jaymes Was a Queen
There aren’t enough good women’s tales (yet), so an excellent female character won’t also be a symbol for all women. They just are & Rayna Jaymes sure was.
Her journey began with ‘Already Gone,’ an anthem for the power that comes from freedom and the poetic beauty in a road well-traveled. From then on, she did it all. She made it OK to want more and gave courage to simply try. She made it OK to love deeply and be human.
Rayna Jaymes made being a woman and getting older exciting and sexy and so damn beautiful. She inspired lives. I have changed thanks forever to her, and I know I’m not the only one.
Rayna wasn’t me, and I didn’t see myself in her. She was something better – a possibility of a great woman. The kind who inspires you to become the best version of yourself.
I feel like she held a mirror in front of me, reminding me never to give up, to do better, be better, and most importantly, be more me, whatever that is.
This is No Way to Say Goodbye
How should the story of such a powerful and inspiring character end? Should it reflect the character, the conditions created by Connie Britton’s departure, or what it gave to others – the impact she had?
The way I see it, Rayna Jaymes needed to live because an ending to a story frames it. The conclusion informs us what the story is about.
Was Rayna Jaymes’ story about the journey of womanhood? Another stone in the Pantheon of dead country stars? Or the story of yet another woman paying with her life for happiness and success?
Different Endings Create Different Stories
I wanted the first option. I needed the first option. I gave so much of myself for that first option in the last few years. For Rayna, by supporting the show and helping the story continue. In my life, by looking deep, I made changes and did some things that scared me the most.
What I got instead was eventually a story of a woman who couldn’t break the cycle of abuse and duplicated trauma to the next generation of women as well as to her survivor of abuse love of her life. I got a story where dying young is karma, a twisted punishment.
Taking Away The Healing Power of Music
And there’s the other thing, the music. Whatever your favorite music genre is, no one listens to music to torture themselves (unless that torture is part of the strange healing process we sometimes go through).
Music opens our souls. It meets us in our most vulnerable place. It’s part of the personal rhythm of our hearts and therefore needs to be a safe, protected place.
In Nashville, where music is part of the story, that’s what music did – it opened the heart and soul. It created an intimacy that made us vulnerable, as if we were listening alone to our favorite song.
This season, even if they had the best intentions, the writers of Nashville CMT abused this place.
Music wasn’t a safe, comforting place anymore.
‘Already Gone’ was stripped from its original context and became a morbid prophet and the song of the stalker. From a song that celebrates the little joys in life, a good life turned into a song of grief that painfully points out the enormous hole left by losing those things. It’s the type of loss you never truly recover from because the sad truth is, some things you learn to live with them but never forget or get over.
The decision to kill Rayna and do it in that specific way ruined the healing place music provides. Now it has become a place I never want to revisit.
Related: A Life That’s Good Is More Than Another Good Song
There’s Nothing Wrong with a Suspension of Disbelief
The choice made by everyone involved in this plot twist is now repeatedly explained as “the only option.” I disagree. It ruined my desire to follow this story to the next chapter.
For the record, I would have been perfectly fine to exercise my suspense of disbelief with a less “realistic” option where Rayna, for the sake of her career or soul-searching, goes away for a while with the blessing of her family. Open a Highway 65 branch in LA, write her memoir somewhere, or ANYTHING else. We would hear about her occasionally, and whenever Deacon and the girls didn’t appear – we knew it was because they went to see her or she came for a visit. Bring her back for the series finale; we’ll call it a day. After all, bi-coastal marriages are also a reality, not just death and agony.
Who’s Story Is it Anyway?
After all that, I wonder to who a TV story belongs? The writers? Actors? Producers? Fans?
Specifically on Nashville, fans believed it belonged to all of us. The fans brought the show back to life, as they keep saying to us, and now the creators are doing their part.
But that isn’t true because the story of Rayna Jaymes, the character that made me feel so influential in my own life, ended in a way that made me feel powerless.
Rayna Jaymes is dead, and Nashville turned in my head to an alternate universe whose reality I fight to reject.
Stories matter. Images matter. Endings matter. Rayna Jaymes matters.
Related: Why Rayna Jaymes Matters
So Nashville CMT, Callie Kouri, Connie Britton, Charles Esten, and everyone involved, from the bottom of my broken heart, I thank you for the journey and inspiration. I wouldn’t have had it any other way. But now, I need to go away.
You see, the way you all chose to end Rayna’s journey creates a story I can’t accept and choose to reject. I must regain power and write my alternate ending to this glorious ride. One I can live with and, more importantly, one that enables the Raynas of the world to live happy lives for many more years.
I’m sorry, but the song isn’t finished. Not even close.
Wonderful, touching, amazing, breathtaking and hurting words all together. Wonderful written. I agree completely with you. Thank you so much for these lines. Rayna James matters forever. Thank you again
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I agree Claudia, I am heartsick!
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Absolutely horrible Very disappointing
Sent from my iPhone
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Glad she is gone she’s boring. I like Juliet . I like the show Nashville. I love all the characters.
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Actually Connie have said she didn’t want Rayna to die though. Yes she wanted out, but it’s not about that. It could have been done differently with her leaving somewhere or even dying on later point not right after being attacked.
You realize that Connie Britton wanted out, right? This was her decision and she was happy about the way it ended.
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Yes I do, but it’s really not to the subject. I wrote it from my personal perspective.
Sometimes actresses need to pursue other projects, Tho it was sad how she died.
Ther is also a thing called continent ad obligation… with that being said, I caught this from day one when they canceled season for ABC. All the Nashies were rallying to get Nashville picked up. Connie stayed silent. I knew then she wanted out. She is alredy pursuing other projects and signed on for other shows .
We can love Connie Britton as an actress and wish her well, part of the reason love her so much is that she brings such life if I can she please. And for many of us she was a weekly staple in our homes … and for some reason, this character, has left many people heartbroken… i’m not one to get so invested in a show, but I have to say.. the Death of “Ranya James”on the show Nashville was Heartbreaking for everyone, including the cast.
Take a look at Charles Estens words. Read them closely: http://ew.com/tv/2017/02/24/nashville-charles-esten-rayna/
Shira, Wow, these words beautifully describe many Nashville fan’s feelings today. By ending Rayna’s story, they took away any chance of her coming back, any chance for closure for the fans, and when the show does finally come to an end, a way to see Deacon and Rayna’s story end. I don’t want to invest my time in the show anymore without the center and heart of Nashville. Thanks for the inspiring and heartfelt words.
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First I would like to see her beautifully written your words were. I have so much anxiety and depression over this, I almost feel ridiculous. I have never loved a character so much in my entire life. They’ve never been so emotionally invested into a show … to me, The minute Deacon and Ranya had that first walk on the bridge, I was hooked!!! I am gutted and am beyond grateful for your words… I’m too upset to write, but I waited all day to see your post.
I feel and share your pain. They didn’t just kill an incredible character but subsequently killed her spirit and any chance for us to ever get closure.
I Agree… ZERO CLOSURE for me. Besides… I don’t want THAT kind of closure. I read that Ed Zwick said the next two episodes will do her (Ranya) justice.
[I won’t be watching] I just hate seeing a Family torn apart, and can you imagine how horrifying that scene must have been for all mother’s who are thinking that could happen to them? (Leaving their beloved children behind). I’m sorry~Bad writing!…Yes, she could have just been in a Coma. I can’t believe a show got me like this. I just feel so betrayed. #Nashies deserved much better.
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I completely agree with what you’ve written. For me, the death of her character does not feel like an organic ending for the story that Nashville told.
I like your ending better to kill her off like this I’m afraid will cost CMT ALOT OF FANS DISAPPEARING AS WELL AS A LOW RATING..WHY BRING IT BACK FOR THIS..WHY..
If you truly knew Rayna James, then we both know that she would have NEVER left her girls or husband for a long period. Which means that we would have lost Deacon, Maddie, and Daphne. That’s not fair to those actors. This was the way Rayna wanted to go. Her death had meaning if you took the time to listen. She was able to let Juliette know that she changed. She told Daphne that Deacon loved her a lot. She told Deacon to keep going. She helped Scarlett figure out who she was. And although we haven’t seen it yet, I believe that Maddie will be less selfish because of this. There was a lot in that episode. I saw it as Life. She had a “Life that’s Good”. Life is short. We aren’t promised tomorrow. She experienced true love. While yes, it is tragic and painful, there was beauty in this….just like music. Most songs are things the writer has experienced which is usually heartbreaking and tragic. Yet somehow they make some of the most beautiful music. I’m not knocking your thoughts on it. Because like you, I was devastated. So I had to weigh the options they had….however none of them would have worked. Rayna wrote what she wanted to happen. The only option I came up with that could potentially be amazing, would be that Rayna would have been dreaming about how different her life would be. But that way, it would leave a door open if she wanted to come back. But who knows what the writers will do. I am not invested in just one character so of course I am interested in seeing where this will go. I did love your writing and opinions on this. I understand where you are coming from. I feel differently probably because I have so many shows that my favorite characters end up dying ie: Grey’s Anatomy, Nashville, This is Us, Walking Dead. Lol boy do I know how to pick em’! Lol
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Thanks for your comment Lainey. I’m glad that for you the ending gave you hope and didn’t destroy the entire journey. As you can see from my point of view, I don’t share that view. As I mentioned I watched lots of TV shows where characters died. It’s always sad but it never felt as devasting to me. This ending feels simply hopeless to me because yes, they will move on, sort of, but will never get over it. Not fully, Because you simply can’t. That, I know from life. Anyway, thabks again and hope you enjoy the rest of the season…That I won’t be watching 🙂
This raises an interesting point….. is it Connie Britton leaving or the character of Rayna dying that is sad? Could Rayna have been recast with another actress playing her and allowing her story to go on, or could we not see anyone else playing Rayna but Connie? Nashville wasn’t just about Rayna. I was not invested in just one character. Rayna’s story was part of every other character on the show. There are traces of Rayna in every character’s story. Life happens, death happens. The fans helped save the show for CMT and Season 5 isn’t living up to any of the promises Callie Khouri or the producers made early on. Nashville won’t go on forever and Rayna’s death closed the door for Connie to return as Rayna in the future when the series finally ends, if it worked out for her schedule. I wouldn’t want to see her as Rayna’s ghost or just Rayna in a dream.
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I think after all this time Connie and Rayna are one. The point is that Connie Britton, and I really don’t judge her, left the show on her own terms. She got her closure and now moved on. For her the story was framed in the way she wanted. We didn’t have that choice. We were left with an ending that doesn’t reflect in any way the way we experienced the story. So I can’t separate the two, because they go together, but I do separate the experience. The experience of the actress who got her, well maybe not happy, but gratifying end and the experience of the viewer who watched the character’s story derail without having the ability to do anything about it.
Actually I would’ve preferred them all to off on a tour together and (them not be on the show.) instead of Killing Ranya off was killing so many people souls and many more people feel that way and I think you need to respect that too … this was not what we worked so hard to get back on the air. We can respect Connie’s reasons for departure, but I’ve said from day one since the show got canceled her “silence” during all the rallying for the show to come back, said more to me than anything. Deep down I knew she didn’t want to come back. Connie was DONE. To me, that seems unfair to the character, and that doesn’t really give the new writers and show runners a chance. I thought they were doing a fantastic job with making the cast smaller and deepening the bond of each person … I just wish she had gone off on tour somewhere or something. This is much harder …
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Yes. Actors come and go and I know I wouldn’t want anyone to judge me personally if I choose to quit my job. But this ending disrespects the journey. Nashville started as Rayna’s journey and with her death she becomes the footnote in the life of others. The healer, the abstract muse. It’s an ending that silence the voice of the most powerful female voice in Nashville. Such a shame.
I feel exactly like you do. The show is ruined for me. I love all the other characters but the show was built around the love of Rayna and Deacon. I fought hard with other Nashies to save the show and Connie decides to walk way for professional reasons? Wasnt being on a prime timeshow as a lead enough? She LUVS everyone else but had no problem dropping out on them. Im seriously disappointed and no longer a fan of Connie Britton. Shes only an actress for herself and proved she doesnt give a damn about the fans of the show. Nice to know the true Connie.
I have watched this show since I was 16 years old. I am still in shock. I don’t understand why they would kill off Rayna and why Connie especially would want to leave the show. It doesn’t make sense to me. I personally don’t understand why they chose it to end like that. I agree with all of your other comments. We as fans fought so hard for more story and then they kill off the heart of the show. And yes I agree that there are so many more characters now but I believe Rayna was the heart of it. She was the one who was always there for everyone. I loved Nashville, it was one of my favorite shows. BUT now I don’t know what to think. It just breaks my heart. It’s like right after the drama happend with Maddie and everything was starting to get better with more story…BOOM they killed the main character. WHYYYYY CMT???! Why Connie and why writes?!!!! I honestly don’t think that there will be a lot of ppl watching it now. No words!!
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I agree Elleen.
I Agree With Elleen 100%… and You!!! Bye Bye my beloved Nashville.
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Elleen… I hate to say it, but I agree. I wrote above about the fact that while the Nashville fans were rallying for the show to get picked up by another network she Stayed Silent. I began commenting about this on other websites~ and believe it or not, I was literally blocked from her page on Instagram … How is THAT, for class? She was my FAVORITE ACTRESS, and I loved her in Nashville. Just because I knew deep down she was not interested in playing Rayna James any longer, I made a comment about that and I was blocked from her page …
I was shocked by it and have shared my story with some fans of the show. I spoke to one other person who could not see her Instagram page either. Only one other person .
@Niki Wow!! What was your exact comment on her IG page? I also believe that she didn’t have the same dedication to the brand as the rest of the cast.
jj I never left a comment on her direct page, but what I would do is I would include her in a comment like @ConnieBritton. I just knew all the fans were rallying, she never said a word. And then when she was asked about it she was really coy. If you look on the Internet and you see the rest of the cast now being interviewed by actual other people outside of CMT. You will see that this was hard for all of them. Watch Hayden talk about her on one of the day shows. It’s on YouTube you can look it up. You have to kind of read between the lines but you can tell that they’re all pretty sad over it all. And I think even a little bit traumatized as well … i’ll never know if she runs her own page, but I couldn’t believe it.
I’ve been watching this show for a very long time. I’m finished. That show is nothing without Rayna. Very powerful let down to avid fans.
Shira, I agree with you 100%. To me, that heart wrenching story of Rayna’ death was devastating for me. I have never missed an episode of this show since the pilot. I loved all the characters and looked forward to every single episode. I was so disappointed when ABC cancelled the show but did everything they asked us to do to #BringBack Nashville and was thrilled when CMT picked it up. Waited six months for them to start it back up. I thought the writers were doing a good job with the storyline. I read all the stories about Rayna only signing up for ten episodes but I thought that was just part of the writers keeping us invested. I knew they would NEVER let Rayna die. Not Deacons Rayna and the little girls mother. Words cannot express how hard that story hit me. And still breaks my heart .. How could they not consider how the fans would react . If Connie wanted out then fine, but not like that There were many possibilities, even if they were not as realistic as DEATH !!
I have all five seasons recorded on my Amazon Prime and much of their music on my ITunes phone and Mac. I have always enjoyed watching past episodes and their beautiful music plays in my car as I travel. Now I cannot watch Rayna and Deacon’s sweet love story or hear those beautiful songs without feeling sick.
Is there any way to get that horrible last scene of her flatlining while Deacon and the girls are trying so hard to sing ” A Life That’s Good” out of our minds ????????? The rest of the cast are soon to go to England and Ireland with their concert tour. I have been to their concert and they always end the show with that song.
I wonder how all of them feeling about all of this ??????????
Thanks for sharing your story
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Thanks for reading Ellen. Sending lots of Rayna love 🙂
Dear Ellen~ you wrote the words in my soul!!! THANK YOU !!!! Thank You!
During my week I’d go back and watch episodes with Deacon and Ranya being featured, and I seriously think the ending of Ranya’s life has DESTROYED this show for me!!!
And I don’t Even want to hear that I don’t LOVE the other characters or Actors… I Do, but I just CANT WATCH!!! It’s Ruined for me. Anything, but death would have given us hope … for me the show was all about “hope”… Mainly the hope I gravitated to was the hope that Deacon & Ranya had for being together again. That was the stuff dreams are made of. I’m just upset, because Deacon and Ranya were the SHOW for me.
I am so devastated about our beloved rayna dieing. Oh my goodness my favorite show ever. There is nothing on tv worth watching. But Nashville!!!! I am done now. I loved rayna. Couldn’t they have a face messed up from the car crash, needing plastic surgery? I mean it would be strange, but I would rather try to get use to someone else in her role. But for her to die!!!! Deacon and Rayna’s love story that I’d what kept me watching. I won’t watch it, nope no funeral, nothing. So so sad they did this.
I think the showrunners explained it best, It was the only option. Moving to LA and openning another branch sounds silly to me (sorry…) when the fans know she quit and she doesn’t want back. We all knew it was coming and I think the last episode was brilliant, well written, well acted and emotional. Definitly made me want to see more. I do understand you though,my inspiration on the show is Hayden/Juliette (I just hope they are going to make her great again). If she left I would probably stop watching too.
Sadly I think Connie feared that she was becoming Rayna in the eyes of the world and in some artists minds It’s a death nell to their career (at least in their eyes) so she had to move on to something else before she was forever thought of as a Country music singer.
The other sides of this story could be that she thought that moving to CMT was going to be basically the end of the show because if it didn’t make it on a major network how would it ever work on a small niche network like CMT, and she was afraid of being tied to a show that failed twice.
Then there’s the other possibility, that she saw the success of her role of Rayna as being an opening to a better choice of roles. This isn’t anything new it’s happened to many actors and actresses, some like George Clooney have become superstars, others like some of the Greys Anatomy stars that have left for higher paying and more prestigious roles have made a ripple in the world of the silver screen but after a period of nothing successful are coming back to television on a regular weekly series. I just hope that for her sake it was the first choice, the show will not be quite the same but it wasn’t about any one person, like the title says it’s Nashville. It’s about many people and their stories of trying to get into an industry that is tough and unforgiving, I’ll still be watching if for no other reason than to see how well Maddie fills Rayna’s shoes.
I really disagree. First of all Rayna’s death wasn’t really punishment. We all die, Rayna as the other poster certainly had a “life that’s good.”
The actress wanted to leave-not the shows fault. And so what if the actresses does? She wanted a new challenge why not. She deserves it if that’s what she wants.
I use to watch soap operas-not in anymore. Nothing kills a character really truly than seeing a devout parent suddenly disappear from their kids lives.
At Rayna’s very essence- the most important thing to her was being a Mom. Those two girls were her entire world, and there’s no way she would leave bi coastally. Daphne’s in Junior high. She grew up without a Mom, she wouldn’t willing miss out on major milestones. She might tour but she just wouldn’t be gone for long periods of time.
Besides, Deacon, Maddie, her , and Daphne all as a family is all Rayna has ever wanted. So she wouldn’t want to be a way.
I think the writers did the write thing for the character and frankly preserved the very essence of the character by letting her die.
Absent Momma Rayna is someone else entirely.
Not necessarily if they had made a scenario where she has to leave to protect her family. Would have been completely in character and no need to kill.
And with Lamar as father, there would have been excuse to create this kind of scenario believably.
Thank you for your Becca but I guess we’ll have to agree to disagree 🙂 From the very beginning Rayna was a working mom. There were scenes where the girls asked her if she’s coming for Thanksgiving and she said she wasn’t sure because she’s on tour. So, being absent for her career is not a change in character. If the season would have been structured as before where all characters appear on every episode then I agree, it would have been a problem (also they did manage to deal with Hayden’s absence on seasons 3 and 4) but they focus on only 2-3 stories Everytime so whenever Deacon and/girls would not appear there could’ve been a good explanation which is they all see each other – either Rayna came home or they went to see her. Also, even if death was “the only way” there are many ways to do it. To kill a powerful character like Rayna without even letting her sing on stage once again, where her voice is heard only through others in a tribute is not respecting the character or her journey. Yes, she was a wife and mother but it’s not all she was. At the end that’s what they made her and added the helpless factor. This is not the Rayna we saw for 4 years.
Becca… so put her in a coma, and let her wake up later. Then send her off to rehab and let her name be brought up as if she were alive . Let the kids pretend like they had been out of town for the weekend visiting her. Let Deacon, be pursued by another woman or a chance to take the Girls on the Road. When CMT is done with the series… let Rayna come home to her Family and more importantly, to the love of her life…
Please!!!! Death is a permanent souluting to a temporary problem… The show is “temporary” no need to kill her off let alone anyone.
I agree with this. It would have worked and still left hope for a good ending alive.
And as for people being upset, it’s clear Connie is sad about this too. She didn’t want Rayna dead. I respect her choice. Killing is on showrunners not her.
Shira, I could not have said it any better than you did. I am going to try to continue watching because I do like the other characters on the show, but it will just not be the same without Rayna. The main storyline for me has always been the love story between Rayna and Deacon. That has now been destroyed. Many years ago Michael Learned, who starred in “The Waltons” as the mother, decided to leave the show after being with it for around 5 or 6 years. Rather than killing her off, they decided to give her character tuberculosis which required her to go to Arizona for an indefinite period of time to recuperate. The show lasted for another few years without her, and during that time she made a few brief cameo appearances on the show. Also, after the Waltons went off the air they made a few two hour TV reunion movies and Michael Learned returned for a few of them. I wish the powers that be would have done something similar with Rayna. In hindsight, I would have preferred that Nashville had ended last year on ABC with Rayna and Deacon having their happy ending.
This just shows that it could be done with also mom leaving family without it being ooc.