"Nashville" headed into the winter hiatus with a pair of giant cliffhangers – Was Peggy dead? Did Will commit suicide? – but the show wasted no time in tying up loose ends upon its return Wednesday.
It was conniving Peggy, new wife of Nashville Mayor Teddy Conrad, who met her untimely end, allegedly at the hands of a deranged unemployed man seeking revenge on Teddy for his tough luck. But Teddy, who is nearly storyline-less at this point, suspects there's more than meets the eye and is playing detective to sort it out.
Will and Gunnar share the episode's most compelling scene, as Will – the young pop star struggling with his homosexuality – recounts his failed suicide attempt in front of a train.
"That light was so bright, it was like, relief. Like a light at the end of the tunnel and loud enough to drown it all out," Will told Gunnar. "I hate – I hate it. I hate living this. I hate being this."
Gunnar, who has coped with the loss of his brother and an all-around rough family life, tried to employ tough love with Will, his roommate.
"Next time you feel like you can't take it anymore, you don't go trying to off yourself, OK? You find me," he said. "You do anything but pull crap like this, you hear me? I am your friend. Look at me. Look at me. I want you to say it. That you will promise you'll call me."
Addressing issues of suicide and sexuality can be hard to do in a realistic, meaningful way, but somehow the sometimes over-the-top "Nashville" seems to hit the right notes with Will's drama – the audience can feel his anger and resentment toward himself, but also understand it.
"It's not what I hoped," Will lamented to Gunnar.
"Is it ever?" Gunnar replied.
As for the rest of the messy love lives "Nashville" tracks, it looks like weepy Scarlett is prepared to leave Avery, as she rightly detects the chemistry developing between him and Juliette.
"You don't show up at someone's house at 2 a.m. unless something's pulling you there," she said of Juliette's recent late-night visit.
Her ongoing trouble with the union between Gunnar and her former best friend, Zoey, also leads Scarlett to walk out on a meeting with Kelly Clarkson (playing herself), because she can't bear to be in the same room as her ex, let alone pen new songs for Clarkson with him.
Deacon has a tiff with his lawyer lady, but he resists the pull to break his sobriety. Seeds are being sewn for a writing session with Rayna, though, as each needs a hit to kick off their upcoming albums.
And in the latest in the Juliette vs. Layla saga, the reality singing star has to come to Juliette's defense for an out-of-context video clip of her saying, "There is no God" – a charge everyone knows will sink your career in country music. Layla – a devout Christian, the audience learns – vouches for the full quote, which was Juliette responding to a trash-talking heckler by saying, "There is no God … that would listen to a crackpot like you."
But Juliette showed us her much-covered-up sensitive side, and the dark toll celebrity has at times taken on her, in the show's closing scene. She's shown sitting on her couch alone and in the dark with tears streaming down her face, watching coverage of protesters burning her photo.
As the "Nashville" faithful know, this won't lead to anything good.