Warning: This article contains spoilers about last night's episode of Nashville.
Fans had long suspected that Connie Britton, who plays country music icon Rayna James on the show, wouldn't be returning for a potential sixth season. She's been victim to some strange plots this year — a stalker, really? — and there were rumors that Britton was available for pilot season. The clues were all there, and last night, Nashville gave Rayna the axe.
The film itself isn't new news — we knew in 2014 that Nicole Holofcener would write and direct The Land Of Steady Habits. Last month, Deadline reported that Ben Mendelsohn, Edie Falco, and Thomas Mann would star in the film, based on the Ted Thompson novel of the same name. But before today, we didn't know Britton would be playing the lead role.
We're excited we'll be seeing more of Britton soon, but it's unlikely she left Nashville just for this film. Nashville showrunner Marshall Herskovitz told Deadline that Britton "felt at a creative level that she wanted to leave" the show. After years of playing Rayna, it sounds like Britton was ready to move onto new roles.
I'm still left wondering, though, what will happen if CMT renews Nashville for a sixth season. In the Deadline interview, Herskovitz said there are ideas in place, but nothing's been decided by the network. One of Nashville's greatest strengths was the way it juxtaposed two generations' competing music styles — the contemporary country of characters like Will, Scarlett, and Gunnar, as compared with the more classic country sound of figures like Rayna. With Luke gone, too, there aren't many characters left to carry on the musical void Rayna will be leaving. If Nashville is renewed for a sixth season, I hope the show will introduce a new character to sing with Deacon so that we won't lose that traditional sound. Even though no one can replace Rayna James.