‘Nashville’ Ends On A Shocking Cliffhanger: What Does This Mean For Rayna?

Warning: Spoiler alert! Do not proceed if you haven’t watched Thursday’s episode of “Nashville”.

Is “Nashville” about to lose one of its own?

The CMT country music drama ended its latest episode on Thursday, ominously titled “Stand Beside Me,” in the most shocking way possible, and in turn, left one of its main characters’ fate dangerously up in the air. After getting into a brutal, episode-ending car accident, the fate of Rayna James (Connie Britton) — one of the moral centres of “Nashville” — is in serious limbo.

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Here’s how it all went down: Rayna’s stalker, Carl Hockney (Linds Edwards), somehow makes his way into the Highway 65 offices, holding the country superstar hostage. Pleading with him to spare her life for her family, Carl becomes even more incensed, holding his knife to Rayna’s neck as police storm the premises.

But after Rayna’s last-ditch effort to talk Carl off the ledge works, he succumbs to police, dropping the knife and letting Rayna go. Whew. You’d think the worst was over, but in pure “Nashville” fashion, there’s one more gut-wrenching surprise.

With Rayna safe from harm, the police put the singer into one of their patrol cars so she can go home. A hysterical Rayna calls Deacon Claybourne (Charles Esten) — completely oblivious to what she just endured — and is heartbreakingly unable to form sentences or mask her true emotions as she breaks down crying.

And, just when you least expect it, the police car Rayna is in gets hit by an oncoming car in a violent crash.

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Rumours have been swirling since last fall that Britton may be departing “Nashville”. The Emmy-nominated actress has called the speculation “crazy” and recently told Parade “the rumours swirling around are really fun.”

“I cherish this role. I cherish this character. I cherish this cast and this crew,” the 49-year-old actress said to the mag. “I feel very fortunate that I get to do this and I absolutely do not do it alone. So for you to say that I’m the heart of ‘Nashville’, I’m so grateful for that, but honestly nothing I do would exist without everyone else. And our show wouldn’t still be here without the fans.”

Not exactly a denial, either.

WATCH: ‘Nashville’ Boss on Season 5 and Juliette’s Fate: ‘She’s Gone Through a Literal Hell’

Back in December, “Nashville” co-showrunner Marshall Herskovitz addressed whether he and the writers were concerned that Britton or Hayden Panettiere wouldn’t be returning full-time and if they had to ever consider killing a character off.

“We were presented with the show as it was,” he said to ET. “There were changes we wanted to make in-house as stories were told, but these were the two centres of the show. So we always assumed we would bring them back, both of them.”

Britton and Herskovitz sat down with Entertainment Weekly to discuss the shocking ending. “Marshall wanted it to be a very drawn out, almost theatrical scene,” Britton explained. She was thrilled with the episode when she read it.

“What I liked was it feels reflective of Rayna as a character. She’s confronted with this dangerous conflict, and she’s able to dig into the psychology of how to deal with that and also find a way to relate to this guy so that he goes in a different direction. It felt like a cool moment for Rayna,” the actress said.

The moment was inspired by two real-life scenarios. A case in 2005 in which a woman was held hostage for several hours by a man who had just killed three people. And a 1982 case of a man breaking into the Queen of England’s bedroom and, shockingly, she talked to the man calmly to resolve the issue.

“In both incidents, there was a woman in jeopardy who managed to keep her head and connect with the man and resolve the situation where she was not harmed,” Herskovitz said and found it to be a fitting theme for Rayna. “She manages to reach this man, she makes a personal connection and because of that she disarms him emotionally, so it felt like a contradiction of the entire scene if he harms her,” he explained. “Because she succeeded. It just seemed wrong for her to them harm her.”

Unfortunately for us, they’re not letting anything slip as to what this means for next week. “It’s been our longstanding practice has been to never talk about upcoming stories,” Herskovitz said. “The experience of a story is the most important thing. You know she’s alive in the previews for next week. But we want people to be in the same state her family is in.”

“All I can say is Rayna’s tough and she’s sustained a lot,” Britton added. “Let’s wait and see.”

Considering how grim things look for Rayna at the end of Thursday’s episode, maybe we should be very worried.

“Nashville” airs Thursdays at 9 p.m ET/PT on W Network.

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