Rayna’s (Connie Britton) eldest daughter on “Nashville” has been through more drama in her 17 years than most people go through in their entire lives. We’ll give her that. But Maddie (Lennon Stella) is one breakdown away from grabbing a razor and going full Britney Spears 2007: She’s a teenager on the warpath, and since Rayna and Deacon (Charles Esten) have such storied pasts, neither feel like they have the authority to reel her in.
Dear Rayna and Deacon: Yes, you do. You’re her parents. It’s actually your job to do exactly that.
Now, Maddie may not follow what you have to say, but when she storms out the house refusing to say what time she’ll be back, or who she’ll be with — and then returns with a boyfriend for whom it’s illegal for her date, you also don’t get to be the “cool, talk to me like I’m your best friend” kind of parent.
It’s seriously bizarre that Maddie and Clay’s (Joseph David-Jones) relationship even bears further discussion since it’s hard to get past the glaring fact that she’s not of age to date him, but we digress. Clay suffers from bipolar disorder, and refuses to take his meds. His primary occupation seems to be singing on the streets for tips. Most people would run for the hills at that point, regardless of how cool he seems or talented he is, but not Maddie. She chases after him. Her wonderfully privileged life is just way too boring at the moment, and she’s gunning for the challenge. “I’m not a virgin,” she tells Clay — naive enough to think this is what makes her an adult.
…Or maybe Rayna and Deacon are just exhausted by her antics, and have thrown in the towel. Everything with Maddie is a fight. And she’s got that “The man I spent my whole life thinking was my Dad wasn’t my Dad” card in her back pocket, which neither of her biological parents can argue. The man she once believed to be her father can’t say another either, because he’s in prison for conspiracy and dating a hooker. What this grants Maddie is a lifetime Get Out of Jail Free card, and what’s scary about her (and for her!) is that she knows it: She has the freedom do as she pleases without consequence.
But it’s not actually her we’re worried about. The person that will suffer the most in this situation is Clay.
Maddie’s relationship with Clay will most likely end in one of three ways. First, Clay gets killed. “Nashville” is really driving home the fact that while Maddie and her family don’t see race as an issue, the rest of the world does. Especially in the south. Clay getting beat up might’ve been foreshadowing a deadly assault he gets into while trying to defend Maddie one night.
Or Clay will be his own enemy. Not taking his meds because it blocks his creative process is tough cookies, mister, and will not end well. He might get so caught up in his own head that he decides to take his own life, and of course Maddie will blame herself for not being able to save him — but he was never hers to save. That’s not how people work, and certainly not love.
Clay repeatedly tells Maddie, “I am a mistake.” That’s the announcement of a person who is not willing to change — a clear warning that he’s cool being an untreated mental patient, so get on board or get out. Maddie, of course, dives in head first.
Or lastly, Clay gets arrested. Sorry for stating the obvious — who knows, maybe their relationship will turn out to be nothing but rainbows and moonbeams, country songs and romance. But this doesn’t change the fact that Maddie is a 17-years-old kid and Clay, a 24-year-old man. The law can be a pesky thing in the name of love.
Now, it will probably be a bit of time before any of these devastating scenarios play out, but it’s usually a telltale sign things are doomed when the road is this bumpy from the get-go. And yes, we’re also shaking in our boots for Rayna’s other daughter, little Daphne (Maisy Stella), who’s not so little anymore: While still currently innocent, she’s got that Conrad family strength, that natural fierce will for independence, and we wouldn’t be surprised if she soon heads down the same rough paths as big sis.
“Nashville” airs on Thursday nights at 9 p.m. ET/PT on CMT.