SPOILER ALERT: The story includes details about tonight’s ABC series finale of Nashville.

If tonight’s Nashville closer felt like a season and not a series finale, that was not by necessity but by design. Like fellow ABC bubble drama Castle, which too got a shocking cancellation, I hear Nashville filmed two endings of its Season 4 finale — a cliffhanger one and a happily-ever-after one in case of a cancellation. While Castle used the alternative ending that gave fans closure, Nashville went for the cliffhanger option in its final episode on ABC.

Nashville Season Finale 1The move by Nashville producer Lionsgate TV to forego the nicely wrapped-up series finale ending it had in the can for a cliffhanger is a testament to the level of confidence Lionsgate has that it would find another home for the show. The studio sprang into action the moment ABC’s surprising decision to cancel Nashville came on May 12. I hear the country music drama was pitched to streaming services and traditional networks, including Hulu, Lifetime, CMT and possibly Bravo/E!, and I hear there is a possible dual play on a streaming platform and a traditional network. Hulu has been considered a likely home because it already carries Nashville‘s previous seasons. Then there are the basic cable and premium networks that Lionsgate is a co-owner in, Pop and EPIX. (The cast of the show are under contract for several more seasons.)

Nashville Series Finale 4Now on to tonight’s finale. Besides the twist in the last few seconds when Avery  — at the airport with baby Cadence awaiting Juliette (Hayden Panettiere) — is whisked away with the bad news about trouble with Juliette’s plane, the finale nicely tied up most loose ends of Season 4, including Maddie’s emancipation saga, Jeff Fordham’s heroic death and the Scarlett-Gunnar and Will-Kevin relationships.

Luke and Will’s mission to win over detractors who would not accept an openly gay country artist hits a snag when bigoted conservative talk show host Cynthia Davis would not have Will on his show. With the help of Will’s former boyfriend and writing partner, the now-single Kevin, they quickly organize a demonstration/street concert in front of her studio. Cynthia finally caves and Will gets on the show where he counters her anti-gay tirade with an inspirational speech. “People’s minds change when they stop being afraid. I’m a human being, I’m a good man, I’m a good son.”

Will wins and gets back together with Kevin too, as the two kiss. Meanwhile, Luke gets closer to his son Colt and reconnects with his ex-wife, with a happy reconciliation on the horizon there too.

Current villainesses Layla and Autumn Nashville Series Finale 8try some more to sabotage Juliette and The Exes, respectively. Determined to keep Avery from flying to Los Angeles so his ex Juliette, attending the Oscars, can be with their daughter, Layla leaks the truth about Juliette’s involvement in Jeff Fordham’s death. Heading to the Oscars, Juliette does a live TV interview about the incident, admitting that Jeff had died saving her from committing suicide. Avery feels awful as he realizes that he had served Juliette with divorce papers just before she tried to take her life.

He, along with Layla’s manager, independently realize that Layla was behind the leak and both dump her. Avery is especially enraged as he realizes he had been used by Layla to exact revenge on Juliette. When Highway 65’s Bucky calls Layla with great news on the success of her album, she can’t get excited, still crying.

Nashville Series Finale 3Meanwhile, after having an epiphany about what everyone else had known for years — that she is in love with Gunnar — Scarlett finally starts to tell him how she feels when their boss-from-hell Autumn butts in to brag that she and Gunnar are an item. The Exes head for splitsville, with Autumn happily taking in Gunnar as a solo act. But after Scarlett professes her love for Gunnar before their last show together, they get on stage, sparks fly, and Gunnar kisses Scarlett passionately right there, with Autumn watching from the wings. “Looks like they are still a duo,” The Exes manager snarks. “Yeah, but they are so fired,” Autumn says.

One of Nashville‘s most disliked storylines, that of Maddie’s emancipation, also came to a happy conclusion after a few last-minute bumps. Rayna (Connie Britton) gets the alarming news that Maddie has been assigned to work with a famous producer who has a reputation for going after young girls and had tried to force himself on Rayna when she was Maddie’s age. After unsuccessfully trying to lobby with the female record executive at Maddie’s new label for a producer change and not being able to get in touch with her daughter, Rayna pens an online open letter to Maddie where she reveals her scarring experience with said producer years before. Maddie reads the story on her phone just as the producer is making a move on her. Deacon, who had left Rayna’s charity event nearby after seeing a social media pic of Maddie at the producer’s home, somehow manages to storm into the house unhindered and gets to his daughter just in time. Forced to pick between him and Cash, Maddy finally makes the right call and is soon reunited with her mother and sister.

Which brings us back to Juliette. After her confession on live TV, she decides not to attend the Oscars and boards her plane to go back to Nashville. “I had somewhere more important to be,” she tells the puzzled flight attendant. Her fate, as well as that of her show, are now up in the air.

Here is a clip from tonight’s finale: