SPOILER ALERT: This story includes details about the Season 5 finale of Nashville.

Nashville wrapped its fifth season — and first on CMT — tonight with a finale in which the battle for the future of Highway 65 came to a head with Zach effectively shutting it down by draining the label’s bank accounts. Deacon, whose angry outbursts had cost him dearly in the past, was the picture of calm in his face-off with the arrogant tech wiz Zach and talked some sense into him about staying at the label as a partner.

Finally finding out about the Juliette-Maddie song theft-gate, Deacon confronted Juliette. Feeling remorseful, she pushed Zach’s buttons with a threatened expose to help him come around on Highway 65 and withdrew her American Music Awards nomination, publicly admitting that she’d swiped Maddie’s song.

CMT

On the romantic front, the on-again-off-again couple of Gunnar and Scarlett got on the outs again, Avery resisted temptation on the road to return home to Juliette, Will chose his friends over Zach, Deacon and Jessie had a moment but did not act on it while a kiss came out of nowhere, with Alyssa planting one on Deacon in her final scene.

In an interview with Deadline, Nashville co-showrunner Marshall Herskovitz talks about the kiss, the future of Highway 65 and a Deacon and Jessie relationship and gives a status report on two Nashville couples Scarlett and Gunnar, and Will and Zach. He also teases new cast additions for Season 6, which will debut in January, and drops more clues what else to expect next year.

CMT

DEADLINE: Lets start with the last line in the finale. What did Maddie mean by “I’m free”?
HERSKOVITZ: I think it’s summing up the journey she’s made the entire year — the horrible experience of the death of her mother, the pressure on her when she put out the hit song and found out that Juliette had stolen a song written for her. She is nominated for an American Music Award and loses. In some way she feels good about it, in some way, it would’ve been too much too soon. She came out content, I’m free, my life is just beginning, I can do whatever I want.

DEADLINE: Has Highway 65 been saved?
HERSKOVITZ: I don’t want to say about the future but we certainly wanted to resolve this particular problem. It was a real breakthrough for Deacon to rise to the occasion and not get angry when this arrogant young man gets abusive and is screaming at him. Deacon finds the strength and looks and realizes what’s going on. He has grown to a point where he can take a seat, stay calm and see through the screams. That saves the day and for the moment, the crisis has been averted.

DEADLINE: Let’s talk about that kiss between Alyssa and Deacon? Where did that come from, and is Rachel Bilson’s stint on the show over?
HERSKOVITZ: This story arc has ended though we would love for her to come back. I like that scene. I though that was a collaborative moment, Rachel had input in that; it grew very originally from the storyline.

DEADLINE: Really? I did not see it coming.
HERSKOVITZ: She told the truth that it wasn’t really sexual. She sees how tormented this guy is, and she is feeling for him.

CMT

DEADLINE: Has Juliette’s redeemed herself by withdrawing her AMA nomination and helping save Highway 65?
HERSKOVITZ: I think she is one of these people who carries around her worst problems and she never lets go. As she says in the finale, “maybe there is darkness in me.” For her to find strength to own up to what she has done shows that she possess the ability to grow but can’t change who she is, a very troubled person.

CMT

DEADLINE: Let’s talk about the scene between Gunnar and Scarlett, in which she never turns back when leaving the house. Are then done as a couple for now?
HERSKOVITZ:I think it’s been clear that we were watching an ending. It will be interesting to explore two people who have been so incredibly attached to each other, to see how they chart their separate courses in life.

DEADLINE: What about Will and Zach. Is their relationship over?
HERSKOVITZ: I don’t want to say that it’s over as sometimes in love what you say in a moment doesn’t hold true the next day. But their relationship must change in result of what happened.

DEADLINE: Meanwhile, Deacon and Jessie almost kissed but didn’t. Was that in response to fans who thought it was too soon for Deacon to be dating. Is romance still in the cards for these two?
HERSKOVITZ: Jess will be back, I wouldn’t say more. I don’t think Deacon knows what to do. Such a thing can never be easy for a man, who had dedicated so much of his life to Rayna and their relationship. Moving forward will never be linear and simple. How he moves on with life will be part of what we explore next year.

DEADLINE: What else can we expect in Season 6?
HERSKOVITZ: We will introduce two important new characters that we are excited about. And Jessie’s ex, played by Jeff Nordling, will be back as well. He did a great job doing that part. We are going to see some shaping up in careers of various people on the show. Will, Avery, Gunnar and Scarlett will make very interesting career turns.