Nashville returns to CMT for its midseason premiere on Thursday, June 1, but earlier this year, the show suffered a devastating blow in the death of its lead character Rayna Jaymes. Connie Britton, who plays Rayna, reportedly left the show on her own terms, wanting to pursue other work after 10 straight years of network TV (five seasons of which were spent on the country musical drama). She expressed a desire to get more involved in laying the creative groundwork of a show, rather than merely starring in it. But is Rayna returning to Nashville Season 5?
Unfortunately, it doesn't look like there's a future in which she returns for any extended period of time. Her character died in a car crash, had a funeral, and was buried. Britton assured Stephen Colbert in a Late Show interview after the episode that Rayna truly wasn't coming back. "She's really dead. I'm sorry, but I gotta tell it like it is. She's really dead. But, I think the twin sister idea is not bad!" she joked. "I mean, it's Nashville, anything could happen."
All kidding about secret twin aunties aside, we've already seen a couple of flashback scenes with Rayna in the two episodes following her death before the midseason hiatus. And based on an interview Britton gave TVLine, there could be more where that came from.
"I do pop back in in after Episode 9," she told them in an exit interview. "And Nashville‘s always going to be important to me, so I’m totally open to whatever as time goes on. But it is really hard to say goodbye to this character."
It's unclear whether she was referring solely to her reappearance in episodes 10 and 11, which we've already seen, or if there will be more Rayna flashbacks in Season 5B. It's also possible Rayna could appear to Deacon, Maddie, Daphne, or some other bereaved character in one of those stirring pep-talk-with-a-ghost gimmicks. In fact, Nashville newcomer Kaitlin Doubleday spent her last season on Empire as a dead woman who came to her husband in visions.
Whether or not more Rayna Jaymes makes for great TV, the real deciding factor here seems to be Britton's desire to move on from the show. While she appears to cherish the Nashville family and seems willing to make appearances as necessary, her plans for the future pretty clearly lie elsewhere — and Nashville's showrunners are supportive of that. So fans will likely have to learn to say goodbye to Rayna for good, if they haven't already.