“Lighting Sam Palladio, one of the easier tasks we face in a day. Sam is British, but when he steps into the role of Gunnar, his English accent evaporates. It’s always a little jarring to talk with him between takes. You forget which accent is the real one.”

Deep breath, y’all. Here goes a 10-second primer: A funeral, a pregnancy, an addict’s relapse, a shocking paternity revealed, a federal investigation, a violent car accident that jeopardizes the lives of two central characters—all this happened not just in the first season of the breathless prime-time soap Nashville, but in its last episode alone. “There’s so much we want to do, we just pack it all in,” says the show’s creator Callie Khouri.

Set in the country music heartland of Nashville, Tennessee—a city glamorous enough for Connie Britton’s incomparable auburn mane, but insular enough for smoldering looks from past and potential lovers to lurk behind every microphone—the show, the second season of which premieres on ABC on Wednesday, September 25, takes after Homeland and Breaking Bad in its credo that any storyline juicy enough to save for the future is even better played out right now.

Like Breaking Bad, Nashville also features a mesmeric antihero: Hayden Panettiere’s Juliette Barnes, a pint-size country-pop diva who resembles a trailer-trash Taylor Swift, is perhaps the first leading woman on TV since Glenn Close in Damages who is as deliciously bad as she is beloved by the show’s fans. “It’s amazing how Hayden can, week after week, be the worst person one moment and then break your heart the next,” Khouri says. “That’s one of the most difficult things to do.”

The cast is both vast and deep in talent, with too many stories that are more or less country songs come alive to rehash here. But one particular arc seems especially promising. It involves a closeted aspiring country singer (played by Chris Carmack, of The OC fame) who is determined to make it big with his beer-swigging, pick-up driving, womanizing image intact. “I thought that would be so hard,” says Khouri. “What if what you want more than anything is to be in this world where you are the last thing anyone wants to see?”