Wednesday, December 30, 2020

Julie and the Phantoms 1x02 Review: “Bright” (This Band is Back!) [Contributor: Jenn]

Original Airdate: September 10, 2020

What makes your life brighter? Is it a person? A hobby? A place? Julie Molina’s life is brighter when there’s music in it. But after her mom’s death, grief dimmed even the thing she loved most and gave her the most life. That is, until a few ghosts entered the picture.

“Bright” is a really solid episode of Julie and the Phantoms that sets up plots for the rest of the season and reminds us not to waste our power.


“Bright” picks up right where the pilot left off — Julie has finished playing and the boys have been behind her, listening. They poof out of the studio and discuss how impressed they are by her talent and also confused they are by why she’s hidden it for so long. We’ll talk more about Julie and her love of music in a bit, but let’s talk about Luke, Alex, and Reggie first.

Throughout the episode, they learn more about their ghost powers and abilities and sadly reflect on their lives and the current state of the world. Reggie misses his family after hearing an emotional Ray discuss his late wife, so the boys go to the beach to see Reggie’s old house. Unfortunately, the neighborhood where the boys used to live is completely demolished and restaurants have taken their place. It’s been 25 years since they last saw their families, and when Reggie and Alex vocalize this, Luke reminds him that they’re longing for families that were broken.

Alex came out to his parents and their relationship was never the same. Luke mentions that his parents regretted buying him his guitar (and we’ll see more of their dynamic later in the show). And Reggie’s parents were one fight away from divorce. While the boys watch over the lives of the living with wistfulness, Luke pulls them back to reality — what they were missing is long gone, and it wasn’t great to begin with. That doesn’t stop Alex and Reggie from feeling lost and disconnected though. Even though their families weren’t the best, they were still something real and tangible to hold onto.

Now that they’re dead, Alex makes a valid point to Luke: what do they really have, anyway? They have no lives. They have no families. They’re invisible to everyone but Julie. The world around them changed so much from 1995 to 2020 and they didn’t even get to be part of it. They’re floating through a world with no real tether. Except for one thing, as Luke reminds them: music. They have their music. They have each other. That’s all they need.

While Julie and the Phantoms’ central character is Julie Molina, Luke, Alex, and Reggie are such integral parts of the show and their character development is just as important as Julie’s. And music is something that doesn’t just connect the boys to each other and to their listeners, but to Julie as well.


Though Julie has rediscovered her spark for music, she isn’t automatically let back into the music program. Unfortunately her spot has already been filled. And even though Julie is reminded how much she loves music and is inspired by it, she’s not too keen on writing again. It still hurts too much because it reminds her of her mother.

But Luke and Flynn push Julie to find a way back into the music program. Inspired by his passion for music and Julie’s talent, Luke actually strikes up a really important conversation with Julie in her kitchen while he’s longingly looking at all the food in her fridge he can’t eat. He tells her that if Mrs. Harrison and Principal Lessa won’t let her back in the program, then she will just have to find a way to smash the rules and make them listen to her. Julie is skeptical; she’s not really the smashing, kick-the-door-in type of girl. But Luke is insistent on two things: that Julie needs to fight and that Julie needs to fight because she cannot let her power go to waste.

He’s right, too, and she knows it: music is the thing that breathes life into her. She’s not just talented, but she’s fully alive when she’s playing piano and singing. Luke tells her that he can’t watch her waste her life, especially when he’d give anything to be alive. There’s a great moment next when Luke gifts Julie a song. Even if she’s not ready to write, Luke is prepared to help in any way possible — and that’s a reason I love their friendship and relationship. Luke’s present is a song called “Bright” that Sunset Curve never got to record, and he workshops it in the kitchen with Julie. This is one of the first, but not last, scenes that proves Charlie Gillespie and Madison Reyes have such incredible and charming chemistry. When Julie sings, Luke encourages her proudly. He doesn’t need to be the star; he’s happy to give her something personal to him because he wants to watch her shine.

And truly, he continues this throughout the series. When Julie shows up at a pep rally, poised to perform “Bright,” she starts to get nervous. Very nervous. And Luke is constantly hyping her up, reminding her that she’s got this and mouthing the words along before he and the rest of the boys join her on stage to perform. I love shipping and I’ve shipped a lot of couples in my life, but what I constantly look for is a ship that’s healthy, encouraging, and brings out the best in each characters. The Julie and the Phantoms “Juke” ship certainly delivers on all counts. And I can’t wait to watch it grow in season two (yes, I’m manifesting it in my head, okay?).

“Bright” ends with Julie and her ghost boys performing the song on stage and coming to a really fun realization — people besides Julie can see the boys when they’re singing and playing their instruments. And then, after they take their bows, they promptly disappear. Dun dun dunnnnnnnnnn!

Hitting the right notes:

  • Musical breakdown: I think originally when I watched Julie and the Phantoms, my favorite song was “Edge of Great,” but right now it might be “Bright.” Madison’s high note coupled with Jeremy and Charlie’s harmony, and Charlie’s grit/growl makes it a pretty perfect song. “This Band is Back (Reggie’s Jam)” is so charming and fun, and I need more of Jeremy singing in season two. And if you haven’t yet tried to run to “Wow,” you’ll find it is a perfect song to run to!
  • “This is why no one hugs you.”
  • “I’m so happy for you! And me!” This is why Flynn deserves the world.
  • You know that gratuitous shirtless scene of Chris Hemsworth in Thor: Ragnarok that’s in there for no other reason than for our own personal enjoyment? I thought about that in this episode when Luke changes shirts. Really there’s no reason we need to see it, but also isn’t there?
  • “Okay, how am I the emotional one?”
  • “It tingles... in WEIRD places!”
  • Everyone else caught those little smiles when Julie walks through Luke, right? We ship it.
  • We talked about this in our podcast but I’m glad the show doesn’t villainize Carrie for making pop music; Julie complimenting her was a nice touch.
  • I can’t express how happy the shot of Flynn on the trumpet makes me.

What was your favorite part of “Bright”? Sound off in the comments below!


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