Friday, June 4, 2021

Julie and the Phantoms 1x09 Review: “Stand Tall” (Whatever Happens Next) [Contributor: Jenn]

“Stand Tall”
Original Airdate: September 10, 2020

Sacrifices are hard, but they’re only difficult when you really care about someone or something. I could give up playing video games for years because they don’t matter to me. But if you asked me to sacrifice wine or chocolate? No dice. It’s silly, but the same truth is applicable when it comes to people. We’re willing to sacrifice small things for people who don’t matter. But it’s a lot harder to sacrifice big, life-changing things for the people you truly love and care about.

Julie Molina deals with loss a lot — much more than someone her age should have to deal with — and in “Stand Tall,” the show’s (hopefully just) season finale, Julie has to make the ultimate sacrifice by letting the boys cross over so they’ll be safe. The boys make their own sacrifice in choosing to stay with Julie even though it means their certain demise. Ultimately though this episode is a lovely exploration of grief, healing, and the power of all kinds of love. Let’s dive in!


Let’s all take one collective moment to appreciate the lovely, talented Madison Reyes. This is her first ever gig and she’s not just an amazing singer but also a wonderful actor. She knocks this episode out of the park, too, especially the scene in the alleyway where Julie is talking to her mom. But backing up for a moment, Julie pulls Luke aside before the group heads to perform at The Orpheum and asks him to do her a favor. Like the smitten puppy he is, Luke promises he’ll do anything. 

So Julie’s last request of the boys (for now, she makes another at the end of the episode) is to find her mom and thank her for bringing the boys into Julie’s life. The other important detour I want to take really quickly before we dive into the emotional arc Julie goes on before the show is that the boys affirm something that I think Julie and the Phantoms fans sometimes forget: Julie is a star. Though I love all of these dumb boys with my heart and soul, they’d be nothing without Julie Molina. Literally they’d be invisible to everyone. Julie and her voice are what make the band who they are. Sometimes we get so sidetracked with complimenting Jeremy or Owen or Charlie that we forget Maddie is the heart and soul of this series. Let us never forget that, because the boys — both in and out of the show — know that she’s the reason for everything. She’s the reason there is a show and she’s the reason there is a band.

But the boys get kidnapped, essentially, by Caleb and forced into playing at The Hollywood Ghost Club. Julie, of course, is worried. Even though the boys abandoned her once, she knows them well enough now to know they’d never abandon her, especially not on the biggest night of her life (and their afterlives). Even so, Julie doesn’t have many options as she sits and gets ready for the show. Either she’s going to back out or go up on stage without a band. 

First though, she needs to go to the alley to have a conversation with her mom. It’s this incredibly emotional, beautiful and honest moment where Julie finally lets it all out. She’s tired of saying goodbye to people she loves. She’s tired of not knowing why she has to deal with the weight of the grief she feels. She’s tired of being on her own, without her mom there to help. So she pours all of her feelings out to the alley. “They were my friends. My band. My family.” 

The thing is, Julie hasn’t probably said a lot of these words out loud before. She’s talked about her mom and reminisced and missed her, but there’s this unguarded anger and frustration as well that we finally see. She’s upset that her mom isn’t there to scoop her up in her arms and tell her it’ll all be okay. She can’t even find comfort in knowing for sure that the boys are okay. So what does Julie have left now?

Well, in that moment, a woman passes by with a bag of flowers and notices Julie crying. So she hands her one. And it’s, of course, a dahlia. It’s Julie’s comfort in knowing that even though she can’t see what’s ahead, her mom is really there with her in a tangible way. It gives her the courage to go up on stage and perform her song — even though she thinks she’ll have to do it alone. The thing is, she knows now that she’s never been alone. She has her dad and Carlos and her aunt. And her mom is still right there with her, in that dahlia and in the unexpected.


The boys fight their way back to Julie. We could theorize for days about the order in which the boys pop onto stage with Julie, but my theory goes a little something like this: Alex appears first because he’s got this empathy and compassion that’s stronger than most people. He cares about Julie, but I think the tug for him is that he’s needed. He can feel that. And Reggie goes next because he feels Julie’s need and it reminds him of his need for family. Luke, you’d think, would be the first to pop out onto stage. But the thing is that his pull is strongest to Julie. He’s the most deeply connected to her so the only way he’s getting out of Caleb’s clutches is if he fights and claws his way back there. So the other two arrive first and it appears that Luke is flickering and fading. But he makes it, not because he’s pulled toward the spotlight but because he’s pulled away from it and to the person he cares deeply about.

The boys poof away, and Julie thinks they’ve left to finally cross over. But later, Julie goes into the empty garage to say goodbye and get a sense of closure and realizes the boys are still there. In pain and possibly dying again, they tell her that they didn’t have anywhere else to go. Julie is more distraught than the boys are and demands that they take Caleb’s offer. “Please, do it for me,” she begs them. It’s a moment of desperation and heartbreak rolled together. And even though it would likely save them from pain and torture in the short-term, the boys refuse. They’d rather cease to exist than exist without Julie. “No music’s worth making, Julie,” Luke tearfully declares, “if we’re not making it with you.” What a lovely character growth arc for Luke. All he cared about was playing their music — Sunset Curve, to be clear. And then he met Julie and he fell for her, but he also realized what really mattered in life. What mattered wasn’t the fame that he failed to achieve while he was alive; what mattered was love and earnestness and vulnerability. 

When Luke tells Julie this, she flings her arms around him, unable to stop herself. And in that moment, we realize something a little quicker than they do: they’re hugging. They can touch! (Sidenote: the fact that Julie was so desperate to hug Luke that she flung herself into his arms knowing he couldn’t catch her was too much for my heart to handle.)

Soon the pair realizes what’s happening and kudos to Madison Reyes and Charlie Gillespie for playing the next moment with the pitch-perfect attention it deserved. Luke and Julie can touch, and the moment that Julie realizes it, her hand goes straight to touch Luke’s face and he cups her face in his hands to wipe away her tears. It’s the softest, sweetest thing. They hold hands like they can’t believe the other is real (and if there’s a season two, let’s be honest: the touching thing won’t last because that’s just not exciting plot fodder). Reggie and Alex join Luke and the group hugs each other. Suddenly, the boys’ club stamps from Caleb float off their arms and into the sky. They have no idea what’s happening but somehow they’re all okay — and slightly glowing.

Though they have no idea what it means, the group decides to hug and Luke declares: “I think the band’s back.” This family has found each other and will keep finding each other over and over again. No matter what.

Notes and quotes:

  • While I greatly appreciate the incredible vocals of Cheyenne Jackson, “Nothing to Lose” might be my least favorite song out of all of the songs in Julie and the Phantoms. It’s not bad, but it’s just not as engaging as “The Other Side of Hollywood.” I do love the performances by the boys though on their instruments. I know they did a lot of work so I’ll always Meanwhile, “Stand Tall” is and forever remains a bop.
  • “I told you, I’d do anything for you.” MY BABIES ARE SO PRECIOUS.
  • “Alex, no dancing.”
  • I talked about this on an Instagram Live with some fans of the show and I guess we just have to suspend all our disbelief that if Julie and the boys were trending literally no one who’d ever heard of Sunset Curve, any of their family members, or close friends would have recognized them.
  • “Why do you hate me too?” “Only love, baby. Only love.”
  • “Where’s she going?” “Where to any of us really go?”
  • “Step into your greatness.”
  • I love that Carlos knows about the ghosts but never says anything because that’s how sweet he is.
  • I love that Carrie stands and applauds Julie. LADIES SUPPORTING LADIES.
  • We don’t need to talk about it, but Luke’s “Stand Tall” outfit at the end really just… is something else, isn’t it?
  • Let’s be real: we can’t leave the series on that Nick-related cliffhanger, can we?

What did you all think of “Stand Tall”? Sound off in the comments below and let me know how much you all want a season two of Julie and the Phantoms!


Post a Comment