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Relationship Deep Dive: Julie and the Phantoms

JULIE AND THE PHANTOMS (L to R) JEREMY SHADA as REGGIE, MADISON REYES as JULIE, OWEN JOYNER as ALEX, and CHARLIE GILLESPIE as LUKE in episode 102 of JULIE AND THE PHANTOMS
Cr. EIKE SCHROTER/NETFLIX © 2020

Type: Platonic
Show: Netflix’s Julie and the Phantoms
Featured Characters: Julie Molina, Luke Patterson, Alex, Reggie, and Flynn

Sometimes, a fictional band is so great it’s easy to wish they were real. And that could’ve been the case with Julie and The Phantoms (Sunset Curve) had Netflix not canceled the series prematurely after the first season. What was fictional could’ve been gloriously real—instead, what remains is a myriad of what-if situations and more questions than answers. Julie and the Phantoms dealt with grief so beautifully that it’s the part of the series we’ll likely miss the most as its means of bringing music and healing through friendship remains its legacy, and though unfortunately short-lived, these friendships will be remembered for years to come.

Friendships between the bandmates, friendships with Julie and Flynn, everything they built together and even, the presence of Julie’s mom, Rose. It was a matter of signs and meant-to-be relationships—a bond that has changed all of them for the better. The series was at its best during the quiet moments where boys were allowed to be warm and vulnerable, and women could be themselves. My generation didn’t have a show like this to grow up around, but Julie and the Phantoms proved that it could set the best kind of example in the short time we had with it. It could be a beacon of hope and a paradigm for inclusivity for those feeling alone or drowning in the waves of grief. 

This deep dive could have and should have been longer. If we had more time with this show and more content to cover, it could’ve been a joy ride through and through with all sorts of details. 

Julie and the Phantoms

JULIE AND THE PHANTOMS (L to R) JEREMY SHADA as REGGIE, MADISON REYES as JULIE, OWEN JOYNER as ALEX, and CHARLIE GILLESPIE as LUKE in episode 106 of JULIE AND THE PHANTOMS
Cr. KAILEY SCHWERMAN/NETFLIX © 2020

Music might’ve saved each of them, but in short, their hearts keep them afloat—they find love and worth together. While the series never explains the mechanisms behind why Julie could see the boys when there’s no music, it leaves us with endless possibilities to question Rose’s role in all this. Had she held on to the memory of the boys tightly? Did she know about Bobby’s successful role when the girls were going to school together? Did their death haunt her with a depth even she couldn’t fathom? These are all questions we’ll never have the answer to, and thus, perhaps all we can do is deem them as soulmates. 

It must be that their friendship was written in the stars—whatever explains the how and why ultimately comes down to the use of signs in the series and how those who’ve passed somehow find ways to help their loved ones on earth. Where we might never have answers—we have hope. Hope, that in spite of Julie’s initial hesitations, she learned to trust the boys. She tried to give music another chance by opening her heart to the possibility that singing again could help her feel closer to her mother. In deciding to become a band officially, healing begins through transparency, and it begins through joy.

When we covered Julie’s “Wake Up” performance, it was said that this is the moment where you could see the actual shift in everything that transpires. 

“It’s the way she looks up for a moment, as though to her mother when she sings: get up, get out, relight that spark, you know the rest by heart. It’s the gorgeous detail that she’s surrounded by sunlight and plants—the two things in our world we can all universally agree on the fact that they represent light, hope, and meaning. They are proof of it.

And then there’s the band. We don’t get a detailed glimpse into each of their expressions without zooming in, but what we see in their physicality tells us everything we need to know about how much this moment is cathartic for them too. How are they back? What’s their purpose? There are uncertainties and one too many questions, but with the sun blaring through behind them—it’s promising of what is to come. It’s clear to see that this moment is crucial in creating a lasting friendship, perhaps even, carefully orchestrated by Julie’s mom to ensure utmost happiness and the presence of healing melody in her family’s life until they meet again.”

And though this is focusing strictly on the platonic angles of their relationships, when we say they’re all soulmates, for this show, it equates to something even more significant than the traditional definition. They’re each other’s safe space. When the band is on stage, they’re not only the best versions of themselves, but they’re stronger than they’ll ever be. The possibilities for the growth their journey could’ve led to were endless. Performing at The Orpheum was meant to be a beginning, not an end. Could they have returned to their bodies? They could embrace now—they could give each other moments of comfort fully to showcase the gratitude they feel by virtue of the healing they’ve found in each other.

The adoration between them runs so deep there’s nothing these boys wouldn’t do for Julie. She’d take on performing alone if it meant that the jolts wouldn’t torture them any longer. She’d risk losing them if it meant they were safe without her. But none of that matters because the boys were willing to risk their safety exclusively to be by her side. Julie and The Phantoms is the band they want to perform as, and it would never matter how much it pains them in the process.

There’s much to be said about “Stand Tall” being the last song they perform together because the sentiment is richer due to their friendship. The strength in standing tall results from how profoundly they love and care for one another—so much so that the tethers Caleb binds them with are, in fact, destructible.

Julie and Flynn

JULIE AND THE PHANTOMS (L to R) MADISON REYES as JULIE, JADAH MARIE as FLYNN, and JEREMY SHADA as REGGIE in episode 103 of JULIE AND THE PHANTOMS
Cr. KAILEY SCHWERMAN/NETFLIX © 2020

It’s one thing to be the person who’s grieving, but it’s a whole other wheelhouse to navigate through when you’re a teenager watching your best friend grieve. From the moment we meet them, Julie and Flynn (whose last name is still a mystery to viewers) set a brilliant example of boundaries and love. There’s very little Flynn can actually do other than stay beside Julie and hold her hand when she needs it. But something she does beautifully is how fervently she stands beside her.

A best friend should always be your biggest fan. No one was around at the birth of those dreams, the trials, errors, pauses in the darkness, and the second chances. When the world doubted whether Julie was ready or not, Flynn knew what she needed, why, and how, but beyond that, she trusted her best friend’s agency. She gives her the space to grieve, she gives her the opportunity to talk about what’s going through her head, and when the time comes, she supports her through everything.

Flynn knows and believes with everything in her that Julie is capable of wonders beyond what she can comprehend, and she vocalizes it as often and as much as she can. And for Julie—well, she dedicates an entire song to her through “Flying Solo” that organically lays down the boundless adoration she carries for her best friend. “When I look at you, it’s like I’m looking at me” is more than enough to exhibit the fact that the girls are kindred spirits—the kind of friends who’ll grow old together through every path they are on because they’re a part of each other in a way no one else could understand. You know, without a shadow of a doubt, they’re going to be friends for life. There won’t be a natural distance between the two of them in college or even later in life, but rather their orbits will often align because what they continue to build together is incomparable.

They’re young today, but they’ll grow older together—Julie’s pain is Flynn’s and vice-versa. The language they’ve established, the enduring love they pour out, the decisions to apologize to one another, to make matters right quickly because staying angry is never an option. To love one another so profoundly, you’d do anything to carry the colossal weight they’re feeling no matter how much it costs you. And well, frankly, should we have gotten more, Flynn would’ve been a kick-ass manager, PR rep, and everything in-between because formalities are nonexistent on this show. This is their world, and we’re all living in it.

Sunset Curve

JULIE AND THE PHANTOMS (L to R) CHARLIE GILLESPIE as LUKE, JEREMY SHADA as REGGIE, and OWEN JOYNER as ALEX in episode 102 of JULIE AND THE PHANTOMS
Cr. EIKE SCHROTER/NETFLIX © 2020

One band, one brain cell—an entire found family cemented on the brilliance of loving one another fiercely and without borders. They are each other’s family. When Alex’s family abandons him after he comes out, the boys become his world. They become his confidants. And even though they don’t always hug him in the 25 years, the sentiment is still more accurate than anything else—they aren’t going anywhere. Dead or alive, Sunset Curve isn’t the kind of band who’ll go their separate ways because of creative differences, but rather they’ll work around everything because the family they find in each other is the family they’ve always needed.

The boys knowing exactly where Luke would be in “Unsaid Emily”—their never-ending array of love for each other and the utter softness could’ve been a glorious form of inspiration if we’d gotten more. (It still is, but you get the picture.) They were proof of the fact that you could be soft and tough at the same time because strength isn’t callousness, it’s warmth and love, and these boys were all of that. They could hold each other’s hands through uncertainties, understand each other’s worth, and, more importantly, they could confide in each other. Sometimes, words weren’t even necessary.

When things got serious, they were willing to listen. When someone wasn’t sure what they wanted, they could talk (or sing) things through. And much of it is never blatantly said aloud, but we see it as a continuous showcase of their gratitude for one another—the way they’d look to each other when they were in doubt, the joy in their eyes when someone nails a melody. It was in the little moments. Through every performance, they make it clear that singing together is a gift they could never take for granted—especially since their lives were cut short, making it that much simpler to understand the profound weight of their losses.

Julie and the Phantoms did something extraordinary by bringing depth and wholesome elements to a plot that could’ve been entirely too ridiculous if it weren’t developed properly. It wouldn’t have hit as hard as it does if these friendships weren’t grounded in an unbeatable form of adoration that’s the driving force of their endgame. 

The show will always be about a found family that leads to growth in a way the healthiest relationships often tend to do.

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