Wake Up is the first episode of Julie and the Phantom's first season and the first episode overall. It premiered on Netflix on September 10, 2020. It is written by David Hoge and Dan Cross and directed by Kenny Ortega.
In Hollywood, 1995, a four piece band called Sunset Curve performs a soundcheck of Now or Never, at The Orpheum, mere hours before their life changing gig. Rose, a bartender, compliments their performance, they give her a tee shirt and a Demo CD. They are all very excited about playing, believing tonight will change everything. Three of the band members; Luke, Alex and Reggie, go out to get some “street dogs”, while the last band member, Bobby, stays behind to continue to talk with Rose. The three boys get their street dogs from a vendor who is selling them from the back of his car. When Alex notices that the food tastes different than usual, Reggie ironically states that street dogs haven’t killed them yet. The street dogs turn out to be rancid, causing the three bandmates to die of food poisoning before they could play their big show, while Bobby disappears after that night and is not to be heard from again.
25 years later in 2020 in LA’s Los Feliz High School, Julie has had trouble playing and writing music after the recent death of her mother—an activity they often did together. Julie's best friend Flynn points out that she has one last chance to prove that she belongs in the music program, and that she needs to play or risk being kicked out. Julie tells her that she knows, before they are both handed a poster by their former friend Carrie and her boyfriend Nick, reminding them of the upcoming school Spirit Rally where Carrie’s dance group, Dirty Candy, will be performing. Carrie walks away after the three girls have a snarky exchange, and before they head to class, Flynn comments on Julie's continuing crush on Nick despite never having a real conversation with him.
After Nick plays his piece on his guitar, Mrs. Harrison, calls up Julie for her turn. Julie gets up to play the piano but she freezes and can’t do it. Carrie mocks her as she runs out of the class.
When Julie gets home, Ray, her father, talks to her about moving house and packing their things, as a way to deal with her grief of losing her mother. He asks her if she is okay to deal with packing up her mother’s music studio, a place she hasn’t entered in awhile.
Julie enters the studio and apologizes out loud to her mother for not visiting. She uncovers the piano and picks up a song her mother left behind. Julie decides to climb into the loft area of the studio and start cleaning. There, Julie finds a bunch of old instruments and a CD for the band Sunset Curve. Picking it up, Julie sits down on the couch and plays the first song, Now or Never. Suddenly with a flash of light, the ghosts of the band appear in the middle of the room, wondering aloud how they got back to the studio. Julie screams, causing the boys to scream back at her and grab at each other. The screaming continues from both parties before Julie flees the studio.
Julie comes rushing into her father and brother on their way back home after baseball practice. Ray grabs ahold of Julie and tells her to slow down, saying she looks like she’s seen a ghost. Julie claims she has before dashing inside into her bedroom. Carlos says the idea of ghosts is cool, which Julie quickly refutes as she slams the door.
Julie screams all the way into her room and hides behind a beanbag, where she can still see the studio's light from her window. Pulling out her phone, she texts Flynn “911!!!” but Flynn doesn’t answer. Ray knocks on her door to check on her, startling Julie. Ray apologies but wants to make sure she’s okay.
Julie thinks that Ray doesn’t believe that she saw ghosts, but Ray says that he does and that he sees her mother’s all the time and that everyone grieves differently. Julie insists that it isn’t like that and that she really did see something. Ray asks her to explain it to him, and he’ll listen to whatever she needs to say. Julie accuses him of sounding like her old therapist, and Ray mentions that maybe seeing her therapist again is a good idea. Julie wants Ray to drop that idea and he agrees. He makes sure she’s really okay before leaving her room.
Julie returns to the studio with a crucifix in hand from her bedroom wall. Walking around the empty studio, Julie calls out to the ghosts, asking if they’re still there. She claims she’s not crazy and she knows that she saw something. When the ghosts appear behind her, Julie whirls around and screams again. She demands to know who they are and what they are doing in her mother’s studio. The band claim the space used to be their studio and are really confused as to why a lot has changed in the room. Alex asks Julie why she’s in their studio, and fearfully she thrusts the crucifix through Alex’s chest. Alex is mildly annoyed but reveals that they are ghosts and they’re the band Sunset Curve.
Freaking out, Julie pulls out her phone and googles them, which confuses the boys even more, as they don’t recognise the device as a phone and who she would be calling. She then confirms that there is a band called Sunset Curve and that they died, but it wasn’t last night like the boys originally thought— it was 25 years ago. The boys say that it's impossible and that they’ve only been dead for an hour. Julie shows them the article on her phone to prove that what she’s saying is right.
The trio argue amongst themselves over the fact that they’ve been dead for 25 years, with Alex annoyed that the other two let him cry for 25 years. Carlos enters the studio and says to Julie that he thought she was afraid to be in the studio. He then asks how her ghost friend looks and if he’s hideous. Alex laughs and tells Reggie that Carlos can see him, but Julie confirms that he can’t. Carlos is confused when Julie speaks to the boys, but Julie tries to cover her slip up by asking Carlos what he wants. Carlos says he would like a normal sister, but really it’s dinner time and she needs to come and eat. Carlos leaves the studio.
Julie is confused as to why Carlos couldn’t see the boys, but they don’t have an answer either as they're entirely new to being ghosts in the real world. When Julie goes to leave, she tells the boys that they can’t stay and need to leave. Luke stops her before she goes and asks for her name. Julie flatly introduces herself, and when the boys try to introduce themselves with their usual upbeat dynamic, the effect is lost as Julie sighs and leaves for dinner.
Julie returns to the house for a family meal, where Carlos is setting the table; he also sets a place for his mother. When Carlos tells Ray that Julie was talking to herself in the studio, Julie covers for herself and says that she was rehearsing for a play. Suddenly, Aunt Victoria enters through the back door. Before she can see the table, the Molinas take away the mother’s table setting. Victoria is not shocked that the family is eating leftovers again, but she has brought them a cooked meal for the next day.
Victoria is also happy to see that they haven’t set a place for Rose at the table this time, saying things are going better. Ray then tells Victoria that Julie has been cleaning out her mother’s studio in preparation for getting the house on the market. Victoria is very pleased.
The ghosts then appear, by walking through the front door, which makes the dinner awkward for Julie as she struggles not to physically react in front of her family. Julie confuses Victoria by telling the ghosts that they shouldn’t be here. Julie awkwardly says that Victoria shouldn’t be here as she’s late for pilates. The boys leave, as Victoria unintentionally spills the beans on Julie no longer being in the music program at school, saying that Julie can now focus on classes that matter. With the look on Ray’s face, Victoria makes sure that he also got the email from the school about Julie’s placement, Ray says they’re still discussing it. Victoria then leaves for her class, after giving both Julie and Carlos a kiss.
Carlos tries to save Julie from the talk she’s about to receive from their father, but Ray sends him to his room. Ray’s not happy with Julie not telling him about the class and the fact he lied to her aunt. Julie claims she was going to tell him after dinner. Ray and Julie talk about whether or not Julie still likes music, but Julie’s not sure. He tells her to give herself a chance. Suddenly music sounds from the studio, startling them both, and Julie claims she left the radio on and goes to turn it off.
Julie returns to the studio, to find the band playing their instruments and she asks them to stop. The phantoms are surprised when Julie tells them that everyone can hear the music, wondering how only Julie can see them but everyone can hear them when they play. Ray enters the studio to make sure she’s okay. He tells her that they are going to figure out the music program before heading back to the house. Luke gets excited that Ray likes their song, but Alex points out that he doesn’t count because he’s a dad.
Julie storms out of the studio, annoyed that the ghosts are still hanging around. Luke teleports in front of her, scaring her again, and speaks to Julie privately and he expresses how incredible it is that people can still hear them play even though they're dead. He apologizes for invading but claims they feel alive again and they will not be giving up on music, as no musician would.
Luke says that Julie should know that as clearly her mum is into music. Julie confirms his statement and reveals that her mom passed away. Luke apologizes again as he didn’t know. The other two phantoms teleport over to the pair and gives their own condolences. Julie says it’s alright and asks the band if any of them have seen her mother. Alex says no, Julie is the first person they’ve seen. Softening, Julie apologizes for getting mad at them, saying that the band is kind of good.
Reggie asks if Julie plays the piano, but Julie denies it, claiming that the piano was her mom’s. Luke says that Julie’s mother was a really talented songwriter, to Julie's agreement and then confusion as to how Luke knew that. Luke reveals that he found a well written sheet music on top of the piano. After a moment, Julie tells the ghosts that they can stay, much to the boys' excitement.
Later that night, the boys teleport themselves to the top of the Orpheum, Reggie loses his shirt while making the trip. Luke says that while they’re dead, it is a lot easier getting around; however, Reggie has doubts as he lost his shirt, although it teleports onto him after a few minutes. Alex wonders why Luke teleported them there, just another painful reminder where they never got to play. Luke excitedly teleports them to the ground, telling the other two that they’ve been given a second chance. The trio walks through bystanders as Luke explains that they should hit the club scene and find some music. As they walk down the street, Alex physically bumps into another person. He’s shocked that they touched, but is quickly pulled away by Luke. The boys disappear into the night.
The next morning, before school, Julie enters the studio and finds that the ghosts aren't there. She walks over to the piano and finds the song that Luke had mentioned the night before. She quickly reads over the music and begins to play the piano, while she sings the song Wake Up. Unbeknownst to her, Ray and Carlos hear her, and both are very pleased and happy to hear Julie play again. As the song comes to an end, the boys teleport back to the studio and watch her play. They are all shocked and in awe of Julie’s talent, and wonder why she wouldn’t tell them that she was a musician as well. As Julie looks at the last sheet of music, she realizes there is a tiny note addressed to her from her mother. The note says, “Julie, you can do it”, with a little heart to punctuate it. As Julie hugs the song sheets she starts to cry happy tears.
- The guitar Luke is playing at the Orpheum is the same guitar seen in I Got the Music in a display case at Trevor Wilson's house.
- In the background of the boys eating the hot dogs on the couch, there is a missing person flier for Luke.
- In a deleted scene, it is shown that Flynn followed Julie out of the music class when she ran out.
- Taken place in the school's stairwell, Flynn desperately tries to assert that Julie return to the class and perform, knowing full well it was her last chance to stay in the music program. In tears, Julie says that she has tried so hard for a year to get back into music, for both herself and the people closest to her, including Flynn. The pain being too much, Julie seems to finally give up on ever performing again. Flynn is left sitting in the stairwell.
- Dr. Turner, a therapist who Ray references in a conversation with Julie in her bedroom, is named after Hilary Z. Turner; she is a Netflix entertainment executive for Kids & Family content, specifically for Julie and the Phantoms. She revealed this bit of trivia from her tiktok.
- The place where the boys get their street dogs from is called "Sam 'N' Ella" which may be a pun on the disease "salmonella", which is a disease caused from food poisoning. Ironically, the boys do get poisoning from the street dogs.
- The Rush band sleeveless shirt that Luke Patterson wears in this episode is one of the shirts that got approved by the band and it's Dan Cross one of the creators of the show favorite band.
- According to the Costume Designer Soyon An the vest Rose wears at the beginning of this episode is also the same vest Julie Molina wears when she is performing in Finally Free. It was also confirmed that Rose the waitress at the beginning of the episode is Julie's mom by the Costume Designer Soyon An.