It’s now clear The Eddy wasn’t fooling around with its episode titles. The series premiered with “Elliot,” an episode focusing on the series’ central character, but also one that had to introduce the rest of the world of the series. This follow-up, “Julie,” changes the focus to Elliot’s daughter, whose visit from New York quickly takes a turn for the dramatic. Julie’s not in every scene, but almost every moment is about her. In some ways, the set-up mirrors the structure of the music at the heart of the show. Elliot, the bandleader, introduces the themes. Now it’s time for a series of solos. The whole band matters in each but, here at least, Julie matters most of all.
To keep the analogy going, her solo turn feels both frantic and sad, a melancholy cry for help that mounts in intensity. It begins uneventfully enough, with Julie playfully (but also a bit aggressively) waking up her father by bleating her clarinet. (Hey, at least she’s taking an interest in the instrument again.) It’s her first day at the international school, and she’s none too excited about joining the other expats in what her new Irish acquaintance Beatrice calls “an island of mediocrity in the center of the greatest city on Earth.” She seems like an appropriately jaded friend for Julie, but Julie’s having none of it, blowing off Beatrice’s attempts to befriend her until it’s too late.
She’s not off to a great start. “I don’t want what happened in New York to repeat itself,” her mother Alison (Melissa George, making her first appearance on the show) tells her. But they seem to have different accounts of what happened in New York. Later, she’ll tell Sim (Adil Dehbi) — the Eddy worker about her age who she briefly met rehearsing with his band in a garage in the previous episode — about New York. By her account, she had a stepfather who wanted to sleep with her so she stripped naked in his bed to force the issue to the surface. That seems a little off. She also alludes to having a “problem” she’d “gotten over.” That problem may be an addiction to cocaine, which this episode makes clear she hasn’t really gotten over. But, as with her stepfather issues, who knows? It’s not clear how committed she is to telling the truth.
We’re obviously not getting all of Julie’s backstory (or Elliot’s), but it’s becoming clearer by degrees. Also obvious: Julie likes Sim, flirting with him, following him around as he sells sandwiches, and meeting his grandmother, who takes a liking to her and caps the visit with some amazing singing. Sim likes her too. But he doesn’t like the way she comes onto him in the office of The Eddy, a place he’s not supposed to be. And though he may be attracted to her, he’s not going do anything about it while she’s drunk and demanding he have sex with her so she feels “normal.” It seems like “normal” is tough for her to feel.
As Julie, Amandla Stenberg’s terrific. The character could be a familiar troubled teen, but Stenberg conveys her complexity, and suggests the difficult past that inspires her behavior. And, like Holland as her father, she’s not afraid to make Julie unlikable. She cares little about the emotions of others and makes increasingly horrible choices, from dropping out of school on day one to disappearing to look for coke in a dangerous part of town. And when Sim comes to her rescue — after earning Elliot’s ire when Elliot mistakenly believes Sim’s led her astray — she lays some pretty racist assumptions on him by suggesting he’s a drug dealer. She’s not always sympathetic, but she’s also clearly a girl in pain. As the episode ends, she cries and picks up the clarinet again, not to annoy her father but to express herself. She’s her father’s daughter, whether she’s happy about that or not.
Elsewhere, Elliot’s not having a great week, and it’s not entirely Julie’s fault. He keeps seeing the same guy everywhere in Paris, to the point he believes he’s being followed, presumably by Farid’s killers. And that loss is hurting him, a lot, a pain he takes out on the Eddy Band as they rehearse a number they can never play to his satisfaction. The pace is wrong and Maja, by his assessment, needs to sing higher, even though the request seems to be out of her range. “Nobody’s having fun and music’s supposed to be fun,” one member complains, but Elliot’s not hearing it. “The last time I checked,” he says, “I’m the bandleader.”
They seem to hate him for it. Except they clearly don’t. When Julie disappears, all the members but Kat the indie rock-looking drummer (who has parental duties elsewhere) join the search for her, all disagreements having been forgotten. Even Maja puts her hostility to Elliot on hold. They don’t find Julie, but they try their best. So does Elliot, even taking the club’s financial records to the police — evidence he was reluctant to disclose for fear of what it might mean for The Eddy. His hope is that his newfound spirit of cooperation will earn their help in the search for Julie, whom he suspects might have been abducted by the criminals who took out Farid, but no dice. They suspect he’s involved in the murder himself and, honestly, the evidence looks pretty bad. We know Elliot had nothing to do with Farid’s death. He loved Farid. But they have no way of knowing that. So Elliot ends the episode in jail as the murder plot, which has largely been relegated to the background, comes to the fore.
• This is Chazelle’s final episode as director, so it’s apt that it has a variation on Whiplash’s famous not-my-tempo scene. Where some of the strength of that movie came from its ambiguity, and the sense that maybe the abuse was necessary to sculpt a great drummer, here Elliot mostly comes off as a jerk. He’s demanding the Eddy Band implement ideas that not only make them uncomfortable but don’t seem to work.