The sixth episode of Rise, titled “Bring Me Stanton” echoed the sentiments of that nostalgia and fragile hope; Stanton was a town that left a lot of people down, and had led others astray in times of hardship. This episode really exposed a little insight into the specific struggles of “rust-belt” middle America.
Stanton, as we are almost reminded of too much, was a steel town before the plant shut down, forcing many out of a livelihood that had been a part of their families for generations. It took the heart of Stanton, and god-forbid anyone stop Lou from bringing it back in the form of this high school musical. (Reader, you have to admit he is a bit over-zealous). But Lou, though intense, has a point. Melding the spirit of Spring Awakening and the struggling blue-collar town could be a wonderful moment for everyone.
Unfortunately, that beautiful speech Lou gives in defense of art and its meaning, falls a little flat in his inability to see beyond himself most times. Thank God for Tracey(Perez), she brings the heart to the theatre department. When a member of the chorus (note: not a lead and Tracey still pays attention!) has a personal problem she goes out of her way to help, when Lilette confesses to needing to work more due to her financial situation at home it is Tracey who comforts her, and it is Tracey who attempts to keep the peace between Lou and the various volunteers that are helping create the show. The only moment where I felt Lou really connected to the troupe is when he smashes his over ambitious set design and tells them to find objets in Stanton that “represent their town.” The moment all those set pieces come together was a very emotional moment in the episode.
This episode had emotional moments to spare though. The first was when Simon (Ted Sutherland) is confronted by his scene partner about hiding his true feelings, and then in denial we see Simon rushing into sexual relationships that he is not ready for, as Lilette warns him saying that “sex is a big deal.” The lengths Simon will go to in order to maintain his straight facade is both realistic and painful for anyone watching. Robbie Thorne also deals with internal struggle as he is finally given the ultimatum we all knew was coming, “Football or the play.” Lilette and Gwen are also undergoing struggles concerning their parents, and the role they play in their families. Though the issues are different, I can’t help but feel that the two girls have more in common than they realize.
The end of the episode featured one of the best scenes I have seen in the series thus far. As Lilette (Cravalho) sings the opening number “Mama who bore me” we see many characters face the obstacles in front of them and come together in defiance of their fear. If you watch this ending segment alone it will signify the importance of a show like Rise.