“The Get Down Part 2” Returns to Netflix on Friday, April 7
Photo: “The Get Down,” Courtesy of Neflix.
Picture it: The Bronx, 1978. Disco rules the airwaves and the clubs. The high energy, positive vibes make you want to dance the night away til the sun comes up. It’s a fantasy world where everyone floats on cloud nine, high as a kit—sometimes literally.
In stark contrast, a new form of music is starting to hit the streets, one invented by the DJ who spins, scratches, and cuts break beats. It doesn’t yet have a name, but it’s catching on as MCs start to grab the mic and shout of their homegirls and boys.
This is the world where The Get Down takes place, as seen through the eyes of Hollywood maestro Baz Luhrmann. The show avoids addressing the horrific political and economic realities of the time, as exacerbated by policies of “benign neglect,” which enabled the government to openly practice systemic racism that enabled the Bronx to burn to the ground throughout the course of the 1970s.
Instead The Get Down focuses on the challenges that stardom presents, showcasing predatory figures in the music industry as the greatest threats. Part 2 picks up where last summer’s Part 1 left off, bringing us back into the world of Ezekiel ‘Books’ Figuero (Justice Smith) and Mylene Cruz (Herizen F. Guardiola).
The final five episodes of season one trace the story arcs of Mylene and Ezeliel’s rise to the top. Mylene has left the church and headed for the clubs, poised to be the baddest girl since Donna Summer. Her drive to succeed puts her relationships with Ezekiel at risk, as her passion for music could eclipse her love for him. It’s not quite a telenovela—but for American audiences, it comes close enough.
Jaden Smith returns as Dizzle, and takes a new path, moving away from the life of a graffiti writer to pursue the art of comix. The show incorporates his work as animated sequences that he then narrates, adding another layer of aesthetic stimulation to the mix and designed to evoke the character’s drug-fueled creative process. Like everything in The Get Down, it’s a bit much—just like drinking quarter waters and eating Now & Laters after school.
As with Part 1, the plotting is haphazard and the character development is thin—but the visuals are popping, the costumes are on point, and the soundtrack will take you back to jukeboxes of yore. As with any Luhrmann production, the best part of the show are the performance scenes, the moment when everyone can forget they’re supposed to be acting and the script becomes irrelevant. Now, we can recognize what The Get Down truly is: an open embrace of spectacle and a lust for sensory pleasures that can easily be found when sliding along the surface of things.
The Get Down has created an intense divide: love it or hate it, there’s truly no middle ground. For those who take it for what it is, more power to them for being unburdened by history; for those who despise it, take heart in the possibility that it could present a gateway to those who want the facts.
At the present time, no renewal has been confirmed—perhaps the execs are waiting to see how Part 2 performs.
Miss Rosen is a journalist covering art, photography, culture, and books. Her byline has appeared in L’Uomo Vogue, Whitewall, The Undefeated, Dazed Digital, Jocks and Nerds, and L’Oeil de la Photographie. Follow her on Twitter @Miss_Rosen.