After a practically flawless first half-season, The Get Down garnered sky-high anticipation for its continuation of multiple story arcs – and in Part Two, it exceeds most all of them.
Once again led by the indelible Baz Luhrmann, in collaboration with the likes of hip-hop great Nas (among others), Part Two transports us right back to the frenzy of late 1970s New York. A year on from the events of Part One, the lives of The Get Down brothers and company are twice as complicated. As our lyrical narrator Ezekiel Figuero opens in his application essay to Yale: “To grow up in the ghetto is to wrestle daily with dichotomy and duality.” This theme of identity crisis resounds throughout the ensemble – from rising star Mylene’s dilemma between the diametrically opposed expectations of her opportunistic label executive and religious father; to Shaolin’s struggle to emancipate himself from his abusive gang “family”; to long-suffering housewife Lydia’s love affair with her husband’s brother. In Part Two, everyone is figuring out which side they’re on.
And oh yes, there will be blood.
This is all well and good, but if The Get Down has one fatal flaw, it’s its own ambition – not only is it a fictionalised account of the genesis of hip-hop, it’s also a tribute to disco, a commentary on drug culture in The Bronx, and a set of bildungsroman origin stories all at once. The result, as expected from Luhrmann, is a dizzying spectacle impossible to tear your eyes from and, at times, hard to sink your teeth into.
This is the only drawback of the five-episode Part Two, which delivers poetic conclusions to all its story threads, but with harried pacing and minimal probing into the emotional fallout of devastating plot events.
Still, it’s hard to hold that against The Get Down when everything else about it is so arresting in every other sense, from costuming to cinematography to performances. Weaknesses in scripts are overcome by the sheer charisma and pathos of the cast, where there’s no shortage of chemistry. Highlights in Part Two include Renée Elise Goldberg’s turn as the famed Misty Holloway, who has so much on-screen presence she might as well have been a real icon in disco history.
On the other hand, the show could benefit by utilising more of Jaden Smith, whose storyline in Part Two is largely intercut with comic book animation sequences – a stunning new device, but a little can go a long way.
In case there was ever a doubt, the soundtrack dazzles as much as ever, from disco anthems to Broadway ballads to The Get Down brothers’ blistering beat-drops. The crescendo is Mylene’s pivotal performance of “Toy Box,” a seductively incongruous EDM banger written by Sia.
Presently the fate of The Get Down is unclear. There’s still a lot of story left to tell, but it all rests on Lurhmann being able to nab an appropriate replacement show-runner before he takes a backseat in production. If the new director can retain Luhrmann’s sense of style and inject more breathing room into the narrative, The Get Down can only get better from here.
THE REEL SCORE: 8/10