The Get Down Part 2 Review: Sex, Drugs, and Hip-Hop

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“I’ll keep a light in my window, so I can ease the pain that life can bring,” Mylene sings an an energetic, life-affirming disco jam that debuts in the Part 2 opener. The drama of The Get Down is still messy and sometimes gets in the way of its true goals, and yet, there’s something definitive musically and tonally about Baz Luhrmann’s hip-hop origin story and its version of New York. The grime and grit of the Bronx is romanticized, but not in a way disrespectful of the great trials the people living there in the ’70s faced. The lives of Ezekiel, Mylene, Shaolin Fantastic, and the others revolve around crime and drugs, and sometimes they dabble in both themselves. But what makes this show so original and successful is how it doesn’t shy away from the real dangers in the early hip-hop world, but also injects an adventurous, classic musical tone into their arena. As Mylene sings, The Get Down is here to ease the pain.

In general, the five episodes that make up Part 2 are tighter and more focused than those of Part 1, even if there isn’t quite a standout like the pilot or Part 1’s finale. But the first three in particular re-establish the best things about The Get Down very quickly, namely the music. Anytime Mylene sings or The Get Down Brothers are on stage, the show lights a fire unlike any other. A new batch of warm, catchy, smile-inducing numbers populate these episodes for extended periods as the characters push the boundaries of the genres the show’s plot is having them define.

Picking up a year later from Part 1 in 1978, Ezekiel and Mylene are navigating glory, more underground for the former, in two separate genres, not to mention their relationship. Shaolin, meanwhile, is looking to make some money off their sound, which has started to take the Bronx by storm. That, for now, means getting involved in the drug trade Fat Annie runs, a choice Ezekiel, the purest artist of the bunch, takes issue with. Then there’s Dizzee, who’s found love in fellow graffiti artist Thor but may be getting to into said drugs. With these refreshed storylines, Part 2 gets to embody the feel of the Bronx with a number of voices and perspectives, all of which come down to the show’s infectious “free love” spirit and tune.

Back is the zippy, energetic editing that practically dances along with the music even when there isn’t any. Scene transitions are still wonderfully rendered with archive footage of New York in the ’70s, ensuring this urban fantasy stays true to its real-world roots. Added to Part 2, however, are animated sequences taken straight out of a comic book. These likely arose out of budget constraints, as Part 1 was the most expensive Netflix season to date prior to The Crown, but they perfectly fit the show’s tone, even adding to it. The show does get a little too ambitious with them, eventually trying to cover major plot ground through fantastical cartoons, which makes the production feel a little too cheap, or perhaps even rushed.

The show gets much more plot heavy for its fourth and fifth episodes, the former of which is the weakest of this batch of episodes, simply for treading into soap opera territory and introducing a Mylene song that is unabashedly 2017, not 1978. The finale weaves the plot into the music, however, and Part 2 finishes strong and even manages to inspire.

If Part 1 was about artists building new crafts, Part 2 is about how they live their lives once people start to notice, as well as who has ownership of these crafts.  The Get Down‘s built-in cheese factor doesn’t always allow the drama to land the way it’s intended to, but it’s usually not long before the music returns to sweep you back into the world. The end of Part 2 could almost be an end to the series, but there’s plenty of room to grow should Netflix decide to renew it. And they should. The Get Down is the voice of a generation of music that has yet to die. In an era where hip-hop has more mass appeal than ever and pop stars are, in some ways, artfully recycling disco, this show serves as a joyous origin story for the sounds that would come to permanently define the airwaves. “We’re here for-ever!” The Get Down Brothers collectively shout between verses in an early performance. Let’s hope so. Grade: A-

By Matt Dougherty

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