I binge-watched every episode of The Get Down that was available. I normally don’t binge-watch because I hate the feeling of yearning and emptiness after I finish. The Get Down is addictive. It was impossible for me to resist hitting “next” on my screen.
The Get Down is a lot of things. That’s not surprising, considering that it’s helmed by Baz Luhrman (Moulin Rouge, Romeo + Juliet). It’s a comedy, a drama, a romance, a musical, a Spaghetti Western, a coming of age tale, a Kung-Fu flick, and a ode to hip hop. Above all else, it’s brilliant. Admittedly, the first episode is a chore to get through. It’s so haphazard that it almost took me out of it. Many times, I was asking myself “what in the fuck am I watching?” As the story continued to build, I started to fall in love, and by the end of the episode, I was hooked.
Books is the Realest Dude on Netflix
Ezekiel “Books” Figueroa (played by Justice Smith) is my absolute favorite protagonist on TV. In the beginning, some of his dialogue was a bit too cornball, especially when trying to woo his love interest, Mylene. The point where he turns the corner is when he recites a poem privately to his teacher that he was afraid to recite to the entire class. The poem was dripping with emotion, and provided exposition for his character. I hated myself for ever questioning him. Justice Smith delivers this poem with solemnity, and I grabbed onto every word.
What makes him such a great protagonist is how he lives with his heart on his sleeve. He’s all or nothing. He will ride for anyone, but he won’t ride for everyone. He doesn’t sacrifice his time for others who he doesn’t deem worthy of it. He’s in love with Mylene, but he won’t fall on any swords for her until she proves that she’s worthy of that act.
The cast as a whole is amazing
Speaking of Mylene, she is a Shakespearean Tragedy waiting to happen. She’s a good girl who wants success, but she’s caught between people who use her musical talents for their own selfish gains. Her decisions and the people who she leans on (not named Ezekiel) are somehow going to contribute to her downfall. I know I’m going to be hella upset when her fate is revealed.
Shaolin Fantastic is another walking time bomb. He played Books’ best friend and DJ. He’s also a living cartoon with a tragic back story, but the beauty and tragedy of his friendship with Books is how they are so complementary of each other, yet still operate on two opposite paths. Books is book smart (hence his name) who believes that good things come to those who are patient. Shaolin is street smart, who is impatient and is willing to hustle in order to achieve his success.
The Get Down has great supporting characters, specifically Dizzee, who is played by Jaden Smith. Dizzee is a Graffiti Bomber who spits a bunch of interstellar mumbo jumbo, and I’m convinced that it’s just Jaden Smith reading his tweets.
The villains are also straight out of a Kung Fu Feature, with Fat Annie being the bombastic crime boss, and Ed Koch being the big government representative ready to make life hell for the city.
Coming from a lifelong Bronxite, the setting is perfect.
Late 70s Bronx is the backdrop to the show. The show does a great job of capturing the grit and grime of the era. The Bronx was not a fun place in the 70s, and The Get Down does not try to avoid it. There’s sexual exploration and exploitation, sharing perspectives we don’t typically see. The Get Down covers the Bronx is Burning era, along with the Blackout fallout, and Ed Koch’s rise to power. It does a great job of covering the Train Bomber culture, as well as the House Parties that led to the birth of Hip Hop as we know it.
The music is dope, but it is also one of The Get Down’s biggest flaws. It does a great job of highlighting the dying days of Disco, with Hip Hop being formed and poised to take its place. Grandmaster Flash, Kool Herc, and Afrika Bambaataa are viewed as deities, with The Get Down Crew being loyal pupils of Flash. Flash is depicted as this Hip Hop Kung Fu Master, speaking in fortune cookie language that’s profound, yet empty. He even refers to his disciples as his ‘Grasshoppers” and I laugh at the absurdity every time.
The flaws are mainly in the musical accuracy. The main story takes place in 1977. Some songs are from the early 80s. They mention “I Wanna Be Sedated” by the Ramones. This song didn’t exist yet. These things are noticeable by music historians, but ultimately shouldn’t take away from the overall enjoyment of the show.
The Get Down is a must watch.
If you love a good romance story, or a great drama, or good music, or great character development, or wacky comedy, The Get Down is for you. Netflix decided to release only half of the season, and it’s just not enough! I cannot wait to see how this story continues! The show starts with Books in 1977, and jumps to Books performing a huge set in Madison Square Garden in 1996. How does he become this guy? What happens to Shaolin, or Mylene? Where’s the rest of The Get Down Crew? How does a 1977 budding MC grow up to become Nas in 96? When the last half of the season becomes available, I’ll be right there!
Rating: 5 Mics out of 5