Part 1 of The Get Down, which comprised the first 6 episodes on Netflix, was a hyper-real love letter to musical culture as much as it was to hip hop. Baz Luhrman seemed to drop the needle in the funky groove between musical and drama. Making sure the needle never jumped meant the musical interludes brought something fantastic, while emotional beats of the drama stayed in time. It was rugged, raw and above all captivating.
The rumors of a troubled production soon followed the announcement that The Get Down would be split into two parts and the second 6 episodes would be released on Netflix in 2017. While The Get Down Part 2 still manages to beat match the first 6 episodes, it struggles to find the same groove or one that rocked the party as hard. Where the rights of passage of The Get Down Brothers could be both hard hitting in it's depiction of The Bronx gang-torn ghetto and still magical as it observed the cultural pockets creating a new musical culture, Part 2 feels at times routine and jumbled in it's efforts to reach the climax.
There are still the escalations of struggles, Mylene's to unshackle herself from her controlling father continues to build and falls into place quite neatly after, what should be, devastating repercussions. Zeke's endeavors to navigate the political landscape of a black intern at the mayor's office and the compromise that affirmative action can bring reach a devastating conclusion when Shaolin gatecrashes Zeke's introduction to Yale University alumni. What should be a final and disastrous closing of Zeke's chance at a respectable future, turns into an improbable acceptance. It smacks of lazy writing.
Likewise, the infectious bouts of hyper-reality have now been replaced with awkward animated interludes. Sometimes, the animated vignettes provide a link between scenes and other times it's a forced satirical representation of what our boys are up against. It may have worked if the animations were infused in the first installments or if The Get Down revolved around Jaden Smith's graffiti artist "Dizzee". The first part of The Get Down had Zeke's adult incarnation rocking the stage with rhymes that provided a helpful narration and a melancholy look at the past. In part two, the same shots or re-cut with heavy handed fades and the raps weak. Disappointingly they both draw attention to either poor story telling or budgetary constraints.
Thankfully, there is still some of the old rhythm. When the boys perform, the show ignites with fine-tuned TNT. The tunes are rawkus and the brothers routines enchanting. The camera work and editing produce the infectious verve that only music brings. It's like you're at the get down yourself.
More of the gang get a moments to shine here too. Ra-Ra's courtship and first date into the Bombaataa-run projects is an awkwardly amusing reprieve from the mis-steps of the third act. Boo-Boo foolishly embroils himself into the drug dealing he sees as a way to riches. However, one of the most interesting and poignant relationships is poorly served. After the tryst between Dizzee and Thor, the unflinching look at a time and place seems to lose it's conviction. Exploring an interracial and homosexual relationship in one of the most incendiary times and places would have been more than brave. Sadly, it's one of the casualties of the rushed narrative.
Overall, The Get Down is like the lauded difficult second album. It's difficult to imagine how all the same ingredients and talent haven't been able to produce something as provocative as the first outing. It's peppered with the funk that brought you back, but it's hampered with lack of direction and an obligation to churn out another installment.
3* - The Let Down