A much-improved “The Get Down” returned to Netflix on Friday (April 7), the season’s final five episodes bringing Baz Luhrmann’s hip hop story to a heartfelt and triumphant end.
When the first half hit Netflix last summer, the series set out to explore a dizzying amount of storylines. Ezekiel (Justice Smith) and Mylene’s (Herizen F. Guardiola) love story — and the pursuit of their musical dreams — got a bit muddied through the show’s various political and criminal plotlines.
Once the new episodes hit, though, we were pleasantly surprised by the narrative shifts that were put in place. It only took a few tweaks for the show to come back feeling new and improved.
A necessary time jump
The Get Down Boys and Mylene both found their groove in the show’s mid-season finale, leaving us to wonder: Will these budding artists make their dreams come true? The story picks back up in Episode 6, jumping forward a whole year. This time jump adds some maturity to our characters, as they continue on their collective musical journeys.
Self-discovery, emotional growth and enhanced musical talent help us reconnect with Ezekiel, Shaolin Fantastic, Mylene and the rest. And ultimately, it’s this jump ahead in time that helps divert the show’s focus away from its ancillary themes, and pay attention to what really matters: Ezekiel and Mylene’s love story, The Get Down Boys’ bond and Mylene’s burgeoning stardom.
The retro comic-book animation sequences
“The Get Down” touches on some rather dark issues: The drug epidemic, class warfare and political drama paint a clear picture of what the Bronx was like during the late ’70s. To offset that bleakness, the new episodes introduce a delightful new narrative component: Dizzee’s (Jaden Smith) comic-book animation sequences.
The religious, political and criminal stories are still there, but they no longer overload the episodes, allowing the show to breathe a bit. These new cartoon segments not only act as connective tissue to the story — they add some fun nostalgia and levity that successfully offsets the story’s bleak subject matter.
More musical numbers
For a show about music, the first half of “The Get Down” skimped on the performances. Yes, Mylene’s disco/gospel performance was a dream — and every time The Get Down Boys hit the stage, we saw greatness. The new episodes upped the musical ante, providing multiple performances per each episode: Not only does this change give us an idea of how far Ezekiel and Mylene have come since we last left them, the stage routines bring the Baz flair we’ve been missing.
From Mylene’s disco number on the “Soul Train”-inspired series, “Platinum Boogie,” to the Get Down Boys’ numerous performances at Les Inferno stage, “The Get Down” finally rises to the occasion, easing the tension at just the right times. Simply put, music makes everything better — and these outstanding stage numbers set “The Get Down” on the good foot, bringing the Season 1 story to a satisfying end.
“The Get Down” Season 1 is now streaming on Netflix.