When I sat down to watch the first episode of The Get Down, I wasn’t sure what to expect. By the time I finished, I was hooked. I don’t want to sound hyperbolic, but I think this might be the best original series Netflix has produced to date. It’s good. Really good.
Set in the late 1970s Bronx, The Get Down has the same music-infused nostalgia of Stranger Things, but in a very different way. No suburban Indiana, the Bronx is on fire and riddled with gang violence while corrupt politicians loom in the background.
This show is about politics, about race, about New York City, but more than anything the show is about music. It follows the story of Ezekiel “Books” Figuero, an orphan living in the Bronx with a talent for rapping. Alongside him is Mylene Cruz, the object of his affections. Mylene dreams of being a disco star, but is stifled by her preacher father. Together, their narratives tell the story of the birth of hip-hop.
The Get Down was created by Baz Luhrmann, of Romeo + Juliet fame. While his last project, The Great Gatsby, left viewers underwhelmed, his trademark style is perfect for The Get Down. The hypersaturated visuals and stunning musical numbers left an almost magical realist vibe to the show that was hypnotizing. At the same time, the show made use of actual footage from the time period, such as clips of Ed Koch campaigning for mayor, that somehow blended in excellently. With episodes ranging from an hour to an hour-and-a-half in length, it feels more like a series of movies than a TV show.
I didn’t know much about the time period and consider myself only a casual fan of rap and hip-hop, but the show’s characters pulled me in. If it isn’t renewed for a second season I’m going to be bitterly disappointed. All the protagonists were compelling in their own ways, but Papa Fuerte and Dizzie Kipling were two of my favorites.
Dizzie’s gentle, artistic nature was endearing, and I appreciated the subplot of his involvement with a fellow (male) street artist. I hope we will get to see more of his story and that of other LGBT characters. Jimmy Smits (who you know either as Matt Santos or Bail Organa) played another excellent politician, the tenacious Francisco “Papa Fuerte” Cruz, whose commitment to his borough and his family is deeply touching.
In many ways, The Get Down mirrors the story of Hamilton. Fans of the musical should add this to their Netflix queue. It features a scrappy, linguistically-talented orphan against a backdrop of political turmoil and a female lead with enough mettle to rival that of Angelica or Eliza Schuyler. It even has an actor in common: the magnificent Daveed Diggs, who plays the adult version of Ezekiel.
The Get Down isn’t the kind of show I usually gravitate to, but I’m so glad I gave it a chance. It was well worth the time commitment—even if I’m going to have disco songs stuck in my head for the next several weeks.
Contact CU Independent News Staff Writer Carina Julig at firstname.lastname@example.org.