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The Get Down Pt 2 - Review - Each One, Teach One

The first couple of episodes in the second half of the first season seem to immolate Director and Producer Baz Luhrmann's feature film structure, in which the first quarter to a third of his films tend to start out a bit wonky or slap-stick. But where this better works for a film format, it doesn't work so well here for the best part of 80 mins. For one reason, we're not really at the beginning of a story, where in the middle of the first season's story and therefor the whimsical and more fanciful tone, takes something away from being able to reconnect with the characters who ended the first half on really richly dramatic and hopeful tone, as Mylene (Herizen F. Guardiola) and the Soul Madonnas (Sherley Rodriguez, Stephenee Martin) have made a record and Zeke (Justice Smith) has his first taste of stardom success with his Get Down Brothers and MC sensation Shaoln Fantastic (Shameik Moore), while also having an opportunity through semi-crooked Politicians to be excepted at the prestigious Yale University.

The characters are then rushed through a series of events that include Zeke being torn by two possible future outcomes, Mylene also torn between sleazy record producer Roy (Eric Bogosian) wanting to make Mylene a sex-symbol vs singing strictly religious-based music to further the career of her father at his new Mega-Church. Boo-Boo (Tremaine Brown Jr) wants to embrace the streets and make extra cash, while Ra-Ra (Skylan Brooks) meets an interesting love interest. Fat Lady (Lillias White), after taking on the Get Down Brothers at Les Inferno, wants to make a 'Get Down' Record without a DJ on Cadillac's (Yahya Abdul-Mateen II) Disco label. Dizzy (Jaden Smith) makes comics out of the events of their lives and sends them to his love, Thor, while in prison, in which the comics, animated, are used as a device to tell different parts of the story in a Fat Albert and the Cossby Kids kind of way, is used once too often and at such a rapid pace, all seem to subvert and don't offer a lot other than exacerbated hype. Even the first half of the season did a better job in mixing the tones up a bit in earlier episodes.

That's not to say that there weren't more dramatic or interesting scenes. Zeke sharing music with Gunns' daughter, Claudia, or Mylene singing I'll Keep A Light in My Window were some nice genuine-feeling scenes, bit it's the last three episodes that give The Get Down it's soul back!

Those three episodes better balance themselves and slow down the back and forth nature of plots to let the actors and their artistic talents better shine, as their relationships begin to go down a rabbit hole. It's much easier to feel for Zeke's dilemma when Shaulon Fantastic shows up to crash a Yale-event meant to be a test for Zeke's abilities to handle verbally contentious situations, but the real contention comes when Fantastic pulls a gun on a student in a bathroom and Zeke feels compelled to leave with him in order to keep things from going further. 

But the real meat and heat comes in the penultimate episode, Gamble Everything, as Mylene denies the wishes of her father once again when she convinces Roy that she's willing to perform at a new club, The Rubicon, in front of a big-shot Hollywood musical-film producer looking for a new star of a sexy musical film titled, Gone with the Solar Wind

The Executive Producers' choice in style and song for, Toy Box, might not seem very late 1970's disco to some viewers, but that is what actually makes it genius, as the proactive and sexually-charged number channels something akin to Lady Gaga's Star Struck or Beyonce`s Partition and helps not only to bring younger viewers into The Get Down, but much like Zeke's R&B and Hip-Hop paves the way for modern Rap, so then does Mylene's brand of disco-soul feed into later forms of hip-hop and modern pop. The two characters and their musical tastes embody an entangled evolution of a generational subculture clawing it's way to the top, where it would one day be the bases for a mainstream global music culture in the new millennium.

In addition the scenes at the club were powerful because Mylene was forced to deal with a once-thought-inspirational mentor, now turned adversary Misty Holloway (Renee Elise Goldberry), whom Mylene replaced in this performance. Misty turns up at the club to try and prove that Mylene is fake and could never replace her, but Zeke, sportingly encourages her to embrace her destiny. It might have been one thing for Mylene to overcome Misty, but it's another to overcome one's disapproving religious father. Pastor Ramon Cruz (Giancarlo Esposito) appears in the audience, causing Mylene to freak out, but again is re-encouraged to embrace her destiny.

She overrides her fear and continues the act to perfection. One would think this all would be successful, but between Mylene taking drugs to calm her nerves to driving around town in a limo and joking about destroying her father's church, she decided to go there. The viewers previously just witnessed a scene of Cruz recording a sermon of sorts vowing to save the souls of his wife and daughter, only for viewers to find him like Mylene, dead upon the stage with a gun next to the side of one of hands and a bloody-covered Walk-Man lay on the other side of his body.

Feeling guilty, the event keeps Mylene from moving forward, as she can't bring herself to sing, let alone run off to make a motion picture. In the meantime the Get Down Brothers find their world turned upside down, after Zeke leaves home, Dizzy is nearly killed from taking drugs and Shaolin starts to be set-up by Cadillac, in which leads to confrontation between Shaolin and Fat Annie, resulting in Shaolin taking out his gun and hitting her with it unconscious!

But it's Ra-Ra and his new girlfriend that paves a way to save the day, as she is connected to one of the Kings of the Brooklyn Music Scene, The Zulu Nation. Shaolin is able to make a peace-deal and set a trap for Cadillac, as Cadeilac is sent on a mission to bring Shaolin back. The includes all of the MC masters combining for a peaceful and encouraging festival, in which The Get Down Brothers preach anti-violence message, "If you know better, you gotta be better!"

Shaolin reaches out to dismayed Cadillac, calling on the abuse they shared through their escapades with Fat Annie. At the end of the day, Cadillac can't deny this, even comes to respect Shaolin and, not to mention, he still wants Mylene to become his future-wife. He decides to cash-out of the gangster business and put all of his money into his Disco Label.

But before this conclusion, Cadillac comes to try and play on the affections of Mylene during her time of loss, but Zeke helps her escape and promises her that he'll meet her in Manhattan and that she needs to go to Jackie's (Kevin Corrigan). As it happens Jackie himself had been working another song for Mylene for Roy's record label. She awakes to group of Jackie's rather diverse friends and together they party and sing together. With a bit of kismet, the Gone with the Solar Wind film producer happens to be staying in apartment right under Jackie's and comes to join in on the fun, leading to Mylene getting the upper hand over Roy, a studio record, and filming opportunity in Hollywood, California!

Zeke, after getting mad thinking Shaolin sold out Boo-Boo to the cops, finds himself apologizing to his aunt, --and after trying to rectify his differences with Gunn in an earlier scene, in which he would not give in to Gunn's demands on revealing the name and were-abouts of Shaolin, surprising got into Yale anyways, finds himself at crossroads with Mylene promising they will one day find each other On The Other Side. However this bittersweet tune is coupled by Dizzy running for his life from the cops after continuously graffitiny public property, running towards the lights of train, leaving viewers with his fate unknown.

Although Netflix has yet to renew the Get Down for a second season, it's been reported that second season is being mapped out, which makes sense considering it ends with some rather uncertain fates for many of the characters. I find myself excited by getting into the 80's and although it's true that the Get Down does primarily focus on the struggles of Hip-Hop emerging through mainstream pop music, I'm hoping that a potential second season won't shy away too much from showing audiences those other musical scenes and maybe even find ways to creatively combine them---they even have a great lead into a rebellious Punk Rock scene with Claudia Gunns---and Thor seems like a character that isn't limited in his musical or artistic tastes--they both would be interesting characters to better explore other facets of this reality.

If one is not already a Baz Lurmann fan, one may not be able to appreciate the artistry of such a fantastical and mythical approach to a real life musical and political history with a 1970's popular culture tapestry, but if you are a fan and/or love lavish costumes and wild musical extravaganzas, you will be delighted again to go on a familiar romantic dance-party ecstasy with a lot riffs and color schemes of his films, (especially in the Rubicon Club scenes) and with a youthfulness to remind us of what any generation can bring to table, especially when times are tough. Overall the Get Down Part Two delivers a fun high-energy musical ride with a mostly wonderful soundtrack that includes Earth & Wind, and Fire, The O'Jays, Diana Ross, David Bowie, The Beegees, Donna Summers, and great new songs performed by the cast such as Each One, Teach One, Come Together, Cross Your Rubicon, Bout That Bank--but also most notably Herizen F. Guardiola with Toy Box and duet with Justice Smith, The Other Side, ---But none the less with serious consequences, tumultuous passions, and with enduring hope of wanting a better tomorrow.