‘The Get Down’ blends music and hardship

By Lucy Kiefert, Round Table entertainment editor

Directed by Baz Luhrmann and starring a myriad of young, fresh-faced actors who accurately represent a rarely analyzed area of New York during the ‘70s, “The Get Down” rights every wrong ever made by period-piece television shows.

This recently added Netflix show just finished filming the second half of its first season that will appear on the streaming site in 2017. Although the wait may seem like an eternity, it does not take away from the plot of “The Get Down”, as the production is structured more like a long-running film rather than a typical network show that employs a different set of subplots every 30-minute episode. The show’s effortless fluidity only seems to enhance the intriguing yet simple storyline of a young poet-turned-rapper named Ezekiel who resides in the Bronx with his aunt and is in love with his longtime crush, Mylene.

After an uncomfortable first encounter with street lord and graffiti legend, Shaolin Fantastic, Ezekiel is soon transported into a world filled with hip hop legends and records covered in purple crayon (to mark where the DJ spins, of course). Ezekiel, later nicknamed Books because of his intelligence, finds himself striving to become the greatest wordsmith in all of the Bronx, alongside Shaolin, who hopes to gather all the knowledge he can from his mentor, Grandmaster Flash.

Parallel to Ezekiel’s journey through the rap world, however, is Mylene’s journey through the disco world, a much more widely known cultural aspect of the ‘70s. While Ezekiel tries his best to help her through this, it is made clear as early as the first episode that Mylene and Zeke have creative differences as well as contrasting passions and personalities. They face difficulty as a result of this, but have a strong relationship that helps bring a romantic draw to the show alongside its amazing homage to the decade it portrays.

In my opinion, “The Get Down” is not receiving nearly as much recognition as it deserves. It contains beautiful cinematography, a setting that is very close to my heart and a cast with trained acting chops despite their mostly short histories of experience in the industry. The show focuses on two completely different genres of music that coincided heavily with each other but were still somehow divisive, and this allows a very diverse group of people to feel compelled to watch. That group of people may be small, but as “The Get Down” continues into the remainder of its first season, hopefully, those who are disinterested will see what this production is truly about and what is so amazing about it.

One of my favorite aspects of the show, in particular, is the character development. They are all built on steady ground with intricate backgrounds and relatable desires – so much so, that it would be hard not to fall in love with them. Ezekiel, in particular, has lived a rough life that is hard to relate to, but the method he uses to express his emotions is not. “The Get Down” is the perfect show for creative people who are searching for a lead protagonist with a brilliant mind.

However, what Zeke lacks is the drive to achieve what could come as a result of his creativity. He’d rather use his skills to assist Shaolin Fantastic in a rap battle, which is not a bad thing – it allows Zeke to realize his talent and discover what he is meant to do. Ezekiel is just the kind of character who does not believe in his most powerful attributes as strongly as he should, and this is frustrating for Mylene and his schoolteachers, as well as those on the other side of the screen watching him make these mistakes (especially since his future is alluded to at the beginning of every episode).

Another characteristic of “The Get Down” I enjoy is its representation. Its cast is mostly made up of young, undiscovered actors of color, and their ethnicities play a large part in the stories behind each of their individual roles. Also, Ezekiel’s best friend Dizzee – an up-and-coming graffiti painter whose work is plastered in subway stations throughout the city – later develops feelings for another fellow street artist, which allows the show to incorporate both same-sex and interracial relationships.

Overall, “The Get Down” is what devoted Netflix watchers and bored television viewers have been asking for all along, but they still somehow forget that it exists. It has an edgy and unique storyline and equal representation for all kinds of people, played by actors with real talent. If you’re looking for something to watch with true promise and intrigue, inclusion of multiple forms of art and a picture-perfect portrayal of an iconic city during an iconic decade, “The Get Down” is your new favorite show.