Turns out that eight months in the real world equals one year in The Get Down universe. That’s the amount of time that’s respectively elapsed off and on-screen in between the first and second parts of the Netflix series’ freshman year. The Get Down‘s initial batch of six episodes hit the streaming service last August to reviews that ran the gamut from ecstatic to confounded. The final five hour-long installments premiere Apr. 7, and bring this particular epoch of the series — which creates a highly stylized version of the Boogie Down Bronx circa 1978 — to a definitive close. “The last episode brings a lot of plot points full circle,” says supervising producer Nelson George. “Everybody has a big dramatic turn, and it’s an end of an era, but also leaves room for the future.” Here are five things to know as The Get Down nears the end of its first season… and the end of the 1970s.
The kids are all right
One of the critical knocks against the first half of The Get Down‘s freshman year was that there were too many storylines and characters competing for screentime, and viewers’ attention. And while the next five episodes are still packed with big adult personalities like Jimmy Smits and Giancarlo Esposito, the storytelling has largely telescoped to focus on the youthful musical groups at the show’s center: the hip-hop outfit the Get Down Brothers, fronted by proto-rapper Zeke (Justice Smith), and the disco queens known as the Soul Madonnas, led by preacher’s daughter Mylene (Herizen F. Guardiola). “Those groups have become much more defined,” says George. “A lot of that was [the writers] getting to know the actors and their capabilities. For example, when we cast T.J. Brown as Boo-Boo [the youngest Get Down Brother], he was a very raw kid we got off the street. By six episodes in, he was able to carry entire scenes.”
And while Mylene and Zeke’s love story, as well as their professional ambitions, still provides The Get Down with its central narrative throughline, George says that each of their bandmates will enjoy their own mini-arcs. “Boo-Boo was comic relief in the beginning, and now he has a very impactful plotline that affects everyone. And Mylene’s friends, Yolanda and Regina, have become more impactful as well. It became very clear to us that they needed to be part of her journey.”
With his eye-catching red jacket and ability to leap between tall buildings in a single bound, Shaolin Fantastic (Shameik Moore) burst onto the scene like a Bronx-born superhero in the Get Down‘s series premiere. But he’s fallen to Earth somewhat when we meet up with him in the second half: he’s become a drug peddler for Fat Annie, a fact he’s kept hidden from his main man, Zeke, knowing that it would end their DJ/emcee double act. In Shaolin’s defense, though, his dalliance in the drug game is just a way to make life better for his fellow Get Down Brothers. “His arc in Part 2 is trying to make himself a better person and better his situation,” Moore says. “But then he realizes that what’s best for him isn’t necessarily the best for others. He makes decisions that come back to hurt the group in general.”
Forget the love triangle
It’s a testament to the palpable chemistry between Moore and Guardiola that a behind-Zeke’s-back romance between Shaolin and Mylene always seemed like a real possibility… especially since it’s established in the present day wraparound segments that something happened to split the trio apart. But both Moore and George reveal that they’ll remain rivals for Zeke’s time and attention rather than forming the other two sides in a love triangle. “The idea [of a romance] came up in conversation a couple of times, but we thought that their relationship should remain contentious,” George says. Adds Moore: “Zeke is in love with Mylene, and Shaolin loves Zeke just as much as Mylene does, just in a different way. He and Zeke balance each other out — they’re good for each other. So I don’t think he’d do that because it would mean disrespecting Zeke.”
One new visual element that distinguishes Part 2 from Part 1 is the inclusion of animated transitions and segments sketched in a splashy comic book style. In those moments, The Get Down resembles a graphic novel come to life. George credits that stylistic development to the show’s fanbase. “Once the first batch of episodes came out, we received an incredible amount of fan art,” he says. “If you look on Instagram, there’s a whole world of paintings and drawings, some of which are incredibly elaborate. We began hanging prints of them up in our office, and as we got closer to production on Part 2, we got the idea that we could use them as inspiration. I was a kid in the ’70s and comic book culture was a huge part of our world. Everyone says that The Get Down is a ‘birth of hip-hop’ show, but I’ve always said that it’s a ‘New York in the ’70s’ show. And kung-fu movies, comic books, AM radio, and DJing are all part of that tapestry.”
Party like it’s 1981
As of now, The Get Down hasn’t been renewed for a second season, which could make it the rare Netflix series to be a “one and done” affair. But George remains hopeful that they’ll receive the go-ahead to get the band back together in 2018 — a lengthy break that would allow the writing team plenty of time to plan out a sophomore year, and for the show’s in-demand cast to seize the opportunities that have been coming their way since August. Smith, for example, is currently filming Jurassic World 2, while Soul Madonna Shyrley Rodriguez is part of the ensemble in Pacific Rim: Uprising.
George says that if and when the series does return, it will jump ahead to a brave new world: the 1980s. “One of the premises of the show is that hip-hop is rising and disco is falling,” he says. “And when you jump to 1981, disco’s gone — no one even uses the word. The Madonna era is beginning to start and there’s a whole world of downtown clubs. I remember as a young writer spending a lot of time below 14th Street. The city’s beginning to change, too. So there’s a lot of threads we can play with musically, and around the music we can work in the city’s journey.”
The Get Down Part 2 premieres Friday, Apr. 7 on Netflix.
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