There are certainly better shows out there than The Get Down, but none as ebullient, passionate, or romantic as the ’70s hip-hop drama. Created by Baz Luhrmann, the auteur behind Moulin Rouge! and The Great Gatsby, The Get Down burrows into your heart with a drill made of pure emotion. While other shows might take the intellectual cake in terms of quality, none serve quite the soulful powerhouse that The Get Down offers on a silver platter.
If your spirits need lifting, The Get Down will hoist them high. If you love Luhrmann, step up for that tsunami of melodrama that threatens to irritate, but pulls back just enough to genuinely move you. And if Luhrmann isn’t your cup of ultra-caffeinated tea, watch The Get Down anyway, because there are stars in the making on this one
The first season of The Get Down is on Netflix now. There are eleven episodes total, so there’s no reason for you to not get up with The Get Down. To give a sample of what’s in store for you, or, if you’ve seen the show, to remind you of why it’s so great, here’s The Get Down: 15 Best Moments From Season 1.
15. Zeke’s Poem
Grounding a show so intentionally audacious is no easy task, particularly for a newcomer like Justice Smith. The further the show’s energy pushed, the heavier Smith, as the show’s lead, had to plant his feet into the ground. But with one monologue, Smith assured viewers that he could anchor Baz Lurhman’s boundless vision.
After claiming a poem he wrote wasn’t actually his, a cheap but successful attempt to avoid reading it to fellow students, Zeke’s teacher holds him back after class. She grills him, and Zeke finally admits that he wrote the poem. When she challenges him to read it aloud again, now for just her, Zeke puts the poem aside. Just as his teacher looks disappointed, Zeke recites it, verbatim, his anger escalating with each line.
Recounting the death of Zeke’s mother, Smith conveys a level of passion few actors his age have, unveiling pain no kid Zeke’s age should have to feel. Smith (who’ll star in a Jurassic World sequel next year), promises Zeke’s journey throughout this show will be worth our while.
14. Shao leaps from building to building
Shao’s reputation preceded him even before his bright red Puma sneakers ran him onscreen. Stories of the mythical Shaolin Fantastic passed between Zeke, Ra-Ra, Boo, and Dizzee, but none were proven even remotely true until midway through the pilot.
When Zeke is distracted, Shao (Shameik Moore, the recently announced Miles Morales) swipes a record from Zeke and bolts. Soon he’s running from Zeke as well as a local gang that also covets the record. Seemingly cornered on a rooftop, Shao gets a running start before leaping for an adjacent building, and just barely makes it. As he dangles from a ledge, Shao drops the record, which gets caught by Zeke.
This stunt was the perfect way to introduce to viewers to the Shao’s brashness. He’s got the stones to make a building to building leap, but him not making it tells us something else about his character: he’s not exactly the legend he makes himself out to be.
13. Mylene turns down Zeke
If you’re watching something by Luhrmann, you’re inevitably going to get drama shoved down your throat. Some swallow it whole, some cough it up. If you’re one of the former, you can enjoy this scene to your drama queen heart’s delight. That is, until it gets broken.
Fleeing a shootout at a disco club, rather than cling to each other and kiss passionately, Zeke and Mylene have a less than heartfelt conversation. Zeke confesses his love for Mylene, and though Mylene secretly harbors those same feelings, she rejects him. She has dreams, and views Zeke as a detriment to those dreams after she witnessed him balk at delivering his poem in class. She leaves, and tears flow.
If you’ve taken a break from reading this to let your eyes roll, it’s understandable that this scene comes off as unbearable cheesy to you. But even the hardest TV fan would release a tear seeing Smith and Henrizen Guardrilo act off of each other.
12. Mylene sings disco in church
Dependent on your religious disposition, this either marks the beginning of Mylene’s rise to stardom or her descent into hell. Regardless, in this sinful sermon, Mylene does what she needs to do, and does so in show-stopping fashion.
Immediately before a performance with her church choir, one being attended by a big shot music producer, Mylene’s father bumps her from the front of the choir to the back row. Mylene, who was planning to break into disco for the producer, now has another obstacle impeding that goal. Right as the producer starts to leave, Mylene feigns hysteria, causing other choir members to usher her upstage. Once in the spotlight, Mylene rips off her choir gown, unveiling a more revealing white dress, and switches up the beat, injecting a little soul into the song’s hereunto insufferable din.
11. Zeke and Mylene sleep together
At this point, the sexual tension between Zeke and Mylene is so potent that neither one of them can bear it any longer. The scene where they finally break down and do it is so tender, so intimate, a viewer might feel inclined to give the two some space.
It’s been a trying day for Zeke. He, along with Shaolin and the other Get Down Brothers, just disposed of a body, the work of a ruthless gangster who has Shao under his thumb. When Mylene finds him, Zeke has a pencil in hand and a notepad in front of him. He tries to write the trauma away right as Mylene sits nearby, and holds his hand to comfort him. It’s not long before the two climb the fire escape to the roof and do the deed.
10. The girls sing “I’ll Be There” on the subway
Here’s a quieter moment in a show packed with loud ones. This is good to have if you want to ensure your series’ decibel level doesn’t shoot past vibrant and wind up cacophonous. When Mylene, Regina, and Yolanda hum together in perfect harmony, it offers viewers the reprieve they need from The Get Down‘s rowdier numbers.
After saving her music producer, Jackie Moreno (Kevin Corrigan), from a near drug overdose, Mylene and the girls drag him onto a subway train so they can make an important meeting for a potential record deal. The three of them, after an argument that highlights Mylene’s growing ego, make amends after recent stress bonds them once more. Absentmindedly, one of them slips into humming Michael Jackson’s “I’ll be There.” The others join in, and the three create musical bliss.
9. Jackie comes up with song on the spot
After an explosion of Cruz family drama, sh*t just got several different flavors of real. Interrupting a record meeting already headed south, Pastor Cruz (Giancarlo Esposito of Breaking Bad) bursts into the room, spitting his disapproval at Mylene and his brother, Francisco “Papa Fuerte” Cruz (Jimmy Smits). When Jackie intervenes, things seem like they’ll only get worse.
Jackie, still fighting his way out of a drug induced stupor, tries to ease the tension by convincing Pastor Cruz Mylene’s record can be disco while still praising God. Nobody in the room seems to trust Jackie, since he came to the meeting without a finished song like he promised. But right then, solving every problem simultaneously, Jackie pulls a composition out of thin air and plucks it out on the piano. Mylene sings along, the band joins in, and a hit song is born.
Kevin Corrigan is always a pleasure to watch (go check out Results if you haven’t seen it yet), and he’s particularly great in this scene. Jackie’s sudden comeback is the most triumphant moment in The Get Down’s run thus far.
8. Dizzee and Thor (almost) kiss
Jaden Smith impressed many as the quietly thoughtful, hard-to-pin-down Dizzee. Every episode, viewers got a better sense of what Dizzee, a talented graffiti artist, was all about. All of that came into focus when Thor, a fellow graffiti enthusiast, invites Dizzee to a drag bar.
It takes Dizzee a little while to figure out what’s up with the club Thor’s brought him too. A friend of Thor’s explains this is a place of freedom, where people of all different genders come to express themselves, primarily through music and wardrobe. It’s a profound moment for Dizzee, and Smith expertly conveys revelation. By the time Thor’s friend implores Dizzee to kiss Thor, the audience is just as eager for it to happen.
Dizzee’s and Thor’s lips come very, very close, but don’t quite meet. Neither seems any less energized by their surroundings though, and continue dancing into the night. Dizzee’s newfound feelings for someone of the same sex are bound to create problems later on, but for now he’s as free as a bird.
7. The Get Down Brothers vs. The Notorious Three
The biggest hump a show about music has to get over is the music itself. Not everyone will be into its chosen genre. This held true for Nashville. It had to prove itself a worthwhile show for both country fans and non-fans alike. Whether you like hip-hop or not, you’ll appreciate The Get Down for capturing the feeling that something fresh and exciting is coming to fruition, culminating in a phenomenal rap battle in Part 1’s finale.
In a battle for sonic supremacy, The Get Down Brothers square off against the Notorious Three, a rival hip-hop group. We’ve seen the Brothers in rehearsal, but their first concert is a sight to behold. Everybody’s unique talents blend together seamlessly: Zeke’s rhymes, Ra-Ra’s rapid fire delivery, Boo’s singing voice, and Shao’s record-spinning prowess. All of it complimented by Mylene’s new single, “Set Me Free.”
The Get Down perfectly tracks a musical genre from inception to infancy, and this final concert makes present-day viewers feel like they’re hearing hip-hop for the first time, leaving them hungry for more.
6. The Get Down Reunion
Season 1, Part 2 of The Get Down dropped on Netflix months after Part 1. It’d been a while since fans had seen The Get Down Brothers at work, but the Brothers came back to the stage without missing an ounce of their unquestionable talents.
Crime boss Fat Annie has granted Shao ownership of an underground club, which Shao uses as a venue for The Get Down Brothers (while secretly using it as a domain to sell drugs under). Shao and the crew make the most out of this new opportunity, and draw crowds nightly into their new home to hear Zeke’s smooth lyrics and watch the Brothers tear up the stage.
From this we see that the Brothers’ last performance was no fluke. These guys have skills and, if music was the only factor, they’d be here to stay. But as dealers dispersed on the dance floor hand out illicit drugs, we get a sense that Shao’s side business might clash with Zeke’s aversion to the enterprise, and create ruptures between the Brothers.
5. “I’ll Keep My Light In My Window”
Soon after getting caught up with The Get Down Brothers, we get a peak at where Mylene’s musical career is currently at. Turns out things are going well for the up and coming pop star. Thanks to the modest success of “Set Me Free,” Mylene and the Soul Madonnas (Regina and Yolanda) land a gig on the TV show Platinum Boogie.
In what’s easily the catchiest original song in The Get Down’s soundtrack, Mylene sings the funky gospel of “I’ll Keep My Light In My Window.” The Soul Madonnas’ act is intercut with Zeke and the Brothers watching on a TV at the club. Zeke beams, and brags to everybody about Mylene. Though he doesn’t have to convince them of much since they’re all watching with him.
This is the only time Mylene strikes a balance between disco and wholesomeness. It won’t be long before record executives pull her towards sleazier music while her father, who can’t stand Mylene tamely bumping hips with the Platinum Boogie host during her act, pulls her towards religious music.
4. The Get Down Brothers Take Over Les Infernos
One of the few Get Down Brothers’ performances to not get a uniform response. The reaction to their Les Infernos act is almost evenly split between fans of the Brothers’ music and the staunch disco fans. The cheers and the boos overlay each other, both getting louder in response to the other.
While Shao at the DJ booth pushes the record scratches to the max, Cadillac (Yahya Abdul-Mateen II), a gangster and John Travolta idolizer, leads the crowd of disco lovers in a dance off against the Brother’s acolytes. Things get dire for a minute, and just as the Get Down Brothers are on the verge of getting drowned out, Shao jumps to the center of the dance floor and wins the day with some break-dancing.
Here we see the growth of hip-hop music, which was never going to rise up without resistance from old fashioned naysayers. Getting noticed was the first step, but staying that way is the next. Here The Get Down Brothers fight for their art, and come out on top.
3. Papa Fuerte goes off on Zeke
Jimmy Smits had so much great scenery to chew in this show, and he made the most of it. He’s starred in films like Star Wars and TV shows like The West Wing and Sons of Anarchy, but he’s never had this kind of chance to go as big as he does as Papa Fuerte. And does he ever rise to the occasion.
After Zeke shamed him multiple times to his connections at city hall, Fuerte kicks down the door to Shao’s home (Zeke’s temporary place of residence) and gives Zeke a talking to. The rant that ensues is furious, and Fuerte wastes no time cutting Shao’s tough guy routine to shreds before setting his sights on Zeke.
A lot of people have given Zeke a hard time recently, but none more accurately or effectively as Fuerte. He takes down Zeke for wasting his intelligence, and he’s not completely wrong. This is Smits’ best moment on the show by far, and that’s saying something when the role has demanded so much of him already.
2. Pastor Cruz preaches to an empty congregation
God bless Giancarlo Esposito. Pastor Cruz deserves none of our sympathy, given his over-zealous rule over Mylene and her mother. But Esposito gets us to fork it over anyway, in an emotionally stripped down monologue grander than any the actor has ever given, even including his time as Gustavo Fring.
Abandoned by his daughter, wife, and brother, all in the span of a few hours, a drunk, beaten up Pastor Cruz takes to his church for comfort. Once onstage, he delivers a thunderous, enraged sermon to hundreds of vacant seats. He’s devoted his whole life to the church, and now the church has taken his whole life away from him.
Esposito manages a Shakespearean level of drama in this earth shattering scene. Through all his tyranny and all his unsavory hypocrisies, nobody deserves the hell he’s been through in the past day. Esposito understands this, and forces us to understand it as well.
1. Shao and Cadillac make peace
Not every conflict can be resolved with song, as The Get Down Brothers realize in their darkest hour. Desperate to release themselves from Fat Annie’s record deal, the Brothers unite MCs from all across the city for one huge show that will stake hip-hop’s claim to the streets. Fat Annie hears of this, and wants none of it.
Cadillac arrives at the show, and listens for a while before firing a gun into the air. He gets onstage and points his gun right at Shao, who just earlier beat up Fat Annie, Cadillac’s mother. Uncharacteristically, Shao appeals to him with words, telling him Fat Annie has manipulated them for too long. His speech is so good Cadillac actually tears up.
It’s been clear throughout that Cadillac has an unrequited Oedipal complex with Annie. Though Shao doesn’t provide details when placating Cadillac, it becomes clear that Fat Annie had a predatory hold over both of them. Cadillac leaves in peace, discharges the Brothers’ from their contract, and decides to change his life, separate from Fat Annie.
Season one of The Get Down is available to stream now on Netflix! Tell us your favorite moments!