At times, The Get Down has deftly connected people from different backgrounds by showing them go through similar struggles. That was certainly the case in the fifth episode, where each character found themselves at an artistic, personal, or professional crossroads. Maybe that’s what the writers were going for with the midseason finale, too. Maybe. But when all’s said and done, I still don’t see what Jackie Moreno being sexually assaulted has to do with the concurrent journeys of Ezekiel and Shaolin Fantastic.

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I mean, yeah, they’re all trying to gain respect and break out of their usual environments. But Zeke and Shao come from a world that’s legitimately dangerous. Even worse, they’re seeing equally dangerous people—Fat Annie and Gunns/Ed Koch, respectively—as possible mentors, as escape plans from the hazards of the South Bronx. It makes sense for the show to link their storylines with parallel structure, to show them both shaking hands with their metaphorical devils. Zeke agreeing to speak at the Koch rally may not be as immediately consequential as Shao killing someone at Annie and Cadillac’s behest, but it will still have severe repercussions for his community, especially the world of graffiti art where Dizzee operates.

But Jackie? Him being forced to go down on a former intern who he took advantage of just feels unnecessary. I suppose there’s some sort of justice in a woman he’s wronged now being in a position of power and sexually assaulting him. Yet at the same time, the whole ordeal comes off as gross. Isn’t him struggling to get “Set Me Free” played, then having it break through at a gay disco club enough? More importantly, the sex act eats up screen-time in an episode that already rushes to resolve virtually all of its more central storylines.

And that’s really been the The Get Down’s biggest problem from the beginning, hasn’t it? Its style-over-substance aesthetic works well when crafting stunning musical sequences, but when applied to more character-oriented scenes, it renders everything overblown. The writers didn’t put the scene with Jackie there because it says anything about his personality. They put it there to make the cuts between Ezekiel and Shaolin more exciting. They put it there to add a gratuitous sexual element, regardless of whether it has any logical place in the show’s arc or not.

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As for the stuff that does matter, the climactic get down is just as thrilling as expected. Each boy shows off his distinct skills, with Shao attacking the turntables as if they were punching bags. The crowd goes wild, everyone at home watching Netflix cheers, yada yada yada. Dizzee also has a dazzling drug experience at a drag show that’s as trippy and informative to him as it ought to be. Even that’s par of the course though; the series has proven time and time again that it can deliver a knockout musical sequence .

But those are the only two memorable scenes here. Granted, there are six more episodes of The Get Down arriving in 2017, but the halfway point should have at least some resolution, some sense of tension or danger to come. And yet everyone in the cast more or less gets what they want. The Get Down Brothers win against The Notorious Three, Mylene’s on her way to becoming a star, and Ed Koch becomes mayor. Alright, so Papa Fuerte and Lydia are still in love and apparently Myelen’s their daughter, so there’s that. But the show hasn’t developed that nearly enough to be interesting. Oh, and Shao’s probably more embedded in the show’s crime scene (even if it’s barely alluded do after the murder), so that’s bad news. But you know how I feel about more screen-time for the show’s villains.

Also, what exactly is the point of Zeke’s coded speech at the Koch rally? Even if all of the locals in the crowd knew he was actually praising graffiti art and the South Bronx community at large rather than condemning them, what purpose does it serve? Koch—his nonexistent bad guy’s mustache twiddling faster than ever—wins. It wasn’t like Zeke outwardly stuck it to the man or anything. Maybe it’s a sign that he’ll try and take down Koch’s policies from the inside via his internship? Who knows. It just further points to The Get Down being a mess. A beautiful mess that’s sometimes fun to look at, but a mess nonetheless.

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Stray observations

  • Apologies for the posting being an hour late. I accidentally scheduled it for the wrong time zone.
  • We get the show’s first reference to punk music with Gunn’s daughter, although I hope they delve further into the genre than a rich girl loving on The Ramones.
  • Was anyone else as bothered by the goofiness with Jackie as I was? It just felt like such a waste of time.
  • Many of you feel that the show isn’t even realistic in its portrayal of 1970s hip-hop. While I agree that the rhymes Zeke and co. are spitting have a complexity not seen until later on in rap music, the DJing still feels genuine enough. What say the rest of you?
  • I’m wondering if this was planned as a true midseason finale or if the creators decided to just stop filming until they knew how successful the show would be.
  • Despite my grievances, I won’t be able to get “Set Me Free” out of my head for the rest of the summer.

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