“So I can ease the pain that life can bring/Help them find the peace their spirit needs/I have been chosen for just what to do/To make a world of love for me and you.”
So goes the refrain of “I’ll Keep A Light in My Window,” a Caston & Majors original covered by the fictional girl disco group “Mylene Cruz and the Soul Madonnas.” There’s a simple way to hear this song in all its groovy glory and to understand who Mylene Cruz and her Soul Madonnas are and it’s by doing the following: watching Netflix’s “The Get Down.”
“The Get Down” is promoted as a story of the rise of hip hop in the Bronx in the late ‘70s and how rap began its path to prominence. It becomes apparent very quickly that “The Get Down” isn’t meant to be a run-of-the-mill history lesson and even though music is an integral part of it, the characters are what makes the music worth listening to.
With Part II of season one’s release on April 7, the characters I’ve missed since last summer are back in the pursuit of their dreams and the untangling of their identities. “The Get Down”’s main character, Ezekiel “Zeke” Figuero (Justice Smith) continues piecing together the plan he sees for his future, trying to reconcile the part of himself that wants a better education and a way out of the poor neighborhood he grew up in with his ardent passion for his music and his friends. His girlfriend, Mylene (Herizen F. Guardiola), finds a similar struggle in her rising fame as a disco star and the pressure put on her by her family and her record label to serve their own interests.
If you’re wondering if “The Get Down” is for you, as some people use the excuse of “I don’t like hip hop so I won’t like it,” look for similarities between what it offers as a show and what makes a good show in general. Like any quality TV show, “The Get Down” falls short of its quality if any of its key ingredients go missing: tight storytelling, that it is believable and truthful, great music, imaginative visuals, character complexity and the plot twists and cliffhangers audiences love to hate.
Part II does not disappoint when it comes to any of these points, carrying on the pattern set by Part I. When it comes to storytelling, not a moment goes wasted and no single scene passes without a greater contribution to the overall narrative. In regards to music, it’s as if the music is a character; the show is meant to show the rising progression of rap in popular music, but in 1978 when the second part is set, disco still rules the airwaves and rapping with a DJ scratching at two records is an alien concept. Its development at a small level with Zeke and his group the Get Down Brothers is shown at constant odds with the popularity of disco, even with some mention to the formation of punk rock, and is a fascinating struggle that lies at the core of the story.
If you’re a cinematic nerd (like myself), “The Get Down” is beyond satisfying. The show was created, produced and its first episode was directed by Baz Luhrmann, famous for his direction of “Moulin Rouge!” and “The Great Gatsby” with Leonardo DiCaprio. Like his version of “Gatsby,” his episode of “The Get Down” and the episodes that follow simply glitter. It’s a visually stunning show, contrasting the brown rubble and fuzzy grayness of the Bronx with dark club interiors lit by multicolored fairy lights, reflections from disco balls and splashes of color from the endless graffiti designs. The Bronx of “The Get Down” draws you in with its promise of creation as much as it scares you away with the danger of drug deals gone wrong and gangs around every corner. The title of the very first episode does this feeling the most justice: “Where There Is Ruin, There Is Hope For Treasure.” That’s how “The Get Down” drew me in initially, how it made me excited to see it return and why it makes me desperate to see more. On the surface for these characters, there is only ruin and dead end futures. But they themselves produce the treasure the show turns out to be and you can’t for a second look away.
So if the curiousity is killing you and you just want to take the easy way out, you can always go search “I’ll Keep a Light in My Window” on Spotify and be done with it. But between Mylene and the Soul Madonnas, Zeke and his Get Down Brothers, and all the other magical, brilliant aspects that this show has to offer, this newest single is going to leave you wanting more in a way that only “The Get Down” can satisfy.