In the second episode of Netflix’s new period piece drama The Get Down, Shaolin Fantastic (Shameik Moore) has found his “wordsmith” in the form of Ezekiel “Zeke” Figuero (Justice Smith.) Dreaming of a life in the Bronx’s underground music scene, Fantastic must perfect his DJ technique if his dreams of running the scene are to ever come to fruition. Meanwhile, Mylene Cruz (Herizen F. Guardiola) may have a shot at singing solo, at her church’s choir, in front of a record producer. First, however, she must get the help of Zeke, whom she previously scorned for trying to win her heart.
Perhaps it’s the lack of Baz Luhrmann as director, or the half hour cut off in run time, but “Seek Those Who Fan Your Flames” is a considerably better episode than what the pilot had to offer. The stories feel a lot more refined, balancing a near perfect amount of screen time between Fantastic and Zeke’s story, Mylene’s narrative and the occasional side plot surrounding the shadier events of the Bronx. In fact, the drama in episode two is surprisingly much more interesting, which is saying something since episode two is over a half hour shorter than the pilot. It isn’t overstuffed with cliché “guy trying to get the girl” filler, or too many uninteresting side characters given much more screen time than they deserve. Rather, Zeke and Fantastic’s characters are allowed to breathe in the ups and downs of their companionship, while Mylene’s pursuit of a music career actually feels like a pursuit now, though this could be because the pilot episode spent most of its time setting up each character’s backstories, rather than exploring their journeys.
However, even if episode two showcases a brighter future for The Get Down, this chapter still has the problem of having slumps in moments of storytelling. There are still an assortment of times where I was getting bored easily because the characters were doing nothing else than sitting and talking. Which wouldn’t be a problem if the dialogue in said scenes had something interesting or important to say. The only purpose they really served was to extend the episode to an hour mark. Had it been somewhere around 45 minutes instead, it would have been near perfect.
The Get Down doesn’t seem to be getting the level of attention that Stranger Things has gotten, and two episodes in I can see why. However, that doesn’t mean The Get Down isn’t worth exploring, especially since episode two renewed my interest in what the series has to offer. While still not the profound exploration of 70’s Bronx life it wants to be, “Seek Those Who Fan Your Flames” is a considerably more refined and intelligent dramatic chapter than the overly long pilot episode ever could be.