The Get Down's sprawling, ambitious, but ultimately uneven second part premiered earlier this month—only eight months after Part 1 boogied onto Netflix. The first season of Baz Luhrmann's musical drama faithfully recreated a '70s New York in crisis amid the dueling influences of disco and hip-hop. In the process, we got introduced to a beguiling queer relationship between two young, pretty, woke graffitos—Dizzee aka Rumi (Jaden Smith) and Thor (Noah Le Gros).
When last we left Dizzee, he and Thor seemed on the verge of a Romeo + Juliet-esque romance, with the aid of Christina Aguilera's booming mezzo-soprano sauntering over the Nile Rodgers-produced "Telepathy."
Their relationship failed to advance past a few longing stares and a forehead touch, so with the premiere of Part 2, inquiring minds wanted to know: would they at least get to second base or what?
After Thor gets locked away as part of Mayor Ed Koch's crackdown on graffiti, Dizzee sends him pages in jail of his comic book chronicling the adventures of The Get Down Brothers—setting the stage for the show to periodically lapse into animation.
Dizzee and Thor aren't actually reunited until the third episode, and for our patience, we get this gorgeously backlit, PCP-induced (more on that later) meet-cute from way across the room.
It's a spot-on homage to West Side Story, starring Jaden Smith as a young Natalie Wood (finally).
As if it isn't clear these two crazy kids are crazy in love, they practically declare it to one another...
It's a really touching, even beautiful, scene, and one that filled me with hope that this time it would be different—that this time, Dizzee and Thor would fulfill their romantic destiny.
However—and this is where we get back to the PCP, as well as encounter the first of Part 2's problems with their relationship—Dizzee passes out after accidentally smoking a laced joint. Thor attempts to give him CPR, but his and Dizzee's apparent inability to touch affectionately even precludes giving mouth-to-mouth.
People have died for less, Thor!—open up his airway, not just his heart.
Dizzee's brush with death by wetting forces him to accept a certain truth about himself—his alienness, as embodied by his graffiti alter ego, Rumi. He feels more himself as Rumi, as an alien—and by extension, as a boy in love with another boy—and he's ready for the '70s equivalent of living his own truth.
And, not for nothing, his friends and brothers have started to take notice.
Still, Dizzee and Thor's relationship remains furstratingly chaste. During an orgy of artistic expression—the only orgy we'll be seeing—Thor gets Dizzee to paint him like one of his French girls.
Tantalizingly, this is the closest we get to any sort of sexual interaction between the two—Rumi running a wet brush down Thor's firm, hairless torso, stopping just short of his waist.
This is juxtaposed with another more overtly queer scene—recalling the hyper-sexualized montage that accompanied Dizzee and Thor's kiss in Part 1—in which nascent disco diva Mylene Cruz (Herizen Guardiola) is brought back to spiritual life by some drag queens (including one Mx. Justin Vivian Bond) and discovers her next big hit along the way.
It is, A.) the gayest thing you'll see on TV this year, and B.) a rather cheap way to emphasize what's happening with Dizzee and Thor. What The Get Down does, either by intent or not, is pull off a very '70s way of depicting a same-sex relationship—all innuendo and implication with a love that dare not speak its name—sort of like the coy way Cabaret portrayed Max and Brian's affair.
Related | What Cabaret Taught Us About Tolerance
But that was a 1972 movie set in 1930s Berlin; The Get Down is a 2017 show set in 1979 New York. There's more liberty to explore what should've been a really interesting storyline, but instead it's eclipsed by more forward thinking shows like the tween fare on Freeform.
As with Part 1, I'm not sure if the reticence to show a more explicitly queer romance is a creative decision—Lee Daniels faced some flack from the hip-hop community for his gay storylines on Empire—or one made out of consideration for the actors. Lest we forget, Will Smith kissed a dude in Six Degrees of Separation. Sorta.
Papa Will refused to kiss Anthony Michael Hall, reportedly on advice from Denzel Washington (again, that was 1993)—a decision, one ought to note, Smith later regretted.
After Dizzee and Thor's sexy paint party, Shaolin Fantastic (Shameik Moore) finds them in a compromising position. He realizes that there's definitely something more between Dizzee and Thor than he thought—and he's fine with it. Which is all the more frustrating.
If everyone's so accepting of Dizzee's alienness, why do we have to softshoe around the subject? In the world of The Get Down, being gay is limited to painted nails, purposeful stares, and the occasional drag queen. But for a show that so slavishly recreates New York in the late-70s, it's a jarring disappointment.
That being said, Dizzee and Thor's romance is handled with a level of care and sensitivity that isn't afforded to other characters, and while it doesn't make up for the kiss I still feel robbed of, it does give me a sliver of hope that those two crazy kids might make it after all.