“Our Day Will Come” roused the public in the wake of tragedy, with compelling voices arguing wildly different methods of achieving the same end.
This recap of Godfather of Harlem Season 1, Episode 3, “Our Day Will Come”, contains spoilers. You can check out our thoughts on the previous episode by clicking these words.
“Our Day Will Come” is about justice. But that word means different things to different people. To Bumpy Johnson (Forest Whitaker), justice is old-school; people should get what they deserve, and what they deserve is usually violence. For Malcolm X (Nigel Thatch), justice begets change; voices chanting in unison are too loud to ignore and can demand seismic systemic shifts. Adam Clayton Powell Jr. (Giancarlo Esposito) sees justice as an opportunity, a way to grab attention with the left hand so the right can be safely buried in someone’s pockets or a young woman’s lingerie. But it’s the most neglected opinion that is the most important and potentially powerful. And in Godfather of Harlem Episode 3, that opinion belongs to Bumpy’s estranged addict daughter Elise (Antoinette Crowe-Legacy), who is arrested while shoplifting to fund her heroin habit and raped in police custody by a black officer.
There’s anger simmering beneath “Our Day Will Come”, and it brings with it a lot of catharsis even if some of the episode’s happenings are a bit on the nose. Elise’s rape is leery — though I suppose rape always is — and happens virtually out of nowhere, conveniently in the back of a store housed in a building owned by Chin Gigante (Vincent D’Onofrio). The Nation of Islam marching through the streets is a fist-pump moment not really befitting a serious drama like the one Godfather of Harlem Episode 3 sometimes wants to be, such as in those quieter scenes where Bumpy and Malcolm X sit beside each other and talk at length about a reality in which black women can be raped by officers of the law with no consequences. Of course, there will be consequences, but not necessarily for the right people — Elise intentionally ID’s the white cop as the perpetrator, a complex decision that doesn’t gel with her rousing speech to the masses when she takes to the ad-hoc pulpit outside the store.
In that moment, Elise snatched an opportunity, which at the time was the only way people like her were afforded any opportunities at all. It establishes Elise not just as a victim, as she has been throughout the first couple of episodes, but as an intelligent and potentially dangerous operative in a culture war; a threat to the lifestyle that Bumpy and Mayme (Ilfenesh Hadera) have worked hard to build, both before and after his incarceration. Margaret (Demi Singleton) figures out the truth of her parentage in “Our Day Will Come”, which is not a coincidence. Clayton Powell, too, seizes the chance to divert attention from his philandering, though there are only so many skeletons you can bury before bones start peeking up through the earth.
In the end, people are satisfied. Agendas are furthered. Justice is done — but not in the way everyone would like it to be. Bumpy still can’t allow the guilty to not be punished, even for the greater good, so he introduces the man who raped his daughter to Big Dick Buster (Hank Strong). Sometimes, someone has to pay.