“The French Connection” sees Godfather of Harlem return in fine form as Bumpy makes his latest play to retake Harlem from the Italians.
This recap of Godfather of Harlem season 2, episode 1, “The French Connection”, contains spoilers.
It has been a good, long while since we last saw Godfather of Harlem, thanks in part to the Covid-19 pandemic. One of the first things you’ll notice about the Season 2 premiere, “The French Connection”, is that it feels like a decent amount of time has passed in-universe, too. Bumpy Johnson has grown a beard while hiding out from the Five Families, and particularly “Chin” Gigante, which is always television shorthand for “It’s been a while.”
It’s a pain, sometimes, returning to a show with a lot of moving parts; you have to do some detective work just to figure out how all the pieces fit together. Godfather of Harlem season 2, episode 1 helps to alleviate that by balancing out new threads and old ones. Some stuff, like everything involving Adam Clayton Powell putting his money where his mouth is so he can regain public favor, feels like tying a bow around the events of the first season. Giancarlo Esposito does a lot with just a few scenes in “The French Connection”, but he and Malcolm X, whose position in the Nation of Islam is in some jeopardy, are clearly de-prioritized in favor of catching up with Bumpy and laying out the more immediate stakes.
In the three months since the first season finale, Bumpy, with a bounty on his head, has been moving in and out of various apartments in Harlem, keeping his most loyal men close by but moving Mayme and Margaret to South Carolina. Elise, still a part of the Nation of Islam and not at all a subtle deliverywoman, has been sneaking her father meals and bonding with him in his isolation; her being spotted doing so is what allows Chin to set up a hit which backfires in one of the episode’s two shootouts. Chin is still obsessed with getting rid of Bumpy once and for all, ostensibly as revenge for him offing made man Richie Zambrano in the first season, but really because he recognizes he’s a pretty huge threat to his leadership of Harlem’s criminal underworld, especially since Frank and Joe aren’t entirely keen on him.
Virtually nothing is going well for Chin in “The French Connection”. His hit on Bumpy fails. His daughter, Stella, is confined to the house after her suicide attempt, and the only way he can get her out of the house is by sending Ernie Nunzi to chaperone her, which both of them hate. Stella is still reeling from Teddy’s death and is obviously greatly unstable, which is going to make Chin’s efforts at keeping hold of Harlem even more difficult.
This is to say nothing of the main thread of The Godfather of Harlem season 2, episode 1, which involves the titular “French Connection”, represented here by Jean Jehan (Ronald Guttman), running a lucrative heroin pipeline from Corsica to Marseilles to New York. It’s enough money to make the Five Families overlook their usual codes and keep Bumpy alive in spite of Chin’s arguments against his murder on principle; that leaves Chin unable to go after Bumpy without threatening his own position, and Bumpy threatening his position anyway by playing a long game against the Italians. That’s plenty to be going on with in a premiere, and leaves a lot of potential for the second season to capitalize on as it progresses.