Godfather of Harlem season 2, episode 2 recap – “Sting Like A Bee”

April 26, 2021
Jonathon Wilson 0
Epix, Weekly TV
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Godfather of Harlem season 2, episode 2 recap - "Sting Like A Bee"


“Sting Like A Bee” is a fantastic episode of television, Godfather of Harlem firing on all cylinders as the first match between Cassius Clay and Sonny Liston forms the backdrop of several much more complex fights.

This recap of Godfather of Harlem season 2, episode 2, “Sting Like A Bee”, contains spoilers.

This shouldn’t come as much of a surprise to anyone, but it seems like Chin isn’t exactly thrilled about the Families lifting the bounty on Bumpy Johnson, since “Sting Like A Bee” opens with him bombing various numbers rackets under his control. Bumpy isn’t too concerned, though, since, despite the fact he’s willing to fight the Italians tooth and nail for every inch of Harlem, he also needs to cozy up to one in order to buy 3000 kilos of heroin from the French Connection. Without one, he’s out of luck, since there’s an agreement that the drugs be delivered to the Five Families because of an arrangement involving Sicilian morphine paste, and selling a shipment that large to anyone else, let alone a Black man, is unlikely.

With his new, direct Corsican supply established, Bumpy gathers all of the other Black gang leaders together to propose cutting out the Italians completely. They give the dope they’d already heisted back the Italians, honoring his end of the bargain, but an increasingly frantic Chin knows he’s up to something. With no proof, though, and with Federal prosecutors coming after the Families, he’s unable to start a war. Not with any official backing, anyway, but you know how he is.

Speaking of federal prosecutors, Adam Clayton Powell has hired one, Mr. Robert Morgenthau, with a perfect 97-0 case record and no banter whatsoever. He wants to gather intelligence to turn the Five Families against one another, which seems as good a plan as any, but Powell is distracted by trying to place dodgy bets on the upcoming Cassius Clay vs. Sonny Liston fight, speculation about which persists all throughout Godfather of Harlem season 2, episode 2, not to mention Mayme, now back in Harlem, badgering him about being appointed chair of the Voter Registration Initiative — a position he promised her before she fled for South Carolina. He refuses to budge, though, since he can’t be seen to be cozying up to the wife of a gangster, even if that gangster might be able to help him and Morgenthau out with their cause.

Mayme, not taking no for an answer, goes to see Powell in person, sure that him ghosting her is because of Bumpy. She’s right, of course, and Powell isn’t shy about it; with the federal investigation ongoing and likely to lead to several high-profile arrests of Italian mafiosos and their associates, it’s too risky for an elected official to be anywhere near Bumpy Johnson. Mayme counters that Harlem needs Bumpy and that now isn’t the time for Black men to turn on each other, but the rule of law has to stand, according to Powell.

Later, though, Powell goes to see Mayme at home, claiming to have been too hasty in his decision. Now, he’d like her to work with him on the Harlem Voter Initiative. He even sits down with Mayme and Elise to watch the fight.

“Sting Like A Bee” reveals who Bumpy wants as his Italian partner soon enough — Frank, who is reluctant and is quick to let Bumpy know that none of the other Italians will be keen to support him either. Joe is his next port of call, but he won’t front for a Black man either (his wife seems nice, though.) When he gets back to his own HQ, Morgenthau is waiting for him with a proposition. He has paperwork that gives immunity from prosecution for all of his past criminal activities, as well as indemnity from prosecution for criminal activities committed going forward, such as the things he might need to do in order to maintain his cover with the Italians in order to gather evidence against Italian (and only Italian) organized crime. Bumpy considers this snitching, but Morgenthau pitches it as a business partnership, taking out the competition.

It’s Mayme who pitches a counter-offer to Bumpy — his Italian partner could be Chin, which seems like a bad idea, but it can’t be worse than working with Morgenthau, who immediately returns to Powell to ask for permission to turn the screws on Bumpy given he has been spotted with Frank and Joe recently — he has more influence than Morgenthau thought, and he’s obviously seeking an alliance. At that very moment, he’s doing just that with Chin, though the FBI promptly interrupts their get-together with a warrant to search Chin’s place and an arrest warrant for Bumpy, signed by Morgenthau. Bumpy reckons he’ll be out by that night, but can he say the same for Chin? Suddenly, his offer of having Morgenthau and Powell chase their own tails seems a lot more compelling.

And so it should since the FBI raid was a ruse set up by Bumpy to make this point. The next time he meets with him, he has more leverage, but Chin, not exactly one for diplomacy, as was said about him earlier in the episode, would rather fight.

Malcolm X, meanwhile, still ousted from the Nation of Islam, takes his wife and daughter to Miami to support his friend Cassius Clay, but no sooner has he arrived than Elijah Muhammad has called Cassius to warn him away from Malcolm — he’s forbidden from seeking publicity during his exile, which he assumes is the intention of his proximity to Cassius, even though absolutely nobody else but Malcolm believes Liston has a chance of losing. Cassius’s trainer Mr. Dundee doesn’t think Malcolm is good for him either, and all the confusion about the Nation of Islam is limiting his ability to box and enjoy his inevitably bright future. Everyone’s against Malcolm, it seems, including his wife, who also thinks he’s using Cassius as a way to get back into the Nation.

And he is. But the turning point comes when he tells Cassius this, finally unburdening himself of the guilt of doing so. Cassius takes it well, and in the ten minutes they have before the fight begins, they pray for Allah to give him the strength and skill he needs to succeed. And then the fight begins.

Godfather of Harlem season 2, episode 2 uses the Clay vs. Liston fight to crystallize all the subplots and character development it has been working on. Malcolm is at ringside; Powell is watching with Mayme and Elise; Bumpy and Chin are exchanging punches on a rain-drenched basketball court at the exact same time, the two fights — the official boxing match glimpsed in both televised black and white and from Malcolm’s in-person perspective — intercut. The editing cleverly positions Chin as Liston, the aggressive, fast starter, and Bumpy as Ali, the smarter, more agile fighter. Both Clay and Bumpy emerge victorious; Liston and Chin both retire from the fight. The latter agrees to an equal partnership, and both men walk away as if nothing has happened — in truth, though, enough has happened that nothing either in Harlem or the world of boxing will ever be the same again.

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