Godfather of Harlem picks up where it left off in its third season premiere, with Bumpy and the rest of his community trying to adjust in the aftermath of the Harlem Riots.
This recap of Godfather of Harlem Season 3 Episode 1, “The Negro in White America”, contains spoilers.
Returning with relatively little fanfare to the recently rebranded MGM+, Godfather of Harlem remains one of the shows that nobody seems to talk much about despite it being consistently excellent in almost all metrics. The soundtrack is tremendous, the blend of real-life history and fictional drama is great, and the acting is stellar. The third season premiere, “The Negro in White America”, proves that all these things remain true for now, as Bumpy Johnson and the rest of Harlem try to adapt to their new circumstances following the end of the second season and the Harlem Riots.
Godfather of Harlem Season 3 Episode 1 Recap
This premiere begins with a cold open in which we see Bumpy and his usual associates rob a vehicle full of cash in a stick-up gone bad, but we rewind two days so that we can explore the events leading up to this uncharacteristically visible bit of criminality. Real-life footage of the aftermath of the riots makes the point pretty clear. Harlem is in disarray. Both it and Bumpy are in urgent need of a rebuild, and the options for doing so are becoming more and more limited as the personal arcs of various characters continue to complicate and contort the balance of power.
Bumpy, for instance, owes three million dollars to the Five Families and has been told to square the debt with Joe Colombo, who has recently been promoted since Chin is languishing in prison. Joe is a bit of a wildcard, and we get a scene of him crushing a man in a car to make the point clear. He has a point to prove since none of the other families respect him, and he wants to use Bumpy to help do it, proposing a partnership between the two of them that will, apparently, be lucrative for them both. Since he knows Bumpy can’t possibly come up with the three million he owes in just a few days, he assumes his offer will be gratefully accepted, but Bumpy refuses him twice, unwilling to cede control of Harlem to anyone, least of all an Italian.
But this is a problem for Bumpy since in that case he needs to come up with money he doesn’t have. It’s pretty easy to put the pieces together even at this point that the opening scene is clearly Bumpy’s last-ditch efforts to raise that cash, but it takes a while to get there, and there’s also some additional important context. Initially, Bumpy tries to secure a loan from the Liberty Bank of Harlem, since most of the higher-ups there are already “investors” in his ventures anyway, but they won’t put the money up on the basis that Bumpy is already in debt with them to the tune of half a million. Attempts to scare up money from the streets amount to next to nothing, and despite Mayme’s offer to let Bumpy sell all of the jewelry he has bought her for fifteen years’ worth of anniversaries, he refuses to make his debt her responsibility.
It’s Adam Clayton Powell who inadvertently tips Bumpy off to the score. The preacher has been cozying up to Lyndon Johnson and has managed to secure a great deal of funding for Harlem which will be pumped into the Liberty Bank — that’s the score that we saw Bumpy and his guys heisting at the top of the episode. But Powell has also offered Mayme an important, public-facing job that requires Bumpy to keep his nose clean to preserve her image. Of course, the stick-up, which leaves a security guard dead, makes the news, and since so few people knew about the funding, it’s obvious it was an inside job. Bumpy hasn’t just endangered himself, but also his wife and Powell, too.
Anyway, we check in on a few subplots elsewhere. Omar wants to apologize to Elise and Malcolm, even though he knows he’s risking his own life to do so, but we’ll see the payoff to this in later episodes. Of more immediate importance is Stella. With Chin in jail, she’s determined to testify against him and to get a job and move out of the house in the meantime, but Olympia resents the fact that she’s “a rat”, in her words, so much so that she puts out a hit on her!
The episode’s title, “The Negro in White America”, is the title of Powell’s latest sermon, which he delivers at the end of the episode as we check in with various characters — we see Malcolm decide not to spill Omar’s blood, Mayme watching news reports of the bank heist, realizing it was Bumpy, we see Bumpy smugly pay off Joe, and we see Stella assassinate her own would-be assassin. It’s a lot going on for a premiere, and it’s good to have Godfather of Harlem back and firing on all cylinders.
You can stream Godfather of Harlem Season 3 Episode 1, “The Negro in White America”, exclusively on MGM+.