With his back against the wall, Bumpy tries to find new allies as war with the Italians — and perhaps within his family — begins to seem inevitable.
This recap of Godfather of Harlem Season 3 Episode 2, “Alzado”, contains spoilers.
Even the worst, most ruthless career criminals have rules, it seems, and not messing with women and children is one of them. In “Alzado”, it’s becoming quite clear why the Five Families aren’t exactly keen on Joe Colombo, and why they weren’t necessarily fond of his late father, either. Neither thought much of the rules. And both, in their creative and determined violation of those rules, threaten to upend the already delicate balance of power in New York.
Godfather of Harlem Season 3 Episode 2 Recap
What Joe does here is essentially kidnap Mayme Johnson, though he frames it as a gentlemanly kind of kidnapping where she’s persuaded, not through force itself but the suggestion of it, to accompany Joe for a polite ride in the back of his car. He explains to her the same thing he explained to Bumpy in the third season premiere — he’s making good money from his auto business and wants to share that with Bumpy, and in exchange, he’s willing to sweeten the pot with protection from police officers and judges that he has on his payroll. Bumpy rejected this offer twice, you’ll recall, but that was before the idea of legal protection from conviction seemed as valuable as they do now.
This is because last week Bumpy robbed the Liberty Bank of Harlem for the relief funds that had been diverted to it by President Lyndon Johnson in the wake of the Harlem Riots. And Mayme knows Bumpy was responsible for that since Adam Clayton Powell had told them about the funding in confidence, and it was a closely-guarded secret beyond that. Bumpy needed the cash to pay off the Italians rather than get in bed with Joe, so he took the first opportunity he saw. But in doing so he threatened not only his own liberty but Mayme’s potential political career (which Bumpy, in anger, refers to as being “Powell’s assistant”.)
Gentlemanly or not, Bumpy is absolutely not having the Families interfering with his missus, so he threatens to kill Joe himself if something isn’t done about him. He’s convinced that war with the Italians is imminent, so wants to relocate Mayme and Elise to somewhere safe outside of Harlem, an idea neither of them is keen on because of Mayme’s aforementioned career ambitions and the fact that Malcolm X has invited Elise to travel to Africa with him. Bumpy even starts shanking his own guys to make sure that Joe’s private offers of kickbacks don’t seem as compelling — as Bumpy puts it, they’re either with him, or they’re dead.
Joe wants to secure Harlem because he says it’s a goldmine, but the implication is that he also wants to use it as leverage against the other bosses. But he’s very short on allies. His only viable friend is Chin Gigante, who is still languishing off-screen in prison, but he’s only willing to lean on the other bosses if Joe agrees to protect Stella since as we know her stepmother Olympia tried to have her whacked last week. He agrees, sees right through Olympia’s sympathetic routine, and immediately deduces — thanks to some letters he finds in her room — that Stella is staying with Delia Greene, the mother of Teddy, her ex-boyfriend whose death was the catalyst for her turning against her own family in the first place.
Stella has a lovely, quietly touching relationship with Delia, who is willing to give her enough money for a plane ticket to Paris, so she can escape Harlem and experience all the things that Teddy was never able to. I’m glad Godfather of Harlem has maintained this relationship over the seasons when most similar shows wouldn’t have. When Joe’s goons turned up at the house to take Stella away, I experienced a pang of legitimate worry for Delia’s safety. This, by the way, is the second “gentlemanly” kidnapping Joe carries out during this episode — he’s making a habit of it.
Meanwhile, two of Bumpy’s men are killed and deposited by “some Italian-looking motherfuckers” outside his place of business, so he assumes that the war for Central Harlem is continuing apace. Like Joe — “Alzado” is clearly establishing parallels between the two — he has few allies, though, so he sets up a meeting with Jose Battle, the Cuban boss of Spanish Harlem, to propose a fifty-fifty partnership. Battle deals in guns with the ultimate intention of liberating Cuba from Fidel Castro and isn’t much interested in heroin, but he’d like not to give the majority of his profit to the Italians. He’s devoted to Santería, though, and makes all of his big business decisions after consultation with the orishas via means of a soothsayer and some seashells. The shells advise him not to take the deal, which Bumpy is comically incredulous about.
The overriding feeling here is not only of Bumpy losing his grip on Central Harlem but also of everyone becoming increasingly sick of his bullshit. Mayme takes her “kidnapping” much more pragmatically than he does. He’s willing to go to war, relocate his family, and potentially lose not only his business but his life over avenging the slight, whereas Mayme sees Joe’s proposition as perhaps the most logical way of moving forward. Even Margaret, who is being moved to South Carolina for her protection, overrules Bumpy by insisting on going alone so that Elise can go to Ghana with Malcolm. Bumpy can’t make a deal with anyone, can’t keep his men safe, and can’t even keep control of his family. He’s losing.
But an unlikely ally emerges in the form of Jose Battle. Earlier, after his meeting with Bumpy, Joe paid Battle a visit to very politely inquire about whether or not he accepted Bumpy’s offer, and the Cuban clearly didn’t like being leaned on. He’s present for the meet when Bumpy is invited to sit down with the bosses of the Families — “Seashells tell you to be here?” Bumpy quips as he enters — and is there when Bumpy tells them, with the greatest of respect, that he won’t be taking their very generous offer of 25%. After being an equal partner, he’s not willing to be put back in a cage. A lion only understands it’s free after it escapes.
Battle considers Bumpy an “Alzado”, of the title, the Cuban fighters who kicked the Spanish out of Cuba. They have mutual respect. And since Battle controls Harlem’s military-grade guns, his teaming up with Bumpy means that the Italians can’t take them on — or perhaps “shouldn’t” would be a better word.
You can stream Godfather of Harlem Season 3 Episode 2, “Alzado” exclusively on MGM+.