Happy Sunday MMT Fam! Premiering tonight on EPIX is the second season, first episode of GODFATHER OF HARLEM, starring Forest Whitaker as infamous Harlem crime boss Bumpy Johnson.
Now my intention was to post an AAFCA virtual roundtable chat in addition to my thoughts, but I had to cancel at the last minute – due to a schedule change. But make no mistake, I fell in love with season one of this well-developed and highly entertaining series and was excited to screen the first two episodes of this new season.
If you watched the first, this new season picks up right after Johnson being marked for a hit by the NY Italian crime syndicate and sending his family into hiding for safety. Here’s the official synopsis: Season 2 finds Bumpy Johnson (Forest Whitaker) battling the New York Crime Families for control of the lucrative and murderous “French Connection,” the pipeline for heroin that runs from Marseilles to New York Harbor. With a distribution syndicate that includes black crime bosses from other major U.S. cities, Bumpy takes a cue from his friend Malcolm X’s (Nigél Thatch) message of black economic nationalism. His ambitious plan will face challenges from not only the Italians but his wife Mayme (Ilfenesh Hadera), daughter Elise (Antoinette Crowe-Legacy), rival Adam Clayton Powell (Giancarlo Esposito), prosecutor Robert Morgenthau (Justin Bartha), and even Malcolm himself. Once again, Godfather of Harlem explores the collision of the criminal underworld and civil rights in the colorful, tumultuous year of 1964.
Returning cast members Whitaker as Johnson, Vincent D’Onofrio as Vincent “Chin” Gigante, Esposito as Adam Clayton Powell, and Thatch as Malcolm X are still magnetic, and the story is just as attractive, with fast-paced action and solid writing, as the first season. And I was ecstatic to see Clifford “Method Man” Smith portraying Philadelphia Black Mafia founder Samuel Christian – who in real life converted to Islam, joined the Nation of Islam, and subsequently became a captain in the Fruit of Islam.
I also love how the show doesn’t sideline women in the cast or regulate them all to damsels in distress. Ilfanesh Hadera is still poignant as Johnson’s wife Mayme, taking actions to protect her family while using her savviness to play power politics in the Powell camp, and Antoinette Crowe-Legacy as Bumpy’s eldest daughter Elise is still the strong-willed, substance abuse survivor – whose actions literally saved her father’s life last season.
The show is must-see TV if you’re into crime stories, mixed with civil rights and other social themes. I rate it 4 out of 5 on the MMTrometer.
Godfather of Harlem will air Sunday nights at 9 p.m. ET/PT on EPIX. If you’re not a subscriber, you can try Epix Now for only 2.99 for three months and only 5.99 per month after. Get the deets by clicking here.
Until next thought, Thomasena