“The Godfather of Harlem” is an American crime drama television series that premiered in September 2019. It stars Forrest Whitaker as Bumpy Johnson, a notorious Harlem gangster who returns from prison in the 1960s to find that the Italian mafia has taken over his neighborhood. Johnson, determined to reclaim his turf, partners with Malcolm X (Nigel Thatch) and other prominent African-American figures to fight against the Italian mob and protect his community.
Throughout the series, viewers follow the complex relationships and political alliances between Johnson, Malcolm X, Adam Clayton Powell Jr. (Giancarlo Esposito), and other historical figures as they confront the challenges of their time. Alongside Whitaker, the show features an ensemble cast of talented actors, including Vincent D’Onofrio, Ilfenesh Hadera, and Lucy Fry.
I love how approachable The Godfather of Harlem is. There are some shows where I feel intimidated in hopping in and watching their current episode but The Godfather of Harlem is amazing at avoiding this problem. This show tells the familiar story of Bumpy Johnson, a character we’ve seen in the old movie hoodlum and also appears in the Denzel Washington movie American Gangster. There’s also the story of Malcolm X and that story being intertwined with this one makes for some fantastic television. There’s just something so familiar about this story that makes it easy to enjoy. There are other stories hinted at in the episode that makes the idea of going back and watching past episodes seem more intriguing. The CIA, The FBI, and the Italian mob. There are so many characters with stories that pay off in this episode that I am genuinely curious to watch.
The acting in this episode is on another level. I only got to see him in one episode but Jason Alan Carvell is a marvelous Malcolm X! I am learning that the role was previously played by another actor but Jason did a great job. The real treat is watching Forest Whitaker and Vincent D’Onofrio act opposite of each other. These are 2 of the finest actors alive and they are giving us outstanding performances in this episode. There’s a scene in which they confront someone who is out to do them harm. I won’t ruin the scene entirely but they display this communication through incredibly satisfying body language. The scene itself is a highlight and the way they perform at this moment is a triumph.
The way The Godfather of Harlem tells the story of Malcolm X is heavy. There are definitely times I feel like I’m watching a show about Malcolm X rather than about Bumpy. I never knew Malcolm and Bumpy were working together at the time. I want to see more about their story and find out how Malcolm and Bumpy’s working together affects each other. Malcolm was a fairly righteous man and the idea of him working with criminals is intriguing. I can’t help but think of 90’s rapper Tupac Shakur and his efforts to be a civil rights activist by appealing to the LA Gang culture. Was this the inspiration for 2Pac? There’s so much I need to know.
I cheated myself by not watching prior episodes.
Great episode. Great directing and filming. This actually feels like a mini-movie and I really love how easy it was to hop into this episode and enjoy it without seeing any prior episodes. I may go back and watch the series for review purposes just to see what I’ve been missing. I highly recommend this show and it’s a triumph for the growing MGM+ roster of shows.
The Godfather of Harlem Season 3
- Acting - 8/108/10
- Cinematography/Visual Effects - 8/108/10
- Plot/Screenplay - 9/109/10
- Setting/Theme - 8/108/10
- Watchability - 9/109/10
- Rewatchability - 9/109/10