Godfather of Harlem Season 1 Episode 6 Recap and Review: Il Canto de Malavita
A spoiler-filled recap and review of Il Canto de Malavita, episode 6 of the first season of Godfather of Harlem, starring Forest Whitaker
(Spoilers ahead for Godfather of Harlem S1E6 and episodes before it)
Godfather of Harlem S1E6 begins with what seemed like a throwaway line from Rev Powell (Giancarlo Esposito) in the previous episode. The one about Joseph Valachi "spilling the beans" on the Italian mob in congressional hearings, which made Bumpy Johnson (Forest Whitaker) change his mind about snitching. We begin this episode, titled Il Canto de Malavita (roughly translates to 'Songs of the bad life'), with Powell questioning Valachi at this congressional hearing, which historically was the first time the existence of the Ilatian-American mafia was acknowledged in public. Through the course of the first few minutes, we see cuts from the hearing to it being watched on television and outraged at by Bumpy, Chin, and Joe Bonnano. The fourth such cut pulls back to show that all three are watching it together, with senior mobster Frank Costello.
They have, in fact, gathered together for a meeting to settle the fallout from Chin killing Bonanno's men and stealing the cache of drugs he was going to push through Bumpy. Bonanno admits he got "caught with [his] hand in the cookie jar" and therefore, Costello says must take the loss of the drugs. But Bumpy still owes him the $300, 000 advancein cash and Bonanno wants the money right away. Costello suggest another way to settle the debt — Bumpy "whacks" (aka takes out) Valachi.
Valachi, it turns out, is being kept in Queens, NY and flown back and forth to DC for the hearings. So Bumpy goes to his friend Guapo for help to find out his exact location (that neighbourhood being a Latino one) and then sends his guy to assassinate Valachi. Before this, however, Valachi, who was part of the Genovese family, gives out Chin's name at the hearing, as the current leader of that family. A subpoena is sent for Chin, who avoids it by pretending to be mentally ill. Bumpy's plan to whack Valachi is a bust (which is slightly predictable given how long-drawn-out that sequence is) because it turns out Guapo has given them the wrong room number. He claims it was an honest mistake, but Bumpy later suspects it was intentional. For, Guapo, it turns out, has made a deal of his own with the Feds to testify against the mob in return for not getting sent to prison.
This comes out when Valachi, at the next hearing, is pushed by Powell to name another member of the mafia. Now, Powell does this in defiance of a warning from another member of the committee, as well as Frank Costello, to go easy on Valachi and not demand any more names. Costello states this as a condition for making Esther James' (the black "bagwoman" named by Powell in the last episode) lawsuit go away. Valachi says he can give them the name of an inside man — not one of the mafioso, but someone who's worked with them for 30 years. Chin says his source tells him it's Guapo and since Bumpy failed to take out Valachi, he must whack Guapo instead. The same Guapo, who has been Bumpy's friend for all those 30 years, who helped Bumpy's wife and child while he was in prison for a decade.
Bumpy confronts Guapo who comes clean immediately, not suspecting what his friend is about to do. He says things are different now and it's every man for himself. Bumpy is taken aback but feels this makes it easier for him to do what he must. He shoots Guapo and leaves. Back at the diner, Bumpy is unable to eat his meal, until Powell comes in and gloats about how Guapo has given him up along with the Italians. His conscience a little clearer, he begins to eat, when Chin's daughter, Stella Gigante comes in asking for his help.
Stella and her black singer boyfriend Teddy Greene, you'll remember were arrested in last week's episode. They get out thanks to Chin's man Ernie knowing a cop. Ernie keeps this to himself, but not for long. Chin finds out and tells him he better kill Teddy if he "wants to be made." Stella stops Ernie twice in mission, but he tells her Teddy will surely be killed by her father. And this is when she goes to Bumpy for help. What form this help will take remains to be seen.
Meanwhile, there's also another subplot going in this epsiode of Godfather of Harlem with Malcolm X and Bumpy's former-addict-now-Muslim Sister daughter, Elise. She is seemingly recruited by Elijah Muhammad to spy on Malcolm X. Whether her true allegiance is to the prophet or Malcolm is unclear, though I suspect she will be true to the latter.
Bumpy says at one point that "Loyalty is everything" and that seems to be the theme of this episode. Bumpy's loyalty, that of Guapo's, and also Elise's and Ernie's are all tested. But as Mayme tells Bumpy, "Loyalty that goes in only one direction is... stupidity." So will Bumpy's decision to stay loyal to the Italians prove his downfall? Has his conscience been cleared thoroughly of killing his friend by the knowledge that said friend had given him up? We should find answers to some of these questions soon when Godfather of Harlem returns next week. Till then, adios amigos!
(Godfather of Harlem is currently streaming episodically in India on Hotstar)