Godfather of Harlem Season 1 Episode 5 Recap and Review: It's All in the Game
A spoiler-filled recap and review of It's All in the Game, episode 5 of the first season of Godfather of Harlem, starring Forest Whitaker
(Spoilers ahead for Godfather of Harlem S1E5 and episodes before it)
This week's episode of Godfather of Harlem, It's All in the Game, begins with the "Previously on" bit which quickly recaps the important portions from the previous episodes: Chin Giante's daughter Stella and her love affair with up-and-coming black singer Teddy Greene, whose mother strongly objects to their relationship; Bumpy's men taking out Chin's people and retrieving a tape that incriminates Muhammad Ali aka Cassius Clay; Chin threatening another, more senior member of the Italian mob, Joe Bonanno, about selling dope directly to Bumpy; Bumpy telling Amy Vanderbilt that he cannot continue their affair anymore; Guapo (Bumpy's Latino associate) complaining to Rev Powell about the Italian lottery aka numbers game and how it affects the Black and Latino communities; Bumpy's daughter, Elise, telling him off for being a 'sh*tty' father, and Malcolm X telling her to get clean and get alright; and finally, Cassius Clay winning his fight in defiance of Chin's threats thanks to Bumpy's assistance, clearly upsetting Chin.
You'll notice there's a lot of Chin in there, a lot more than the series protagonist Bumpy even. And Godfather of Harlem S1E5 is all about Chin finally getting the upper hand. It all begins with Chin's men ambushing Bumpy's men and killing several of them, including a friend of Bumpy's, Roy. Chin's new associate, Ernie (who previously pretended to be interested in Stella and went on a date with her to identify and kill her black boyfriend — but killed the wrong man instead), has led this ambush and wants to be rewarded by getting "made" and Chin finally agrees, but not before putting him off for a bit with a rather uncomfortable allusion to his interest in Stella, and what appears to be a veiled hint that Ernie is gay (there's a more open allusion to this again later in the episode as well — not sure where they're going with that).
Meanwhile, Rev Powell decides to use the Italian lottery issue to further cement his image as a champion of the black people. He delivers a powerful sermon about the lottery — which doubles as exposition for us on what this numbers game is all about — and promises to enter into the Congressional record the name of one Italian numbers operator each week. Only he has no names and even a suggestion box fails to turn up anything but the name of a black bag woman — Esther James — a go-between for the Italians and the cops. Powell thinks Bumpy will help to get back at the Italians for killing his men. Bumpy considers doing so, and while his wife, Mayme, is surprised at first given he refused to snitch to save himself from prison, she supports him once she understands that's his plan to get back at Chin for what he did. However, once Bumpy hears Powell go on and on about how he'll protect him after he snitches and how they have to "stick together" he changes his mind and walks out. Powell gets grilled on television for not entering any names as promised and he ends up offering Esther James' name, who punches him in the face by the end of the episode.
Now Bumpy is also in this numbers game and Chin decides to bring him down by making sure he has to pay out way more money to his bettors than he can afford. Chin does this by having Ernie go to a gay bar and hit on a man who is responsible for totalling the numbers (and thus arriving at the winning number), and threatening to expose this man unless he announces the number that an overwhelming majority of Bumpy's bettors have picked. Bumpy finds he owes over $300,000, money that he does not have, but has to find in order to keep his reputation intact. He first goes to Amy and she agrees to loan him the sum but expects him to sleep with her in return. He agrees at first but balks after he sees the photo of a black slave on her mantel. Bumpy's explanation to Mayme for why he's back empty-handed is particularly poignant — He says, "There were so many centuries where we didn't own our own bodies. So no, I couldn't do it."
Bumpy then turns to his Italian mob friend, Frank Costello, for help but he turns him down. However, he does tip him off to the tussle between Bonanno and Chin about selling drugs to Harlem. Bumpy contacts Bonanno and offers to make him a really good deal for moving drugs in Harlem directly through him, and in returns asks for an advance of $300,000. He gets what he asks for and starts settling the money he owes his bettors. And all seems well.
In between all this, Teddy finally gets his break and records a demo, but Stella and he are arrested when they are celebrating outside in an alley. Stella's last name finally gets her out, and makes the case go away, but not before Teddy is beaten up by the cops and meets with some black activists while he's in lock-up. The latter ask him to join them on their protest, and when he says, "I'm a musician; I'm not political," (a funny line since he just recorded a political song) they tell him as a black man in America he can't afford to not be political. A line that applies to everyone in today's world. Stella calls Teddy's mother to ask the latter to bail him out, and gets told off by her once again. Ernie comes to meet her as Stella is coming out of the police station and tells her he knows she was caught with a black man named Teddy Greene, but she warns him to not say anything to her father, who will hate the fact that he killed the wrong guy more than that she's still with Teddy. Ernie forcibly kisses her but Stella slaps him and walks off. This will clearly have repercussions.
Elise, meanwhile, comes across Malcolm X's poster on the streets and goes back to him for help. She blames her father for the way she is but Malcolm calls Bumpy a complicated man. Elise, however, says pride is his defining characteristic and the fact that he is just another black man outside Harlem is something he can never get over. She is enrolled into the 'Muslim Girls training', and one of the sisters admonishes her for flirting with Malcolm.
This episode of Godfather of Harlem ends, as I already mentioned, with Chin gaining the upper hand. Or as he puts it to Bumpy, "Me, above you!" He comes over to boast about how he intercepted and stole the drugs Bonanno was going to advance to Bumpy. So now Bumpy owes Bonanno the cash advance as well as the value of the drugs. Chin then quotes the Bible and warns Bumpy that pride goes before a fall. Only, with his "Me, above you!" Chin's the one displaying the haughty spirit. So his fall is clearly not far off.
Till next week then for Godfather of Harlem S1E6 and to see how Bumpy claws his way out of this mess and gets back at Chin.
(Godfather of Harlem is currently streaming episodically in India on Hotstar)