February 21, 2024

Content Warning: The following article contains spoilers for The Godfather of Harlem.The Godfather of Harlem The protagonist is a must-see gangster series Forest Whitaker Ellsworth ‘Bumpy’ Johnson as crime boss. The show is a prequel to the 2007 film, American Gangsterprotagonist Denzel Washington As Frank Lucas, Johnson’s right-hand man, who follows Johnson’s rise to power after his release from prison in 1963.


The series includes historical figures Malcolm X and Muhammad Ali with an all-star cast Vincent D’Onofrio, Paul Sorvino, Chazz Palminteriand Giancarlo Esposito. Having just finished the third season of the show, The Godfather of Harlem has delivered some of the most epic and powerful episodes on television focusing on a vital period in American history, many of which have shocked fans. IMDb.

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10 “It’s a small world after all”

Season 2 Episode 5 (2021)

Vincent D'Onofrio in The Godfather of Harlem
ABC

IMDb rating: 8.2/10

After an incident at Johnson’s club, Vincent Gigante (D’Onofrio) wants to reprimand Johnson for killing one of his men or endangering their peaceful couple. Johnson tries to send his man out of town, but when he refuses to leave, Gigante’s men retaliate against Johnson and his crew.

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“It’s a Small World After All” perfectly depicts the believable and uncontrollable conflicts between Johnson and Gigante’s men. After being betrayed by Gigant, Johnson realizes that he will never be treated the same by either him or any of the five families who are forced to find another long-term solution.

9 “The Chickens Come Home To Roost”

Season 1 Episode 10 (2019)

Nigel Thatch and Forest Whitaker sitting at a counter in the Godfather of Harlem diner
ABC

IMDb rating: 8.3/10

Harlem and the rest of the United States are in shock after the assassination of President John F. Kennedy, which leaves possible indictments of the Italian mob in limbo. With Gigante still on Johnson’s mind, he guarantees his safety from the five families, threatening to hand over their books to the federal government if they come after him or his family.

As everyone mourns Kennedy’s tragic death, the Gigantes and their families toast to celebrate what they believe is the end of the federal indictments. Johnson is a master of numbers who handed over five families’ books before going to prison. Although Johnson is adamantly against snitching, he is willing to make an exception and face possible prosecution if it will protect his family from harm. This is a particularly character-driven episode in the crime show that highlights the protagonist’s motivations.

8 “Masters of War”

Season 1 Episode 7 (2019)

Chazz Palminteri standing next to Forest Whitaker in The Godfather of Harlem
ABC

IMDb rating: 8.3/10

Afraid of starting a civil war with the Gigantes, Bonanno and the rest of the family refuse to sell to Johnson leaving him empty handed. More or less, he digs into Gigante’s past to Joe Bonanno’s (Palminteri) son, finding information about Lorenzo, who disappeared a few years ago. Left with no other choice, Johnson decides to use his newly discovered information as a solution to his business problem.

In “Masters of War”, Johnson strategically plans for Bonanno and Gigante to engage in war, creating a distraction from current business matters. Unlike Italy’s leaders, Johnson does everything in his power to avoid personally using violence as a solution, relying on his natural intuition and street smarts to plant the seeds of deception.

7 “Sting Like a Bee”

Season 2 Episode 2 (2021)

Deric Augustine and Nigel Tatch in The Godfather of Harlem
ABC

IMDb rating: 8.3/10

After disobeying the Honorable Elijah Muhammad, Malcolm X (Nigel Thatch) travels to Florida to show his support for boxing star Cassius Clay (Called Augustine) before his fight against Sonny Liston. While Malcolm is in a sunny state, Bumpy is back home, where he plans to use his new French connection to distribute his product to other major cities on the East Coast.

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“Sting Like a Bee” is a monumental episode that takes a close look at the friendship between Malcolm X and Cassius Clay AKA Muhammad Ali. The episode also gives viewers a look at the Nation of Islam and Malcolm X’s internal struggle behind the ceremonial curtain to please his boss and conscience.

6 “Vote or Bullet”

Season 2 Episode 6 (2021)

Forest Whitaker in The Godfather of Harlem-1
ABC

IMDb rating: 8.4/10

When three Freedom Riders go missing in Mississippi, Bumpy uses his connections to help the FBI find them in exchange for immunity from federal prosecution. The FBI continues its efforts to take down the Italian families, but Gigante manages to get off his trail by claiming he is mentally ill.

“The Ballot and the Bullet” centers on the true story of three Freedom Riders who were murdered by the Mississippi Ku Klux Klan during the Civil Rights Movement. Although some facts are not officially confirmed, the FBI used and hired the muscles of the mafia. Gregory ScarpaA member of the Colombo family to assist in search efforts (according to NBC News).

5 “Ten Harlems”

Season 2 Episode 8 (2021)

Forest Whitaker sitting at a table with other men at Ten Harlems in Harlem
ABC

IMDb Rating: 8.5/10

After forming a team partnership, Bumpy discovers that he has been betrayed by someone high up in the Ten Harlems and must find out who before he can make a move against him. Tensions between Malcolm X and the Nation of Islam begin to rise as Malcolm and his family face threats and violence.

“Ten Harlems” shows the main difference between the way Bumpy and the Italian mob do business. Italian families don’t lose sleep over hitting a boy, and Bumpy is deeply damaged whenever he’s forced to use violence against others. The episode also features a great guest appearance Method Man who plays Sam Christian, a member of Bumpy’s Ten Harlems.

4 “The Bonanno Split”

Season 2 Episode 9 (2021)

Forest Whitaker saw Chazz Palminteri through a sniper in front of him in The Godfather of Harlem
ABC

IMDb rating: 8.6/10

After learning the truth about his son’s murder, Joe Bonanno is out for blood and his first order of business is to take down the Family Commission. Bonanno’s choice puts Bumpy in the situation protecting Sam Costello (Sorvino) and the other members of the five families.

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The tables are turned in “The Bonanno Split” as Costello and others need Bumpy’s help and are put in a vulnerable position for the first time. While the possibility of a civil war between the families would be beneficial for his business, Bumpy’s loyalty prevents him from turning his back on Costello, who has vouched for him since day one.

3 “Mecca”

Season 3 Episode 3 (2023)

Forest Whitaker sitting next to Yul Vazquez looking at him while looking at the Godfather of Harlem
ABC

IMDb rating: 8.6/10

As Colombo tries to move into central Harlem, Bumpy turns to the Cuban kingpin, José Battle (Yul Vazquez) with a generous offer to form an alliance with him against the Italian families. At first, Battle politely declines, but after seeing Bumpy’s tough encounter with the five families, he reconsiders their partnership.

“Mecca” puts Bumpy in a dangerous situation that could attract increased attention from the authorities or create new potential enemies. Bumpy, who has suffered injustice and loss throughout his life, joins Battle and provides a unique contrast between the characters’ pasts and personal experiences.

2 “Captain Fields”

Season 3 Episode 4 (2023)

Jason Alan Carvell standing next to Antoinette Crowe-Legacy in The Godfather of Harlem
ABC

IMDb rating: 8.7/10

Captain Reggie Fields (Derrick Williams) is a young black man and the new chief of Harlem’s 27th police precinct, but despite the change in rank, the precinct remains on the payroll of Italian families. When the two officers raid Bumpy’s club on Colombo’s orders, Fields drops the charges and indirectly helps Bumpy gain the upper hand against Colombo.

Newly appointed Captain Fields unknowingly creates a huge power shift between Bumpy and the Italian families as he and Battle may make a strong move for the 27th District. “Captain Fields” is another standout twist from the show where Bumpy beats the five families at their own game.

1 “Hate Born of Hate”

Season 2 Episode 10 (2021)

Forest Whitaker by a window, blinds down, in The Godfather of Harlem
ABC

IMDb rating: 8.8/10

When riots break out in Harlem, Bumpy must keep his rivals at bay and protect his product while waiting for the biggest shipment in New York history to arrive. The threats against Malcolm X begin to hit too close to home for him and he accepts Bumpy’s protection.

“The Hate That Hate Produced” takes place during the week-long riots in Harlem in July 1964. It’s a very powerful episode that doesn’t sugarcoat the raw reality of the riots and the massive social injustice and discrimination against black Americans at the time.

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