Sunday, October 6, 2019

REVIEW: 'Godfather of Harlem' - Bumpy Looks for a New Drug Connection While Trying to Help His Daughter in 'The Nitty Gritty'

Epix's Godfather of Harlem - Episode 1.02 "The Nitty Gritty"

Realizing a consistent source of heroin is vital to reclaim Harlem, Bumpy engages in a fevered search to find a dope supply independent of the Italians. Chin engages the services of crooked cops in a plot to arrest Bumpy and send him back to jail.

In 2018, there were 495 scripted shows airing amongst the linear channels and streaming services. The way people are consuming content now is so different than it used to be. It happens according to one's own schedule. As such, there is less necessity to provide ample coverage of each specific episode in any given season from a show. Moreover, it is simply impossible to watch everything. As such, this site is making the move to shorter episodic reviews in order to cover as many shows as possible. With all of that being said, here are my thoughts on the next episode of Epix's Godfather of Harlem.

"The Nitty Gritty" was written by Chris Brancato and directed by Joe Chappelle

There is a fascinating dichotomy at play within this show. Bumpy Johnson wants to rule over Harlem like he once did. He feels that he is owed that much by the mobsters he refused to turn on to reduce his sentence. However, the only way for him to succeed is by selling the drugs that are doing so much damage to his community. Everyone keeps telling him that Harlem has changed since he was last there. He is the old dog who may no longer have the passion and viciousness to rule over this world. As such, he is constantly having to prove just how smart and capable he is. It means he ends a meeting by slitting a man's throat on his birthday simply because his offer was refused. That's how he must operate in this world in order to get his hold on power once more. It's no longer good enough to reclaim what was his though. He needs people to respect him. It has to be more than just a tentative alliance. He knows that Chin will keep making moves against him. Bumpy will do the same exact thing. It's all a matter of who knows how to play this game better. That can be fascinating. But it also comes at the expense of the community. This neighborhood is in pain because of the drugs the mobs are selling. Bumpy's own daughter, Elise, is an addict living on the street. She is Margaret's biological mother even though Bumpy and Mayme have raised her for most of her life. As such, Mayme is very protective of her. She doesn't want anything to disrupt the life they have built together. The routine is so meaningful to both of them. She insists that she is here for Bumpy to talk about all the brutal realities of the life he has lived. He went to prison and had to have come out a changed man. He still has to present a strong and assertive front in order to be taken seriously in his business. However, that's the way he is with most people in his life. Sure, he is compassionate and vulnerable with his wife and daughter. However, Elise only sees that scorn. She is viewed as the constant disappointment always creating problems for the family. Bumpy genuinely wants her to get better. He just doesn't care to think about what would happen after she does. He prides himself on always working several moves ahead of his opponents. In this instance though, Mayme is right to fear that Elise could try becoming a mother to Margaret once more. And yes, that's exactly what occurs here. Malcolm's recovery program may not be for everyone. It is very much a radicalized view on the world and places a lot of the blame on the white man for enslaving people and continually knocking people of color down. Sure, that does shoulder a lot of the responsibility. However, personal acceptance of one's failings is just as vital. Otherwise, these people could just as easily be back on the street. That's the fate Mayme is more than willing to condemn Elise to. She sends her away with a hundred dollars. That's all that she is worth to her. Bumpy may think otherwise. But he's also the man trying to find the best product to move throughout the neighborhood. He is desperately trying to find the best source despite multiple moves made against him. People aren't as reliable as they used to be. Meanwhile, Chin has a vendetta that won't go away any time soon. Bumpy knows how to make moves in this business though. He can do that without breaking a sweat. This hour highlights just how effective he is. That just makes the proceedings seem a little formulaic and uninteresting. That's unfortunate because this could be a story that really captivates an audience with the right execution. Right now, it struggles to present a cohesive narrative. Bumpy may be strong and powerful. He may eliminate the corrupt police officers working against him. However, that can only add so much excitement to a narrative that also features the exploits of Chin's daughter and Mayme's own interest in the neighborhood. Those seem tangential at the moment in a way that sucks the tension out of the proceedings.