Short and sweet, “Thief” is fast-paced, surprisingly emotional, and highly entertaining. Trevante Rhodes has fully immersed himself into the role, too, delivering an engaging and raw Tyson.
This recap of the Hulu series Mike season 1, episode 1, “Thief,” contains spoilers.
Heavyweight boxer Mike Tyson’s life is given the miniseries treatment with an eight part biography over on Hulu this August. The series is created by Steven Rogers and directed by Craig Gillespie. Both of these filmmakers worked on I, Tonya and they channel a similar energy into Tyson’s biography, with a star turn from Trevante Rhodes (Moonlight) as the boxing legend.
Mike season 1, episode 1 recap
The opening episode, features an overarching narration from Rhodes as Tyson, who has valiantly perfected the accent and persona. They use his 2017 one man show as the foundation for the series, as he speaks candidly to his audience, recounting his life. The narrative dips in and out of multiple timelines, but always reverts back to this one man show. It’s a kaleidoscope of moving parts that I imagine are supposed to reflect Tyson’s scattershot thought process. The premiere mainly focuses on his horrific childhood, but also shows excerpts of his early teens and adult life too.
“Thief” begins with his championship fight against Holyfield and the boxer’s most infamous moment. Maradona has the hand of god controversy and Tyson has the ear biting incident. Tyson doesn’t want to focus on that event just yet though and rewinds through a whole reel of footage. We settle into the seventies, 1974 to be exact, and Tyson is living in a poverty-stricken New York. He’s a short, fat kid with a lisp, who is beaten up daily and is prone to talking to himself. Tyson witnesses some awful sights in his youth and to top it all off, a doctor diagnoses him with a mental disability.
Tyson’s mother is domestically abused by her current boyfriend and when she finally leaves him, the family are left to live in abandoned buildings across the city. Here, Tyson sees further damaging sights, including his mother’s prostitution and a boy is shot dead in front of his very eyes. Tyson quits school after the endless bullying and kills time with a new hobby. He’s fascinated by birds and cares for pigeons on his building’s rooftop. A bully kills one of his birds and in this moment, Tyson finds his fight and a desire to stand up for himself. It’s a really invigorating scene that then seamlessly merges into his 1988 fight with Spinks in Atlantic City. Tyson will soon be a titan of his sport and he calls the incident with the bird his sole inspiration.
After ditching education, Tyson joined a gang and became a thief, hence the title. He stole anything and everything he could get his hands on. It’s no surprise that Tyson was arrested for the first time at the tender age of ten. His mother practically disowned him from this point onwards, but would beat him in front of the police precinct whenever she had to bail him out of jail. Tyson then became a street fighter, where he honed his future craft. But it wasn’t until he found himself in a juvenile detention center that he properly worked on his career.
Guidance counsellor Bobby Stewart taught him the discipline of boxing in 1979 and Tyson finally felt some self-worth. He had finally found something that he was truly good at that was also legal and respected. Bobby was so amazed by the teen’s talent that he suggested him to Cus D’Amato (Harvey Keitel). The boxing trainer was impressed with the teen and took him on. Bobby relays the good news to Tyson and he finally cries. What an immaculate, emotive opening episode.
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