Harvey Keitel delivers a masterclass in acting as manager Cus. His wholesome relationship with Tyson spearheads this emotive episode. More stunning performances, clever camera work, and engaging writing on display.
This recap of the Hulu series Mike season 1, episode 2, “Monster,” contains spoilers.
The second instalment of Mike focuses our attentions on Tyson’s relationship with coach and mentor Cus D’Amato, played by the legendary actor Harvey Keitel (Reservoir Dogs). The premiere jumped back and forth through Tyson’s timeline, whilst in “Monster” we hone in on one specific era, his teenage years in the eighties and his subsequent rise to fame.
Mike season 1, episode 2 recap
Cus opens this episode with a pep talk. He tells the young and impressionable Tyson (B.J. Minor) about immortality and the importance of patience. Cus says how he will be remembered eternally for his performances and how he has the potential for greatness. It’s an inspiring narration that works wonders on Tyson, giving him the confidence to pursue his dreams. Tyson looks up to Cus and the filmmakers do a stellar job of building this wholesome relationship. Keitel is of course superb, with his effortless portrayal of the quirky, aging trainer.
The dynamic duo meet with Tyson’s mother. Cus wants Tyson to live and train with him after he’s paroled. He sees serious talent in her son and wants to make a legend out of him. The mother is skeptical, continually asking Cus what he is getting out of this situation. She’s defensive and critical of Tyson, but lets him go in the end. Tyson starts a new life with Cus, in a loving and affluent family. Cus explains how they’ll underestimate people like you and me due to our backgrounds or the color of our skin, but we must use this to our advantage. Cus then maps out Tyson’s career, with plans of Tyson winning the Olympics before going on to turn pro and become the world champion. It’s enormous pressure, but this prophesizing actually spurs Tyson on.
Tyson tries to live two lives now, flitting between Cus’ respectable family home and his old life at his mother’s. Back in destitution, Tyson smokes drugs and steals, reverting back to his old ways. Tyson seems to have a chameleon-like sensibility, adapting to his surroundings and tailoring his personality to the current situation. He leaves this life behind though when his best friend and mother die, which he aptly calls a one-two punch. These gut-wrenching deaths have profound, lasting effects on Tyson, whose boxing career goes from strength to strength.
Cus has Tyson fight in his first boxing match at the crazy age of fourteen, where he is victorious with an early knock-out performance. From that point forwards, Tyson steamrolls ahead, winning gold at the Junior Olympics and then preparing for the official Olympics trials. Tyson doesn’t want to disappoint Cus, and trains even harder. The man had placed all his faith in Tyson and even adopted the boy, but Tyson still faced his first defeat. This loss only made Tyson hungrier for world domination and he found that fighting spirit once again.
Tyson would go on to win his next twenty-seven matches, with twenty-five of these ending in a knock-out, most in the first round. Through the mid-eighties Tyson was a force to be reckoned with, growing in fame and wealth. Cus brought in two new managers for Tyson and the boxer was unstoppable. Unfortunately, Tyson’s dream start was overshadowed by Cus’ illness and his idol subsequently passed away. Tyson was heart-broken, losing his father and friend. Keitel and Rhodes bring some real emotional weight to this friendship and it really grounds the episode.
The managers decide to have Tyson back in the ring almost instantaneously and he prepares for the Heavyweight Title Fight against Berbick in Las Vegas. Tyson wins the match and starts a new era in boxing, but in victory, he still looks over to his corner, where Cus should be standing. He misses his father figure and mentor, which is just the saddest thing of all.
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