“Desiree” makes for a difficult watch as the series recounts Tyson’s rape trial in harrowing detail. This is brutal and provocative filmmaking that can be manipulative at times, but the show valiantly addresses Tyson’s darkest moments without bias, which must be applauded.
This recap of the Hulu series Mike season 1, episode 5, “Desiree,” contains spoilers.
The Hulu original has already explored Tyson’s traumatic childhood, where he witnessed and committed atrocious crimes. The boxing champ continues this trend as he transitions into adulthood and mega-stardom. Episode five, “Desiree”, addresses Tyson’s rape trial in grim detail, as the creators literally pull no punches as they dissect Tyson’s most heinous act.
Mike season 1, episode 5 recap
The episode opens at the Miss Black America beauty contest in 1991, where Desiree Washington is amongst the contenders for the top prize. She talks straight to camera and explains how the day of the pageant was the worst day of her life. The series rewinds a couple of days and introduces us to the behind-the-scenes preparations. Desiree is tutored on the ethos of the contest and then practices her dance number. Here is where Tyson enters the scene and all the girls instantly rush over to the man, screaming in unison. Tyson has a large involvement in the event and whilst rehearsing, he handpicks Desiree out of the crowd.
They organize a date and Tyson phones her the night before the contest for a last-minute hook up. She quickly gets dressed and heads out into Tyson’s limo, expecting a night on the town. The show harshly cuts from this moment of pure ecstasy to a cold and numbing hospital ward. It’s quite a manipulative juxtaposition, but it does the trick – this is harrowing stuff. Desiree announces that she has been raped and is then inspected by the doctors. Afterwards, with her parents by her side, Desiree is questioned by the police. She doesn’t want anyone to know about the incident, but the police concede that she will have to publically testify.
We race forwards six months and of course, Don King is there, rousing the crowd outside the court room. He talks to the press about this injustice and how Tyson is now battling a different type of opponent, defending himself against his accuser. Tyson has his share of defenders and the spectators chant ‘Free Mike’ to Desiree’s complete shock. The episode explores many forms of injustice, whilst the trial itself would go on to bring up polarizing conversations on both race and misogyny.
Within the court room, Desiree recounts the night in question. The filmmakers do not hold back at all, recreating the rape scene in brutal fashion. It’s a real hard watch as they purposefully make the viewer squirm. Desiree is tricked into returning to Tyson’s suite and the boxer instantly turns things sexual, making his advances. The nervous 18-year-old, who is talking with her family’s idol, doesn’t want to offend, but she rightfully protests. Tyson ignores her objections and pins Desiree down on the bed. This particular scene may be one of the main reason that Tyson criticized Hulu’s adaptation and has since distanced himself from the project altogether. Tyson is painted as a monster here and ironically ends the scene by breaking the fourth wall to ask the question, ‘Don’t love me no more?’
Desiree is ruthlessly interrogated during the trial and faces a tirade of injustices from critics, fans and religious groups alike, who all blame her and rigidly defend Tyson. The injustice of it all is enraging, especially when Desiree’s mother talks about her daughter losing her spark and having continuous nightmares after the event. Thankfully, the jury agree on a guilty verdict and Tyson is sentenced. The filmmakers explain how Desiree didn’t profit at all from this result, how she never wrote a book on the ordeal and kept herself out of the spotlight here after.
In the final moments, a priest talks about ‘Justice for Mike Tyson’ and the boxer is caught saying he wished he’d killed her. Don King rushes to his defense, spouting out further lies and ending by stating that Tyson is a true hero. No matter what you think of the athlete, this episode will definitely make you question your beliefs as the creators sculpt Tyson as a heartless felon.
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