“Phoenix” is fast-paced and even-handed, yet by episode eight this highly-stylized type of filmmaking starts to feel overdone and hurried. Without Craig Gillespie’s direction, the second half of Mike feels like a poor imitation of the first half.
This recap of the Hulu series Mike season 1, episode 8, “Phoenix,” contains spoilers.
The controversial miniseries from Hulu comes to an end with “Phoenix”, another fast-paced twenty-odd minute instalment that asks viewers to make up their own mind on the vilified boxing champion. It’s a series that addresses the highs and lows, the good and the bad of a complex man, but one that doesn’t finish with any easy answers. Mike lays out all the evidence it has on Tyson and allows audiences the chance to formulate their own opinion on the celebrity. This isn’t exploitative or manipulative filmmaking in the slightest, it’s quite the opposite really, but even with all its pluses, the finale still feels a little anticlimactic.
Mike season 1, episode 8 recap
“Phoenix” opens with Tyson announcing his temporary suspension from boxing, which would end up being for fifteen months in total. He admits that he is the most hated man in the world right now and is likely to face a lifetime ban from the sport at any moment’s notice. In his time of need, Tyson turns to drugs, more specifically cocaine. Even with all these ailments, he keeps on winning matches though, trudging along on an odd winning streak of sorts, all with the aim of claiming back his precious title once again.
In the late nineties and early noughties, Tyson was unhinged, angry and coked up. During a press conference before his fight with Lennox Lewis, he even attacked his opponent and bit his leg. To add to his woes, Tyson was financially broke and still chained to Don King. He sacked his promoter in style though, strangling the man from the backseat of a car whilst Don was driving. This particular scene ends with Don King and Tyson’s friend Jackie staring straight into camera with comical expressions upon their faces. Here, the fourth-wall breaking shenanigans start to drag.
Without anyone to support him, Tyson aimlessly pushes forwards, hoping to make some quick money with a fight against Kevin McBride in 2005. A sluggish Tyson loses this match and then decides to retire out of shame. He had lost his own internal drive and just couldn’t see a future for himself in the sport. Everyone had abandoned him, except his third wife-to-be Lakiha ‘Kiki’ Spicer. She stood by his side through the thick and thin. Kiki had her own demons and ended up serving time in prison whilst pregnant with Tyson’s baby – clearly they were the perfect match.
Thanks to Kiki, Tyson began therapy sessions once again and made some real progress this time around. The therapist discussed his anger problems, issues with his mother and his fathers. The therapist concluded that Tyson did in fact love his mother, talking about the sacrifices she had made for him and how he repaid her. She even said that Cus wasn’t all that good for him either and was responsible for turning Tyson into a monster, who couldn’t separate his work life from his home life. Tyson inevitably used his fists to deal with all of his problems, even those outside of the ring.
Mike ending explained
Further tragedy came with the death of his daughter in 2009. Tyson turned to the drugs to deal with his grief, yet Kiki managed to help Tyson through these tough times and the couple wedded the very same year. They had a second child and renewed their vows for a second time as well. Tyson saw all this as a second chance for redemption.
The series then ends with another speedy montage sequence, where Tyson narrates over a fast-paced edit of all the greatest hits from the miniseries. He tells the audience to decide for themselves what they think of him. He calls himself the American dream, somebody who came from nothing to become something. And ends by reflecting on his changed personality. Tyson now chooses love over anger and sees the world differently as a parent.
The creator’s neutral approach to Tyson’s complicated life fairly addresses all aspects of the boxer’s career to date, leaving the final verdict up to the viewer alone. This is unbiased and engaging filmmaking, but for all its controversy, it kind of ends in very safe terrain. As well as this unusual final statement, the ending is also surprisingly rushed and repetitive at times. Maybe this narrative would have worked better as a one-off film instead.
What did you think of Mike season 1, episode 8? Comment below.