“Mike” on Hulu Episode 1 & 2 Review: Close But No Cigar

Mike on Hulu dropped its first two episodes yesterday and dives into the life of Mike Tyson, the larger than life heavyweight champion from the 1990’s. Earlier in the month, Tyson spoke out against the series saying that they stole his life story and that he’d not been paid for his image and likeness. But, the first two episodes are here and now we are reviewing them so you can know what to expect should you go in to watch the series.

SPOILER ALERT: mild spoilers ahead, reader beware

What ‘Mike’ Got Right

‘Mike’ is a very interesting concept for Hulu to put out. If Mike Tyson is to be believed, they did not consult with him on the series. But the series first two episodes really nailed some aspects of the heavyweight champion.

First thing is first, the writers and lead actor, Trevante Rhodes, nailed the bashfulness of Mike Tyson. As vicious as he is, Mike Tyson always suffered from imposter syndrome growing up because of his upbringing. The show will pull at your heart strings when Tyson is staring at a bouquet of roses because he’s never seen them in real life. How could a young kid be brought up and never have seen roses in his 13 years of life.

The show also does a great job of showing you just how desolate Mike Tyson’s childhood was. He was relentlessly bullied and his confidence suffers for it. How can a human being suffer so much in The United States of America.

Lastly, the boxing scenes are a masterpiece. Rhodes has the perfect physique that shows just how monstrous Tyson was as a man. At first I thought Rhodes didn’t put in the time boxing because his punching technique was poor. His elbows flared out and looked ugly. But then it dawned upon on me that Rhodes was doing this on purpose. As a fan of boxing this meant a lot. He showed fantastically how an amateur boxer holds their hands, how they move around, how they punch incorrectly. As the first two episodes went on, I could see Tyson, under the tutelage of Cus D’Amato, became the peek-a-book boxer we know Tyson to become. Rhodes, once again, embodies that. He punches well, actually. I can tell that Hulu put a bunch of time into developing the choreography for the series as well as Rhodes putting in the reps at the gym learning to box.

Where things get rough

Controversy aside, there are some things that hold ‘Mike’ back from being a very good show. First thing first is Rhodes portrayal of Mike Tyson outside of the boxing ring. Instead of being an actor who seems to actually be Mike Tyson, Rhodes comes off as someone who is impersonating Mike Tyson. His mannerisms, the accent, all of it seem to be forced by Rhodes.

Cus D’Amato is my next issue with the first two episodes of ‘Mike.’ Harvey Keitel does a good job at playing a believable D’Amato. He’s old, ornery, and loves boxing. My issue comes in with the relationship between D’Amato and Tyson that is shown on screen. D’Amato was a major part of Tyson’s life in real life. The writers of the show attempt to show us the father-son dynamic between the two but completely falls flat. The relationship was very rushed and the writers/directors didn’t give it enough time to flesh out on screen. D’Amato dies and we see Mike Tyson sad but we don’t necessarily feel it. The audience outside of those who have followed Tyson all his career will not get just how much the death of Cus D’Amato destroyed Mike Tyson.

Lastly, the story itself seems very put together. But I don’t mean that in a good way. The first two episodes gave me the sense that the writers listened to hours of Mike Tyson interviews and pieced together a story based off the interviews. But I guess that’s to be expected when they didn’t actually consult Mike Tyson.

Good news is we won’t have to wait until Mike Tyson boxes again to see the next episode next week. With a lackluster start to the series, one can only hope it goes up from here. It’ll be a long ride and a bunch of negative reviews if not. Don’t forget to tune in next Friday for our review of episode 3 of Mike!

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