Mike: Season 1/ Episode 1 “Thief” [Premiere] – Recap/ Review (with Spoilers)

Mike noting he thinks he'll be somebody

“Mike” is so good that it is unfortunate that it doesn’t involve or is supported by Mike Tyson.


“Mike” is so good that it is unfortunate that it doesn’t involve or is supported by Mike Tyson.

Aired (Hulu) 8/25/2022
Created or Developed By Steven Rogers
Director(s) Craig Gillespie
Writer(s) Steven Rogers
Genre Action, Comedy, Crime, Drama, Young Adult, Biopic, Historical
Introduced This Episode
2017 Mike Trevante Rhodes
2nd Grade Mike Zaiden James
1974 Mike Ethan Barrett
1979 Mike B.J. Minor
Lorna Mae Olunike Adeliyi
Cus D’Amato Harvey Keitel
Bobby Stewart Michael Drayer

This content contains pertinent spoilers.

Summary

Appearing to be based on “Mike Tyson: Undisputed Truth,” 2017 Tyson recounts his upbringing in a pre-gentrification Brooklyn, specifically Brownsville, NY, when he wasn’t one of the most dangerous men on the planet. Instead, in 1974, he was a kid who was fat and bullied to the point of dropping out of school in the 2nd grade. Add in a doctor labeling him retarded and talking to himself; on top of his mother, Lorna Mae, being so poor, Mike would sometimes live in abandoned buildings? Mike had it hard.

Lorna Mae (Olunike Adeliyi) confronting Mike
“Lorna Mae (Olunike Adeliyi) confronting Mike,” Mike, “Thief,” directed by Craig Gillespie, 2022, (Hulu)

But, like anyone who has it hard, there was a pursuit of a come-up. Pigeons are part of that, as Tyson’s introduction to them by some local boys led him to find love through them and something to fight for rather than run and hide from. Thus giving birth to an untrained but still brutal fighter. One who now, with his chosen family, was robbing people throughout Brooklyn and getting in and out of jail.

This pattern continues until he is 13, at Tryon Detention Center, and meets Bobby Stewart. At this point, in 1979, Tyson is one of the best fighters around, but with one punch, Bobby takes him down, to Tyson’s surprise. That kind of power is alluring to Tyson due to the influence he could wield with it, so he begs Bobby to take him on, but in order for Bobby to be convinced, Tyson had to get his act together.

So, Tyson finally takes the idea of being reformed seriously, goes to his classes, ends up on the honor roll, and begins his tutelage. This leads to him eventually outgrowing Bobby’s talents and being promoted to work with Cus D’Amato – the man who will ultimately craft him into a world champion.

Things To Note

  • Unexpected Content Advisory: Cursing (Throughout, including when he is a child), Violence (Blood, hand-to-hand combat violence, domestic violence), Sexual Content (Implied sex work), Miscellaneous (Smoking)

Question(s) Left Unanswered

  1. Where is Lorna Mae’s family?

Collected Quote(s) & .Gifs

I’m doing this for you, not to you.
— Bobby

Everyone thinks I’m finished. I’m not finished. I’ve been waiting.
— Cus

Review

Highlights

It Gets You Emotionally Invested

2017 Mike (Trevante Rhodes) recounting his life on stage
“2017 Mike (Trevante Rhodes) recounting his life on stage,” Mike, “Thief,” directed by Craig Gillespie, 2022, (Hulu)

What “Thief” does well is lay the foundation for Mike’s life. From lacking a notable male figure, never mind a Black one, to being bullied most of his young life, to only starting to fight when he was given something to fight for, pigeons, all that is needed to become emotionally invested is there. And mind you, it doesn’t come off cheap like a competition show intro. Yes, when Mike was a chubby kid, the age of a second grader, it could hit hard how difficult his life was, but then he becomes this badass little tween/teen, and then you’re reminded of that imbalanced perception of young Black men.

On the one hand, Mike is 13 and barely has a pot to piss in – he is a vulnerable kid. Yet, he is robbing people, bloodying and bruising people, and it’s not just for fun but for survival. We’re given a whole person whose flaws are rooted in trauma, and even though you can see him physically fighting instead of running, mentally, maybe emotionally too, you can still see him dashing away, the best he can, from his problems. Especially since he isn’t sure of there is any way to solve them.

Chosen Families

While we learn the name of some of Mike’s friends in his formative years, it is less about who they are than what they gave Mike. Now, let it be clear, Mike loves his momma, and while we don’t see his siblings much, if at all, it is implied he loves them too. But Mike also notes when his mom learned he was retarded, it seemed like she gave up on him being great and switched all her attention to keeping him housed, fed, and trying to keep him out of jail. Survival was far more the focus for his upbringing than him thriving.

Which as a parent, that is something all likely aspire for – being able to get your child to adulthood. But for the kid, that can feel like the bare minimum, and getting the least makes you crave the most. This is why Mike made a chosen family. It is mainly shown through the LGBT+ community, but it also exists within gangs of the major kind, like the Bloods, Crips, Latin Kings, etc., and in neighborhood hoodlum gangs, like Mike’s Rutland Road Crew.

But, through these chosen families, there is the opportunity to escape or be distracted from a life you didn’t choose. You may, even if for a moment, get a taste of what is as close to normal as you think you can get, or maybe even deserve.

The Bond Between A Boxer and Their Trainer

1979 Mike (B.J. Minor) prepping to meet, fight, and beat Bobby Stewart
“1979 Mike (B.J. Minor) prepping to meet, fight, and beat Bobby Stewart,” Mike, “Thief,” directed by Craig Gillespie, 2022, (Hulu)

The whole concept of breaking you down to build you up runs through nearly any sports or military production, but especially in boxing productions. For “Mike,” we see that in Bobby being one of the first people, first men likely too, to push Mike to be more than what he currently is. That is why he feels so abandoned when Bobby pushes Mike to train with Cus D’Amato. You can’t push someone into a new life, get them comfortable in it, and then leave them. As any athlete will tell you, their lives are about routine, and it isn’t just about exercising, dieting right, and practicing, it is about the people too. It’s about having this amount of time with family, and friends, seeing your trainer, and being reminded that you’re fighting for something beyond that high, which comes from winning a competition.

After all, no sport will truly allow you to thrive as you get into your 60s, 70s, and beyond. If you can last into your 40s, that is considered rare and requires pique discipline and an outstanding team. That is all to say, it all starts from that first person who isn’t just willing to criticize you, but be part of the work to build you up into your best version. Something most people aren’t willing to do since coming up with critical statements, opinions, or even advice is easy. But actually getting that person to the point where what you said is invalid and they are now a better person? That requires actually giving a damn.

Initial Impression

While the real Mike Tyson has nothing nice to say about Hulu’s “Mike,” it is hard to share that opinion. Mind you, it isn’t our story being commercialized with us not making a dime, which has to be considered. But, as a viewer, as a fan of Mike who didn’t know much about him, beyond him biting Evander Holyfield’s ear off until he reinvented himself as a comedic personality, “Mike” is a treat. It gives him grace but doesn’t shy from the truth, and as a half-hour show, it gets in and gets out before you can grow accustomed to the highs or lows. Thus keeping things fresh and you still engaged as Mike explores different parts of his story.


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