Mike Tyson spends three years in prison after being convicted of rape in the latest episode of the Hulu and the Disney+ Star Original Series, “Mike.” Episode six focuses solely on his three years in prison, his battles with the guards and other inmates, how his cellmates helped him make his way through his time in prison, and his conversion to Islam as he walks back into the world and back into a boxing ring.
The series shifts back to Tyson’s perspective for this episode after presenting episode five from the perspective of Tyson’s accuser. While that tonal shift in episode five was a bit abrupt, it was necessary. Clearly they had to return to the original tone with this episode, because no one would understand Tyson’s experiences in prison better than Tyson. It does a great job showing how many of his issues in prison were brought about by his own issues and poor decisions. It also works to show how incarceration helped him improve his life by the actions of his cellmates and the few friendships he developed in prison.
This episode also intends to take aim at the American penal system and a lot of the major issues that came from the War on Drugs, but it feels like it missed the mark. Tyson addresses that many of the people in prison were Black men who were caught with drugs while white men caught with drugs got suspended sentences. The series tries to link the War on Drugs to an increased number of minorities in prison. These are facts that are easy to find, but the series’ style and presentation worked against it. I think they were trying for something poignant during that part of the episode but it feels like they just glossed over it, acknowledging its existence while moving on to something else.
I don’t know if there was a better way to handle that, but I feel like there has to be. Up to this point, this series has not been a commentary on the penal system, so I don’t want it to deviate to that. But, at the same time, to not acknowledge our mistakes allows them to continue. Much like Tyson’s rape trial, it’s a delicate situation that has to be handled with soft hands. I think they tried their best, but tackling that issue might have need a little more thought put into it.
The episode ends with Tyson leaving prison and getting ready to return to boxing. There’s a lot that’s happened in his life since 1996. Some of it is good and some of it is bad. I hope this series tackles both of them equally. So far, it’s praised him where he deserves praise and condemned him where he deserves condemnation. It hasn’t sought to make you believe his redemption story if you don’t. But it has shown a man who has earned redemption in the eyes of many. It’s a solid job. Let’s see if it can stik the landing.