The transition from the last episode, about Desiree Washington’s rape charges and conviction, to this episode, about Mike Tyson’s three years in prison, is jarring.
“Desiree” was centered on the 18-year-old beauty pageant contestant who accused Tyson of rape. Mike must continue Tyson’s device of chronicling his own life with all the candor he can muster. He doesn’t call Washington a “slimy bitch,” but he also doesn’t take responsibility for his actions. “Some of you think I should be locked up,” he says.
Tyson continues a narrative of his own victimization, which is more compelling when he doesn’t make women less powerful than the victims. This isn’t a mistake on the show’s part because it wants us to have a complicated view of a complicated man. Tyson’s misjudgments are linked to a traumatic past that money and fame can’t help him escape. “Racing pigeons can fly 1,000 miles,” he says in the opening monologue as he’s led to prison. They always return to their dirty box. ” He may not mention Desiree Washington or Robin Givens, but he wasn’t just his mother’s prison prediction. He thinks he belongs.
In this episode, Tyson’s self-awareness is exposed as both acute and nonexistent. He’s smart and self-aware enough to link his childhood love of pigeons to his instinct to return to the “dirty box” of his worst, perhaps inescapable destiny. Such thoughts only feed a deep narcissism: he’s sensitive to how his environment affects him but thoughtless about how he treats others, other than assuming blind loyalty to the father figures who offer him protection and guidance (Cus or Don King). He was always reckless and pitiful, like a child.
“Jailbird” makes us believe that Tyson feels more comfortable and sure of himself in prison than in the outside world, which becomes more intimidating to him. Eventually, he finds his groove. His initial impulse is to project alpha-male toughness, which starts with him aggressively claiming the top bunk from his roommate Ray Ray and landing in solitary for assaulting an inmate who calls him a “tree jumper” (I corrected him) Continued public protest and an expensive appeals process led by Alan Dershowitz (“the albino Don King”) failed to get him what he wanted.
Tyson’s fortunes change when he listens to Ray Ray’s pleas to educate himself and when Lloyd Franklin helps him turn his money into transactional power. “Jailbird” becomes the GoodFellas scene where the Italian mobsters turn a cell into a kitchenette and slice garlic with a razor blade for marinara sauce. With fans pumping thousands of dollars into his commissary account, Tyson becomes an entrepreneur, running smuggled goods to inmates for a price. He may be confined, but he has more control here than in the chaos outside. Even knowing Muslim prisoners and using their prayer room to pass out XXX tapes makes him smarter.
He says, “I wanted to hide in prison.” “Outside felt like jail.” Mike understands this observation, even as Tyson returns to his wealth, fans, and privileges. He’s expected to be the fearsome boxer Mike Tyson, who went to prison in his prime and will be released three years later with no ring experience or formal training. As unrealistic as it is necessary to believe that he can reclaim the heavyweight title after a few tune-ups.Don King is preparing for Tyson’s comeback to make millions. Boxing is the only thing Tyson knows how to do and the only way to gain attention.
On March 25, 1996, he left, surrounded by King and screaming supporters. Now he must please a parasitic manager, an unrealistic fanbase, and no one he loves and trusts. Worst-case scenario