Do you believe in comebacks? The tagline for FX’s critically acclaimed drama is that “Everybody loves a underdog.” If that’s true, then everybody is going to flock in and see the next three episodes, right? So, ‘love’ is a strong word given the modest ratings, but everybody should be glued to their sets every Tuesday night. Those converted since the pilot, know that Lights Out has come out swinging each week.
Many successful series stumbled out the gates trying to find their rhythm and figure out what it is that people will grab onto. Not Lights Out. It’s always known what it is and in today’s TV landscape, that’s rare. I know we love a lot of TV here at BuzzFocus, but this is a show that many of us here really do love. If you haven’t sat in on Lights’ run for the title, just know it’s several other things before it is a boxing show.
It’s a family drama first and one of the biggest themes this season is consequence. Life is all about the decisions you make and Patrick “Lights” Leary (Holt McCallany) is finding that out the hard way, time after time, after time. Look, it’s not all his fault, he often times is trying to do the right thing, but he did assault a man in his home in the pilot and not coincidentally, it’s been an uphill struggle since. And then there’s his brother Johnny (Pablo Schreiber); if it wasn’t for him, Lights wouldn’t have another problem on his hand, his stab wound.
In Johnny’s defense, Ed Romeo (Eamonn Walker) was a cancer that needed to be fixed. Yes, he was making sense and a positive difference early on, but Romeo wore out his welcome when he wanted Lights to cut Johnny, Margaret (Elizabeth Marvel), and Pops (Stacy Keach) from his life. Again, this is a family drama, and Romeo nearly broke up the Learys. Something tells me we haven’t seen the last of him. He was such a heavy influence on Richard “Death Row” Reynolds’ (Billy Brown) early life that it’s hard to see a man just walk away from Lights the way he did.
In “Cut Men” Reynolds steps into the light, and yes, he is really cut. His story and motivations are slowly being revealed and his wife Jennifer (Reiko Aylesworth) appears to be needling his ear, pushing him to retire. Sounds like a certain boxing couple five years ago. Reynolds is trying to finish off his legacy and retire on a high note and settle down with his family. It’s a noble plan but harder to execute when Barry Word (Reg E. Cathey) owns you.
So it comes as no surprise that Word tried to shakedown the Learys to ensure a fight is fought on August 14th with or without Lights. Word knows that Reynolds is his big paycheck and once he retires he has no one to replace him. Lights is looking to get out too, so he needs this fight more than anyone; hence the bold move at Jennifer’s restaurant. When his back is up against the wall, Lights goes to an unexpected dark place and becomes a much scarier anti-hero. I remind the audience that there are consequences for this kind of activity. Desperate once again, the Leary boys turn to Hal Brennan (Bill Irwin) to bail them out. This doesn’t sit well with either Lights or Johnny, especially now that Brennan has slithered into their sister’s life.
Not to be forgotten is poor Theresa (Catherine McCormack); her commencement was her time to shine. So it was only fitting that Johnny would ruin it. No one who mattered stood up and cheered for Theresa. Not of her kids, not Lights, and she looked so alone as her professor tied the medal around her neck. You could see the “this is what I’m working so hard for?” look on her face. She’s just in a different place than Lights, and the imperfections in their marriage continue to surface. At what point does she stop trying, at what point does she stop fighting who her husband is? Lights on the other hand refuses to stop swinging.
Lights has only gotten into the ring (legally) once this season and this second time is proving to be a challenge, but that doesn’t mean he’s not fighting every episode. He’s putting his body on the line to maintain his family’s lifestyle and to save a less than perfect marriage. If it’s not his trainers, it’s Word, the IRS, or the people who grew up with him. And when his stamina is tested, there’s the relentless pursuit of the press and the leeches like Brennan trying to suck him dry. It’s no wonder his body is starting to fail him too; he’s simply taken too many hits outside the ring and that’s where he is the biggest underdog. His struggles are so easily identifiable to the average man and his management of them is so much more compelling and satisfying than the recent movies about boxers. That’s the beauty of Lights Out. It’s not a first round knockout like say, Mike Tyson vs. Marvis Frazier (30 seconds). It’s as epic war like Muhammad Ali vs. Joe Frazier. The storytelling and the acting live up to that level of legendary matchup. Those are not easy words to write, but they are as sincere as my recommendation of Lights Out and my plea to spread the word.
As the remaining three episodes build towards the heavyweight championship, the tension in both camps will continue to rise. Reynolds is seeing why Lights walked away five years ago and Word will not let his best fighter retire so easily. Getting reacquainted with Brennan’s affairs is a bad move; there’s no telling what kind of hell is waiting for Lights, Johnny, and Margaret. Theresa and the girls will likely get the fallout too. We can only hope Pops return to save the family, or at the very least get in Lights’ corner where he belongs. He needs the redemption too, right? We’ll find out starting next week in “The Rainmaker” where David Morse guest stars as a retired boxer missing a few marbles, but is he a blessing or another burden for Lights? Tune in next week at 10pm on FX and find out.