After three rounds, FX’s Lights Out is proving to be the underdog in television’s sea of unrest. Yet what it’s shown viewers so far is all the reasons you want to see Patrick “Lights” Leary (Holt McCallany) make a comeback and see him to prevail. It’s the modern-day mangling of the American dream. Lights is trying to keep his and his family’s heads above water in the country’s economic woes with his fists and what little remains of his brain.
“The Shot” was the last straw for Patrick, his last lie to himself to help accept the life he settled for. Peddling his memorabilia through QVC, cooking dinner for the 1,825th straight time, and arguing with his oldest daughter–this was no way for a heavyweight champ to live his life, is it? Turning 40 in most professional sports means you’re way past the twilight of your career. But then George Foremen rewrote boxing history. Patrick’s done an admirable job up to this point not succumbing to his pride and there has to be a life-sized reason as to why he at this age would stage a comeback; he has several million.
Lights Out finally gave us a fight in “The Shot,” two in fact. No, Lights didn’t get into the ring–yet–but instead Omar “The Armenian Avenger”(Pedro Pascal) had a chance at the middleweight championship and carried the weight of Leary Gym’s on his shoulders.
Now the “undercard” wasn’t much of a fight. Johnny (Pablo Schreiber) had to plead, beg and screw his way into big time boxing promoter Barry Word’s (Reg E. Cathey) lap to get Omar that shot. And even though he eventually got Word to bend, the well-manicured mogul toyed with Johnny as easily as he plays a tune on his tenor saxophone.
For the first time we got to see Johnny in action. His lying, cheating, and shit eating grin works on the ladies but it doesn’t do much good against the people he really needs to influence. Ironically, as much as his mouth gets his foot in the door, it’s also how Johnny screws himself, as well as the Leary family. With no backbone and no punch and it’s no wonder he pissed away Lights’ fortune in less than five years. As much as we’re riding Patrick’s journey, Johnny is a hot mess you can’t take your eyes off.
Cathey also steps out of the shadows in “The Shot.” The cold rasp in his voice is like the rattle in the snake, the glaring stares intimidate even through the television. The man plays dirty and isn’t afraid to cork his bat or throw a spitball down the middle of the plate. And you read that right; the man plays a mean tenor sax. A boxing drama wouldn’t be complete without a scandalous promoter. Cathey no doubt channels some of Don King’s villainous act, and yet makes the role of the controversial promoter his own rather than rehash the same old caricature.
The back door dealings in Lights add another layer of the story boxing fans will enjoy, and perhaps even wonder what seedy pageantry is going on behind closed doors between Manny Pacquiao’s and Floyd Mayweather’s camps. There are often times more story going on setting up the match, than what actually happens in the ring. Watching Scheiber and Cathey in their scenes is like watching a tiger play with a mouse, and both actors give viewers two more reasons to watch Lights Out.
As for the main event, there’s a moment when you get lose yourself in the fight and believe Omar can pull off a victory; the rush of triumph at the doormat before it’s pulled out from underneath you. Lights Out has a way of tying all of the feelings and drama together into a well edited, emotional and profound last segment. Last night was no different playing one dream ending, while Lights’ still found himself in his nightmare.
Helping Omar get focused was what put Lights over the edge, well that and the sappy memory book his family made for him on is birthday. All the pep talk he was giving Omar was really for Lights himself. Had Omar’s face not fallen flat on canvas, Lights may have eventually warmed to training. But not now, not after the gym’s last hope lost his chance at the title, not with Pops’ health worsening, and certainly not with Johnny’s making deals his wallet can’t cover. Patrick has to other option to get back in the ring. Now it gets interesting.
Lights Out airs on Tuesdays at 10pm ET/PT on FX and next week’s episode, “Bolo Punch” Patrick starts his comeback but before he does that, he has get into the octagon–that’s right, the octagon–to fight a legendary MMA fighter Bas Ruten to bail out Johnny.