LIGHTS OUT 1.13 ‘War’

Lights finally faces 'Death Row' Reynolds in the ring for the last time in the series finale.

Blair Marnellby Blair Marnell

Episode Title: "War"
 
Teleplay by: Warren Leight

Story by: Bryan Goluboff & Warren Leight
 
Director: Norberto Barba
 
Previously on "Lights Out":
 
Five years after losing the heavyweight championship to Richard "Death Row" Reynolds (Billy Brown), Patrick "Lights" Leary (Holt McCallany) found that his millions had run dry and his mental health was potentially at risk from pugilistic dementia. As his fortunes clouded, Lights became indebted to a mobster named Hal Brennan (Bill Irwin), who took an unhealthy interest in Lights and his family. Under Brennan's influence, Lights nearly faced jail time for assault and bribery before finally landing the biggest payday of his life: a rematch with Death Row.
 
With just two weeks before the big fight, Lights' estranged mother, Mae (Valerie Perrine) returned to his life and tried to win back her family. Her former husband, Robert "Pops" Leary (Stacy Keach) was all too eager to see her again, but her other children Johnny (Pablo Schreiber) and Margaret (Elizabeth Marvel) never forgave her. In the end, they turned out to be right all along. Lights discovered that his mom wanted to bilk him for money, so he ultimately sent her away for good with one last payoff.
 
Story:
 
In a dream, Lights relives his last match with Death Row and he wakes with a start when the other man is crowned champion. He also hears the cries of his youngest daughter, who apparently had a nightmare about Lights getting injured in his upcoming boxing match. He assures her that it was just a dream, but his other daughters look at him with worry too. But it's far too late to turn back now. Lights says his goodbyes to his wife, Theresa Leary (Catherine McCormack) and takes off with Pops and Johnny for the big weekend ahead. When they arrive at the posh hotel, Death Row is already outside holding court with reporters and taunting Lights.
 
Shortly thereafter, an associate of Brennan's summons Lights and Johnny to a dinner attended by many former boxing champions blackballed by Barry K. Word (Reg E. Cathey). Brennan finally reveals his endgame to the assembled fighters. With their help, he plans to form a new boxing league free of Word's influence. Lights says that he'll get involved only if the fighters agree to donate 10% of their earnings to a fund for former boxers in need. At the hotel, Theresa inadvertently meets up with Death Row's wife, Jennifer (Reiko Aylesworth), who seems far too confident of her husband's abilities over Lights.
 
At the weigh-in, Death Row takes the opportunity to point out that Lights has faced several serious criminal allegations over the last few months… and we in the audience know that he's guilty of every single one. Word soon comes to Lights' hotel suite with one last devastating blow for his confidence. He mentions knowing about Brennan's boxing league plans and more damningly, he tells Lights that he didn't win his comeback fight with El Diablo. Instead, El Diablo threw the fight for Brennan and Word produces proof, which leaves Lights shattered.
 
On the day of the fight, Lights receives confession for his many sins and he expresses his deep regret over placing the burden of his secrets on his daughter, Daniella.  But finally, the match of his life is soon underway. In the first round, Lights can barely mount an offense against Death Row, who savagely beats him with a flurry of punches. Worse, the referee blatantly calls the fight in Death Row's favor with several beyond questionable calls. In the second round, Lights manages to make it a fight and he even gains an advantage over Death Row which the ref does everything that he can to negate.
 
During the third round, Lights dominates the fight. The crooked ref tries to have it stopped due to a cut over Lights' eye, but Brennan paid off the ring doctor to prevent it. Lights hammers Death Row into submission until even the ref is forced to concede that the fight is over. Lights is crowned the world heavyweight champion once again, while Death Row is literally carried from the ring in defeat.
 
But alone in the locker room after the fight, Lights wanders around in confusion. Theresa finally catches up to him to bring him to the post match press conference. And then Lights asks with sadness and sincerity, "who won the fight?" Meanwhile, Brennan and Word wait like competing vultures alongside Pops and Johnny before Lights and Theresa join them. The series closes as Word introduces Lights to the assembled press as the champ.
 
Breakdown:
 
There's a disturbing trend happening at FX. Some of their best original series have delivered really powerful 13 episode seasons… which almost no one watched. And that was certainly the case with "Lights Out," one of the best new shows on TV in its first and only season.
 
It's a credit to the writing of the series that this episode serves as such an effective finish for both the season and the show in general. A defeat for Lights would have been more surprising than his eventual win, but "Lights Out" has always managed to make compelling drama out of a story that we've seen in different forms many times before.
 
The early signs of Lights' dementia were interspersed throughout the season, but that last moment with Theresa was a heart breaker. Lights has constantly tried to hide that problem from her, but it's more or less in the open now. As a price to pay for his victory, it suits Lights as a greater penance than the 10 Hail Marys and acts of contrition that the priest gave him. If the series was still going forward, it would have been interesting to see how long Lights could hold out against the complete onset of dementia.
 
Part of what made Lights such an effective protagonist was how flawed he really was. Lights was absolutely guilty of doing horrible things to get himself back into this position and he got out of trouble only by the skin of his teeth and the grace of a mobster. In other words, he wasn't exactly Rocky Balboa. But Lights was first and foremost a family man, who loved and took care of all of his relatives… almost to his detriment.
 
The fight itself was a satisfying way to settle Lights' conflict with Death Row, although I was hoping to see a few more rounds from that. The back and forth in the ring between the two fighters was believable, but that ref was way too over the top in favor of Death Row. It was so comical at times that it seemed to distract from the actual drama in the ring.
 
I laughed at Barry K. Word's "Justice League" reference, possibly my favorite comic book shout out this year. And the way that he tried to destroy Lights before the match actually carried a lot of power. I know it would have pushed credibility even further, but I would have loved to have seen Lights punch out Word and/or Brennan… the twin destructive influences in his life. For all of his troubles, Lights was just a pawn in their game against each other.
 
Aside from Theresa, most of the supporting cast didn't have a lot do in this episode. I was hoping for a more redemptive moment for Johnny, the perpetual screwup. But at the very least, Pops got his moment with his "let these (gloves) be your judge" speech. Make no mistake, this was a strong ending of a great series. Given the reception "Lights Out" got, it may even hold the distinction of the last boxing related series for a long time to come.
 
But it went out on top.
 
Crave Online Rating: 9 out of 10.