Lights Out episode 5 review: The Comeback

Lights Out may be struggling in the ratings, but it's a show that's still worth investing your time in, reckons Paul...

This review may contain spoilers.

5. The Comeback

One of the problems I had with last week’s episode of Lights Out was the neatness of the way that the MMA storyline was handled. I understand completely why the cage fighting was limited to just the one episode. This is a show about boxing, after all. But the problem with that is that it lends an event that was already quite farfetched an extra air of implausibility when it is barely referenced in the next episode.

Lights has barely a scratch on him after the fight, meaning that his family remain none the wiser, but I think the bigger problem I had with the fight was just how reckless a decision it was by Lights, and as The Comeback demonstrates, he is far from your atypical hair-trigger meathead.

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Maybe I’m just spoiled by the likes of Breaking Bad, where every action, no matter how insignificant they may seem initially, has deep and far-reaching consequences that sometimes do not become totally clear until, sometimes, whole seasons later.

It looks unlikely that Lights Out will be afforded the opportunity to spread the compelling narrative of Lights and his family across more than the one season. While the ratings haven’t dropped, they have remained consistently in the Kenny Loggins zone, so to speak. 

But enough negativity! The Comeback was another fine episode, and true to its title it did, indeed, give us the opening throes of the most predictable comeback since Talksport radio figured out that no feminists, liberals, or non-sexists listen to them (topical joke for UK readers, there).

What I liked about Lights’ decision to box again was how underplayed it all was, which is typical for a series that had managed to dodge a lot of the more brash and ostentatious clichés that so often mar boxing movies and television. A show run by In Treatment alumni, Warren Leight, was never going to veer into Rocky IV territory, but there is something nicely grounded about Lights Out and its main characters that makes its more bombastic moments even more effective.

When Lights decides to fight, he doesn’t want to fight his old nemesis ‘Death Row’. He’s not interested in righting wrongs or taking the power back. Like he says to his brother Johnny, “I want a big payday. But I don’t want to get hurt.” Even though everybody is itching for him to take on the big fight, he’s practical. So, he opts to fight a journeyman in an exhibition bout.

He hasn’t reckoned with the ingenuity and ferocity of Barry K. Word, the boxing promoter who is close to becoming Lights Out‘s breakout character. Reg E Cathey plays him like a villainous pimp in a blaxploitation movie, oozing a suave, feline menace that fills the screen every time he appears.

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We get a great exchange when Lights refuses to fight a disgraced boxer, disgustedly pointing out that he’s a convicted rapist. Word shrugs and smiles apologetically, “Statutory.” Such are the morals of evil fight mercenaries like Word.

Unfortunately, Word’s last moment in this episode was a rather cheesy tag where it was revealed that Word and Brennan have been working in cahoots, criminal brothers in arms with one intention: getting Lights back fighting for the championship. The reveal was a bit much. I half expected one of them to be in a swivel chair, stroking a cat, but it certainly raises some interesting possibilities for the next episode.

Also this week, Lights finally fired Johnny as his manager, for, well, it could have been one of a hundred things, to be honest. Johnny’s uncontrollable incompetence was becoming ridiculous, and it was nice to see Lights finally administer some rough justice to his brother. Lights’ dad is insisting on complete concentration for Lights’ upcoming fight, so it will be interesting to see how Johnny will ingratiate himself back into the fold.

The Comeback had some really lovely, subtle pieces of writing, like in the opening dream sequence where we think Lights has been given the all clear after a second medical opinion, only for the rug to be pulled out from under him. While there, Lights has to memorise words to prove his mental acuity. The words are ‘mirror’, ‘vegetable’ and ‘wheelchair’.

Occasionally, however, the dialogue in the episode slipped into weak exposition. For example, Lights’ daughter had the incredibly clunky and knowing line, “I know I can be selfish and stubborn, but I’m a teenager. What’s your excuse?” Similarly, when Lights’ dad speaks about Johnny, he says (paraphrased), ‘Johnny’s heart is in the right place, but he always seems to do the wrong thing.’

Lights Out is an intelligent show, but occasionally over articulates when the performances are strong enough to do the dramatic heavy lifting by themselves.

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One line I did enjoy was Brennan’s philosophy on boxing to Lights’ sister: “One guy takes the punches, while twenty other guys try to make a living.” Isn’t that Lights’ life in a nutshell? Everybody depends on Lights to take care of them financially, but only he is the one capable of fighting the fight.

The thing is, this is the only way he knows how to operate. His family seem resigned to making their own sacrifices (with the exception of his spoiled brat eldest daughter), but his angriest moments in the episode come when he is confronted with the idea of filing for Chapter 11, or for his younger daughter to switch to a public school.

Once the decision for Lights to make a comeback has been made, his wife Theresa asks him to leave. Lights is reluctant, but accepting. He knows his role, alright, and he’ll be damned if he lets anyone else share the burden. He takes the punches so nobody else has to.

Read our review of episode 4, Bolo Punch here.

Follow Paul Martinovic on Twitter @paulmartinovic, or for more babble check out his blog here.

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