Lights Out episode 6 review: Combinations

The drama is out of the ring in the latest episode of Lights Out. Here's our review...

This review may contain spoilers.

6. Combinations

Another Lights Out went by this week with a minimum of in-ring action, but the characters and the storyline were once more strong enough to produce an episode that would satisfy all but the most bloodthirsty of viewers.

Lights, and his seemingly eternal struggle to stay true to his family and do the right thing, was sorely tested this week, as all manner of distractions were thrown his way ahead of the big fight.

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Combinations opens with a nice subversion of one of the key moments in any boxing story, the rowdy press conference. As Lights and Javier ‘El Diablo’ Morales square up after the introduction from promoter extraordinaire, Barry K Word, they get into a shoving match that descends into a 15 man melee.

So far, so Rocky, but straight afterwards we see the two men chumming up with each other backstage, the whole thing clearly engineered as a PR stunt by Barry. Just to add an extra layer to the whole scenario, however, Javier issues a genuinely menacing threat to Lights as they part company, suggesting that, cynical PR aside, there may actually be significant bad blood between the pair.

This fudging between real and fake, right and wrong, and good and evil has been a recurring theme of Lights Out, and particularly in Combinations, we find Lights literally unable to focus on either side, as an errant hook in a sparring match (against a partner eager to impress the watching Barry Word) leaves him with double vision. It’s a nice metaphor for Lights’ current state of mind. As the pressures and temptations pile on top, it’s nearly impossible to remember what he’s putting himself through this for.

Clearly, Lights wants to provide and care for his family. When asked, he cites his family as the sole reason for stepping back in the ring and his actions back this up. He turns down an aggressive come-on from a hooker that Johnny has paid for him, and is genuinely upset and distraught when he suspects Theresa may be looking to divorce him. He promises his daughter that everything will go back to the way it was before the fight, and you can tell that he means it.

But is he as totally committed to his family as he would have you believe? Firstly, his decision to rebuff the hooker seems to be one that he didn’t take lightly, openly dirty dancing with her in a sleazy club and clearly very tempted. Also, it was alluded to last week that Lights may have been unfaithful to Theresa in the past. This week, when she mentions that Lights appears to be returning to the ‘good old days’, it is referenced again.

Lights has continued to ostracise Johnny from his business affairs, but despite the tremendous danger that he has once again ended up  in because of him (one night out on the town with Johnny and he ends up drunk and in a car crash with a hooker in tow), Lights seems to forgive Johnny a lot easier than he had previously. There is even a suggestion that, perversely, he enjoyed the experience a little bit.

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As a side note, I do think that the ‘caught in a car crash with another woman’ scenario is a bit played out on television now, having also featured in episodes of The Sopranos and Mad Men. Surely, this isn’t the way that all philandering men are caught out by their wives, is it? Don’t drink and drive, (with your mistress in tow), seems to be the message I’m getting here.

As for Theresa, Johnny’s wife, the writers are playing a dangerous game with her. There is always the potential in television shows such as Lights Out that the female characters will be underwritten and quickly descend into the ‘nagging wife’ archetype, because as the voice of reason they are constantly stood in the way of our hero’s efforts to kick ass/take names.

Theresa is in particular danger of this, because, while Lights has been guilty of keeping secrets from her, his misdemeanours haven’t added up to anything that will mean the viewers aren’t anything but firmly on his side, and her demanding that he move out of the house just happened to coincide with his confession that all of their money had disappeared. Potentially, this paints Theresa as a shallow, materialistic, and therefore, rather unsympathetic character

The writing and performance is skilled enough still that the character of Theresa hasn’t become a completely contemptible killjoy just yet, but she has been edging towards that area over the previous couple of episodes. The key scene in Combinations comes at the end of the episode, where Lights’ sister comes to visit Theresa after learning of their marriage difficulties.

She points out, as many other characters have done over the course of Lights Out, that Theresa asked him to give up his lifestyle and entire career for her and the family, and he duly complied, with little complaint. She goes further, however, when she accuses Theresa of suppressing the real Lights Leary, and keeping him from being the man he wants to be, claiming that he’s been ‘climbing the walls’ of their family home for the past five years.

From what we’ve seen of him so far, no one would doubt that Lights is dedicated to his family. But what becomes clear from this scene is that being dedicated to your family is different from being a dedicated family man. It’s not his relationship with his family, strong and important though that bond is, that defines him as a man. It’s his ability to wage war inside the ring, the ability to knock people out, the ability, in effect, to fight the battles that no one else will.

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I think Theresa realises at the end of the episode that her attempts to stop Lights from fighting are just as selfish as she imagines his return to boxing and reneging on their agreement is towards her. When she invites Lights in for dinner at the end of the episode, his polite refusal is telling: no more distractions.

When Lights complains to Pops of his double vision earlier in the episode, Pops dismisses him. “I never heard you make excuses before. During a fight, you would find a way.”

The final image of Combinations is Lights training by himself, squinting and moving his head around until he finally finds a way to focus his vision on the heavy bag. Troublesome siblings, family problems, money problems, decaying mental health, a criminal conspiracy watching his every move, none of these things can be excuses anymore. He has to focus on the task at hand, which just happens to be punching things. Hard.

Read our review of episode 5, The Comeback, here.

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

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