This review may contain spoilers.
This week, we finally got to see Lights back in the ring fighting professionally again, taking on Latino psychopath, Javier ‘El Diablo’ Morales in an exhibition match, and in terms of staging, editing and acting, it was the proverbial ‘knockout’ (ugh). In terms of dramatic catharsis, however, it was a little bit of an anti-climax. Lights has been battling a bad eye, an aging body and a maelstrom of problems in his personal life, and yet he manages to win his comeback fight by knockout in a mere two rounds.
And Morales is no two-bit schmoe, either. He’s been built up by the show as full blown monstrous bad ass. A convicted rapist, fresh out of prison, at the weigh-in, he’s shown smoking on the scales, wildly brandishing a machete, and in a rather unlikely reference, quoting the Saddam Hussein character in Hot Shots! (“I will kill you until you die from it!”)
All this is for naught in the fight, however. Morales starts well, unleashing his full repertoire of low blows, rabbit punches, and headbutts on poor Lights, leaving him looking tired, discombobulated, and out on his feet.
But Lights was able to come back and win convincingly in the second, begging the question: how did he do it?
Well, he managed to pass his eye exam with the simplest of trickery, coming up with a mnemonic to memorise the bottom line of the eye chart before the exam (said mnemonic being Fantastic Electric Light Orchestra Plays Zanzibar Daily, the ELO name check providing the second unlikely shout-out of the episode). I had assumed that Brennan would have just been called in to fix the exam, so this funny moment with the optometrist was a nice surprise.
Another assist for Lights came in the unlikely form of archrival, Death Row Reynolds. Crossroads opened with Light’s archrival providing him with a dossier he has compiled on Morales (if that sounds vaguely ridiculous, that’s because it basically was), and imploring him to consider the rematch. Death Row showed up once more at the end of the fight to goad Lights into fighting once more, this time in front of an excited Barry K Word and the world’s media.
The recurring appearance of Reynolds provides an interesting counterpoint to Lights. Where Death Row is the uncontested champ and a millionaire at the top of his game, Lights is destitute. Reynolds won their championship fight, and Lights lost. Lights needs the rematch far more than Reynolds does, both in terms of pride and in terms of financial stability, but Reynolds is the one who is pushing for the fight the hardest.
This goes back to one of the central themes of Lights Out: why do people fight? As Theresa asked Lights in the previous episode, does he need to or want to? Lights confesses that it’s both, but Reynolds is demonstrating that they are both the same thing. He doesn’t have any material or professional need to fight again, but he needs to, just because he’s a born fighter. Just like Lights.
His scenes with Lights in this episode are (intentionally, I think) reminiscent of the stories of Joe Frazier supporting and aiding Ali financially during his exile from boxing due to draft dodging.
Another bonus for Lights was the presence of Theresa at the fight. After the first round, he shares a long, lingering look with his wife, which inspires him to man up and punch Morales in the nuts after the opening bell of the second round. Clearly, Johnny’s speech about ‘doing whatever it takes’ has finally sunk in to Light’s tender, fluid-ensconced brain.
Theresa, for all her protestations, is revealed to be as enthralled as everyone else to Lights’ prowess inside the ring, and also more than a little turned on. Morales has barely hit the canvas before Lights and Theresa are enjoying a long overdue victory shag in a suite hired by the ever resourceful Johnny.
On another Theresa note, there was a brief but incredibly jarring reference to her ‘family in England’. Clearly a line hastily inserted by the producers when they realised Catherine McCormack’s accent wasn’t quite working.)
So, everything seems to have worked out well enough for Lights in Crossroads, but it ends on an ambiguous note. Pops isn’t convinced that Lights is back to his best, despite his authoritative win, arguing that he doesn’t have the game back that he needs to take on Reynolds, and won’t do until he has a few more fights under his belt.
This scene is interesting. It could be that Pops is pushing Lights too hard and expects too much from him, as Brennan argued in a quick scene with Lights earlier in the episode. But it could be because Pops suspects that Lights’ victory wasn’t as well-earned as he believes it to be. Could Brennan have fixed the fight? There is a brief look between Morales and Brennan during the fight that suggests this might well be the case.