This review may contain spoilers.
I suppose I was tempting fate by singing the praises of new favourite character, Ed Romeo, last week. We may not be seeing much more of the charismatic, gravel-gargling trainer after this week, where the friction between him, Lights, and his family came to a flashpoint that may have put a serious dent in Lights’ preparation for the biggest fight of his life.
I really think Lights Out has done a tremendous job of presenting us with a group of characters who are complex and unpredictable, yet totally believable at the same time. Everyone seems to operate in shades of grey, with executive producer, Warren Leight, and the show’s writers refusing to pass judgement and bring the hammer definitively down on one side of a character for too long.
Of course, Lights is our hero. When he eventually fights Reynolds, we’ll be cheering for him no matter what, short of him murdering his kids or something, and it’s been a long time since the pilot where we saw the unsavoury episode involving Lights, a baseball bat, and a dentist indebted to a gangster. Since then, Lights has been busy sorting out other people’s messes and doing a generally sterling job of being the moral centre for everybody around him
But this week we got back to seeing some of Lights’ worst traits, and for the first time, they weren’t immediately connected to his love of punching people. We saw him act conceited, hamming it up for promos organised by Barry, suspicious when walking in on an intimate moment between Romeo and Theresa, and plain ignorant, as he lets Johnny insinuate himself back into his life with relative ease. Lights really tests our patience in this episode. He totally misjudges the way to handle the Romeo/family situation, resulting in the violent confrontation between Johnny and Romeo at the end of the episode that leads to Lights getting inadvertently stabbed.
Characteristically for Lights Out, however, Lights’ family aren’t the villains that we perhaps want them to be. His dad, in particular, seems content to step aside and let Lights do his thing without him interfering, disappearing as he goes off to the lake for a fishing holiday for the duration of Lights’ training. His sister has been highly inscrutable up to this point and doesn’t actually appear in this episode at all.
Johnny appears to be harder to defend, with his selfish, foolhardy behaviour putting Lights in all manner of trouble, fiduciary and otherwise, in recent years. However, we see in this episode hints that, while he is undoubtedly serving his own interests by getting back into Lights’ life, he also genuinely cares for his brother. Going out for forbidden pizza could be Johnny appealing to Lights’ irresponsible, self-destructive streak in order to get him back onside. It probably is that. But there’s enough in Pablo Schreiber’s performance to suggest that he really thinks he’s acting in his brother’s best interests and just giving him what he wants.
Of course, Romeo doesn’t help himself in this episode, at points acting a little eccentrically, to put it mildly. To put it another way, in many moments in Infight he’s totally bugnuts batshit, attacking reporters, demanding total devotion in a massaging scene that’s not completely devoid of homoeroticism, and finally attempting to strangle Johnny.
To complicate things even further, “Death Row” Reynolds, so often referred to by Romeo as a desperate, fame-hungry monster, appears to be anything but. We see him doing yoga, calmly doing laps in his pool, shooing away reporters in order to spend time with his infant son, and having a playful conversation with his wife. This is isn’t the complete monster that Romeo needs, and arguably, we, the audience, need for Lights to go up against in the championship fight in order to achieve the catharsis that accompanies good triumphing over evil.
Lights Out continues to be directed with real verve and wit. This episode was resplendent with some interesting and cleverly executed visual metaphors. For example, we cut from Romeo telling Lights that Reynolds doesn’t have the mental fibre to keep up with Lights in the ring to Reynolds kneeling on a yoga mat, looking utterly serene.
Similarly, we see Johnny and Lights in the pizza parlour for their illicit meal, surrounded by Coke cartons, melted cheese and fast food wrappers, the very essence of the disposable and the materialist, to Romeo and Theresa enjoying a glass of wine and home cooked food in the dank, earthy gym. These subtle visual cues really lift Lights Out up to the level of some of the very best TV dramas.
The acting in Infight is typically faultless. Eamonn Walker skirts even closer to absurdity (but just about avoids it) with his unhinged performance as Romeo, and continues to stand out hugely against the naturalism of McCallany, McCormack, Keach and Schreiber. But as Romeo’s role in Lights Out is as a destabilising catalyst anyway, it completely works when it really shouldn’t.
How you like your stories to be paced is entirely subjective, of course, but to me this first season of Lights Out has been paced perfectly. Leight and his team seem to have perfect control over the material, and seem to instinctively know when to shake things up, when to put in some action, and when to step back.
I’d be interested to see how Lights Out would play out as a DVD marathon, but for now, I’d recommend getting on board and following it week to week. It’s a great show, and unless more people get on board now, a season 2 looks less and less likely, which would be a huge shame for a show that has found its feet remarkably quickly.
Read our review of episode 8, Head Games, here.