Episode Title: "Cakewalk"
Writer: Warren Leight
Director: Norberto Barba
Previously on "Lights Out":
Five years ago, Patrick "Lights" Leary (Holt McCallany) lost his heavyweight title to Richard "Death Row" Reynolds (Billy Brown) in a disputed decision. Unable to bear the toil it took upon him, Lights’ wife Theresa Leary (Catherine McCormack) made him walk away from the ring. But half a decade later, Lights’ problems are almost insurmountable. His screwup of a brother, Johnny (Pablo Schreiber) has helped him squander his fortune, the IRS decided to come after him and he learned that he may have the early onset symptoms of pugilist’s dementia.
In his desperation, Lights agreed to collect the debt of high end bookie, Hal Brennan (Bill Irwin) and even went so far as to break the arm of his target to ensure his cooperation. Unfortunately, there were plenty of witnesses to the incident. And later, Lights found out that Johnny had arranged a deal with Death Row to give Lights one last shot at the title. Although Lights told him to kill it, the $10 million fight purse caused Lights to consider defying his wife and returning to the ring.
At church with his family, even the minister knows about Lights’ proposed rematch with Death Row Reynolds; which Lights is once again quick to deny to his wife’s face. He claims the attention may help him land the color commentator gig that he wants. Later, while enjoying ice cream with his family, two cops show up and take him in for questioning about the man whose arm he broke on behalf of Brennan. Although the cops don’t have the evidence to hold him, Mike Fumosa ) — a boxing reporter Lights once knew in high school and during his glory days — begins sniffing around for a story.
When Theresa asks why the police wanted to talk to him, he gives her only half the truth about what happened and claims that he never even met the man he’s accused of hurting. She immediately offers him an alibi using herself and his father, Robert "Pops" Leary (Stacy Keach). But Lights’ money problems aren’t going away and even Brennan is keeping his distance because of the police investigation. Even though Lights appears in a cheesy commercial for a local store, the IRS immediately takes the money when he puts it into the bank. He puts the word out that he wants to talk to Brennan and finally gets his face to face meeting.
Brennan gives him a small amount of the money he’s owed and explains that Lights was never actually supposed to hurt the man he collected the debt from. The threat of violence was supposed to be enough. He offers to get Lights out of his current legal situation in exchange for another favor: appear at the birthday party for a judge’s son and deliver a special "cake." However, it will cut into the money that he’s owed and force him to miss his youngest daughter’s dance recital. At the same time, his second youngest daughter, Daniella (Ryann Shane) has discovered his dementia diagnosis and confronts him on the troubling signs she’s noticed in his behavior.
Lights makes the pickup at a local bakery, drawing the attention of the clerk. Later, Lights catches the clerk and another man trying to steal the cake from his trunk and he fights them off before the cops arrive. Lights also sees that the cake contains a load of cash. At the party, Lights is a hit with the guests and the judge tells him that one of his son’s guests will "share the cake" with his father, one of the local prosecutors. That night, the two cops who detained Lights earlier show up at his house and apologize for their actions. But even though the incident is seemingly handled, Mike has gone on TV with what little he knew about the case and further tarnishes Lights’ comeback chances. Elsewhere. the clerk who tried to rob Lights is shot through the head while clutching Lights’ mp3 player.
There’s something about the way FX creates drama series that gives them a similar sense of style. Maybe it’s the way that these shows are shot with hand held cameras in certain shots or the rawness of the content, but "Lights Out" certainly feels like an FX show. There’s also an underlying current throughout the entire show of Lights’ desperation. From the smaller touches like his anxious lotto ticket scratching to even trying to cut his brother out of his finances by sidestepping him on the TV commercial fee. Even Lights’ brief job for Brennen was born out of his desperation. So far, "Lights Out" has done a great job of establishing Lights as a real underdog in all of his problems.
This episode also showed us that Lights can still fight, although his one-on-two victory was more impressive than his in-ring sparring match. It’s pretty obvious that the last episode or episodes of the season will feature Lights getting that rematch that he wanted so badly. And the series is most likely going to deal with him getting back into ring shape. But what’s separating "Lights Out" from nearly every boxing story that’s been done a million times before is the element of danger. The death of the clerk at the end of the show was actually one of the more shocking murders on TV in some time. It really came out of nowhere and landed a solid punch, so to speak.
To be clear, Lights is now involved with people who are much more dangerous than he is. And I think Brennen is a particularly good villain because he cloaks himself as a friend. He’s not Lights’ enemy (yet), but he’s more than likely behind the hit on the clerk and involved in some high level bribery. Bill Irwin was extremely effective in his brief scenes as Brennen and his line about Lights’ obvious desperation was the sharpest piece of writing of the hour.
The early problem with "Lights Out," is that most of his family members don’t seem to have any personality outside of their roles within the family: like Theresa the wife and mother, Johnny the brother and "Pops." Even Lights’ daughters don’t seem that memorable, although Daniella’s more bookish persona is a nice contrast to her father. Her scenes with Lights when she confronted him about his diagnosis were the only family related scenes this week that really resonated. Lights and the rest of his small world are interesting, but we need to care about his family too or else they’re just going to be superfluous in the tapestry of the story.
I also really liked Ben Shenkman’s Mike the reporter because he seems to have his own urgency in finding a story to write about. His betrayal of Lights’ confidence after what seems to have been a friendship between them that dated back to high school is very telling as well. Mike may actually be more desperate than Lights himself.
"Lights Out" is another solid show for FX, at least through two episodes. However well it does in the ratings is irrelevant. At the very least, we’re going to see how everything plays out to the end.
Crave Online Rating: 8 out of 10.