‘Lights Out’ – ‘War’: Reviewing the series finale

04.05.11 6 years ago 77 Comments


“Lights Out” just finished airing what turned out to be its series finale. I interviewed showrunner Warren Leight about the season, and I have a review of the finale coming up just as soon as I sing with Jay-Z at the victory party…

“Think of everything we did to get here.” -Lights

As Leight says in the interview, “War” wasn’t planned in any way as a series finale, but (like the last episode of “Terriers” before it), it works surprisingly well as one. Lights and Death Row have their big rematch, which Lights wins in improbable but not implausible fashion. And both before and after the title fight, Lights and the show pause to reflect on most of the key events of this season: the compromises and mistakes and well-meaning gestures that put Patrick Leary back into a boxing ring when he had no business further endangering his fragile brain. Lights has a nightmare vision of most of this season’s literal fights, and he and Johnny go back and forth on what they’ve done and what they need to do, and Lights even goes to confession to beg divine forgiveness for his many misdeeds.

And just as Lights wins the fight, regaining his title, his reputation and his future earning power, the show reminds us that there can’t be Happily Ever After with this guy, who’s so rattled by the blows he took from Death Row that he asks his wife this haunting, devastating question:

“Who won?”

Son. Of. A. Bitch.

I don’t know that “Lights Out” was ever a great show – as we’ve discussed over the last three months, there were too many issues with the plot having to move in circles so the rematch wouldn’t happen until the finale, and there were issues with the conception and use of Lights’ family members – but that right there is a great, brutal, “Gift of the Magi” ending right there. Lights gets back everything he ever wanted with his body, but in a way that guarantees he’s slowly but surely going to lose all of it as far as his mind is concerned.

And in going back over the triumphs and tragedies of Lights Leary, “War” gave Holt McCallany one last chance to show what a splendid choice he was as the lead of this series, and to make me lament the idea that the show’s quick failure will make it that much harder for him to find another role this good going forward. He always had the physicality, but he got to show a level of vulnerability and charisma that I had no idea he had, and he kept demonstrating both up through the finale. Lights in confession was a fantastic scene – familiar and almost mandatory, but still so well-written by Leight and played by McCallany, particularly the pain in Lights’ voice as he finally took responsibility for the horrible burden he placed on Daniela, and then of course the tear falling as the priest assures him that God is still with him.

And in going back over the ups and downs of the season, “War” also gave us closure on some, but not all, of the season’s lingering questions. Barry confirms what I suspected all along: the Morales fight was fixed.(*) And though the show never got around to revealing the extent to which Brennan and Word were in cahoots (read the Leight interview for a long explanation of that), we do find out what Brennan’s individual end game was. The United Boxers idea would have provided season two a built-in conflict between Brennan, Barry and Lights, and potentially a role for Lights to play once the series got past the point where it simply couldn’t get away with putting its hero into the ring yet again.

(*) And knowing definitively that it was fixed makes me much more forgiving of the clumsy and tentative choreography of that fight’s second round, particularly since I thought the choreography of Lights-Reynolds III (which was honestly fought between the two boxers, if not honestly run by the ref) was much more convincing. 

But we’ll never get to see that play out, or to see how sincerely Johnny would have tried to make amends now that the Learys were back in power, what Theresa would do once money ceased to be an issue, how Lights would negotiate the world as his dementia increased, etc. There’s more story to tell, but unfortunately no venue in which to tell it.

Lights Leary is again the heavyweight champion of the world; Lights Leary is a 40-year-old man drifting into senility. “Lights Out” was a very good show with room to grow; “Lights Out” was a show too low-rated to get that chance.

It happens. You lace up the gloves and step into the ring, and you have just as much a chance of getting your clock cleaned as you do of knocking out the other guy – and the shadier aspects of the sport make it eminently possible that even when you win, you lose.

So go read the Leight interview, and then tell me, what did everybody else think?

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