Episode Title: "Head Games"
Writer: Justin Goluboff
Director: Phil Abraham
Previously on "Lights Out":
Despite going into his first fight in five years underweight and with an injured eye, Patrick "Lights" Leary (Holt McCallany) went through with it and stepped into the ring with the ferocious Javier ‘El Diablo’ Morales (Gavin-Keith Umeh). In the first round, El Diablo dominated Lights, but between rounds, Lights took comfort in the fact that his wife, Theresa Leary (Catherine McCormack) was in the crowd cheering him on. Lights bolted out of the corner to start the second round and took out El Diablo with a furious finish.
In the aftermath of the match, crooked boxing promoter Barry K. Word (Reg E. Cathey) declared that Lights’ long awaited rematch with Richard "Death Row" Reynolds (Billy Brown) was on the table. Lights even forgave his brother Johnny (Pablo Schreiber) and brought him back into his inner circle. However, Lights’ father, Robert "Pops" Leary (Stacy Keach) told his son that he got lucky in the ring and that he couldn’t beat Death Row. Rather than watch his son get hurt, he resigned as his trainer for the first time in his career.
Lights goes after his father to convince him to stay on as his trainer. He points out that he’s good with Johnny and even Theresa is on board with his comeback. But Pops admits that he can’t watch his son take so many punches anymore and insists that he’s retired. Upstate, Lights seeks out Ed Romeo (Eamonn Walker), a legendary boxing trainer who once trained Death Row. Romeo recognizes Lights immediately and tells him that he’s out of boxing. But since Romeo is working as a boxing trainer for troubled kids, Lights offers to help spar with them for the afternoon.
Impressed enough by Lights’ form and desire, Romeo agrees to take him on a trial basis. But it turns out that Romeo has some issues, as he has a slight breakdown when he leaves his farm for the first time in years. He also immediately walks out of the gym when he sees that Barry K. Word and Johnny are there to greet them. In the car, Romeo says that he followed Johnny’s boxing career and calls him a quitter for not trying to come back from his eye injury. Lights brings Romeo home to spend the night with his family, just as Theresa spars with her oldest daughter Ava (Meredith Hagner) over her prom plans.
The next day, Romeo insists that Pops talk with him before he goes any further. Pops shows him the tape of the El Diablo fight and Romeo instantly realizes that Lights was compensating for his injured eye. Romeo finally agrees to train Lights and radically changes his regimen, including training at night and cutting out the high carb food his sister Margaret (Elizabeth Marvel). Romeo also proves popular with Lights’ wife and daughters by praising Theresa’s handling of Ava (Meredith Hagner) and promising Daniella (Ryan Shane) that he’ll take care of her father. He even encourages Lights and Theresa to continue marital relations in the upcoming weeks, which they both smile at.
But Theresa also catches Romeo in a vulnerable moment in which he tells her how he essentially raised Death Row with his wife but was fired immediately after his first big win. Romeo is convinced that is the ultimate path of anyone he trains, but Theresa insists that Lights will be loyal to him. Margaret, Johnny and Pops seem threatened by Romeo’s increasing influence on Lights and Pops offers to come back as his trainer. But Lights is happy with Romeo and tells them that he’s sticking with him. On prom night, Ava’s date is greeted by both Romeo and Lights, much to his chagrin.
Romeo is also touched by the family’s closeness and insists upon photographing them together. That night, Death Row shows up at Lights’ gym during training and sees Romeo for the first time in years. They have an outwardly civil conversation while staring daggers at each other. Death Row invites Lights outside and tells him that Romeo is unstable and says he should ask him about Chicago. When he gets back inside, Lights tries to blow it off and doesn’t ask, but Ed tells him anyway. Chicago was where Death Row fired him and Romeo shows him the long scars on his arms from his suicide attempt after getting the news.
Boxing is life and death for Romeo and he says that Death Row is now running scared of them. Before they return to training, Lights seems to wonder about his new trainer and perhaps whether he’s made a mistake.
"Lights Out" continues to impress on a week to week basis. After hitting a creative high point last week, it wasn’t clear how the series would maintain momentum for the rest of the season. But Eamonn Walker brought his A-game as Ed Romeo and reinvigorated the entire show. Walker was just electrifying and nearly every scene with Romeo was riveting. There’s something about the gravel tone in his voice that brings that character to such vivid life.
Romeo was a little harsh about Lights’ father, brother and sister seeing him as their meal ticket. But he’s not wrong either. His "how many titties you got?" comment to Lights was bitingly hilarious and true. The series hasn’t put Pops or Margaret in a negative light before, but it’s clear that they’re sponging off of Lights whether they realize it or not. The family may have been legitimately concerned when they tried to cut Romeo out, but they also seemed desperate to maintain their positions in Lights’ life. It also came off as an extremely selfish move from all of them. I expect that from Johnny, but getting it from Pops was a surprise.
There is also the question of just how stable Romeo is. He almost loses his composure a couple of times and as he showed Lights, boxing is everything to him. I really hope that he’s sticking around through the end of the first season, because his presence alone is providing great drama. I even enjoyed watching the new training techniques for Lights, from his new diet to his more energetic fighting style. Romeo really sounds like he knows what he’s doing. But I suspect that he’ll be out at some point and Pops will be back in Lights’ corner.
Even the subplots with Theresa and Ava were more tolerable with Romeo around to encourage them. And Theresa’s attempts to reach Ava actually seemed like good parenting for once. Several of the previous episodes have made Theresa slightly self centered and unlikable because of the way she treated Lights. A simple reminder that she wants the best of her daughters and to help to reach beyond themselves was a refreshing way to make her sympathetic again.
It doesn’t matter if you don’t like boxing, if you’re not watching "Lights Out" then you’re missing out on the best new drama the year. And I can’t wait for the next episode.
Crave Online Rating: 9 out of 10.