If you were able to check out FX's new drama Lights Out last night, you probably threw in the towel somewhere halfway through the episode. I don't blame you. KO'd by egregious exposition, iffy acting, and stilted dialogue, the pilot episode didn't give anyone confidence to stick around for the entire series.
Thankfully, FX sent us a few episodes in advance, and after pouring through the first three, I'm encouraging everyone to get off the mat and step into the ring once more with the show, because it gets much more interesting in Week 2. It won't be FX's best series, but it's certainly better than the first episode would have you believe.
Most of the pilot was everything you'd expect from a story about a recently retired boxer. Patrick "Lights" Leary (Holt McCallany) is battling health issues after years of getting his brain mashed to a pulp, he's contemplating getting into the ring for one last fight, and he's broke. Blah, blah, blah. We've seen that countless times before. But the final moments of the pilot episode, easily the best of the hour, opened the door to the potential of the series. We step through that door in Episode 2, the best of the first three episodes.
I had my doubts about McCallany—a prototypical "I've seen that guy before!" actor who has had parts in Fight Club and CSI: Miami—being able to carry the show. At first glance, his acting seems too level, too one-toned. But he and his character gradually become more likable, particularly in later episodes. Patrick suffers from dementia, and I'm wondering if McCallany is underplaying the role to show those ill effects, because when Patrick needs to turn on the charm (at public appearances or on television), he does so to great effect. It's almost as if Patrick is able to push the dementia aside and pretend to be someone else when the situation calls for it.
But the main attraction of Lights Out is the world of boxing. And while it gets some things wrong, like the ferocious Rocky-style boxing itself, they get the stuff outside of the ring right. The underbelly of boxing is exposed for what it is: a dying sport full of corruption, back-room deals, and athletes speeding toward a dead-end in the pursuit of glory.
But boxing only serves as the arena for the heart of this story: a man doing what he needs to do to provide for his loved ones. In a sense, the show qualifies as Breaking Bad-light: Patrick is a protagonist hiding a health problem from his family, and he's forced to engage in illegal activities to support his family. Only instead of cooking meth, he's is breaking arms.
Even with its improvement in later episodes, Lights Out won't be for everyone. It runs at a slow pace, but it looks like it's headed for a haymaker of a finish. Consider the pilot the result of growing pains.
What did you think of the premiere? Are you willing to stick with the show to see it improve in Episode 2?