The bittersweet final episode of Lights Out, “War” used boxing as a metaphor to expose some deeper truths about the society we live in.
If the show, which has been cancelled, didn’t make it because “people don’t want to watch a show about boxing,” as some have said, that says more about the people out in TV-Land than it does about Lights Out.
As “War,” which featured the final showdown between heavyweight rivals “Lights” Leary and current champion Richard “Death Row” Reynolds brought home, those born on the bottom of the economic ladder often have to engage in a literal fight for their own survival in a way that those born in greater circumstances can paper over, but never truly transcend, with money and manners.
Patrick “Lights” Leary came from the lower classes of New Jersey, and having gotten out, was now in danger of falling back and taking his wife and children with him. Death Row, as we saw in an earlier episode, also came from the projects in Coney Island, Brooklyn, and like Lights, was desperate never to return.
Each man is then pitted against the other in a brutal, bloody battle for economic survival and sovereignty. And the outside forces never stop messing with them, as when Lights is informed before the big fight by oily promoter Barry K. Word, who wants a Reynolds victory, that the previous comeback bout he won by knockout was actually fixed. Only with help from Pops, his trainer and father, is Lights able to overcome this blow to his confidence.
The choice of Creedence Clearwater Revival’s underdog anthem “Fortunate Son” for Lights’ ring walk was perfect, summing up the odds Lights was fighting against, not only in fighting his younger, stronger foe, but in his life’s battles in general. Only by using Pops’ new strategy for dealing with Reynolds – rope-a-dope and let him punch himself out – does Lights emerge victorious.
Yet Lights’ is a Pyrrhic victory, as what doesn’t kill him makes him richer, but not stronger. The show leaves us to ponder at what cost Lights has regained his title and his riches, as the signs of pugilistic dementia that have been a thread running through the series become quite pronounced after the vicious fight.
“Theresa, who won?” a confused Lights is forced to ask his wife in a quiet moment before the post-fight press conference: a question with many answers, none of them wholly satisfactory.
Lights Out did not go gently into that good night.