Episode 4 - Bolo Punch
28 March 2012
Synopsis: Theresa realizes the extent of Lights' financial woes when her credit card gets confiscated while shopping. She has also pledged a large donation to a church charity and suddenly has to deal with her reduced resources. Johnny has to go argue with Word about Omar's cut of the fight while Omar pulls a gun out in the gym demanding his money. Johnny also lost money gambling on Omar's fight and now the men he bet with want to kill him. Lights talks to Brennan about settling his debts and manages to find an unusual solution.
The Good: I liked the development of the story around Theresa and Johnny.
We learn that Johnny has a past with both gambling and drugs. He attempted to go for the quick fix to the family's problems by betting fifty thousand dollars on Omar winning. He is a smart guy, see him haggling with Word over every expense in the fight payout, but he has no discipline. I liked seeing his reaction to being beaten up. He swaggered into the gym acting cockier than ever. Like his father he has learnt to cover up all his problems and he seems to have had a lot of practice.
Lights' reaction to him was telling too. Upon learning that another fifty thousand has been flushed down the toilet he looks disappointed but not in the least bit surprised or angry. Lights is used to bailing out his little brother. He takes pride in looking after everyone in his family.
This is not the first episode we have heard Robert ask Lights why he is always so hard on Johnny. It's a great line actually. As the father of two sons he loves them equally and would naturally protect his younger less successful son from the jibes of the more successful older one. Yet we can now see why Lights is quick to point out Johnny's failings. He is the good son, his discipline saved the family and keeps their business running, where as Johnny has cost them a lot. It's only natural that he would tire of hearing his father praise Johnny when he doesn't know the whole truth.
Meanwhile Theresa gets put fully in the picture about the family's finances. This felt about the right time to do that as it could have gotten annoying seeing her flailing in the dark. I did like that she assumed Johnny was the problem. Lights has done such a good job of acting like nothing was wrong that she would assume their money was safe.
I liked her reaction to the news, after the initial shock she begins to gather her jewelry and expensive clothes and says she can live without them. Lights didn't marry a stripper or gold digger, he married someone who came from an average background like him and she sets her mind to living with less. Then we see them in church having to sit through the humiliating spectacle of being praised by the community for pledging money they don't have. It was a good scene to show the consequences go much deeper than cars and houses.
The way the show portrayed the decline of boxing against the rise of mixed martial arts was very sensible. It is yet another reason why the Leary family are struggling and this shows the writers are very much plugged in to the way the culture has developed.
The Bad: Last episode the writers did a good job building up Omar's fight and the consequences it would have. This week's fight was very poorly built up. The details were all wrong and no time was given to the potential consequences of the fight or even how it would work.
Let's start with the plot points. Hal Brennan is a local thug kingpin right? The men Johnny places his bet with respect Brennan or more likely fear him or indeed work for him. Either way they won't kill Johnny without Hal's approval. Hal likes Lights and still owes him money right? So the simple solution should be that Hal deducts Johnny's bet from the amount he owes Lights. Simple, clean and effective.
Instead we get the silly idea that Hal will bankroll a double or nothing gamble on Lights beating one of the thugs in an MMA fight. For that to be plausible we need to establish that either Hal is a huge and I mean huge fan or that he thinks he can make even more money off a private fight through gambling. This is implied by the bets being taken at ringside but it needed to be spelt out or this looked like a really flimsy bit of writing.
Then we needed some build up for the MMA contest. As we didn't see Lights taking it seriously why should we? He didn't train, he didn't ask any questions, we had no sense of what the consequences would be if he lost. So essentially there was no drama in the fight at all.
Worse than that though, there was no referee nor were the rules ever discussed. Again it weakened the spectacle not to know what was possible and made it difficult to tell what options Lights had. The episodes title implies that the punch which Lights won with was a "bolo" or lucky strike. If so that was far from clear. It looked to me like he deliberately punched the guy in the throat, knowing it would cause maximum damage. That is illegal in some forms of MMA which again brings the rules issue into question.
Finally we have Omar who returns from his defeat filled with anger and denial. That was understandable but later he returns to see Lights and in the course of three minutes goes from denial to quitting the sport. It was far too quick to have any impact or be believable.
The Unknown: The actual property investment which seems to have cost Lights most of his money wasn't discussed at length. I suppose it would drag down the pace to explore it in detail.
Best Moment: Lights is sad to have to ask but he is in such dire straits that he asks his Dad if he has any savings. Even sadder comes the look when his father reveals that his money is fine, Johnny is looking after it!
Conclusion: I think the episode tried to achieve too much and the show is too focused on Lights himself. Omar could have had half an episode here to show us the story of him quitting boxing. Instead it was blown off in a couple of minutes. Instead we got a meaningless fight which Lights won, pushing us to care about only one thing - seeing him fight Reynolds again. The show doesn't seem concerned with making Johnny or Theresa characters who can carry the narrative. That means all we are asked to care about is Lights the fighter.
We have eight more episodes before the rematch will happen and realistically I don't think the show will sustain interest throughout each one. With ratings being low I think we are looking at one season and one fight for Lights. I hope the writers have got some good material for the buildup because it's going to need to carry the season.
Add your comments on this episode below. They may be included in the weekly podcasts.