Episode 3 - The Shot
6 March 2012
Synopsis: Lights helps train the Leary gym's best prospect Omar for his first title shot. Johnny has to chase down Barry Word to secure the fight. Lights stays at home with his family for his birthday while the fight takes place.
The Good: Sporting contests make for really solid TV scripts. The natural relatable emotions which flow from the buildup to the big match make for a good flowing story with a natural conclusion. Fights are especially good because the actual contest can be shown on screen in great detail.
Omar's title fight provided good fodder for this episode and the natural curiosity to see if he could win kept me glued to the screen until the final shot. Along the way there were some good moments (see Best Moment) as we saw the lengths the Leary men had to go to to secure the match. Johnny's flirtation with Word's assistant was entertaining and his pleading to Word gave us an insight into his power. In the corrupt match-making world Word has a lot of power and uses it to get what he wants (see the Unknown). Doubtless Word will have a more prominent role as we build up to Lights' inevitable return to the ring.
Johnny was also able to point out the dubious moral lines that Lights is drawing. When it comes to protecting his family Lights will clearly do what he needs to but in the world of boxing he looks down on the murky details. He remembers how hard he had to work to become champion and is uncomfortable seeing Omar pushed before he is ready and using meth to meet the weight requirements. I also liked Johnny throwing in the white-black matchup he was offering as being an advantage in drawing interest. If you are going to make a gritty drama then don't hold anything back.
The story of Omar was simple but effective. He is talented but cocky and Lights has to work hard to get him mentally ready (again see Best Moment). Although thanks to Rocky the training montage is a familiar sight it still served a good purpose. It showed us Omar learning to reign himself in and take important instruction. In the end though he lost because he was too cocky and the Leary men will suffer as a consequence.
When Lights bangs on his daughter's door we got to see flashes of the past two episodes violent outbursts at the same time. I thought that was a much better demonstration of the threat he presents than some of the actual violence. It was a demonstration of what his frame and psychology have been built to do and placing it in the domestic context gave it that dangerous, frightening edge.
The Bad: Of all the ways Omar could have lost I thought this was the least interesting. He survived ten rounds being disciplined and then on the verge of victory began showboating. He then took two blows out of nowhere and was knocked out. It was heavily signposted that that would be his downfall and so it was. It's not a big deal but considering the many variations of that that could have been chosen it felt like the least interesting.
Sometimes I will compare one show with another in "The Bad." My goal is to demonstrate why a show doesn't score higher than it otherwise might. Although I have little to say that was actually "Bad" about this episode it was inferior to similar episodes of Spartacus: Blood and Sand's first season. The gladiators who fought in the arena had better developed characters than Omar and the consequences of their fights had much more obvious emotional consequences for those watching them. Lights Out is a drama more solely focused on Lights than Spartacus was even on Spartacus himself. However those touches could still have made this episode better than it was.
The Unknown: Words tells Johnny that there's only one thing he wants and soon Johnny has his fight. Has Johnny signed something agreeing Lights to a rematch?
Best Moment: When Lights decides to try harder to get through to Omar he takes him into a storage cupboard and turns the lights off. He reminds him that when he goes into the ring all he will have is what is in the room. As in just himself. He points out that he has had easy fights so far and that his meth use means he is cheating. He points out that his house, car and even friends will be gone if he loses. He finally gets through to Omar that if he doesn't take this fight seriously he will have nothing left.
It was a really good scene and showed off how good drama comes from simple emotions and truths and not a large budget. Top stuff.
Conclusion: This was a fun episode, giving us something else to enjoy as the rematch builds up.
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