“Lights Out”, “Infight” Synopsis/Review
Every scary thing on earth has got a weakness.
**BIG SPOILERS AHEAD**
Everywhere I turn it seems people all but have this show dead and buried.
It’s an obvious cliche, but when things seem hopeless is when a real fighter turns them in his favor.
It deserves better. Spread the word.
Away we go…
Ed Romeo continues to train Lights in his unique way and continues to ostracize some family members while purposefully kowtowing to others.
In last time’s “Head Games“, Lights hires the strange and reclusive Romeo after his father refuses to train him for the upcoming rubber match with Reynolds. Leary becomes enamored with his new trainer, his father, brother and sister aren’t comfortable with it and even Reynolds warns Leary to be vigilant when it comes to Romeo.
Revelations and solid nods to true life abound in “Infight“.
We see Lights, Romeo and youngest daughter Katie (she’s back!) at an aquarium. Romeo is waxing poetically about the various things swimming around. Katie is afraid of the sharks. Romeo, right on cue, takes the opportunity to ease the little girl’s fear, telling her that “every scary thing on earth has got a weakness” and that the more you study an opponent, the less scary they become.
Cut to heavyweight champ “Death Row” Reynolds filming a scene for a reality series to promote his upcoming match with Leary. This is an obvious ode to HBO’s fine “24/7“: a run of shows that air weeks leading up to a major bout that give you “full access” to the fighters training, families, team and inner thoughts.
It’s been an effective way to not only promote the fights but to also court both casual and non-fans by giving them the chance to form an emotional bond with the participants.
Reynolds – a modern, media-savvy athlete – plays to the camera perfectly, strolling through Coney Island and conversing with the series host about growing up in the neighborhood, how it’s where he learned to fight but how later “learned how to be a man”.
Director yells cut, you immediately commence with eye-rolling and the scene succeeds in its effectiveness.
Barry and Johnny are both there but Lights is not and we learn he was scheduled to be. Word, Reynolds and the director are all frustrated by his absence. Johnny attempts to downplay his brothers non-participation but no one is buying it.
Reynolds is particularly frustrated, blaming it all on Romeo’s influence.
“I can smell his mind games a mile away”, he says. And indeed, we will later learn that Leary’s new trainer is in fact exactly what is behind his reluctance to be a TV star.
Romeo and Leary are still training in the dead of night. Pops seems to be totally resigned, telling Light’s he’s in good hands. Johnny on the other hand isn’t surrendering so easily (partly because the TV filming scene ends with Word serving him a court summons, saying that Lights’ absence is breach of contract).
He stops by this night to speak with Lights and – in a storyline I had totally forgotten about – drops off his brother’s newly repaired, classic muscle car (you’ll remember a few episodes back that Leary had been in an accident while driving a drunk woman home one night after a night out with Johnny).
Johnny takes more verbal jabs at Romeo (in a brilliant moment, Johnny sarcastically refers to him as “Othello“: I’ve mentioned before that Eammon Walker is a classically trained, English actor and won good reviews for his portrayal of the Shakespeare character in a modern re telling in 2001). Lights defends his trainer and Romeo comes out and orders him back in the gym.
Johnny and Romeo really, reeeeeaaaalllllyyyyy don’t like one another, and by episode’s end, we’ll see just how much.
Cut to what rates as perhaps my favorite scene this season, primarily again due to the writers going out of their way to pay homage to the real sport and it’s protagonists when in reality, they probably don’t need to.
Romeo’s in the Leary kitchen – again he’s overseeing Lights’ diet – drying dishes with daughter Daniella. She mentions that when her dad first hired him, she’d googled him to learn more about him.
She says she’d learned that the trainer had seen and worked with some of the greats: (Roberto) Duran, Sugar Ray (Leonard) and Ali.
Romeo tells her he’d seen Ali only once: his sad, lone KO loss to then champion Larry Holmes at the age of 38 in Las Vegas.
“One of the saddest sights I ever saw”, he says.
And Daniella, choking up, replies “and no one ever stopped him”.
And thus, we return to Daniella’s fear of her father getting harmed, her knowledge of his dementia prognosis and – Morales KO or no – she’s still not down with all this.
She’s also been doing her homework. She lists off other names: Meldrick Taylor, the Quarry brothers.
All victims, like Ali, of pugilistic dementia, her father’s very own affliction.
*note: there was earlier on a dream sequence where Leary seeks a second opinion from another doctor. Part of me wishes we’d seen him actually try it. I think it’d be a good wrinkle to further complicate matters with one doc telling him to go for it and the other standing by his initial diagnosis.
Boxing fans well know the tragedy attached to those names.
The Quarry brothers, Mike, a light heavyweight and Jerry, a heavy, were outstanding boxers in the 1970s.
Jerry in particular was a tough customer: fast hands, solid chin, great left hook and good counter puncher,
Unfortunately though, he shared that era with names like Foreman, Frazier, Norton and Ali.
He took blows from most of them. More than one boxing expert has stated that had it been any other decade, Quarry would have become champion.
He would go on to fight as recently as 1992.
In the end, he could no longer feed or dress himself. He would die in the care of his elderly mother in 1999.
Brother Mike died similarly in 2006.
Meldrick Taylor, an Olympic gold medalist and electrifying 140 pound pro, wowed the boxing world in the late eighties and early nineties.
Good punch, great heart and the fastest hands I’ve ever seen bar-none.
But his career all but ended St. Patrick’s day of 1990 when he faced off against the greatest of all Mexican warriors, Julio Cesar Chavez, in an epic twelve rounder. An incredible fight that Taylor appeared to have the edge in.
But near the end of the twelfth, Chavez sent him to the canvas. He made it up before ten but the referee judged him too damaged to continue and stopped the fight.
There were two seconds left.
Mentally or physically, the poor kid was never the same.
He would go on to fight for years, into this century.
And lest you believe Daniella is being overly dramatic, HBO would go on to document the fight in their great series “Legendary Nights“.
A memorably disturbing scene would show an interview with Taylor done in 1990, contrasted with one of him shot a few years ago.
So slurred and disjointed are the fighter’s words in the latter, HBO would use sub titles.
Seeing it, you can see how it could utterly terrify Daniella.
Romeo again reassures her that he will keep her dad safe, that he’s teaching him how not to get hit at all.
In the end, a scene that doesn’t paint my beloved sport in the best light, but dems’ da facts.
This episode also gives us increasing access into Reynolds’ world. We see him at home, doing yoga, interacting with his wife, lovingly cuddling his infant son.
We later see him working out in a pool, and kissing and caressing what appears to be his assistant/secretary.
The scene further asks the question if Romeo’s harsh judgment of Reynolds – his former protege – is right or wrong.
Totally enamored with Romeo’s training regimen last week, this week we see Lights slowly beginning to bristle under Romeo’s unique methods: training only at night, being told what to eat and drink (“Ed doesn’t believe in cheese” he tells Johnny when the two sneak away for pizza), alienating his sister and brother, not incorporating sparring and now, completely isolating Leary from the promotional end of things.
On average, a successful fighter as a rule doesn’t particularly enjoy the press conferences (Tyson would sometimes fall asleep), the talk shows, the interviews, the photo-ops, the staged conflicts between them and their opponent, etc.
But they are made well aware that as crucial to the bout itself is making the public aware of it, and it can also serve as a platform to bring them into the mainstream.
Johnny is upping the pressure for Lights to contribute to the Reynolds fight promotion – particularly the reality series – as Word ups the pressure on him.
“You think you get paid ten million dollars just for taking punches?”, Johnny asks him. Lights again dismisses him, telling Johnny that Romeo is adamant that the promotional BS is persona-non-grata.
Johnny being Johnny, plays the blood-guilt card.
“Nice knowin’ ya” he says with a hang-dog expression and, true to form, Lights gives in to his little brother and arranges to be filmed for the reality series behind Romeo’s back.
Leary, again showing that he is in fact an accomplished liar, sends Romeo on a family errand so the film crew can come to the Leary gym.
All goes well (outside of Reynolds, who in an act of retribution, doesn’t show up as scheduled: “I hate boxers” says Word dryly in the episode’s funniest line) until, of course, Romeo shows up.
He sees the cameras, Word, Johnny, and is pissed.
Like psycho pissed.
He screams, berates Johnny, orders everyone out, shoves the cameramen.
He also accusses Lights of “trying to sabatoge our relationship”.
Did we mention this guy is hands-on?
Again, his bile towards Johnny is impressive. It’s summed up wonderfully in an earlier scene in which Romeo questions as to why Lights would sign with Word, that he thought Leary would be the last person to sign with the nefarious promoter.
“It’s a long story”, Lights offers.
“I bet it’s not”, Romeo counters.
There are other notable character developments going on in “Infight”: Pops is totally resigned, even supportive of Romeo taking his position. He’s gone on vacation fishing and tells Lights during a phone call that when the fight’s over, they should have a long talk.
Also, a couple episodes ago, Daniella has an argument with her mother where she mentions never seeing her family in England.
Romeo invites Theresa to the gym to watch Lights train, indicating he’s aware that the nighttime training schedule is limiting their time together,
And in an odd scene, the two share a gym/picnic lunch together that Theresa doesn’t appear to find at all strange.
Romeo asks about her upbringing, and then Theresa tells of how she grew up in beautiful, small, English villiage. Her father was a prominent doctor.
He was also a thief and philanderer, robbing the hospital, causing patient deaths.
Theresa tells him she moved to the states and changed her name.
She becomes distressed. Romeo holds her hand, consoling her.
At that moment, Leary comes in from his run.
Later, during a tense training session, Romeo asks if his solo time with the Mrs. is bothering Lights.
“Maybe”, he replies.
Romeo then spins it into a shaman/Jedi/Miyagi-like diatribe of how it made Lights tense, how like when his father trained him and continually yelled at and berated him that it made him tense and unsure. That he’s glad Lights walked in when he did.
Outstanding work here by Holt Mccallany as Lights: you can see him thinking to himself oh God, whatever!
Eventually, distraught from Romeo’s strange behaviour and methods, feeling the heat from Word and Johnny as well as guilt over his dad’s self-imposed exile, Leary seeks the counsel of his parish priest.
The priest has been a convincing, recurring character but it’s somewhat surprsing that Lights would view this as a conflict of faith.
Regardless, in the end, the priest gives him the old tried and true advice: “By the time someone comes to me with a question, they usually already have the answer”.
Romeo is out.
He pleads with Leary, apologizes for his behaviour, attemps to spin things. Leary is adamant.
“I feel controlled”, Lights says.
“I’m your trainer”, Romeo replies.
“And I’m a grown man”.
This leads to teary goodbyes to Daniella – who now worries even further for her father’s safety – and Katie, who had grown to really like the trainer (is this Ava’s Chuck Cunningham week? Not only not seen but never even mentioned??).
Leary drives Romeo to the gym to pick up his things. Romeo goes in alone and finds Johnny gleefully packing up his stuff.
Words are exchanged.
Romeo: You knew I was on to ya, didn’t ya?! That is why you wanted me out of the picture from day one.
Johnny: Get out of my gym!
Romeo: You will not STOP, until you bleed your brother dry!
Johnny: WE DON’T WANT YOU ED!
Of course this leads to a (rather fake looking) nasty brawl (for at least at one time being a heavyweight prospect, Johnny sure gets his ass kicked a lot). Romeo begins choking Johnny as Lights rushes in to break it up .
Johnny – sensing Romeo has every intention of killing him – reaches into the desk and grabs either a scissors or letter opener at the very moment Lights jumps on Romeo to pull him off.
Leave it to Johnny to stab the wrong guy.
“I’m cut!” yells Lights as he staggers away.
Chaos: suddenly Johnny and Romeo are a team as the source of their mutual envy lays bleeding profusely.
“Johnny get the car!”, Romeo yells.
Out with Leary in Romeo’s arms.
“I got ya”, Romeo tells him.
Can anyone say Tony Soprano and Uncle Junior?
- If Romeo is indeed gone, and Pops is pulling em’ in down south, who will Lights turn to for training?
Suppose the old man has his own agenda at work here? What if the whole nice guy/good for you son/Romeo is a great choice/ deal, is simply a front?
That the wise, old trainer knows his fighter – or more specifically his child - and that Lights would eventually buckle under Romeo’s weird methods and come crawling back, thereby giving the father full control?
- What does this mean for the Reynolds character?
Will Romeo’s firing, more or less validating Reynold’s earlier warnings to Leary, bond the two more (the previews for next week certainly don’t suggest that)?
And speaking of “Death Row”, what are we to make of his scenes this week? One of a loving, at peace, husband and father and one of an arrogant, cheating sports star.
- Did I already ask what’s become of Ava?
She’ll be back. Just missed her because Meredith Hanger was lights out in last week’s “Head Games”.
- Another cute acknowledgement this week is the introduction of the “24/7″-like reality show.
Actor Liev Schreiber is the voice over/narrator of the HBO program.
He’s also the brother of Pablo Schreiber, who of course portrays Johnny.
- Is it somewhat surprising that the Romeo story arc lasted only two episodes?
I’m going to miss Eammon Walker (Kareem Said forever!). It seems this was all building to something more (which it still may be). We knew that the character was troubled, but would a guy so prone to violent outbursts be put in charge of helping troubled youth?
You also wonder how many of his perceptions – Johnny is scum, dad and sister are bad influences – will come to be true?
And will his absence swing the Leary family pendulum back? Will dad, Johnny and Margaret now be placated and wife and kids – who were swooned by Romeo - now be apprehensive about Light’s resumed career?
“Lights Out” airs Tuesdays at 9pm central on FX.