Quick spoilers for the season finale of Lights Out:
FX sent out the entire 13-episode season of Lights Out before it premiered, and I watched the entire thing over Christmas break. Back when I reviewed it in January, I obliquely noted the ending: “it all builds toward a stunning final few minutes which … would work either as a season or (if the ratings don’t materialize) series conclusion, and that they serve the stories in and out of the ring equally well.”
Lights Out did not get another season, and in retrospect, I think the finale of the series was actually a more fitting—if bleak—series finale than a season finale.
This is a boxing series, so it needed to end with a title fight. And because it was this kind of series, I suspect a lot of viewers guessed that Lights would win. This isn’t Rocky, after all: a 40-year-old heavyweight who loses his comeback fight is most likely done for, and we had to assume that Lights Out was written with the hope of a second season in mind.
But those last closing few minutes, after the fight, took the show beyond that basic conflict (will Lights win or he lose?) to the theme that has been haunting the show from the beginning (win or lose, what is he doing to himself?). To see him after that uphill climb, victorious but confused, coming around after the fight to ask his wife whether or not he won—that was, so to speak, a gut punch.
And the way Holt McCallany delivers the line, not just the question but his awareness of what it means that he has to ask, cemented the performance he’s given all season: a man who’s given of himself, past the point of safety, strength and wisdom. He has, as they say, left it all on the field (or in the ring)—including his memory. Now deeper in the dementia he’s been hoping to avoid (or deny), he has his title back, he has his money, but he has already lost the victory.
People who have been unable to get into Lights Out have said it’s a too-typical boxing story, and I can see that: the corruption, the danger, the antagonists, we’ve seen before. But it told this story well—the fight scene in the last match was suspenseful (even if you had a hunch Lights would win), especially the on-the-fly change of battle plan once it became clear the fix was in. And it told a story that was not just about boxing but about what people will do for pride, money and family. Our last glimpse of Lights is as a man who’s redeemed his reputation, who’s gotten his family out from under, who’s gotten his title back, but who has been used up in the most extreme way. It’s not the most uplifting victory to go out on, but it feels true to this short-lived series.