Prodigal Son Pilot Review
It’s safe to say that most of us have picked up habits from our parents. Whether they are positive or negative, we are affected by it. But for Malcolm Bright (Tom Payne), things are just a little more complicated. His father is Dr. Martin Whitly (Michael Sheen), otherwise known as the infamous serial killer “The Surgeon.” Let’s get into the Prodigal Son Pilot.
Let’s put it this way: Malcolm wasn’t bringing his father to Career Day at school.
The show is a procedural with a twist, vined with drama, dark comedy, and horror but still remains centric to family. As we learn in the pilot episode, Malcolm is still tormented by his father’s legacy well into his adult life. Before we dive into the family business, let’s do a quick rollover of the characters.
As previously stated, Tom Payne and Michael Sheen star on the show. Also starring are Lou Diamond Phillips as NYPD Detective Gil Arroyo, with his fellow officers Dani Powell (Aurora Perrineau) and JT Tarmel (Frank Harts), and finally, medical examiner, Dr. Edrisa Guilfoyle (Keiko Agena).
Rounding out the Whitly clan is Bellamy Young as Jessica Whitly and Halston Sage as Ainsley Whitly.
The show was created by Sam Sklaver and Chris Fedak.
Onto the Review
The pilot starts in 1998, where a police presence is felt in what looks like an affluent home. A young Malcolm stands in front of his father while the police mill about. He tells him that he loves him, that he will always love him. Dr. Whitly says it’s because they are the same. In the background, Jessica, holding a small Ainsley watches and demands they get him out of there. Malcolm is left standing alone while his father is taken out in handcuffs, manically grinning in the process.
What a scene.
It is immediately striking to me that Jessica seems to harbor no concern for her son. If her husband is a serial killer, why doesn’t she come to the aid of Malcolm? Instead, she allows Martin the chance to talk to him while she protects Ainsley instead. Foreshadowing, maybe?
Malcolm is now an adult, an Agent with the FBI. He’s working a case on a serial killer. The Malcolm we see is not the confused child anymore. He is charming yet quirky, talking about cicadas as they stalk a suspect. He goes breaks off onto his own, finding the suspect who tases him for his efforts and his gun flies out of his hand. Sent into a flashback, we see him as a child asking his father why he kills people. Martin says he doesn’t know, but they can figure it out together.
He awakens a few minutes later, noticing the hostages. The man has the gun trained on him, but through his skills as a profiler, Malcolm talks him down and gets him to lower the weapon. At that moment, the Sherriff comes into the room and kills the man. Malcolm is furious, saying he killed the man in cold blood. The Sherriff tells him to “not get it twisted, son…” and he earns a swift punch to the jaw. It seems that Malcolm has a problem with being called son.
Release from Duty
Unfortunately, the FBI has a problem. In the meeting, they tell him he seems to “suffer from psychotic inclinations, not unlike your father’s” and has narcissistic tendencies. Malcolm has tremors in his hand and complex PTSD. His actions during the last case have led to his termination. Malcolm, understandably upset, drops his gun and badge on the table. He tells them next time they call someone crazy, they should remove their weapon first.
I understand the protocol in this, and how this all very well would lead to a termination of employment, but I do question how the Sheriff went about killing the suspect. If the man were not an immediate threat, Malcolm would not be wrong. As a profiler, it is his job to talk to the suspect and remove the aspect of violence.
In a quick flashback, we see a college-aged Malcolm in his father’s cell, talking about psychopathy and disease. Oddly, there is not a guard in the room. Martin believes it is genius while Malcolm argues with him. Like Malcolm, Martin is quick-witted and smart, even when Malcolm reveals that he will not be coming back for more sessions, as he has applied at Quantico. Furious, Martin lunges at him, but the gate is locked.
Seconds later, Malcolm awakens in bed, a guard in his mouth and his arms in restraints. A safety precaution, perhaps. He exits to his kitchen, where we see a slew of medications and a little self help place card that he seems less than dedicated to.
Side note: the song “I Can See Clearly Now…” is a hilarious song choice for this scene. Nothing like popping five pills while someone sings about being clean. Love the irony!
The overall apartment is dark, mysterious looking. It fits the thought of the show well and certainly adds to the complexity of it. Malcolm owns a bird, and he asks how it slept.
I enjoy the humor of his character, a defense mechanism of sorts.
Malcolm meets with bubbly Ainsley, who tells him being fired from the FBI is a good thing. She wants her brother to take a break, step away from the murders. As they discuss this, she receives a call. She says it is “just work,” some boring blue-collar case. It seems Malcolm doesn’t trust her response. She leaves him, and Malcolm runs into an old friend, Detective Gil.
Malcolm confirms that his sister lied and Gil admits he has a high-profile murder case he needs help profiling. He agrees to help him if Gil doesn’t tell anyone who his father is. And thus things just got crazier!
A Copy Cat
The duo arrives on the scene to find out the victim is a white, unmarried rich woman. They meet with Dani and JT. Gil describes Malcolm as an acquired taste, and in a hilarious exchange of words, Malcolm asks JT if he’s a necrophiliac after describing the victim as his type. JT doesn’t seem amused (but granted, deserved the comment. Not wise to speak that way of the dead, sir).
Eager to look over the body, Malcolm is quick to make a preliminary report. He imagines the crime as the killer and calls it a gift. In those moments, as the case comes together, Malcolm realizes Gil knew something all along. The killer is a copy cat of his father.
On the roof, Malcolm informs Gil that he’s copying the quartet, a series of murders that happened in 1992. He agrees to get started on a more in-depth profile but says he won’t visit his father.
Malcolm returns home to find his mother broke into his apartment. She reveals she knows he’s been fired and is happy about it too. She comes with tea and sleeping pills. The woman seems just as insane as his father, talking about drinking and popping pills like it’s nothing. She clearly favors Ainsley, though she treats him like he is still a child incapable of taking care of himself. Malcolm, unamused by it, does not sink into her.
Oddly, so far she seems like the worse parent, and that’s saying a lot. She even refers to Ainsley as perfect while inviting him over for dinner. Has she always been like this? I hope her character softens over time, or she might be the most frustrating character on the show.