HOLLYWOOD—Look, I had no plans to watch the new FOX series “Prodigal Son,” but because of a fluke of circumstance I watched the pilot episode and found myself immediately hooked. Why? It’s very difficult for me to describe the series. Is it a drama? Somewhat. Does it have comedic moments? Somewhat. It is dark? Without a doubt, which leaves me calling it a dramatic thriller with comedic moments, and that is something rare you see in the TV world people.
With that said, the star of the series is Tom Payne, who portrays Malcom Bright, a criminal psychologist who works with the FBI. You might be saying to yourself I know that name. That’s because Payne was a major player on the AMC series “The Walking Dead” where he portrayed Jesus. Yes, he is very unrecognizable, when he is clean shaven. The one thing I love about “Prodigal Son” based off of the first episode is that Malcolm is a layered character; this guy has some demons in his past and it seems like while learning a lot, there is still plenty more to learn about him.
So who is at the core of Malcom’s issues? It is his father, Dr. Martin Whitly (Michael Sheen). Martin is a notorious serial killer whose persona and presence is haunting. Sheen is sensational in the role because you have no idea of this character’s motive or intent. At moments it feels genuine and at times you know there has to be an angle behind Martin’s actions. There is no doubt that Malcom and Martin have a strong bond, but the question I want to know is rather Martin groomed his son into becoming a potential killer.
Why would I pose such a question? Malcolm suffers from anxiety, amongst other issues including strapping himself to his bed while he sleeps. So is he a sleepwalker also? It appears so. I mean even his mother, Jessica (Bellamy Young), jokes about her son’s issues, as does his sister Ainsley (Halston Sage), who is a reporter and not a very good liar according to her brother.
Malcolm is quite intelligent and he works for the FBI. He has a skill set for profiling serial killers, but keeps things mum as he doesn’t want to raise suspicions around him. After a hunt for a serial killer nearly goes wrong, Malcolm finds himself fired. The audience can absolutely see hints of Martin’s antics in Malcolm like the explosive and emotional outbursts he has at times.
Our protagonist isn’t sure what he plans to do with his life now that he is out of a job, but word of a potential serial killer on the loose peaks his interest. Why? His pal Detective Gil Arroyo (Lou Diamond Phillips), who Malcolm has an interesting past with, requests his assistance; we’ll talk more about that later. Gil needs help to locate a serial killer who is mimicking Dr. Martin Whitley’s crimes. Even though Malcolm tries to remove himself from this dark world he works in, he is immediately drawn back into.
The audience soon learns that Malcolm has not spoken to his father in over 10 years, and has been warned by his sister and mother to stay away from dear ole dad. This is where that interesting dichotomy between father and soon comes back into play. They are apart, but these two want to be in each other’s orbit. I mean when Malcolm came to see his father, Martin was giddy to say the least.
Martin delivered a few quips, and like I said this is a guy that is nearly impossible to read; I can’t tell when he is telling a lie, being sarcastic or telling the truth. I was certain Martin was helping this alleged serial killer, but then at the same time I felt he was genuinely telling the truth, but who is to say he didn’t manifest this chaos to bring his son back into his orbit? “Prodigal Son” delivers satire in a way I have not seen on TV in a long time. It’s wicked, but with genius touches of dark humor that are hard to ignore.
Authorities thought they identified the killer, only to discover that it wasn’t the killer at all. I mean witnessing that moment of Malcolm using that ax to chop of the hand of that victim to rescue them from being blown to bits hinted at his dark side people. Martin did indeed provide his son with the details needed to nab the killer, but how would he know. That is the question the viewer keeps going back to over and over again if you ask me.
Malcolm confessed his tie to one of the most notorious killers of all time to Dani (Aurora Perrineau) and JT (Frank Harts), who wondered just who did Gil invite into their orbit and rather he can be trusted or not. During the final moments of the pilot episode, the audience learned that it was MALCOLM who turned his father into the authorities, and saved Gil from becoming one of his father’s next victims.
So this further explains Malcolm’s bond to his dad; he feels guilty for what he has done, but at the same time all these haunting images from Malcom’s past makes me question if Malcolm was more disturbed as a kid than we know? That is something to think about people. “Prodigal Son” airs Mondays at 9 p.m. on FOX.