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Prodigal Son: Designer Complicity Review

Malcolm and a very dead model

Malcolm got the first two episodes, Mom is getting the third and fourth, but it looks like it will soon be Ainsley’s turn at bat! She shows up in this episode a lot more than the previous three and even gets to close! So, they’re saying there’s a chance!

Episode four is entitled “Designer Complicity” and it opens up on our usual starter of Malcolm as a kid. He’s headed towards that damned box, seeing that damned girl, and of course getting scolded by his damned mother. Last episode left us with the question: How much did Jessica Whitly know??? We don’t have to wait terribly long for an answer, even if it might be a lie. But first…

The serial killer subplot is pretty simple: Someone’s got a stalker! Initially, we’re led to believe the deceased is the object of some erotomaniac’s affections. Poor Tatiana, all she wanted to do was be an Instagram influencer and now she’s blue, covered in sequins, and dead in a tub. Her death is staged to be a recreation of the outdoor photo shoot that launched her “career”, the architect of which is a man named Axel. Axel is her ex, and he gives Malcolm pause when his reaction to learning of her last pose is fear. Not sadness or surprise, but fear. Why would Axel be afraid? Enough about that, there’s a red herring to follow! Since Occam’s Razor points us to Tatiana being the target, Malcolm and company chase down a solid lead by the name of Roger (Daniel London) – he’s a paparazzo who loved Tatiana but didn’t have the delusion she loved him back. He does however provide a much-needed perspective which allows Malcolm to conclude Axel is the one with the stalker. Tatiana was killed because she wanted to break up with him, Roger got hit by a car for taking pictures that would expose Axel, and it’s only a matter of time before another person is knocked-off. Luckily, Axel has a show, unluckily it’s the last time he’ll be in the city for a while, so they obviously have to go RIGHT NOW. But…we don’t have a warrant, no probable cause, still…it’s Malcolm and co! We’re not gonna let a silly thing like the law stop us! And though we’re led to believe Malcolm goes rogue on this sting operation, we learn he didn’t, and the cops were waiting for him to spring the trap the whole time. Yay! Another killer caught. Which leads us back to our real story.

Jessica and Malcolm’s relationship isn’t the best right now – he thinks she lied to him about knowing his dad was a serial killer. Malcolm’s solution is very direct: I’m good at telling when people are lying, let me see the interview tapes from the night my dad was arrested. I’ll know if my mom knew. He asks Gil who rightfully denies him. When Jessica later drops by his apartment, she complains about how horrid it was to see Martin in jail (and yes, shippers, it’s clear she’s still got the hots for him). Malcolm doesn’t care, all he wants to know is if she knew. We find out that Martin agreed to take the favorite son off his visitor list (which seems to displease Malcolm weirdly enough), and we get to see a Dynasty-level slap after said son keeps pushing his mom to tell him the truth. She caps things off with a lovely guilt dig about how Dad is a serial killer but somehow, she’s still the Monster. Nice!

Later we see Ainsley come visit mom, unsurprisingly all Jessica wants to whine about is how her and Malcolm had a terrible fight. “Biblical”. Seriously, lady? Ug, it’s really starting to piss me off how Ainsley gets treated, or rather, mistreated in this series. It’s like the fucking Brady Bunch, everything is Malcolm, Malcolm, Malcolm! Why doesn’t anyone give a shit about Jan!? Ah well, as hinted to earlier, this episode does show some promise that maybe our favorite non-red-headed step-child will get the spotlight soon. This interaction definitely leans that way with Ainsley finally sick of her mother’s bullshit obsession with dad and her brother. Though it is funny that when Jessica at last wants to talk with her daughter about her daughter, Ainsley just straight up leaves. Damn girl, if they throw you the ball and you don’t even play, you can’t really bitch about not being in the game! However, it appears the good doctor’s daughter is itching for an exclusive with her infamous dad. Finding out from Malcolm that Martin watches her broadcasts brings her a cautious optimism (she remarks dad only watches her to get to Malcolm). She closes out this episode by visiting The Surgeon in jail, and refers to him, appropriately enough, as Mr. Whitly – he of course insists she call him Dad. You know the saddest part? He’s genuinely happy to see her – and that’s probably the first time in this whole series someone is happy to see Ainsley. Le sigh.

Cutting back to Malcolm and Jessica’s storyline, it is resolved hazily (which is generally how this show seems to like to operate). See, Jessica is in her closet going through her clothes and happens upon…you guessed it! The red dress that Malcolm not only saw in his memories but mentioned in a confrontation with her previous to this scene. How convenient! OK, not really, but still. The red dress causes Jessica to have a flashback to that night (or maybe some other evening where she also wore the dress?) and a conversation her and Martin have. He’s been doing something, neither of them says it out loud, but we know Martin wishes it wasn’t a compulsion he had, and Jessica warns it will ruin them if he continues. Sounds a lot like serial killing to me, however, it could just as easily be a sex addiction or gambling! Stupid vagueness! Meanwhile, Gil gives Malcolm the interview tape and he sees a shell-shocked Jessica who admits to knowing…that her husband was up to something but she sincerely believed it was an affair. Judging by his tears and hand on the monitor, Malcolm believes her. He stalks her for a change and apologizes to her – they have a nice reconciliation.

A few other details in this episode of note: JT is a social media follower of the victim, this earns him a little bit of heat, but I honestly bring him up mostly for the awesome nickname he gives Malcolm: Sherlock Freud. For once Malcolm tries to initiate a flirtation with our favorite unprofessional M.E. Also, props to the set designers and make-up artists on this one – the girl in the tub, though dead, looks beautiful. Normally, I get real tired of the muted color look a lot of these newer shows seem hellbent on adopting, but for this particular episode, the atmospheres really work nicely. Finally, Malcolm’s therapist is not doing a good job – her patient breaks a glass in his hand and she just lets him walk out (granted she’s a child psychiatrist and shouldn’t even be seeing him, but that’s a whole other can of worms). If he doesn’t wind up institutionalized by the end of this season, I’ll be amazed.

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