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Prodigal Son: “Family Friend” Review

Malcolm (Tom Payne) tracks a serial killer alone

Our little show is growing into something new. We’ve abandoned the shallow premise of a profiler consulting his serial killer father in order to catch other serial killers – which, let’s be honest was never what the show was about. So…what is this show about? Episode 8 certainly opens the peephole a little wider into its heart.

It seems since we’ve dropped Martin, we’ve also dropped the “killer of the week” format. Instead, tonight’s episode is focused on following up with the previous one’s bombshell: there’s another serial killer out there. And let’s take a moment to be clear, most of the murderers up until now haven’t exactly fit the definition of a serial killer as the mass media sees it.

Ah yes, the brilliant, devious, and oft times attractive devils who kill with perfectly presented purpose and only get caught by equally devoted detectives (you know the kind, put their bodies and personal lives on the line, and will say at least once “to catch a killer I must become the killer” or some version of that). Criminal Minds is ending, which is good because it’s well past its prime, but one of the things I’ll miss about it was how it portrayed the unsubs (unidentified suspects) as generally human. People who make mistakes, have flaws, and whose motives are not always so clear cut (though this last part didn’t always happen): these are real killers.

Prodigal Son has been pretty clear that it doesn’t live in reality. From the cuckoo-bananas moments in most episodes, to the legendary status of “The Surgeon”, to the washed-out bleak presentation via cinematography. We’re watching a movie on TV. This means that our current serial killer must be just as brilliant as our previous one was, after all, we already have our overly devoted detective (and yeah, you can swap out profiler for detective and nothing changes). Say hello to the Junkyard killer Martin Whitly’s mentee, he’s a mission-oriented killer, extremely organized, and he knows Malcolm. This gives Malcolm a fun little conflict, especially since Paul expresses knowledge about the girl in the box (you didn’t really think we were done with her, did you?). Can Malcolm prioritize his job as a consultant to law enforcement over his obsessive need for answers about the girl??? Yes, yes he can.

I’ll be honest, my focus on this episode wasn’t necessarily where I think the writers wanted it to be. Malcolm has been overly emphasized as the self-destructively devoted professional, while Martin, and now Paul, has been presented as the wickedly ingenious murderer. I get it. I’m over it. You know who I am interested in??? Ainsley! Yes, our intrepid reporter whose boyfriend took one for the team in the last episode is proving to be way more intriguing than her brother, father, or his mentee. What’s so cool about Ainsley? Ah, well…I do believe Martin’s daughter is going to be his true successor.

Ainsley is a psychopath. At first, she’s completely ignored by the show, then, when she does get mentioned or have screen time, it’s only to further someone else’s storyline (hi, Malcolm and Jessica!), but maybe it wasn’t the show being a dick to her…maybe it was the show not wanting to tip its hand too soon. We find Ainsley in the hospital, but is she staring at her recovering lover in hopes he wakes up? Nope. She’s busy editing the footage that nearly took his life in order to get her piece ready for air. It’s morbidly amusing that when Jin wakes up, he has to get Ainsley’s attention at all. Normally, we expect the loved one (especially a female loved one) to be waiting with bated breath for the patient’s awakening. Not Ainsley. Girl’s got a career to worry about. Jin’s not dead, so what’s the big deal?

That’s a red flag to me. A HUGE one, and it makes you go back and look at how Ainsley has been in the episodes where she’s actually featured. Much in the way Jessica is all about Malcolm, and Malcolm is all about Martin, Ainsley is all about Ainsley. Notice that in every interaction she has with her family she rarely asks about them, or turns the conversation towards them, rather she likes to talk about her. She gets mad at Malcolm for stealing the show at her interview. Now, maybe this is because the rest of the family has kept her at arm’s length. As far as we can see, Malcolm and his mother are very close, but Malcolm and his sister? Well, they talk, but she isn’t bursting into his life with concern nor is he into hers. Jessica clearly loves both her children, but there’s no question who she directs her attention onto the most: Malcolm. And Martin…Martin probably suffers the same bias all men are shown to have – I want my son to carry on my legacy. But, I think Martin might have seen what I saw in the last episode. Ainsley is a psychopath.

Now, a counter argument could be made that my labeling of this devoted career woman is unfair. Is Malcolm a psychopath (I certainly suggested as much in my review of the pilot)? Is Gil? Why is a man allowed to be passionate about their work without being labeled crazy, but not a woman? Is that the lesson this show is trying to teach us? Hey, audience! Ainsley isn’t a psychopath! She’s just a driven career woman who knows she must be ruthless to get anywhere in a man’s world! How dare you! But, here’s the kicker: Psychopaths tend to be fantastic at whatever career they go for specifically because they do not care who they sacrifice to get there. They are ruthless in their pursuit. Isn’t that Ainsley? To be fair, it’s also stupid of me to assume Ainsley has deep feelings for Jin. We don’t know how long the two of them have been an item, maybe she’s not that attached to him. Though, boyfriend or booty call aside, using him both during and after the interview with her father was straight cold-blooded. I think Jin just saved himself a lot of pain.

Other things of note:

Eve Blanchard is back, and while her and Malcolm don’t share much screen-time together the preview for the next episode hints heavily at their finally getting together. I gotta say, I’m still not a fan. Yes, the chemistry is there, and it’s good, but I do not trust her.

A priest getting his hand cut-off is the ultimate portrayal of a good deed being punished, don’t you think? Poor Father Leo (Matt Servitto).

 

 

 

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