Prodigal Son: “Internal Affairs” Review

Frank Harts,Tom Payne, and Lou Diamond Phillips

The question of whether Malcolm Bright is fit for duty is being officially investigated in tonight’s episode.

One of the more fun tropes of serial killer, true crime, and the like shows is watching psychological masterminds go…for lack of a better term, head to head. Meeting the Moriarty to the audience’s Sherlock. Now, technically, Prodigal Son has set up their premise so that Moriarty is Sherlock’s father, but tonight’s offering is ignoring that in favor of an outside party.

Meet Simon Coppenrath. Simon is a brilliant forensic psychologist who is brought in to evaluate our hero to make sure he can do his job. Gil makes it sound like Simon is a formidable opponent to Malcolm. So, is he?

We start off with a flashback – as always – though, it’s just to the night before. Malcolm and Gil get into a spat, Malcolm takes off and locks himself in a room, and Det. Powel watches everything from afar. We see Malcolm charging up an electroshock machine, while Powel tries unsuccessfully to enter the room, then the power goes out.

Malcolm, we learn, is being evaluated because of this “incident”. And in a series of flashbacks to the events leading to said incident, we discover the case that seems to have cracked Malcolm Bright. Well, technically, we know Malcolm isn’t in a good way since he’s back to work so quickly following his traumatic run-in with The Junkyard Killer. Gil doesn’t want him back so soon, Jessica hopes the investigation gets him fired, but at the very least Dr. Tanaka is happy (how do we know? How about the running gag where she flat out admits it). Malcolm, meanwhile, just wants a new case to distract him, to help him cope.

He finds one in a dead cult member. The title of this episode is pretty nifty given it’s about a cult. “Internal Affairs” is a great layered acknowledgment of so many things going on in tonight’s story. For one there’s Malcolm’s PTSD, for another there’s the secrecy of cults, for a third there’s the complex motivations one has for joining a cult, for a fourth there’s the potentially damaged team dynamic of Malcolm and Gil, and finally, there’s our visiting psychologist, who has his own motives and traumas hiding away, oh yes, and the fact that Malcolm is part of an Internal Affairs investigation! I really love it when titles can be more than just good puns or send-ups to pop culture. As you may recall, the first three or so episodes had titles with layered meanings – I haven’t noticed anything too intense about the more recent though, hence my bringing it up now.

Anyway, Malcolm’s IA bust turns out to be nothing more than the team’s sting to get Coppenrath to reveal himself as a deprogrammer (someone who helps get people out of cults, physically and mentally), and our murderer. Naturally, Sherlock bests Moriarty, and all is right with the world.

In general, this is an alright episode. I was hoping for a better duel of the minds (guess the M’s will remain as Martin makes the best Moriarty to Malcolm’s Sherlock). Perhaps Simon will return in a different capacity – escape jail and prove himself to be an actual formidable opponent, but for the time being, he’s pretty blah. That’s not entirely his fault though, Malcolm isn’t exactly at his best. His wounds are practically bleeding out on the interview table – he has hallucinations frequently throughout the investigation. And yet, he is able to manipulate his interrogator enough to reveal himself as the villain.

I will say, in favor of this episode, that Gil and Malcolm are for once honest with each other. The night of the “incident” Gil voices his concern about Malcolm only to have his surrogate son accuse him of being one of the monsters that made him. Malcolm later takes this back, but Gil recognizes his part in escalating Bright’s less than stellar mental health. We also finally see Malcolm admit that he’s not doing well, and that he is suffering from trauma. Gil is happy to hear this because as any addiction program will teach you: “admitting you have a problem is the first step”. Gil sees Malcolm’s ability to rationally, and honestly, evaluate himself as a promising step, and even goes so far as to insist Malcolm take a vacation. Even more surprising? Malcolm agrees!

We do know this vacation isn’t for long – previews for next week’s episode show Malcolm in a bright white suit taking on a new case. Ah well…on to the next trauma!

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2 comments

  1. I have to quit watching “Prodigal Son” even though I like the actors, especially Lou Diamond Phillips. The script is good. The problem I have is It’s Too Dark! Someone please turn on the lights so that I can see the actors and their surroundings. I realize that the script is dark, but for God’s sake turn on the freakin’ lights.

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