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Prodigal Son: “Like Father…” Review

Tom Payne as Malcolm Bright in orange
Is this how we'll be seeing Malcolm Whitly from now on?

Season finales are things of beauty, and this one’s no exception!

Ah, it feels good to be right! I would say I’m not gonna gloat, but that’s a lie. Also, I haven’t been reading other reviews of this show, so maybe someone else figured out what I did about dear little Ainsley. Still, I called it! Ok, ok. Let’s go over some business before I do my review dance of joy…

Season finales have a lot of heavy lifting to do – not nearly as much as series premieres, or finales, but still – they need to close out most if not all the storylines from the season and set up for the next season. Mind you, not a lot of set up, as a general rule a nice cliffhanger with an immediate conclusion in the next season’s premiere is good enough but depending on how long a show has been on, the finale really is key. Openers and closers, kids, that’s where it’s at!

Prodigal Son’s first season finale is a two-parter. The penultimate episode – last week’s case which lead us to the discovery that Nicholas is the real bad guy – has resulted in the following storyline of whether or not Malcolm killed Eve’s killer. Now, I know some of you eagle-eyed internet stalkers have noticed the name of the episode is “Like Father…” and there’s an episode 21 listed on IMDB as “…Like Son.” HOWEVER, my guess is filming got interrupted and they were comfortable ending it on episode 20. Now, back to the review:

A lot happens in this episode, not the least of which are Gil’s potential death, and Nicholas’ definite death. We pick up with Malcolm having a psychotic break in the holding cell at the police station – imagining he’s in gen-pop with his dad, denying murder like a seasoned criminal. Did Malcolm kill the guard/assassin? Nope! Firstly, there’s his strong denial of the crime, and secondly, there’s an obvious larger figure who could easy be cleaning up loose ends. Endicott killed the guard – or had him killed – and owns the DNA testing lab that helped frame Malcolm. Malcolm finds this out while ignoring his house-arrest order, after Jessica gets him out on bail, but proving Endicott did it is still the trick. There’s also the matter of Martin, who has lost all of his privileges and been thrown to the “wolves of gen-pop” with a bounty on his head. Finally, we have Jessica, who has attracted yet another monster to her. She has some wheels turning in that suspicious head of hers, but unfortunately Malcolm is afraid for her and sends Gil to help out.

Long stories short:

Malcolm and Ainsley go to prison only to learn dear killer daddy doesn’t actually have any magical evidence on Nicholas. Martin imparts that his son has to kill the guy in order to protect the family – which should have been a HUGE give away to what was going to happen because, as usual, daddy only addresses his son while his daughter is ALSO a Whitly. I’ve been saying from the start Ainsley’s been getting the cold shoulder from her whole family and that it probably means she’s the real shark in the gene pool, and tonight, well…I’m getting there. Once he knows there’s no evidence coming to exonerate him, Gil advises Malcolm to pack a go-bag and go, go, go! He almost does, but a wistful listen to Eve’s final voicemail leads him to the Girl-in-the-Box, alive and well and hiding out as a vet. Unfortunately, he’s too fine a guy to trade her freedom for his (She’s the one who killed Eve’s killer, understandably).

Gil goes to Nicholas’ to try and “rescue” Jessica only to get himself stabbed, and then rescued by Jessica (stabbed by one of Endicott’s men, not Jessica). And, I’ll take a moment here to congratulate Jessica on a very sensible rescue. Girl manages to incapacitate her captor, sneak out, grab a useful item (keys to Gil’s car), and execute a simple plan without getting lost in the moment (i.e. once she incapacitates the guy who was gonna get rid of Gil, she gets Gil and gets the hell out of there, she doesn’t try to kill the guy or anything else).

Lastly, and most importantly, Ainsley KILLS Nicholas Endicott. This was the moment I was waiting for. The one I predicted back when I said Ainsley definitely has a dark side and might take after her father more than her brother. Though, there is some important context to her murder. Yes, Martin instructs Malcolm to kill Endicott as the only means of saving the family, but Malcolm isn’t actually in immediate danger from Endicott (remember, he was fully prepared to run from the framed murder rap). Jessica is safe at the hospital, which Malcolm also knows, but Ainsley? Ainsley gets kidnapped (it’s honestly not clear how Ainsley and Endicott wound up in the Whitly home)? Either way, she has a pretty good reason to do what she ends up doing. Here’s a fun thread for thought: Malcolm comes to help his sis out, ends up pointing a gun at Endicott but unable to pull the trigger – he just can’t bring himself to do it. He believes in the justice system and evidence. Ainsley? Ainsley is more practical. She’s not like her father in the sense that she’s a cold-blooded killer who plans her murder and draws it out, but she is like her father in that Ainsley acts out of an underlying need to protect her family. Endicott is openly threatening the entire Whitly clan, promising that nothing they can do will stop him. Her instincts tell her that the simplest solution is to end this man’s life. It’s not all that surprising then that while he’s distracted with Malcolm (ignoring her like everyone else in this show has done ALL THE TIME), she takes advantage of the opening and slits his throat. What is a little bit of a shock is the follow-up stabbing.

For a show that has been pretty good about psychology, it will be interesting to see how it explains Ainsley’s behavior. A crime of passion, no doubt, but given her shocked “What happened” response to being covered in blood, one could also argue a stress-induced fugue state that resulted in a violent impulsive action of defense. How cool is that? It’s the whole, “You didn’t need the feather to fly, it was in you the whole time!” kind of thing. Or, nothing like that. I make odd connections I know. And…it was kind of nice that upon hearing the good news Martin’s favor swings to his daughter now.

But, as a finale, I was largely pleased with this one. My predictions about Ainsley came true (not exactly how I predicted, but she did kill someone, so I’m gonna take that as a win). We got some decent cliffhangers for whenever season 2 is due (if I remember right this was one of the few shows that got a season 2 confirmation very early on).

  1. Will Malcolm avoid going to jail?
  2. Will Ainsley kill again?
  3. Will Martin become the ruler of prison?
  4. Will Gil surive?

My predictions? Gil will survive, Ainley will kill again (though probably not till the end of the season), Martin might learn to rule the yard, and Malcolm? Oh he’ll be just fine.

Let’s see if I’m right…

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