Prodigal Son: “Pied-A-Terre” Review

Ah in every great series dedicated to a psychologist, psychiatrist, or forensic profiler, there’s always a Freud episode. Welcome to Prodigal Son’s.

Freud episodes, much like their namesake, are never subtle. Take this one: Malcolm has his usual nightmares about the past only to wake up in another dream that takes on a more sinister tone. A (presumably) naked woman is in his house and, after taking one of his katanas, heading towards his bed. He knows this is a dream, knows he can’t stop it, though he keeps trying, but then things get kinky. The girl (also gonna assume she’s the one from the box) crawls under his bed and starts stabbing upwards. There’re a few side blows, but the two Freud would single out is the one to the crotch – close to – and the one through the chest. Malcolm explains to his therapist that it represents all of his fears culminating, but she has a different take: Malcolm’s horny.

Yep. That’s Freud. If you’re not horny, you’re dying. Death and sex, those are the two drives in everyone’s life. This episode has them both.

Malcolm’s shrink’s suggestion that he focus on more normal drives doesn’t exactly go as planned. He meet-cute runs into Eve and decides to set up a date – which would be OK if he weren’t a profiler and you know…ABP: Always Be Profiling. JT does warn his wife (hey, new JT fact: he’s married!) that it’s not a parlor trick. Why doesn’t anyone ever listen when a profiler tells them “You don’t want to be profiled”? Ah well, people don’t listen and Malcolm profiles Eve which of course drives her away (not for long, sorry Edrisa shippers). Jessica learns about Malcolm’s run-in and immediately tries to force her way into helping him with his date – perhaps as a means of distracting herself from the media which is “attacking” her by covering her infamous husband and his protégé. Poor Jessica…see, dead people? Some folks have real problems!

Speaking of dead people…The other half of our Freud episode is of course death! We’ve got a murder, and a sex club, because…Freud! A man is murdered in bed, after a passionate night; naturally it’s not his place or his wife. It’s someone else’s wife, and someone else’s wife killed him. This does eventually lead to Malcolm in a compromising situation with a “player” that is appropriately played for laughs. Who killed the man? Who kidnapped the “player” Malcolm almost has sex with? Don’t worry, it doesn’t really matter, as I’ve said multiple times the murders are more of a sub-plot.

Our real focus is Malcolm’s potential to get some, which his mom is creepishly invested in. There’s another psychological term which comes to mind: enmeshed. Families that are enmeshed have unhealthily incestuous interpersonal relationships (and mind you, it’s not that kind of incest). Children of enmeshed parents are often psychologically damaged in very interesting ways – granted, for someone who finds psychology fascinating, any psychological damage is interesting. Still, Malcolm exhibits some distinct features of an enmeshed child: he lives close to home (and in this case in an apartment his mother pays for), feels a lack of identity (this one we can contribute more to Martin’s influence than Jessica’s), and a lack of control in his own life (Jessica and Martin are both not helping here). He also suffers from a lot of the consequences – and so does Ainsley.

Remember last episode when I said she was a psychopath? Well, personality disorders are among the many long-term effects of an enmeshed childhood. There’s also mental illness – Hi, Malcolm! Self-esteem, boundary issues, unstable relationships, and of course, sleep issues, just to name a few!

Enmeshed parents also have their own troubling signs which both Jessica and Martin meet. Inappropriate roles – Martin wants Malcolm to be a protégé, while Jessica thinks of him as her emotional rock and her baby boy. Favoritism – ah, poor Ainsley, she plays second fiddle to her brother with both her parents. Lack of boundaries – Jessica has broken into both of her children’s homes, Martin intrudes on his children’s careers. Overinvolvement – definitely, see Martin’s many, many calls to his son while on duty, and of course his obsessive dedication to his daughter’s news pieces, then there’s Jessica, who is always asking every inappropriate question there is about everything happening in her children’s lives, especially Malcolm’s.

Yes, the Whitly family is thoroughly fucked. So, what about Freud? I started off this review with Freud and then veered over to Salvador Minuchin. Well, the reality is that Freud will get people in the door. The Id, the Ego, and the Superego, Sex and Death, these are the tasty hors d’oeuvres of psychology. They attract people who are afraid to dig deeper, and allow them a safe and familiar ground to work with. Shows like Prodigal Son are also psychological hors d’oeuvres.

Prodigal Son presents pop-psychology, yes, but if you care to do your homework and look deeper, you’ll see some real theories peeking out. It’s one of the things I enjoy about shows like this. Sure, I can shut my mind off, watch it simply as a show – take everything at face value, but there’s always the chance that something deeper will glimmer. A little kernel of gold in this heaping pile of pyrite.

The fall finale is coming up, and I’m looking forward to mining it!

Oh, one last thing, I’m pretty sure Eve’s sister or whoever owns the other half of that heart tattoo is gonna turn out to be the girl in the box. As mentioned when she first appeared, I do not trust this lady, and it would make perfect sense if she infiltrated Martin’s family as a means of revenge. Getting to Malcolm would certainly do the trick, but she also has her eyes on Jessica, while, as always, Ainsley is completely ignored.



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