Tonight’s Prodigal Son explores father-son and father-daughter relationships while plumbing the depths of a psychopath’s need for, and subsequent expertise at, total control.
We start where we left off – with Malcolm looking in the back of his father’s station wagon with a blacklight and uncovering a lot of suspicious fluids (I’m not saying its blood but if it’s semen…well…that’s a whole other issue). This mystery gets bigger when a stranger shows up with a gun. Gil gets called in and we begin our episode proper.
Malcolm fills Gil in on the real reason he was at the junkyard, but things get interesting when a body is found in one of the crushed cars. Further exploration uncovers at least 8 more smushed bodies. Some are older, just bones, while others are recent. It seems a bit convenient that Martin’s station wagon would be in the same junkyard as another serial killer’s apparent dumping ground, eh? Malcolm definitely thinks so, and while Gil isn’t convinced, when Malcolm asks his father outright it is confirmed. The Surgeon wasn’t just a world-class father and husband he was also a mentor!
But who is our budding serial killer? Let’s table that mystery for a moment while we get into the other big plot in this episode.
Ainsley! Ah, our long-suffering toe-headed-red-headed stepchild of the Whitly’s is finally getting to interview her father. It’s a big moment for Ainsley and she’s being sneaky about it – providing her producers with a set of softball questions for approval while the actual questions she intends to ask are far more probing. Jessica is worried daddy dearest will twist Ainsley’s words and somehow come out looking fantastic, and her fears aren’t baseless. Martin does manage to fluster his daughter with his answers to her questions, but he also has a bigger plan in the works.
Remember Tevin (Matthew Maher) from last week’s group meeting? How he got all excited about the chance the Surgeon is getting to tell his story to the public, how enthused he was? Well, Martin didn’t miss a beat. He uses his superior manipulation skills to convince Tevin he should stab a guard – one with a keycard – then he can get on TV and tell his story too! We see Tevin creepily shouting to Ainsley as she and Jin are preparing for the interview and I wonder when exactly Martin set the whole thing in motion. Was this shouting part of the plan? Actually, the question of what exactly Martin planned is a good one. Did he tell Tevin to stab Jin, and if so, did he specify the wound shouldn’t be immediately fatal or was that just serendipitous? That’s one of the problems with the whole “brilliant” serial killer or criminal angle because Murphy’s Law never seems to come into play on these living Rube Goldberg machines. Realistically speaking, our newly introduced Ainsley love-interest would certainly be dead, but show’s gotta show!
Once Tevin gets put into play things go haywire. Ainsley is doing her best not to panic but failing miserably – she even makes the classic white person mistake of sending the only minority in the room out for slaughter (in this case under the excuse of getting b-roll for her piece). Jin’s subsequent stabbing provides Martin with the perfect chance to display the point he was making earlier – that his work as a doctor far outweighs the twenty-three lives he took as “The Surgeon”. It also serves to ingratiate himself to his estranged daughter which I think was his end game the whole time.
It makes a lot of sense if we consider the fact that Martin wasn’t allowed to build any kind of relationship with Ainsley. She frequently addresses him in the formal title of Dr. Whitly, rarely Dad or Father – if I remember right, I think she’s only called him by a paternal title once (directly to his face, not necessarily when speaking about him to her mother or brother). That’s gotta hurt Martin, who sees himself as a good father above all else. In fact, it’s only when Ainsley digs into him about how Malcolm has turned out as evidence of his poor fathering that Martin becomes enraged. Saving Jin allows him to save face for that outburst, confirmed when Ainsley marvels to Jessica about how “dad” saved her boyfriend. Jessica sees the attached strings, Malcolm puts them together later as more information surfaces about the junkyard killer (hi, Paul Lazar).
Speaking of our new serial killer, following Martin’s stunt (which is revealed quickly via Tevin) he’s moved out of the prison and out of our protagonist’s reach. The episode ends with the mentee calling in to Martin’s supposedly detached line in the basement. This provides us our super wack-a-doo moment for the episode: Malcolm taking a hammer to the boarded-up section of his mom’s house. These are becoming some of my favorite traits of this series, and the fact that they can show up at any point in an episode is a nice way of keeping things fresh.
We shall see if this new serial killer will be as satisfying as Martin’s been. He mentions knowing Malcolm so at the very least nothing will change there – ole’ Malcolm’s PTSD ain’t getting a rest anytime soon!
Some other things of note:
- Poor Jin, we just met him and already he’s getting stabbed for the sake of the Whitly’s family drama.
- The flirty vibe between our beloved ME and Malcolm seems to be totally one-sided now. I’m wondering if test audiences weren’t feeling it or if there’s more to come down the line, OR if our ME is just meant to be your usual quirky, quippy ME who may – some day down the series line – get her own episode. Maybe it has to do with the quiet name change that happened – Dr. Edrisa Guilfoyle is now Dr. Edrisa Tanaka (can’t find any info as to why, my guess would be perhaps it didn’t sound Asian enough?). A recent interview with the creators (Chris Fedak and Sam Sklaver) hinted at their enthusiasm towards her and Malcolm’s chemistry so who knows, maybe I’m the only one seeing a change…Either way, I still like her as a character overall.
- Powell gives us a fun scene where she chides Malcolm for using the term “hood” in reference to her passion for stopping a killer stalking the Bronx.
- Jessica is growing on me – her comments following the fiasco at the prison are pretty priceless. I also like the ex-wife vibe she weirdly has whenever she’s confronting Gil (those two definitely had a fling!).
- And of course, we can’t avoid a NY based show taking a cheap shot at NJ. What kind of place sells a knife to a child!? Sure, Martin doesn’t explicitly name the town but he does remark it’s near the garden state.