It’s another fucking detective show. The end.
I mean, it is another fucking detective show and I only found out about this because I read a news article about Tom Payne crying because he had to cut his long hair and shave his beard (because that’s what counts for news these days) for his new starring role in this show called ‘Prodigal Son’.
The premise was also something that sounded like something I’d be into but all in good time.
Yes, a sliver of the audience for ‘Prodigal Son’ will be Tom Payne’s fan base from ‘The Walking Dead’ which is a show that I am very surprised people still watch. I only watched it because of Andrew Lincoln and when I watched Tom Payne’s first episode, I was still a regular viewer. When I first saw his character, ‘Jesus’, I thought, “I recognise him”. And I was right, I did recognise him. The long hair and the beard and the American accent threw me a bit but I remembered Tom Payne from when he was in a British show called ‘Waterloo Road’ which was a really shitty show set in an English Comprehensive school and he was in it for two series and that was the only time that the show was watchable. It’s because he’s adorable. I’m not blind.
Then he was in ‘The Walking Dead’ and by the time his character got killed, I had long since stopped watching. Now he’s made the proper American transition for an English actor and is starring in another fucking detective show.
Whenever a show like this is advertised, they like to pretend that it’s something totally new and unique but it only took me one episode to see that it ticks all the boxes of being another fucking detective show and as I take you through the pilot episode, we’ll see all those boxes and we’ll tick them together.
Just as a disclaimer, this show is actually alright for another fucking detective show and I’m aware that this is fairly new so if you haven’t seen it and don’t want spoilers, then you’re in the wrong place. You have been warned.
So ‘Prodigal Son’ starts and we meet our main character, Malcolm Bright who’s played by Tom Payne.
First tick of the box, he’s got a troubled past. Because they always have to be tortured and haunted by past memories and that’s what helps them solve crimes, so they don’t have to face what’s haunting them and in this case, the troubled past is very apt and kind of the whole premise of the show.
When Malcolm was a kid, his father, Dr. Martin Whitly was arrested for being a serial killer who murdered 23 people. Malcolm visited his father up to 2009, presumably to learn about his crimes and his father’s insights into murder. During that 2009 visit, Malcolm told his father that he had applied for Quantico and a Profiler position at the FBI and that visit would be his last.
So, this time he’s a Profiler, just like ‘Criminal Minds’. Except ‘Criminal Minds’ is virtually impenetrable at this point and I just recently learned that this coming season will be its last but to be honest, this has come about seven years too late.
Anyway, cut to 2019 and Malcolm has figured out the identity of a serial killer and the location of said killer and his hostages. Malcolm goes rogue and is taken down by the killer. First, he’s hit with a ‘stun rod’ and then the killer points a fucking shotgun at him.
First thing’s first.
Why was Malcolm hit with a stun rod when the killer is carrying a deadly weapon? Why is he wielding ‘non-lethal’ weaponry when he kills people? If the point of hitting Malcolm with a stun rod was to cause a non-fatal injury, then… he’s wearing a bullet proof vest. Would it have been so outlandish for him to get hit with a shotgun blast in his vest. That is also non-fatal (at least in TV land) and would have knocked him out for the prerequisite amount of time to have his little flashback and add some story context.
Anyway, Malcolm wakes up and he’s faced with the killer, but the killer is shot dead by the local Sheriff whilst he was surrendering, and Malcolm is pissed. The Sheriff makes his second mistake by calling Malcolm ‘Son’. Now he’s seriously triggered and so decks the Sheriff square in the jaw and confirms that he is not his ‘son’.
This incident causes him to get fired from the FBI and results in him ‘returning’ to NYC. It was a pretty quick transition though because it’s one nightmare sequence after the firing from FBI HQ which is in Virginia and Malcolm’s waking up strapped to his bed in his NYC apartment. Just so you know, he’s not strapping himself to his bed because of some sexy, kinky, ‘straps’ related extracurricular activities but rather he straps himself to his bed because of night terrors. He also has a gum shield in his mouth. I actually don’t think that it’s a gum shield, but it looks like one and I don’t know what the real thing is called. Originally, I thought he had a gum shield in his mouth because he suffered from seizures and it was to stop him from swallowing his tongue and it would go a long way to explaining the straps. That however is not the case.
The case of Malcolm’s firing is also up for debate. Originally, the FBI said that they had received a report on Malcolm that was ‘damning’ because he punched a Sheriff and pissed off a lot of the officers and then they move onto the fact that his father is a serial killer and they’re worried that Malcolm maybe exhibiting some worrying behavior. Although they make it sound like guilt by association.
So, after Malcolm wakes up, we see that he straps himself to his bed, sleeps with a gum shield in his mouth, takes at least four medications but we don’t know what they are, and he also reads himself a motivational quote every morning.
Since this is another fucking detective show, we need some murders to solve and to tick another box, the pilot episode must have a personal reference to the main character. Just like with ‘The Mentalist’ where Patrick Jane’s family is murdered by Red John and so he’s called in to solve a load of murders that they think are by Red John. OR. What about ‘Castle’ where Castle has to come in and find the person responsible for killing people in the manner of his stories.
In this case, Malcolm is called in by his surrogate father figure, Gil Arroyo (Lou Diamond Phillips) who also coincidentally happens to be a lieutenant in the NYPD. He finds Malcolm and takes him to a crime scene to consult on a series of murders and, you guessed it, the victims have been killed in the style of his father.
Get ready to tick another box.
The team. There has to be at least one girl and one guy. The girl will almost inevitably end up being the love interest and the guy is always snarky and sarcastic. Here we have Detective Dani Powell (Aurora Perrineau) and Detective JT Tarmel (Frank Harts). So far, there have only been two episodes but these two have barely been characterised. For the time being, their roles are mostly reactionary. They are there to react to some of the strange things that Malcolm says.
Tick another box.
The main characters in these types of shows are usually so smart that they border on socially awkward. They speak their minds and it’s not always what someone wants to hear and all they can do is tank the consequences. Malcolm fits into this category.
There’s also a medical examiner, Dr. Edrisa Tanaka (Keiko Agena) and she clearly has a crush on Malcolm. It could be that she is impressed with his medical knowledge (which was taught to him by his murdering father) but I think it’s because he’s pretty. That’s why I have a crush on him. Don’t judge.
Whilst we’re veering near the subject. Let’s talk about Daddy.
Dr Martin Whitly is played by Michael Sheen and you may have seen Michael Sheen in that ‘Good Omens’ thing with David Tennant which I tried watching but I couldn’t because it was boring.
Just one other diversion. We all know that the Americans love the Brits when it comes to their TV detective shows. Ioan Gruffudd was a Brit crime solver in ‘Forever’, Jonny Lee Miller played Sherlock in Elementary. Tom Payne is a British actor; Michael Sheen is also British. I’m a bit confused about this because Tom Payne was not the original choice to play Malcolm Bright. He replaced another actor, Finn Jones. Never heard of him? Nope, neither have I BUT apparently, he rose to fame in ‘Game of Thrones’ which would explain why I’ve never heard of him because I haven’t watched one frame of ‘Game of Thrones’. The point is, Finn Jones is a British Actor. Playing an American character. I know it doesn’t sound like a huge thing, but this is like two American actors playing father and son using posh, English accents in a British TV show. That just feels odd.
Back to the father. This show really isn’t trying to go with the ‘creepy’ serial killer angle. Instead of being sinister, his father is totally crazy but he’s the ‘quirky’ kind of crazy who has a calm, charming demeanor which explains how he got away with it for so long. You wouldn’t expect him to be a serial killer. It’s clear that either he doesn’t have a conscience, or he’s found a way to disconnect it.
On the flip side, Malcolm has a whole host of psychological issues and it’s clear that he’s worried about himself. During the investigation, Malcolm, JT and Dani show up at a suspect’s apartment and find him strapped to a chair with a bomb underneath him. The killer sets off the 90 second timer and with limited time to save him, Malcolm chooses to chop off the man’s hand to free him and get away from the explosion.
Oh Oh, get ready to tick another box! Awful puns and cringy wisecracks.
Right after the explosion which Dani and Gil witness from outside because she ran after the suspect and instead ran into Gil, JT runs out of the building with the screaming and crying guy with a hand missing and Malcolm stumbles out, covered in blood and holding a cooler. When Dani asks him if he’s alright, he says he’s fine and points towards the ambulance and says, ‘I need to give them a hand’. HA… that was an amusing piece of dialogue 😐
Anyway, Malcolm cleans himself up in the toilets and his hands are shaking which is apparently a regular occurrence and he’s visibly shaken by his actions although they were to save someone’s life. Later that night, Malcolm falls asleep in the office and has a nightmare from when he was a child. His father sent him up to bed but instead, child Malcolm goes through an OPEN door and finds a crate which contains a crying woman. Why his father left the door to his murder room wide open, I don’t know.
Malcolm starts freaking out which gains the attention of the other officers and he suddenly tackles Dani to the ground. The other officers draw their weapons because they think that he’s attacking her, but she seems to know that he’s asleep although it’s not obvious at first glance. Nevertheless, she manages to wake him up. It’s then that Malcolm confesses to having night terrors which is why he straps himself to his bed every night and doesn’t get much sleep as a result.
Malcolm has a little ‘moment’ during the confrontation scene with the killer who took on the Surgeon’s methods because the Surgeon saved his life and he became obsessed with this man and his methods. Since the killer is about to kill Dani and his own wife, Malcolm needs to buy some time before the inevitable rescue and so he confesses that he is the Surgeon’s son and he turned in his father and became a profiler for the Feds in an attempt to convince the killer to kill him and just as that’s about to happen, Gil shows up and shoots the killer.
Afterwards, Gil opens up about who Malcolm really is and goes into detail about the night Martin Whitly was arrested. Child Malcolm rang the police and Gil turned up as a uniformed officer. He’s met with a nice, soft spoken, Dr. Martin Whitly who offers Gil a cup of tea. Once Gil is inside the home, he meets child Malcolm who tells Gil that he needs to draw his gun because his father is going to kill him. It turns out that tea laced with Ketamine was how the Surgeon drugged his victims. Since then, Gil has remained friendly with Malcolm.
One thing I haven’t mentioned is the rest of the Whitly family because at the moment, they are so inconsequential. Malcolm has a younger sister, Ainsley (Halston Sage) who is a ‘journalist’ but she’s just the typical ‘on the ground’ and ‘onscreen’ reporter because she’s pretty. And then, there’s Mother, Jessica (Bellamy Young) who is concerned about her son when it comes to his night terrors and even offers him her own array of ‘practically over the counter’ medications to help him sleep. When Malcolm considers going to visit his father after his sketches are found in the killer’s possession, Jessica refuses to support the idea and Gil doesn’t like the idea either.
I’ll finish by talking about why I’m going to continue to watch and review this show.
The psychological angle for Malcolm is interesting. In the confrontation scene, Malcolm confesses that he turned his father in because he was afraid of himself. What does that mean? Was he being groomed at a young age by his father to become a serial killer? Martin did say that there was a lot ‘more’ he could teach his son about murder. The show is called ‘Prodigal Son’. And Martin does call Malcolm ‘My Boy’. Was child Malcolm concerned that he was having thoughts that turned towards the murderous edge and so took a different turn and became a profiler and caught killers? He did say that when he was processing a crime scene, he looks at it the way that a killer would so he can get into that mindset. Where’d he learn to do that?
It’s all very interesting and it’s a shame for the other characters because Malcolm and Martin are the only interesting ones, but I have a suspicion that was the point. That may change. We’ll see.