Prodigal Son Season 1 Episode 1 Review: Who Said Daddy Issues Aren't Fun?

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Well, this is going to be a twisted ride! 

Sometimes a series tries to be too many things at once, but even though Prodigal Son Season 1 Episode 1 juggled a lot, the series may pull it off.

It's dark, twisted, horrific, and fun.

Presenting Something  - Prodigal Son Season 1 Episode 1

It's a psycho-suspense thriller, a family dramedy, and a graphic crime show wrapped up in one. Fortunately, it keeps the series from slipping into the pitfalls of being too procedural.

At the heart of the series is Tom Payne's Malcolm Bright. So far Payne does a fantastic job of portraying the conflict and duality of Malcolm without overdoing it, which given the subject matter, he easily could have done.

Malcolm has all the high-energy and deduction skills of Sherlock Holmes, the narcissism, rogue charm, and inability to play well with others of Gregory House, and the gawky awkwardness and brilliance of Criminal Minds' Spencer Reid, which makes him instantly likable.

But First - Tall  - Prodigal Son Season 1 Episode 1

But his offbeat hedges toward mental instability and psychosis in a way that makes him both sympathetic but creepy maybe even terrifying.

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You get the sense that every day, Malcolm is facing an unusual battle. He's fighting against his DNA or what he fears is his true nature, and that internal battle and how it manifests in his actions and with his relationship with his father is a driving force of the series.

Malcolm, Malcolm, listen to me. I want you to remember something, OK? You're my son, and I love you. I will always love you because we're the same. 


Malcolm is already on edge. He's walking a tightrope, and the threat of him succumbing to his own darkness is ever-present. He's diligent in fighting it off; he's medicated to the high-heavens for all that ails him.

He has PTSD or as it's referred to now, Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome. He has a psychogenic tremor, night terrors, insomnia, and he must sleepwalk too.

Bright FBI - Tall  - Prodigal Son Season 1 Episode 1

Malcolm has a regiment to keep himself in line. He restrains himself while he's sleeping with handcuffs, wears a mouth guard, and takes meds. It's interesting to see how he and his mother self-medicate to cope with the effects of Whitly.

Bellamy Young is stunning, and kudos to the show for representing the young moms club. If you second-guessed her flouncing in and being equal parts maternal and manipulative with Malcolm and thought she was way too young to have a 30-year-old son, she isn't.

Jessica: Try the tea. It will help.
Malcolm: Oh yeah? What's it laced with?
Jessica: Love.

There tends to be a near-constant warped depiction of age on television, especially with women over 40, so this is refreshing. Jessica, in general, is refreshing. She's a bit of a socialite who is open about self-medicating.

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How often can you envision your mother pushing pills on you and encouraging such a bad and potentially harmful vice? Her and Malcolm's relationship is already intriguing. Unlike Ainsley, they remember everything about the serial killer who lived in their home.

Jessica Whitly - Tall  - Prodigal Son Season 1 Episode 1

They are bonded by experience and memories; despite their different approaches. Jessica prefers to put everything behind them. She can't forget; we saw it when she rattled off the full names of Martin's victims like they were burned in her memory.

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She cannot forget, but she wants to, and she wants to distance herself from all of the darkness. However, to her frustration and disappointment, Malcolm is drawn to that life.

He wants to distance himself from his father, which is why he changed his name, but he joined the FBI to spite his father. He became a criminal profiler to study the very thing that destroyed his childhood and has caused him so much pain and to stop it from happening.

Mom Talks  - Prodigal Son Season 1 Episode 1

At least, it's what he tells himself, but Malcolm's dark obsession is that of him grappling with a baser instinct. Has he inherited his father's propensity to kill?

He has moments when you're left wondering if he's one trigger or breakdown away from succumbing to an urge that may be in his genetic makeup. His solution to saving Nico from being blown up by a bomb was cutting the guy's hand off with a hatchet.

 No one is born broken. Someone breaks us.


And he freaking did! He was maniacal about it too. His willingness to sacrifice himself and be injected and killed at the hands of his father's copycat was deranged as well.

Payne mentioned in an interview how he pulled a bit from the Lethal Weapon franchises' Martin Riggs, and if any moment showcased it, it was his willingness to die.

Bright Spotlight  - Prodigal Son Season 1 Episode 1

It's the lingering effects Martin has on Malcolm that makes the concept fascinating. From the flashbacks, dreams, and their conversations, it's evident Martin was grooming Malcolm.

Malcolm is caught up in his father's web in ways he cannot foresee, but it's what concerns Jessica and Gil. Ironically, Malcolm has a hold on his father as well, and he knows it.

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He knows his father lived for Malcolm's visits, and when he stopped seeing him for a decade, it did something to Martin. It may have even caused Martin to orchestrate a copycat killer to get his son's attention.

Malcolm: You have a copycat.
Whitly: Well,[laughs]. Well, I'm flattered, [pause] and uh, deeply concerned.

Martin is charming, calculated, and manipulative, and Malcolm is smart. Their relationship is deliciously twisted and compelling. They're adversaries and allies; Martin is Malcolm's greatest fear and a case study, but he's also drawn to him like a moth to a flame.

The Surgeon - Tall  - Prodigal Son Season 1 Episode 1

It's curious how he spent the first decade of Martin's confinement visiting his father often. What do you do when your father is by most standards evil, but he's also your dad?

He was a great dad who happened to be a serial killer, and it's the type of conflict between the psycho-criminal component of this series and the familial portion that makes it engaging.

Whitly: See, they were stolen. I've been robbed. This is an outrage!
Malcolm: Three women have died. 
Whitly: Sure, yeah. That's an outrage too. There can be multiple outrages. 

It doesn't hurt that Payne and Sheen have the best chemistry on the series.

Sheen is charismatic and funny as Martin Whitly. The Surgeon should not be this likable, but he is. It leaves the viewer as conflicted and drawn to Martin as Malcolm is. The poor guy's plight is understandable.

Like Father, Like Son - Tall  - Prodigal Son Season 1 Episode 1

Had Martin not been arrested -- had Malcolm not called the police on his father -- he would've continued serving as his father's apprentice without realizing it.

Martin believes he and Malcolm are the same, and it's what Malcolm (and everyone who cares about him) is afraid to admit. Right now, they're on two sides of the same coin, which is where Malcolm hopes to remain.

Malcolm: You're afraid, not of the killer, not of the police; you're afraid of me.
Whitly: You?
Malcolm: It's obvious. Your breathing. How you hold your hands. How you're looking at the door. You're afraid I'm going to leave and this is it, and I'll never come back. I'll give you this. Help me, and I'll come back.

His father is enticing, and using his father to help him solve murder cases is like playing with fire. It wasn't a lie when Malcolm observed his father was afraid of him, but it wasn't solely about Martin's fear of Malcolm leaving.

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A part of Martin is probably afraid of his son and what he, too, is capable of, but he relishes having a son who may be in his image. Martin, in a warped way, wants his family back.

Whitly Family Dinner  - Prodigal Son Season 1 Episode 1

He wants Malcolm most of all, but the Malcolm tug of war between Martin and Jessica and Ainsley is what positions this series as a dark family drama.

There is also someone vying for the father-figure role. Gil cares about Malcolm and treats him like a son. The twist with how they knew each other was a highlight.

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When did Malcolm realize his father was The Surgeon? How did he figure everything out about the laced tea? He called the cops to his home and then saved Gil from being his father's next victim.

Young Malcolm: You should take out hour gun.
Gil: Excuse me?
Young Malcolm: My father. He's going to kill you.

Martin wasn't even upset about it from the looks of things. But it led to a bond forming between Gil and Malcolm over the years. It seems he was the most stable father-figure Malcolm may have had.

Gil - Tall  - Prodigal Son Season 1 Episode 1

Malcolm working with him works better than working at Quantico. When they ran down all of his issues, it's a surprise he was ever cleared to work in the FBI in the first place.

Gil and the gang can handle Malcolm though, despite some of them being less than enthused about his presence there. Outside of Malcolm's familial bond with Gil, his dynamic with Dani is one of interest.

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She's the no-nonsense, tough persona who likely has a heart of gold. She accepted Malcolm and all of his eccentricities rather quickly, and I can see the two of them working best together. I like her!

Dani: You weren't going to let him do that, right? Right?
Malcolm: Of course not. That would be crazy.

She already seems to care about him. She was the most responsive to his well-being in the aftermath of the explosion.

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She knew how to soothe him and keep him from being shot after his night terror episode, and she was there to hear him confess to being The Surgeon's son, and she witnessed his disturbing display while trying to talk down (or incite) Carter.

Danger Around the Corner  - Prodigal Son Season 1 Episode 1

Malcolm doesn't seem like he has friends, so the foundation is there for Dani to be a start for him. She had a much stronger presence than JT.

So far, JT is a bit grumpy and isn't a Malcolm fan. Hopefully, we'll get a better feel for his character as the series progresses.

That's the thing, Carter. I do. I do deserve the Surgeon's pain because I'm his son. My real name is Malcolm Whitly. I changed it because I wanted to get away from him. See, I thought that I was afraid of my father and everything he taught me. But really I was afraid of me, so I betrayed him. I became a profiler and hunted down people like him. So now is your chance, Carter. Now is your chance to kill me. His prodigal son. I'm willing to let go.


Meanwhile, Gilmore Girls' Keiko Agena is already a quirky delight as Edrisa the Medical Examiner. Her and Malcolm's nerdy display in the morgue was one of the funniest moments of the hour.

She's weird, quirky, and smart, and he's creepy, awkward, and intelligent. Of course, they hit it off!

It was the first installment, and the case of the week's primary purpose was to draw Malcolm into the fold with Gil and the others and get Malcolm to seek his father's expertise.

Morgue Fun  - Prodigal Son Season 1 Episode 1

There were moments when it didn't make sense how they got from point A-D when Malcolm was formulating his profiles and deducing things. There was so much groundwork to get through for the series as a whole, the actual case suffered.

Whitly: I can help you.
Malcolm: I don't need your help
Whitly: You might. There's so much I can teach you about murder. Maybe we can solve a few together. I don't want to lose you again.
Malcolm: Goodbye, Dr. Whitly.
Whitly: My boy.

It's something of which they can improve over time once the series settles into itself and finds its rhythm.

With a strong lead in Payne, the beguiling and scene-stealing Sheen, a strong cast, and an intriguing premise, Prodigal Son is off to a promising start.

Family Face Off - Prodigal Son Season 1 Episode 1

What do you think Prodigal Fanatics? Will you be tuning in?

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What's your impression of Malcolm Bright? Did you enjoy the bond between Malcolm and Martin? Do you think Malcolm is like the Surgeon?

Let us know your thoughts below! I'll see you in the comments!

If you missed the premiere, you can watch Prodigal Son online here via TV Fanatic!

Pilot Review

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Jasmine Blu is a senior staff writer for TV Fanatic. Follow her on Twitter.

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Prodigal Son Season 1 Episode 1 Quotes

 No one is born broken. Someone breaks us.


Malcolm, Malcolm, listen to me. I want you to remember something, OK? You're my son, and I love you. I will always love you because we're the same.