Prodigal Son Season 1 Episode 3 Review: Fear Response

at .  Updated at .

Fear was the name of the game on Prodigal Son Season 1 Episode 3.

The overarching theme of fears and what happens when one faces them were woven throughout the hour beautifully. Fear was used to connect what was happening in Malcolm's personal life to the case he was working.

Not only is Prodigal Son finding its rhythm, but it's showcasing why it has become such an instant hit. It's the number one new show on TV, and it got the first full-season pick-up of the Fall.

Withholding the Truth - Tall  - Prodigal Son Season 1 Episode 3

Yes, Prodigies! We're off to a promising start this season, indeed! 

It's no secret Payne and Sheen excel in their roles, and it was no different during this installment. However, this hour did wonders bringing Bellamy Young's Jessica Whitly to the forefront and adding to the season's biggest mystery thus far.

Related: Prodigal Son Scores Full-Season Order at FOX!

What happened to the girl in the box?

Jessica is climbing up the ladder of being suspect, and the hour gifted us with some gems to make our heads spin. What was the full extent of her role in Whitly's murders? What did she know?

Surprise Visitor - Tall  - Prodigal Son Season 1 Episode 3

The biggest issue here is we're relying on an unreliable narrator. Some of us are willing to give Malcolm the benefit of the doubt, but we're trapped with him in his mind trying to figure out what's real and not real.

Pardon the Hunger Games pun.

Based on Malcolm's night terrors or possible repressed memories, Jessica knew about Martin's killings, and she knew about the girl in the box.

Jessica: Malcolm, what the hell are you doing? You know very well your father's things are off-limits!
Young Malcolm: I saw something. I saw a woman.
Jessica: That doesn't concern you, do you hear me?
Young Malcolm: You're hurting me!
Jessica: Do you hear me? Never speak of her again! You have no idea what your father is capable of!
Malcolm [waking up]: Mom, what did you do?

It's things like this that make the series so juicy. It's a psycho-thrill with every installment. We don't know what's true, and everything is delightfully twisted and ambiguous.

Killer Parents?  - Prodigal Son Season 1 Episode 3

The flashbacks between Jessica and Martin didn't make her any less suspect, and their present-day interaction was a treat. Sheen's incredible chemistry with Payne extends to Bellamy Young.

Their scene together was riveting, and it was something worth a few rewinds so you could catch every bit of what was beneath the tension and what they were saying. It was classic double-talk and allusions.

Whitly: You're stunning.
Jessica: Burn in hell.

Did you guys feel the sexual tension between them? It was thrumming like a livewire, and at any given moment, you didn't know if Jessica would slap him or kiss him. Hell, based on the banter and innuendo that flowed freely between the two, she could have done both.

Their banter and bickering felt like foreplay. One of the takeaways from it is that maybe the real reason Jessica didn't go back to visit him in 20 years is because of the effect he has on her.

Regal Queen - Tall  - Prodigal Son Season 1 Episode 3

She's still in love with him; he's a monster, but she's drawn to him. Martin is bewitching and charismatic, hell, the viewers fall victim to his allure too!

But there's a part of Jessica attracted to him because of him being a monster, and that's where it's intriguing. Our killer parents looked like they were seconds away from banging, and damn if it wasn't hot as hell.

You're right. We have been happy, and you, dear sweet Jessica, you got the very best of me. There's a reason for that. Men have tendencies -- needs, and I did what I had to do in order to meet my needs to keep me happy and provide you with the life you wanted. Oh, you knew what I was. You'll be back.


The couple who slays together, right? But was that literal?

Jessica primped in the mirror and made sure she was her best self when she waltzed into that facility with Martin. She wanted to look her best for him, and when he threw around comments about her being at her sexual peak and him being her "most diligent lover," she was into it.

Related: The Secret Benefits of Bingewatching TV 

The issue isn't that Jessica is terrified of Martin as she claimed when he reached out to stroke her face, it's that she isn't as scared as the average person would be.

Jessica Lays Down the Law  - Prodigal Son Season 1 Episode 3

We know Jessica came from money and prestige. Martin climbed the social ladder via his relationship with her. Her mother raised her to accept certain things about men while in marriage, and to hold specific beliefs.

She mentioned how she had to overlook things and make sacrifices. She also spoke of what she would have done to save everything they had with desperation.

Jessica: We had everything. I would have done anything to save it.
Martin: We were happy.
Jessica: Until everything was taken from me. Everything. Except for our children, and now you want them too. How could you do this, Martin? How could you --
Martin: Don't. Don't do that, Jess, I was there, I know the whole story. What happened to them wasn't just about me.
Jessica: You are breaking him. He is nearly broken, and I am begging you. Leave Malcolm alone! Don't take the one thing I have left!

Jessica was head over heels for Martin, and she probably still is, so in the present, their interactions and behavior coincide with Malcolm's nightmares.

A woman who was willing to do anything to protect her family's illusion of happiness -- who was raised to accept that men had certain urges that needed to be overlooked -- is a woman who knew more about her husband's killing spree.

Freak on a Leash - Tall  - Prodigal Son Season 1 Episode 3

Martin made it sound like killing people was the equivalent of stepping out on their marriage to meet certain sexual needs and coming back to his wife better. He made it seem as though he needed this part of his life to be the best version of himself for her and the kids.

Related: Lucifer Couples Ranked from Worst to Best

The ties between murder and sex, along with the heat between Jessica and Martin during their scenes, were spellbinding, as is Sheen's commitment to being a manipulative, charming, sinister creep in a dad cardigan.

You're right. We have been happy, and you, dear sweet Jessica, you got the very best of me. There's a reason for that. Men have tendencies -- needs, and I did what I had to do in order to meet my needs to keep me happy and provide you with the life you wanted. Oh, you knew what I was. You'll be back.

Was murder Martin's foreplay? And did Jessica overlook it because of what it did for their marriage? It wouldn't be a surprise if he was the type who saved trinkets from his victims and gave them to Jessica.

In Martin and Jessica's flashback in the past, it didn't appear as though she was surprised by what Martin did. She was more distraught over him being caught and what it did for their family's image.

The Whitly Women - tall - Prodigal Son Season 1 Episode 3

She withheld the kids to spite him and punish him for what he did. But Martin recognized that Jessica, whether she wanted to admit it to herself or not, loved his darkness and knew it existed. Martin pointed it out in the past, and he alluded to it again in the present.

He implied that there was more to story about what was going on during his kill phase. He made it seem like Jessica has gotten used to lying to others, that she may have started believing the lies she told herself.

After what you did, I will never come back here. None of us will. Do you understand? Not ever. 


Whitly is willing to take the bulk of the blame for how their family fractured; he's not ashamed of what he did. However, he's not with Jessica at least pretending as though she didn't know things.

Jessica must know a lot of damn things! Martin suggested his killings are bigger than what he did to his victims.

In his Element - Tall  - Prodigal Son Season 1 Episode 3

But how does Malcolm factor into it? They're both obsessed with him. Jessica doesn't want Malcolm to remember, but maybe it's because if he does recall things, she'll lose him too.

Jessica was at her most vulnerable pleading with Martin; she doesn't want him to take Malcolm away.

Related: Roswell, New Mexico Adds Original Series Star Jason Behr in Top Secret Role

She refers to Malcolm (not both kids) as the one thing she has left. She's a woman of class and fortune. She owns buildings and hosts parties and rubs elbows with the elite. She has a daughter, and she has managed to carry on with the Whitly name, but Malcolm is the one thing she has left?

Malcolm: This is not our case.
Whitly: When both my children take an interest in something, it's only natural to want to participate. Please tell your sister her diction is impeccable. 

How? Ainsley is always an afterthought with both of them, and it's messed up. They tack her name on the end when they're playing tug-of-war with Malcolm.

The Forgotten One- Tall  - Prodigal Son Season 1 Episode 3

Jessica prides herself on how she kept Ainsley away from Martin; a nice twist would be if Martin takes Ainsley. He would do it as a power move -- luring her in to spite Jessica and Malcolm.

Ainsley is prime for it being the outlier in her family.

So far, Malcolm's nightmares do feel like repressed memories. The mystifying family drama continues now that Malcolm recalls his mother chastising him for opening the box and telling him to never speak of the girl again.

Jessica: I'm worried. You know what this could do to your brother.
Ainsley: I don't because I don't remember my dad. I was forbidden
Jessica: I was protecting you.
Ainsley: You did. You also taught me to be ashamed of who I am. I never knew Martin Whitly. All I know is what you want me to know. Maybe that isn't enough.
Jessica: Do you sleep at night? When you close your eyes, do you find peace? That peace is because of the choices I made. You can thank me anytime you want.

It's also notable that young Malcolm must've waited before he called the cops on his father. If he called after he found the girl, she would've been in there. But how much time passed before he turned in his father?

A Patient Man - Tall  - Prodigal Son Season 1 Episode 3

Did Jessica help Martin get rid of her? Did Martin shifting some of the blame on Malcolm by making him question how long he took to contact the authorities lead to this memory where there was a time-lapse?

Jessica was going to war with Malcolm's father-figure too.

It sounds like Gil's wife died thinking of Malcolm as a surrogate son, and that's something that rubbed Jessica the wrong way. If Malcolm gravitated to them as parents more than his own, she could resent them for it.

Gil: My wife loved Malcolm like a son.
Jessica: She was kind, but she wasn't his mother, and you aren't his father. No, I don't want my son to throw his life away doing penance for his father's crimes. I also imagine the salary is something to be desired.

It makes Malcolm's statement to JT about him (and people like him, Gil, others) are his people even though he's a guy who grew up financially privileged. The working class is his people (because Gil and his wife are/were his people).

A Dream Interview - Prodigal Son

Gil pointed out something of interest. Jessica was the one who allowed young Malcolm to visit his father at the facility, and it's something she regretted. Her reasoning for allowing him to go somewhere she refused to go herself doesn't make sense.

Related: Mr. Robot Season 4 Episode 1 Review: Who Died? 

She claims she's trying to protect Malcolm, but for his safety, she should tell him the truth.

His night terrors at the top of the hour had him breaking one of his restraints and hurling himself out the window!

Jessica: I know you think these memories are real, they're not, so shut them down. I enjoy books on tape. Gin also works.
Malcolm: I need answers, and there are only two people in the world that can provide them: a convicted serial killer and you.
Jessica: I have no interest in revisiting the past, and for the sake of your mental health, neither should you.
Malcolm: My mental health is just fine.

Malcolm dangling out of the window (and having no injuries and cuts from the grass) was both funny and scary as hell. When he dosed himself with chloroform later and didn't restrain himself, I was afraid he would repeat it.

Following a Lead  - Prodigal Son Season 1 Episode 3

His night terrors are getting worse, not better, and his tremors are too. Associating with Martin has him all screwed up, but it also proves beneficial for him professionally.

There's something about Martin that helps Malcolm with his thought process when he's profiling.

It was refreshing when he decided to visit his therapist, but then one look at the colorful room with Malcolm sitting on a small chair like a child made the situation equal parts adorable and concerning.

Gil: Malcolm Bright does what Malcolm Bright wants to do, and you can't control him.
Jessica: Speak for yourself 

She's his childhood therapist. He needs someone more equipped with his needs as an adult. He barges into her office whenever it suits him, but it's not something regular.

Describing the Murder  - Prodigal Son Season 1 Episode 3

He uses her as a sounding board, but is she the one prescribing him all of his meds? Malcolm should be seeing someone. He's not opposed to seeking out help when he wants answers.

He does with his childhood therapist and with Dr. Brown, but he needs something steady. Of course, if he did have something like that, we probably wouldn't have this version of Malcolm we adore.

Related: Batwoman Series Premiere Review: Her Own Way 

Plus, he can't get lollipops from any old doctor, especially root beer flavored. Malcolm passing them out to the team, and Edrisa's adorableness when she received hers was one of the cutest scenes of the hour.

Edrisa: Bright was --
JT: You love saying that don't you?

What other show could have adorable scenes like that will also investigating a case where a corpse's brain was removed from its head and had notes in it?

The Nerdy Duo  - Prodigal Son Season 1 Episode 3

Malcolm and Edrisa are such adorable, dark nerds who appreciate everything deviant and weird.

It was good to have Sakina Jaffrey onscreen again ( #TimelessForever), but Elaine Brown was an awful woman.

Related: The Walking Dead Season 10 Episode 1 Review: Lines We Cross 

For a world-renown psychologist, she didn't consider the ramifications of her fear-based LSD study. When the bodies are piling up, it's time to concede to doing wrong.

Gil: What do you think, Malcolm?
Malcolm: Uh, I think Dr. Brown is lying. Never meet your heroes. 

She couldn't have foreseen the study triggering Dominic's schizophrenia, but she knew something was off about him, and she didn't do whatever she could to check-in and help him.

Helping a Hero - Tall  - Prodigal Son Season 1 Episode 3

Malcolm's compassion for others and how it conflicts with this dark part of him who considers or does hurt people makes him quite the enigma.

Some have criticized Payne for overacting and being too over-the-top, but I don't agree. He nails it.

He wanted to keep Dr. Mitchell from being shot; he knew the man was dosed with LSD, and you couldn't figure out how he would wiggle himself out of being held captive without Mitchell getting shot or plummeting to his death.

Dani: Bright, did you know that was there to break his fall?
Malcolm: Sure. 

He elbowed the guy and sent him careening over the ledge. He said he knew there was something there to stop his fall, but did he really?

Dani Strikes a Pose  - Prodigal Son Season 1 Episode 3

Malcolm is smart and good at spinning BS, which makes him entertaining and scary. His counterargument to JT once again implying he was crazy and doing something stupid was to point out how pain receptors override the drug effects and stop those dosed from tripping.

Related: Vikings Final Season First Trailer and Premiere Date!

He's probably right, but if he's correct after the fact when certain factors weren't evident at the moment, does it make him right?

He's unassuming and endearing, but he's also a wildcard out in the field. We got a touch of the Malcolm and Dani dynamic, but they gave us more Malcolm and JT.

The OG Partners - Tall  - Prodigal Son Season 1 Episode 3

JT's conversation with Malcolm in the car during the stakeout was enlightening.

JT feels like Malcolm doesn't respect him, which is odd given the utter lack of respect he shows Malcolm every moment he gets the chance.

Projection much?

Related: The Resident Round Table: CoNic & Chickens FTW! 

But it was also telling how JT associated military rank and his job as a police officer as worthy of instant respect. And that's not to suggest either of those aren't deserving of it, but basic respect as another human being never factored into what JT mentioned.

Crime Solving Trio - Tall  - Prodigal Son Season 1 Episode 3

Did he join the military and the police force for respect? Why doesn't he think he can receive it outside of rank or title?

JT has made snap judgments about Malcolm because of his father and his socioeconomic class, and more. He was taken aback when Malcolm referred to him and Gil as his type of people and mentioned how much respect he has for cops.

Related: Get Shudder via Prime Video Channels for Spine-Tingling & Provocative Films, TV Series, & Originals!  

It's taking some time, but they're bound to be close by the end of the season. Maybe we'll find out what his first name is too.

Edrisa: Bright was --
JT: You love saying that don't you?

Malcolm's guessing game was hilarious, and JT being unamused the whole time was funnier.

Whether he likes it or not, he has joined the Protect Malcolm at all costs squad after rescuing him from Dominic.

Welcome, JT. It was about time you got on the winning team. You'll love our disaster son, Malcolm, in no time.

New Pair Up  - Prodigal Son Season 1 Episode 3

Additional Notes:

  • Your mental health is not fine Malcolm, baby, you hurled yourself out of a multi-story window in your sleep. You looked cute though! 
  • Jessica is way too turned on by Martin, but then again, so is the majority of the Prodigal fandom, so no judgment. 
  • Find you a man who brings you lollipops to a crime scene. Team morale is high. Also, does Malcolm have a sugar fixation? 
  • Malcolm is right; never meet your heroes. You're bound to be disappointed. 
  • We didn't get our daily affirmation and music. I'm sad now! 
  • Malcolm and Edrisa would have been the two lab partners who geeked out when they got to dissect a frog. Why are they so cute? 
  • Martin be like: I love both of my children, Malcolm, the apple of my eye, the precious one! Oh yeah, and uh, what's her name, Halsey? No, Ainsley, yeah, right! 
  • What if Ainsley isn't Martin's kid? Poor girl has made a respectable career at 25 as a reporter and journalist and both of her parents dismiss it like it's nothing. #MillennialProblems. 
  • So does Martin just chill out in that Dad office chained to the wall all day? He looks like he's on one of those leashes for unruly children, not something you'd expect from your friendly neighborhood serial killer. 
  • Bellamy Young had no makeup on at one point and still looked flawless. She's a true queen. 
  • The family drama is where the real intrigue is on this series, but the cases are so wild and fun.

Over to you, Prodigal Fanatics. How are we feeling about Jessica now? Were you feeling the tension between her and Martin?

Are Malcolm and JT a bromance waiting to happen?

Do you think Ainsley may gravitate to her father soon?

Are you thrilled about the full-season order? Hit the comments below!

You can watch Prodigal Son online here via TV Fanatic! 

Fear Response Review

Editor Rating: 4.7 / 5.0
  • 4.7 / 5.0
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
User Rating:

Rating: 4.6 / 5.0 (21 Votes)

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

Show Comments
Tags: ,

Prodigal Son Season 1 Episode 3 Quotes

Be careful, Malcolm. How many other people died, and why can't you remember?


After what you did, I will never come back here. None of us will. Do you understand? Not ever.