Prodigal Son Season 1 Episode 4 Review: Designer Complicity

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Do we believe Jessica, or do we still think she's complicit?  

There was an escalation in the tension between Malcolm and Jessica on Prodigal Son Season 1 Episode 4, but by the end of the hour, they found peaceful ground.

However, as speculated by many Prodigal Fanatics, Ainsley was driven to see her father for the first time in two decades.

Call Unknown - Tall - Prodigal Son Season 1 Episode 4

"Designer Complicity," was the most well-balanced hour of the series so far. The case and the family drama were equally weighted, and neither of them suffered for it.

The hour gave us both Malcolm's night terrors and Jessica's flashbacks for context.

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It mixed and matched Malcolm with its peers, and it showed him in a real session with his therapist in a way that wasn't played up for a few chuckles.

The Quirky Duo - Tall  - Prodigal Son Season 1 Episode 4

Ainsley's presence was stronger, and the series may utilize her better in the future.

Ainsley's frustration with being the outlier in her family is warranted. Sure, everyone cares about her, but none of them consider her often when they're focused on other things happening in their lives.

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Malcolm and Jessica have driven Ainsley to her father; it was an inevitability.

Jessica: Your father has agreed to remove you from his visitor list.
Malcolm: What? What did you do? 
Jessica: Anything to keep my son safe and sane-ish.

They weren't answering her phone calls, everyone was breaking the rules about seeing Martin, and she was in the middle of a fight she didn't realize they were having.

Listen to Mommy - Tall  - Prodigal Son Season 1 Episode 4

She was checking in on Jessica, but Jessica's biggest concern was her fight with Malcolm. It must suck to be Ainsley in this family where everyone is either preoccupied with themselves or fixated on Malcolm, Martin, or both.

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While they were on the outs with each other, Jessica and Malcolm both mentioned that Martin does care about Ainsley and watches her faithfully.

This is about Malcolm, of course, it is.


Jessica admitted she only casually watches Ainsley with the sound off, and Malcolm has so much going on with himself, he doesn't pay attention to his little sister.

Martin, a man she can barely remember and hasn't seen in years, has shown some interest in her. It's all she ever wants from the members of her family outside of a mental facility, but they can't give her that.

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She can get some form of validation and consideration from Martin, though. At least, she thinks she can get that from him.

Martin is calculated in his interactions with his family members. It's fascinating how he gets into Malcolm and Jessica's heads. Ainsley won't be much different.

He was gleeful by her arrival at the prison. She came in as if she had the upper hand, but unlike her mom and brother, she's unaware of what awaits her.

Martin: Malcolm, you really should respect your mother's ... Ainsley!
Ainsley: Dr. Whitley, it's been a long time.
Martin: It has, but please, call me dad. 

She feels her lack of experience with Martin gives her an advantage over Malcolm and Jessica. She thinks she won't be affected by his charm and manipulation, nor does she have history working against her.

Surgeon Suits Up - Tall  - Prodigal Son Season 1 Episode 4

Unfortunately, Martin looks excited by the prospect of trapping Ainsley in his web. He already knows how to appeal to her. He's the father she never knew, and she missed out on her father's love growing up.

He's going to lay it on thick with her, and her exclusive with The Surgeon will be complicated by her need to learn more about her dad.

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It's a wonder it took Ainsley this long to make a move toward doing an exclusive on her dad. It's the type of thing to send ratings through the roof. It could advance her career.

Jessica: Your father is in your head.
Malcolm: So are you.
Jessica: Isn't it funny to you. Your father is a serial killer, yet after all these years, I'm still a monster. But I don't care I don't need you you love me, Malcolm, I just need you alive. 

This turn of events is thrilling. So far, Michael Sheen has incredible chemistry with every person sho crosses the threshold into Martin's cell, and no doubt, he and Halston Sage will light up the screen when they get more time together.

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

There is so much potential to this storyline and how Ainsley's new relationship with her father will affect the rest of the family.

You can almost anticipate a divide between Ainsley and Martin and Malcolm and Jessica.

Martin was willing to put Malcolm on the "No Visitor's" list after his conversation with Jessica. He taunted Malcolm a bit when Malcolm came to see him.

Malcolm: Did my mother know you were a serial killer before your arrest?
Martin: Ohh. That's a big accusation, and it presents a bit of a conundrum. If I say yes, you won't believe me. If I say no, you'll be relieved, but still a part of you will remember that I have been accused of being a pathological liar. You tell me, what answer do you want to hear?
Malcolm: The truth!
Martin: The truth. That takes time, and it cant be shouted through protective glass. You and your mother need to resolve your issues first. I don't want to get in the middle of that.

He loved rubbing it in that Malcolm is obsessed with seeing him. Martin playing mind games with anyone he comes into contact with, especially Malcolm, should not be as entertaining as it is.

Surprise Visitor - Tall  - Prodigal Son Season 1 Episode 3

It's interesting that now that Malcolm has committed to coming to the facility to see Martin, Martin doesn't need him anymore.

He had no problem going behind Jessica's wishes before, so his quip about co-parenting was inauthentic. Malcolm's presence gave him what he wanted, and now he needs a new challenge.

Ainsley is his newest challenge.

Malcolm: You went to see him.
Jessica: He looked annoyingly good. Heaven forbid prison should be an uncomfortable experience for him. 

Meanwhile, Malcolm was left spinning and trying to make sense of his nightmares and what they meant.

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Fortunately, we had no more incidents where he hurled himself out of a window. It's surprising to see it remains broken, and it's a bit concerning too.

He had his childhood therapist to run things by again. Initially, there were reservations about his seeing her instead of someone more appropriate, but their session was fruitful.

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She chastised him for using chloroform to spark memories and warned him about being in the middle of a crisis. She is the one who has him on a regimen with his medicine.

Psychologist: And you triggered this memory by purposely inhaling chloroform?
Malcolm: It seemed like a good idea at the time.
Psychologist: Malcolm, chloroform is both toxic and volatile.
Malcolm: Two underrated qualities.

The peeks into how Malcolm copes with his mental illness are always appreciated and lay to rest some of the concerns about not handling the subject matter with care.

Investigating His Past - Prodigal Son

Malcolm was unhinged, more than usual, and the people around him noticed it too. They didn't pry, but they acknowledged it and made him aware that his behavior was noticeable.

The friction between him and Jessica was sending both of them spiraling. Malcolm came right out and asked her if she knew about Martin's murders.

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Jessica dealt with the whispers and judgment of others, but she never expected the same from her son. It was jarring when she slapped him after his accusations.

Jessica: What I can't stand is knowing that he is chained to a wall and happy while we're out here miserable 
Malcolm: We let him get between us.
Jessica: Let's not do that again. 

It came as a shock to both of them. Jessica insisted that she did everything she could for her children and had no idea about Martin's "hobby."

Lady in Red - Tall  - Prodigal Son Season 1 Episode 4

Everything he said got Jessica thinking later, and when she went through her wardrobe and found the red dress, it seemed like Malcolm's nightmare was accurate.

The flashback between Martin and Jessica made it seem like she knew something too. But since Malcolm knew his mother was lying and couldn't take Gil's word for it, he needed to see the tape of Jessica's interview.

Gil: Mrs. Whitly, do you know how many lives you're responsible for? Two, and they're waiting for you at home right now.
Jessica: Do you think they're okay?
Gil: They will be with your help.

Gil was so compassionate with Jessica during the interview. She felt guilty about everything that happened. She was blaming herself for not seeing things as they were.

She knew something was wrong, but she assumed Martin was having an affair. Looking back on Jessica's exchange with young Malcolm, he mentioned a girl.

Facing Herself - Tall  - Prodigal Son Season 1 Episode 4

Drunken Jessica assumed he was talking about some woman Martin had an affair with, and when you listened to the exchange, you can maybe understand it.

Nevertheless, it's hard to shake the feeling that Jessica knew something more. Why was her response to young Malcolm, "you don't know what your father is capable of" when she caught him trying to open the box?

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It's a weird thing to say if she was only referencing an affair. And if she knew Malcolm spent time in the basement with his father, why did she have a violent reaction to Malcolm trying to open the box?

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What about the conversation between Martin and Jessica in the flashback? Did he know she suspected him of an affair and not serial murder?

Every time they speak as if they're talking in code. Their conversations have layers and double meanings. Kudos to the series for nailing this mystery component.

Prodigal Son prides itself on keeping us in suspense, and it's working.

When you love someone, you'll do anything for them, even if it hurts you. That's love. 


Martin is unreliable because of his history of being a pathological liar, but it also doesn't feel like he's pulling certain things out of thin air either.

A Final word - Tall  - Prodigal Son Season 1 Episode 4

He never gives a direct answer when Malcolm inquires about Jessica's involvement. Martin toys with Malcolm instead.

His answer, as messy as it was, sounded like there's more to it than Jessica didn't know anything. Was he only referencing the cheating?

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Obviously, Martin isn't trustworthy, but I'm not ready to let Jessica off the hook yet, are you?

Jessica: What I can't stand is knowing that he is chained to a wall and happy while we're out here miserable 
Malcolm: We let him get between us.
Jessica: Let's not do that again. 

It was nice to see her and Malcolm make up, though. It has to suck for her. Their father is a serial killer, and her kids still take things out on her the most and are intrigued by him.

Call Unknown - Tall - Prodigal Son Season 1 Episode 4

The parent who stays always receives the brunt of everything.

The interview with Gil, the flashback, and her anonymous charitable work at a women's shelter certainly paint her better.

But she remains suspect. If she's telling the truth about this, then it's something else.

Gil is such a great man, and we can collectively agree that if something happens to our turtleneck wearing Zaddy, we'll riot!

Gil: Kid, what are you? Keep an eye on him.
JT: I will. Dude still has my phone.

He saw Malcolm was struggling, but he didn't want to see the young man be at odds with his mother when he believed her to be telling the truth.

The Stoic Ones  - Prodigal Son Season 1 Episode 4

He went against his judgment and shared the tape with Malcolm anyway. It was an emotional scene when Malcolm saw the tape, and I'm glad Gil gave it to him. The scene of Malcolm watching the video and crying was beautifully framed and gorgeous. Payne was excellent during that moment.

Malcolm and Gil's scenes are so tender and sweet. Gil makes up for the paternal vibe Martin lacks in his interactions with Malcolm. You sense the history between Malcolm and Gil and the love between them.

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They know each other well.

He knows how much Malcolm values his job working as a consultant, and he loves having him, but he also wonders if it's worth it sometimes.

Something's Fishy - Tall  - Prodigal Son Season 1 Episode 4

To his credit, despite being in a crisis and having his personal life in disarray, Malcolm did well on the case.

He was a bit too abrasive with Axel at the crime scene, and his lack of finesse had the guy lawyering up before they could get anything out of him about Tatiana.

The crime scene was unusual. Tatiana looked like a mermaid or something in the bathtub like that.

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It wasn't a twisted case with lots of misdirects and other things. It was pretty straightforward in its path. Although, it did contribute to an amusing side of JT, who was a bit obsessed with the social media influencer and model.

Deadly Bath Time - Tall  - Prodigal Son Season 1 Episode 4

His obsession had nothing on Roger, who was one of her stalkers and the primary suspect for a bit. The more time we spent with Roger, the less he fit the profile.

Of course, more time with Roger meant more of the delightfully obnoxious duo of Malcolm and JT working together.

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They are finding a rhythm. They may not get along with each other, or at least, JT doesn't find Malcolm as endearing as we do, but their partnership is that of mischief and mayhem.

Malcolm: We'll find the person who did this.
JT: Can you not touch me with your shaky bandaged hand?

Poor Roger couldn't handle both of them.

New Pair Up  - Prodigal Son Season 1 Episode 3

He sure as heck couldn't handle Malcolm on his own. Malcolm's regular dose of being a tad unhinged and scary came in the form of lying to Roger and telling him he was dying to get information out of him.

He seemed to take a bit of pleasure in applying pressure to Roger's dislocated shoulder too.

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He went off the books with that, but it's nice to know the plan he orchestrated to get Axel alone was something the team agreed on and not him going rogue.

It was a clever twist to have Tatiana's killer be Axel's stalker (and colleague) and not one of her own.

Into Evidence - Tall  - Prodigal Son Season 1 Episode 4

Joey was willing to do anything to protect Axel, but the worse part about it is Axel knew it and let him.

He realized Joey killed Tatiana and protected him rather than turning him in, and then he walked away and was prepared to let Joey kill Malcolm too.

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The sentiment of the hour was that people will do anything to protect the ones they love.

It's what happened during the case, and it also was about Jessica's involvement with Martin and what she did to protect her kids.

Perplexed Again  - Prodigal Son Season 1 Episode 4

Additional Notes:

  • Edrisa and Malcolm are the cutest cuties to ever cute. You know what's sweet? Malcolm knows Edrisa has a crush on him and never makes her feel awkward about it at all.
  • When Martin told Jessica he would stop if he could, are we supposed to believe he meant an affair? Jessica claims it was an affair, but does that line up with what she said? 
  • Martin is an expert gaslighter and manipulator. He has a way of putting things back onto someone else to make them equally or more culpable than he is for his actions. 
  • I cannot wait to learn more about the rest of the team. We need more backstory on Gil, Dani, JT, an Edrisa sooner rather than later. 
  • Do you know how hard it is to break a glass with your bare hand? Holy crap, that was intense! 
  • When do we get Malcolm and someone from the gang hanging out after hours? Give it to us! 

Over to you, Prodigal Fanatics. Do you believe Jessica has nothing to do with the murders?

Will Ainsley be able to handle Martin?

Are you eager to learn more backstory about the other characters? 

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Click that little blue botton below and let me know what you think in the comments!

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


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Designer Complicity Review

Editor Rating: 4.7 / 5.0
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Rating: 4.9 / 5.0 (40 Votes)

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

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Prodigal Son Season 1 Episode 4 Quotes

Jessica: Your father has agreed to remove you from his visitor list.
Malcolm: What? What did you do? 
Jessica: Anything to keep my son safe and sane-ish.

Psychologist: And you triggered this memory by purposely inhaling chloroform?
Malcolm: It seemed like a good idea at the time.
Psychologist: Malcolm, chloroform is both toxic and volatile.
Malcolm: Two underrated qualities.