How much trauma can one person endure?
If Prodigal Son Season 1 Episode 11's nail-biter of a return is any indication, Malcolm will spend the rest of the season recovering from the physical and psychological turmoil John/Paul inflicted upon him.
Bloody hell. Let the man rest!
The hour was intense, frustrating, illuminating, surprising, exciting and somewhat disjointed too.
Prodigal Son has unabashedly embraced many horror elements from the creepy ones to the downright cheesy and laughable.
The hour had both. Malcolm's time spent with John from the effects of him being stabbed to when he crushed his hand was gruesome, and everything with Ainsley and Jessica in the Whitly House of Horrors was like a classic slasher flick.
The series wasted no time picking up not long after where Prodigal Son Season 1 Episode 10 left off. John transported Malcolm to an undisclosed location where he intended to put Malcolm through a series of trials to make him a monster.
It's riveting when Malcolm attempts to get inside the heads of those he plans to capture. He extends a form of sympathy, sometimes bordering on empathy, for them, and he's never quick to write them off as a monster himself.
Paul/John: No one can hear you scream out here.
Malcolm: You sure? I'm a pretty good screamer. I've had a lot of practice.
He has maintained that people like John and many others aren't born the way they are; something makes them that way.
Malcolm knew John's history and childhood, and he attempted to use it to his advantage in however way he could to appeal to John. However, he also kept getting sidetracked by how entertaining it was to witness a serial killer evolve right before his eyes, even if it was about to cost him personal harm.
John insisted he and Malcolm were connected, and he wasn't wrong about that. They had the camping trip between the two of them, and Malcolm spent much of his time in captivity trying to remember the events surrounding it.
Most of it was still a blur, and his dogged pursuit of uncovering what happened to the girl in the box still clouds his mind and distracts him.
John kept calling him out for getting sidetracked, and despite the circumstances, one couldn't help but be inclined to agree with, you know, the serial killer holding Malcolm hostage.
Malcolm: I'm not a killer.
Paul/John: Not yet. You just haven't gone through the trials that I have.
All this time, it didn't make sense why John would want to kill Malcolm if he and Martin were friends. But it turned out Martin wasn't a mentor to John. He was someone John liked to hang around and do some shady things with, but he wasn't attached to Martin enough to consider him a friend.
But the camping trip supposedly served multiple purposes. For one, they did intend to get rid of the girl in the box. And John claimed Martin was the one who took care of that.
But also, the trip was supposed to be where Martin killed his son. It was a shocking reveal. Up until this point, the one thing you couldn't deny was Martin's love for Malcolm.
We can speculate why he loved him so much. As a narcissist, he enjoys his kids being extensions of himself.
We brought you on that camping trip to take care of you for good. Your father was going to kill you.John
He tried to groom Malcolm to be a killer like himself. But interestingly enough, Ainsley's comment about how Martin only bought her Marie Curie (someone who also was taught by her father) books as gifts suggests he hoped she would be the one to follow in his footsteps as a doctor.
Martin has two kids and two distinct legacies he wanted to carry on.
But John confirmed Martin was using chloroform on Malcolm to make him forget. It wasn't working as well, and Martin planned to kill Malcolm instead of having the boy rat him out, I guess.
Martin's motivations for killing his son remain a bit sketchy and unclear. Was it more than a fear Malcolm would expose him? Did he think it was a challenge to overcome -- killing someone he actually loved and cared about?
Malcolm: How is this for secrets. You were going to kill me.
Martin: OK, that one's on me. But come on, it's water under the bridge.
John is the one who has a religious and biblical component to how and why he kills, so the Abraham sacrificing his son, Isaac, the situation would be more of his speed, not Martin's.
John said Martin couldn't bring himself to do it, so he attempted to kill Malcolm instead. And Malcolm stabbed John and left him for dead.
It would've been self-defense, but it's also something Malcolm would've blocked out to protect himself. He has no recollection of what happened before the extreme situation, and John prompted him to remember.
How did the rest of the camping trip unfold? Did John's attempt to kill Malcolm put a justifiable wedge between him and Martin? Did the Whitlys leave John out there for dead?
I'm his origin story. But why would I try to kill him? You'd think I'd remember that.Malcolm
Did Martin change his mind about his son after Malcolm stabbed a man and was so traumatized he blacked all of it out? We got many answers about the camping trip, but there are just as many questions that linger.
John returned the favor with the stabbing in a grisly scene with fabulous special effects. He seemed to be determined to get the darkness out of Malcolm and make him something like him.
He insisted that they were the same. Malcolm spends much of his life trying to convince those who know who he is and himself that he isn't a killer like Martin.
It's probably Malcolm's darkest fear, and captivity with John forced him to deal with it.
Young Malcolm: They called me a freak, a monster like dad.
Jessica: You're not a monster, Malcolm. You're a survivor.
He hallucinated Gabrielle to help him get into the right mental space to deal with his situation. She was useful in getting him to focus on how to treat himself and his wound.
She reminded him to stay focus on surviving and stop getting distracted by this mystery that niggles away at him. She was a comfort to him, but she was also a bit of a nuisance.
She wasn't what or who he needed, and the second he started hallucinating his father instead, it was evident Malcolm was succumbing to his darkness.
John: Face it, you're just like me. You judge. You hunt.
Malcolm: I bring criminals to justice. I protect my community and my family.
John: Of course you share your father's strengths, but you also share his weakness.
John: What's that? His sadistic megalomania with a dash of god complex?
John: Your family.
Gabrielle was there to keep him in a healthy mental headspace, but Martin was there to prompt him to survive by any means necessary.
His darkest thoughts come in the form of Martin infecting his psyche. Gabrielle is hellbent on protecting Malcolm; she wouldn't have suggested taking extreme measures to get out of the restraints.
And I wonder, did he have to resort to crushing his hand with a mallet to get out? Was breaking his thumb not an option for those restraints?
Martin, of course, would suggest something calamitous to free himself, he was probably the voice Malcolm heard when he chopped off the guy's hand in Prodigal Season 1 Episode 1.
The diameter of the restraint is three inches. The width of your hand is five inches. So all you have to do is make the width of your hand three inches. That's just math.Martin
He freed himself, and he was in the same headspace when he tracked down John in the Whitly home, calling out to and goading him, and he trapped John in his personal hell.
Locking John into a box was poetic justice and a brilliant way of using John's traumas against him. Is this the end of the Junkyard Killer, though?
It was a rather quick storyline, if so. And if it's the last we see of him, then it was an anti-climactic ending, and I'll miss Michael Raymond-James on my screen. Surely, Malcolm will have a few questions for John once he gets his head on straight.
Because his time with John has certainly left Malcolm affected.
You could see it in his eyes when Ainsley and Jessica were hugging him. Malcolm is not the same after this experience, and he has a lot to process.
Jessica: What happened? Are you okay?
Malcolm: I'm alive.
It seems like he takes steps forward in his healing and then gets knocked back a few steps. Malcolm is probably more scared of his father than he was before, but he's definitely terrified of what he's capable of, too.
How does one process that their doting dad was trying to kill them? It was the one decent thing he could believe about his father that Martin loved them and was a good dad even if he was a bad person.
To Martin's credit, he freaked out when he learned John kidnapped Malcolm.
The hour gave us the highly-anticipated face-to-face between Malcolm's father-figure and his actual father, and it did not disappoint.
Gil: Martin, I don't have a lot of time and neither does Malcolm. Was there a cabin that you visited Watkins.
Martin: You still think Malcolm is alive? Hey Omar, we may need some benzos for my friend here. It's over.
Gil: No, Malcolm is a gutsy kid with one of the sharpest minds I've ever known. You might not have any faith in him, but I do.
Martin: How you yearn for it. To be his father. That's why you brought him into the NYPD, right? Cared for him?
Gil: I did a hell of a lot more for him than you ever did.
Martin: Well, you certainly got him killed.
It was a gift to have Phillips and Sheen sharing the screen. Gil refused to tell Martin what was happening at first and hoped to get information out of him instead, but there was no getting anything until he was honest.
Martin was having too much fun toying with Gil. He addressed the elephant in the room. Gil has not only taken the role of father-figure to Malcolm, but he has a unique bond with Jessica, too.
It wasn't something Martin was going to leave unaddressed, and he didn't plan on letting it go anytime soon, but the situation was pressing. He needed to know how grave the circumstances were sooner rather than later.
Gil: You don't get to choose who questions you.
Martin: But I can choose who gets the answers. Where is my boy?
Gil: John Watkins has him.
Martin: No. No.
Gil: I need your help, Dr. Whitley. Over12 hours ago, Malcolm was kidnapped by Watkins. We don't know where he is.
Martin: If John has him he's dead. He's dead.
Gil: Focus! We are running out of time.
Martin: There's no time. My son is gone.
The truth sobered him up real quick, and he cast aside the witty banter and funny jokes for collapsing to the point of needing sedation after hearing the news.
He was confident Malcolm was already dead, and he behaved like a man who couldn't fathom losing his son. It makes it hard to comprehend he would've ever considered killing Malcolm at any point in his life.
Gil was the one who refused to give up hope and had the most faith in Malcolm, and Martin was already acting as if Malcolm was dead. It speaks volumes about how they view him, doesn't it?
Malcolm: I'm not a killer.
Paul/John: Not yet. You just haven't gone through the trials that I have.
Martin was able to give them the location of the cabin, but it wasn't where John took Malcolm. It was a surprise when they showed Malcolm was underneath the Whitly home the whole time.
It was a group effort to track down Malcolm, and fortunately, Colette wasn't so much of a jerk that she was ineffectual. Although, for someone who has an issue with how Malcolm is with colleagues, she doesn't know how to play well with others either.
She was disrespectful as heck ignoring JT's rank, and she was dismissive and rude for no reason.
It was a lack of real immediate reaction to Malcolm's disappearance since the others found out offscreen. But the one who came the closest to struggling the most was Dani.
Stop trying to profile and for once in your life protect yourself.Gabrielle
She kept picturing him and recalling when he was looking into the cabin. Dani is loyal to a hilt, and somewhere along the way, Malcolm has become her friend.
She was determined to find him, and it drove her crazy when they got to the cabin, and he wasn't there.
The focus on Malcolm's family was essential, so I get it, but it felt incomplete without a reunion between Malcolm, Gil, Dani, and JT.
The team did what it could to find him. Unfortunately, most of the time, they were hamstrung, and their efforts were for naught.
What else did you try to do to replace me? I smelled my wife's perfume on that cheap coat. You're not worthy of a woman like her. She must have felt sorry for you or angry at me.Martin
It felt disjointed around those times when it didn't appear as though the team was communicating with each other or keeping abreast of what was happening in their search for Malcolm.
Their search was futile and underdeveloped. The winter premiere would've been a strong candidate for a two-parter.
Ainsley and Jessica's portion of the hour boiled down to John terrorizing them, via an '80s slasher flick.
Gil: I'm going to visit the surgeon.
Jessica: Well, you can kill that son of a bitch for all I care. Just find my son.
The only thing missing was John saying, "Here's Johnny," as he hacked through the door.
It's possible more can come from the Ainsley angle of things. She realized that John was her imaginary friend, Mr. Boots, who gave her a similar angel figurine to the ones in his grandmother's home.
It means she had to have seen him more than once, right?
He knew the underground part of the Whitly house like the back of his hand, and he knew the layout of the place from the multiple times Martin had him there.
Ainsley: What's going on? What's all of this?
Jessica: Your brother is missing.
Jessica: Taken they think by the junkyard killer.
Ainsley: I don't understand. He's been kidnapped? How is that possible?
Jessica: It is possible because you and your brother have made it your livelihoods to obsess over your father's past.
But was he visiting Ainsley? What made him give her a figurine? How many times did he see her? There are so many questions about the factoid she mentioned.
Ainsley didn't get to have much of a reaction to John when he was attacking them because of her head wound.
Ainsley barely remembers anything about her father, but she remembered Mr. Boots. Ainsley remains a mystery and at least somewhat suspect.
She barely had a response to her brother's kidnapping. She seemed unaffected by it all until she decided to help her mom.
It was an hour that changed and revealed some matters when it came to Malcolm, but it also hasn't made Ainsley any less enigmatic.
Malcolm: I know that voice. The one inside your head. Maybe it started with your grandfather saying you were worthless, but it evolves into something powerful, undeniable. It will never be satisfied and neither will you. I hear that voice too. From my father. I can hear him, and I can see him, but I don't have to listen to him, so don't. Don't listen to the voice.
John: The thing is I like the voice. It's a part of me, and right now, it's telling me to hurry.
Over to you, Prodigal Fanatics. What did you think of the winter premiere?
Is this the last of the Junkyard killer? Is there something unsettling about Ainsley to you?
Hit the comments below with all of your thoughts and theories.
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Jasmine Blu is a senior staff writer for TV Fanatic. Follow her on Twitter.