Prodigal Son was one of the most buzzworthy series of 2020, and it quickly became one of the best new shows of the season.
And that's with good reason. With an incredible cast, shocking twists, fun, humor, thrills, and a unique premise that breaks the mold of traditional procedurals and family dramas, it's addictive, must-see, and the exact programming we need right now.
Ahead of the sophomore season, we compiled a list of reasons why Prodigal Son is Killer Good.
It's a Delightfully Indefinable Genre-Bender
It's nearly impossible to typecast Prodigal Son, and that's part of the series' charms.
It's a bit of everything without being too much of one thing, slipping in and out of genres with ease, borrowing the best of them to create something unique and fun. It's a dash of cop procedural, a sprinkle of family drama, with a helping of suspense-horror, some murder-mystery, and it's darkly funny, too.
Nearly everyone can find something about the series that appeals to them, and it's utterly wacky in the best of ways. It's pure, unadulterated entertainment from start to finish, taking you on an emotional journey that somehow balances escapism and humor with dark realism and grit.
It's hard to define what Prodigal Son is, but the series has a grasp on the identity it created for itself, and it barrels full-speed ahead into it without apology.
Tom Payne Shines as Malcolm Bright
Anyone who has seen Payne's previous work eagerly awaited a time when he could lead a series of his own, and he doesn't disappoint. Malcolm Bright is a character that could be a collection of tropes or potentially unoriginal, but he isn't; the series turns a lot of that on its head. A large part of that is due to Payne's performance.
He adds nuance when necessary and goes over the top when it's called for -- and with his unique spin, he perfectly captures the complexity of such a deeply conflicted and "broken" character while making it seem effortless and far from cartoonish.
The Cardigan-Wearing Serial Killer Dad We Hate to Love
If you ever wondered how serial killers could have legions of fans, then Martin Whitly puts things into perspective. Michael Sheen is a gift -- the gift that keeps on giving, and in this case, it comes in the form of the whip-smart, witty, devilishly charming Dr. Whitly otherwise known as "The Surgeon."
The only person outside of Payne with a difficult character to nail is Sheen, and his portrayal of Martin Whitly is a masterclass. Martin can go from an unassuming, lovable teddy-bear who makes dad jokes to bone-chillingly menacing in the bat of an eye.
He makes you forget that he's a serial killer and narcissistic psychopath, but when he reminds you, you feel like a fool for not remembering in the first place. It's one of the best portrayals of a psycho-killer on the air.
Darkly Humorous and Funnier Than It Has Any Right To Be
You wouldn't expect that a series about murder, mayhem, crime-solving, and serial killers would be this funny, but it is. And Prodigal Son provides an array of humor to suit everyone's taste.
It's cheesy and full of puns (usually at the most outlandishly absurd moments). Martin has some of the funniest, sassiest quips. Malcolm's sarcastic humor is often a bright spot in each installment, and JT is the sleeper comedic relief with his dry wit.
You can't make it through a single installment without chuckling, and that humor balances out the darkness, occasional gore, and any melancholy.
Bizarre, Fun, Batsh!t Crazy Cases
It's a testament to the personal elements and characters that the series has the most insane cases imaginable, and they still serve as a backdrop to everything else going on.
Why? Because Prodigal Son cases are ludicrous, and that's what makes them a blast. Where else do you get snakes slithering out a corpse's mouth or a death trap room with centuries-old weaponry? With each installment, you tune in to see what the writers can come up with next, and they never disappoint.
Creative, Realistic Exploration of Mental Illness
Given the show's premise, it could've taken some liberties with its exploration of Malcolm's Complex PTSD or only used it as a gimmick for plot-convenience.
On the surface, a series where a mentally ill man who constantly wonders if he's a psychopathic murderer like his father -- posing the age-old nature versus nurture question, could be problematic.
But you need only pay attention to how the series treats and addresses Malcolm's mental illness aside from his father. It's little things like Malcolm's diligent regimen of taking medication as part of his morning ritual that seems insignificant but is quietly revolutionary.
Malcolm grapples with his mental illness daily, and it affects so many aspects of his life, but it doesn't keep him from functioning, nor is it his only defining quality. He elicits concern from others, but he's not woobified or excluded from accountability for his actions.
Prodigal Son's diversity is refreshing in the sense that you don't realize the extent of it unless you pause and reflect. And that's as ideal as it gets. It doesn't try to be diverse ... it just is, and because of that, we have so many rich characters and organic storylines.
Malcolm works on a unit that is predominately people of color. And the rarity of that for anything that resembles a police procedural isn't lost.
Dani and Edrisa are two totally different but strong, endearing, and wonderfully layered female characters. And the same can be said about Jessica and Ainsley -- there's a full-spectrum of different types of women who are allowed to be complicated and flawed.
The class differences come up on occasion with Malcolm's experience growing up wealthy contrasted with the middle-class comfort he found with Gil.
A character like Dani had a rough past and battled addiction, and Malcolm, of course, struggles with mental illness on the regular. The diversity of this series comes in many forms, and it makes the series authentic.
Dani and Brightwell
Dani is such a sensible, tough, beautiful character with lots of layers. She's a bit enigmatic, and she leaves an impression.
And one of the highlights of the series is her relationship with Malcolm. They formed a partnership and friendship rather quickly. They're both guarded people, so the special bond that they forged while working together remains compelling.
They quickly understood each other and serve as confidants for one another. Via Dani, it's the first, real solid friendship and form of companionship Malcolm has outside of his fatherly bond with Gil, and through their bond, we see the softer side and peel back layers to Dani.
Edrisa and Maldrisa
Edrisa is a total scene-stealer and the one character who consistently makes you smile.
She's quirky, smart, and warm-hearted.
And her relationship with Malcolm is also a highlight. Malcolm and Edrisa are both colossal nerds, so any scene where they geek out together is golden.
They get each other in a way that the other characters do not, and it's such a fun dynamic.
Edge of Your Seat Suspense and Thrilling Plot Twists
Prodigal Son takes you on a ride. They have so many plots and twists that they'll make your head spin.
The intrigue and mystery behind the Whitly family, Malcolm's past, and so many secrets and the thrills and suspense of the murder mysteries make for enthralling television.
It's a series that will have you theorizing, following clues, and piecing bits together to figure out matters. The cases are certainly great for the suspense, but the real mystery lies in Malcolm's past and Martin's role in it.
Perpetually Tired and Effortlessly Cool Turtleneck Dad Gil (and His Disaster
Who doesn't love a found family trope? If you're a fan of that, then Gil's unit gives you all the family feels while they solve cases, and it's all thanks to Papa Gil. Lou Diamond Phillips is eternally cool AF, and he's basically brought this same energy to Gil Arroyo.
Gil serves as the more stable, supportive, semi-sitcom version of it with his pep-talks, unwavering support, and no-nonsense lectures in the dads' battle. For example, call for gosh damn backup when you need it, people!
He's the perfect counterbalance to Martin when it comes to serving as a father-figure in Malcolm's life, and that dynamic is one of the strongest in the series. But it also doesn't stop at Malcolm since the unit leader also has a paternal, mentor vibe with both Dani and JT.
Gil is integral to the series, arguably the cornerstone of it, and he brings a certain quality that the series can't sustain itself without.
Malcolm and Martin's Twisted, Intoxicating Father/Son Dynamic
Much of the series hinges on the captivating relationship between Malcolm and his father. It's as toxic as it comes, and yet, you understand why Malcolm can't quite stay away from the man.
His father is a murderer and a psychopath. Still, he was also a good father to him for some time. Malcolm is at constant war with himself, processing two versions of the man he grew up with, loving Martin while also hating him and fearing that there's a hereditary quality that presupposes him to be like him.
Meanwhile, it's never helped by Martin's attempts to project his murderous tendencies on Malcolm. When it comes to Prodigal Son, you come for the Malcolm and Martin scenes -- and you stay for everything else.
Jessica's Flair for the Dramatic
Bellamy Young is an absolute delight as Jessica Whitly, and the character starts seemingly one-dimensional and evolves beautifully as the series progresses.
But one thing that makes her a standout is her flair for the dramatic and grandiose personality. She's a lavish diva, but she has heart. She's a bit overbearing, but her love for her children can't be questioned.
She also has some of the best one-liners in the series, and she'll always make you laugh.
Some of the best shows are the ones with lines so memorable you find yourself repeating and reciting them later, and Prodigal Son has that in spades.
Its distinctive style and humor lead to many comical lines and exchanges, and if you'd love to read some of the many standout quotes from this series, then check out our Prodigal Son Quotes section.
Wait & Hope
While the series in its entirety is a treat, Prodigal Son Season 1 Episode 13 is by far the series at its absolute best. If ever there was an installment that perfectly encapsulated everything there is to love and the true essence of what this series is about, it's the episode Wait & Hope.
From the insane case, Malcolm's outlandish actions and behavior at the crime scene, to the humor, the dynamics, and so much more. If words fail you when describing this series and its appeal, that installment speaks for itself.
Listen, are you even a Prodigal Son fan if you haven't fallen head over heels for Malcolm's adorable parakeet? The bird has become more of a mascot for the series than Malcolm himself.
It's a character all on its own. Malcolm's love for this bird and the sense of normalcy that Sunshine provides for Malcolm has become a sweet spot of the series, and every Sunshine sighting is cherished because of it.
Dishy Family Drama
While the show is a bit of everything, it could easily focus exclusively on the Whitly family drama and sustain itself for seasons. The family dynamics on this show are so unusual, given the premise. All of the Whitlys are deeply affected by Martin's infamy and the weight of sharing the same name or blood as him.
It's an original take for a series to follow a family still struggling with the unfathomable position a serial killer relative left them in years before. From Malcolm taking on a different name to Jessica self-medicating and shying away from high-society, to Ainsley leveraging the legacy for her career, they all deal with Martin in different ways.
And it also affects how they get along with one another. You couldn't envision a fascinating familial dynamic, and it's one of the most appealing aspects of the series.
Over to you, Prodigal Fanatics of old and possible new ones. Why do YOU love this series so much? And if you haven't watched it yet, did this piece convince you?
Hit the blue SHOW COMMENTS button below, and let us know.
Prodigal Son returns January 12 at 9/8c on FOX.
If you need to catch up or relive it again, you can watch Prodigal Son online here via TV Fanatic.
And feel free to check out our Prodigal Son Reviews, too!
Jasmine Blu is a senior staff writer for TV Fanatic. Follow her on Twitter.