With the introduction of the Junkyard Killer, Prodigal Son has shaken off the restraints of the formulaic procedural hanging over this one earlier in the season. This time around Fox’s latest crime drama delivers a deliciously dark and tense episode, one that leaves things wide open with an almighty cliffhanger at the end.
The episode itself begins with Malcolm watching Ainsley’s report on Martin on TV before his Mother arrives, imploring him to stop torturing himself. As they talk about the girl in the box, Malcolm is reminded it’s Christmas and nothing says festive cheer more than another case for Malcolm to work on. At the crime scene, Malcolm uses his skills to work out what happened, suspecting a third person in the room and the scene that looks like a murder/suicide is actually a double homicide in disguise.
Back at the station, the FBI arrive, along with prickly agent Colette whom Malcolm has a history with. She immediately berates him for his eccentricity and pushes her weight around the office. She pulls Dani off the case too while Malcolm is left with mountains of paperwork to sift through. Among the stacks of archival documents, he finds a picture of Detective Shannon, prompting visions of the past to come flashing back, including one of him making a statement about the night in question. As he arrives at Shannon’s house, the unhinged ex-officer points a gun at Malcolm’s head. He immediately pins Shannon as the prime suspect and confronts him about the murder. Only, it turns out Chief Ian Turner was gay so the entire idea is thrown out the window.
Colette questions Dani surrounding Malcolm’s behaviour, showing her CCTV footage of him talking to the Junkyard Killer. Not long after, Dani stops by his desk and sees his erratic behaviour first-hand. Meanwhile Ainsley arrives back home and immediately comes under fire from Jessica thanks to the way she’s used the media to direct the narrative rather than focus on the victims. After their fight, Ainsley storms out the house, prompting Jessica to take drastic measures and confront the media herself, showing them a necklace for a possible 24th victim, taking the attention off the family for now.
Detective Shannon corners Malcolm in the street and eventually he caves, admitting the truth about what he knows regarding the Junkyard Killer. Together, they visit an old garage Turner previously used in an investigation and as it happens, he was also trying to solve the same case. Inside the room, the two find a list of possible suspects, including one suspicious name – John Watkins.
After giving Gil a tip-off about the connection between the two cases, Malcolm visits Watkins’ Grandmother’s house. Blind and more than a little unhinged, Shannon and Malcolm sit together at the dinner table as they learn more about John’s life. Matilda pulls out a photo album but as she opens it, all the faces are completely scribbled out. This may have been a ploy by Watkins to evade Turner’s prying eyes all those years ago. Malcolm excuses himself to use the bathroom and instead takes the opportunity to check out John’s room. There, he finds a closet with a lock on the front, realizing that Matilda may have tortured John as a child.
When he returns to the table, blood oozes across the food and as he looks up, he sees Shannon has been killed. John is in the house. Matilda screams for her son to return to the house and as she grits her teeth, it’s here we learn Matilda was in on this the whole time. Unfortunately, Malcolm is knocked out by John and as he drifts out of consciousness, we see in the past it was actually John who had the body in the back of his car, not Martin. As John drags the lifeless Malcolm away, Ainsley and Jessica sit together, unaware of what’s happening to Malcolm.
Well that was dramatic! The final act inside John’s house was masterfully executed too, with a real suspense and tension clinging to every scene. Hats off to Mary-louise Burke for her performance as Matilda as well, accentuating the creepiness surrounding these moments. With Malcolm now captured and Gil racing toward the scene of the crime, I’d imagine we’re going to be given a little more information around what really happened in the past before the police save the day. That’s just my two-cents but I love the fact this show has subverted expectations and grown into something far more gripping than the standard crime fare we got early on.
I’m looking forward to seeing what else this show has in store for us but if this week’s episode is anything to go by, it should be quite the dramatic affair.