Just as Fox’s latest crime thriller looked set to sink into a formulaic structure every week, Prodigal Son mixes things up with its best episode of the season. Tense, well-written and perfectly balancing mystery with drama, Prodigal Son delivers a really well-worked episode here, leaving things hanging on another cliffhanger ready for next week.
We begin at the junkyard, with Malcolm looking at his Father’s car before ducking for cover when he’s shot at. He manages to get away though but when he heads back to the station, he learns a string of victims have been found at the junkyard in their cars. As the bodies continue to pile up in the morgue, Malcolm and the others start putting together the pieces of evidence they have to figure out who the killer is. Desperate for answers, Malcolm decides to visit Martin.
Meanwhile, Ainsley prepares to interview her Father, despite Jessica’s concerns. She brushes aside any doubts though and heads to his cell. As the interview begins, Martin twists eveything to suit him until Malcolm arrives at the scene. Having experienced flashes at the morgue over a knife pulled from the junkyard, he purposefully asks Martin questions regarding the camping trip.
Malcolm confronts Martin about the knife and it turns out it’s actually linked to him; it was his knife from camping all those years ago. Seeing Martin’s demeanour changing around Malcolm, Ainsley decides to use this to her advantage and, caught on camera, antagonises Martin until he shouts and screams at her. However, before they can continue their interview sirens wail overhead as it turns out a killer is loose in the psychiatric ward. With the building on lock-down, Malcolm asks Martin questions about the killer while outside, Aisnley’s cameraman is stabbed through the lung.
Dragging him into the room with them, Malcolm and Ainsley try in vain to save him until she suggests Martin help, given he’s a world class surgeon. With the man’s lung collapsing, Martin remarks nonchalantly that he won’t make it in time for the ambulance. Malcolm refuses though and tries the procedure himself, until he flashes back to his past and sees him and his Dad cutting open…something. In the end, he allows Martin to do the procedure given his hands are shaking.
While caught on camera, Martin saves the cameraman with some ingenuity and quick thinking while Ainsley watches Martin, impressed with his skills. At the same time, Malcolm heads outside and stops the killer, allowing the paramedics to arrive and take him to hospital.
In the aftermath of this drama, Malcolm thinks over what happened and realizes it was all staged by Martin to make him look like the hero. As he phones the psychiatric ward to tell them what he’s found out, it turns out they already know about the situation and Martin is moved. No one will talk to him for a long time.
When he heads home and talks to Jessica about the situation, they hear a phone ringing downstairs and hurry to the basement to investigate. When they get there, Malcolm answers the phone and a man who seems to know his Father answers. It turns out he was the one who shot at him in the junkyard and they know each other from the camping trip all those years ago.
With another cliffhanger ending and plenty of drama throughout the episode, Prodigal Son doubles down this week and does a great job with both its characterisation and overarching plot development. Although a lot of the supporting characters still feel like archetypal stereotypes, the actual main cast do a great job here fleshing out their personas. The familial drama at the centre of this one is enough to keep you coming back for more and the added layers of mystery every week make Prodigal Son one of the better shows that debuted this fall. Whether it can keep up this good work throughout the season though remains to be seen.