Pilot – | Review Score – 3/5
Annihilator – | Review Score – 3.5/5
Fear Response – | Review Score – 3.5/5
Designer Complicity – | Review Score – 3.5/5
The Trip – | Review Score – 3.5/5
All Souls and Sadists – | Review Score – 4/5
Q&A – | Review Score – 4.5/5
Family Friend – | Review Score – 4/5
Pied-A-Terre – | Review Score – 3.5/5
Silent Night – | Review Score – 4/5
Alone Time – | Review Score – 4.5/5
Internal Affairs – | Review Score – 4/5
Wait & Hope– | Review Score – 3/5
Eye of the Needle – | Review Score – 3.5/5
Death’s Door – | Review Score – 3/5
The Job – | Review Score – 3/5
Stranger Beside You– | Review Score – 3.5/5
Scheherazade – | Review Score – 3.5/5
The Professionals – | Review Score – 4/5
Like Father… – | Review Score – 4/5
Prodigal Son is a great example of a slow burn thriller. What began as a quirky, mediocre and forgettable crime drama all those months ago dusted itself down and broke free of its shackles to become something else entirely. With lots of dark themes explored, some wonderful narrative arcs that bleed across into several episodes and lots of juicy characterisation to sink your teeth into, Prodigal Son is one of the bigger surprises to come from last year’s fall line-up and a series that certainly has a lot of promise going forward if its renewed for a second season.
The story itself revolves around Malcolm Bright, a brilliant criminal psychologist with a dark past. Following a string of murders, his Father Martin is currently serving a life sentence in a psychiatric ward. The first couple of episodes set the scene for what follows but tonally shifts a little too close to the comedic, over-the-top format that actually becomes a lot less frequent the longer through the show you get.
Most of the series plays out with stand-alone cases for Malcolm to handle, reluctantly forced to call on the help of his Father from time to time for an alternative viewpoint. Alongside these stand-alone murders is the subject of Malcolm’s dark past that’s revealed further through drip-fed information throughout the series. As memories of the past start to come trickling back, our brilliant protagonist can’t shake the images of a girl in a box and his Father being responsible for one more murder he’s covering up and hiding from the police.
The midway point of the show does switch things up slightly as Malcolm pursues a promising lead to his past in the form of The Junkyard Killer. These are easily some of the best episodes of the series and from here, the show takes on a more confident persona going forward, bowing things out on a high as the truth about Malcolm’s past comes through.
It’s worth bearing mind that thanks to issues in 2020’s filming schedule, the final arc was supposed to be stretched out to 5 episodes rather than 3 so the plot line does feel a little rushed. Having said that, the final scene of the finale is a deliciously dark and poetically twisted way to finish the season. It’s one that perfectly rounds the story out but also leaves the door wide open for more story to follow.
Stylistically, Prodigal Son uses a lot of the same tricks you’d expect from other shows in this genre. There’s a lot of fragmented flashbacks dotted throughout, our main protagonist certainly has a lot of flaws and the cases each week are a mixed bag between excellent, very good and utterly forgettable. Some of the cases feel intentionally obfuscated and almost impossible to solve as a plot contrivance throws itself into the mix late on and reveals the real killer. It’s not a deal breaker but it is worth bearing in mind that a few of the episodes rely a little too heavily on this device.
Joining Malcolm on his quest for the truth are a number of supporting players that have some pretty good character arcs of their own. Gil acts as Malcolm’s superior at the NYPD and finds himself torn between his duty to the job and Malcolm’s well-being. Dani and JT both begin as simple archetypes but eventually do get given the time to be fleshed out further. Dr Edrisa also shows up from time to time and her continued affection and awkward flirting with Malcolm are hilarious bouts of natural comedy that certainly work the most effectively out of all the little jokes and bouts of humour used sparingly through the series.
The acting is pretty good too but predictably it’s Michael Sheen who really stands out as the enigmatic and unpredictable Martin Whitly. There’s a campy and oftentimes playful demeanour about him that mirrors that seen in The Joker. Martin Whitly certainly isn’t a carbon copy of The Dark Knight’s arch-enemy though. Instead, the show marches to the beat of its own drum and Martin steals every scene he takes part in, playing an interesting, multifaceted character that changes states on a dime.
Overall though Prodigal Son is one of the big winners from last year’s fall line-up. What began as an indifferent, quirky and simple crime drama soon blossomed into one of the stronger crime dramas released in quite a while. It’s yet another example why it’s so difficult to judge a show of this size with a few screener episodes. Prodigal Son does require some patience to get to the good stuff but if you can go in with an open mind and get through some of the early chapters, this crime drama opens up in the best possible way to deliver a thoroughly enjoyable season of entertainment.
Verdict - 7.5/10