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Prodigal Son - Pilot - Review: Monsters



"There’s no such thing as monsters."

"MALCOLM BRIGHT (Tom Payne) knows how killers think and how their minds work, because his father, DR. MARTIN WHITLY (Michael Sheen), was one of the most notorious serial killers, called “The Surgeon.” Alongside his longtime mentor, GIL ARROYO (Lou Diamond Phillips), and detectives DANI POWELL (Aurora Perrineau) and JT TARMEL (Frank Harts), he helps the NYPD solve crimes by profiling killers, while also dealing with a manipulative mother, JESSICA WHITLY (Bellamy Young), an annoyingly normal sister, AINSLEY WHITLY (Halston Sage) and a homicidal father still looking to bond with his prodigal son."

That's how the show is described, and to anyone used to being disappointed by procedurals, it doesn't sound that intriguing, but it actually is. First of all the cast is amazing, that alone puts this show above any other simple procedural I've tried to watch in a while. And then there's this underlying family dynamics they don't let you forget, that just makes the show special. I also enjoy the dark, comedic, tone it has which is not something most shows find right away, so kudos for that.

"No one’s born broken, someone breaks us."

First and foremost, there's Malcolm Bright, later introduced as: "psychologist, forensic profiler, acquired taste". They try to paint him as someone arrogant an unlikeable, something resembling Cumberbatch’s Sherlock, but I don’t think he really sells it, he comes across way too charming for that, not that I’m complaining. Then there's his sister, Ainsley, who seems way too normal for being the daughter of a serial killer, though she's a journalist and I just can't really stand by a show that tries to sell you that the only "normal" character is a journalist. As a journalist myself, just no. So I'm just waiting to see if they're going to really address that at some point in the future.

One of the most interesting characters for me is definitely his mother, Jessica Whitly, and not just because she's played by Bellamy Young, though let me tell you I don't think it makes much sense that she plays Payne's mother, she's only twelve years older than him for crying out loud! In any case, I can't complain about having her on my screen again and she plays this character to perfection. She seems loving, if a bit manipulative (which mother isn’t?), and she seems willing to take any pill or booze that will ease her pain. She clearly has a lot of guilt over what her husband did, though her moral compass will probably come into question more than once moving forward.

I’m afraid pills alone will not fix what is wrong with us

If you take enough they will

And last but definitely not least, on the family side, is Dr. Martin Whitly, A.K.A. The Surgeon, played by the scene-stealing Michael Sheen, sometimes he's a bit over the top here which is not what we're used to seeing in the serial killer portrayed on TV, perhaps because he's not a psychopath but a predatory sociopath, still he makes you hang onto his every word and it's just a joy to watch. We learn he's been locked up for twenty years at the Claremont Psychiatric Hospital and though he tried to hide it he had quite a good relationship with him for a while, they'd get together and try to understand murderers, and you just can't deny there’s something intriguing about sitting down with a serial killer and dissecting his mind with his permission, perhaps the reason Mindhunter was a success.

"We talk about murder the way people talk about sports."

After that, he decides to go into the FBI and cuts ties with him for a decade. Though he still has nightmares about his father, as if he literally can’t be let go. He sleeps in chains due to the night terrors, which can't be fun, especially if you fall asleep in public. He's clearly haunted by it all but I feel like someone who can't ever really rest shouldn't look so good, sorry, that's just not realistic. Still, his demons affect his work and we get to see that when on his last case for the FBI he punches a Sheriff who kills a serial killer that one second ago was about to kill him.

I suppose there is where they wanted to show us the empathy he feels for them or rather his need for them to be able to redeem themselves but it was rather rushed and cheesy. But Pilots are always a work in progress so I'm always willing to let a few things slide. He tries to charm his way out of it but they tell him with his narcissistic tendencies, psychotic inclinations, and complex PTSD, they just can't work with him anymore. It makes sense they would never fully trust him, but how can you ever fully trust someone who can think so perfectly as a serial killer? That doesn’t mean you fire him the first time he punches an asshole, he appears to be too big an asset for that.

"Next time you call someone crazy, ask for their gun first."

But, alas, it seems like the FBI’s loss is the NYPD’s gain because an old New York contact comes calling immediately with a new case. Lieutenant Gil Arroyo (Lou Diamond Phillips) is Malcolm's mentor and brings him in when a someone shows up copying The Surgeon's work, he says he just wanted to make sure he was right but it wasn’t his intention to wake up any old monsters, to which Malcolm, of course, responds his demons don’t sleep (nor does he for that matter).

The team is also pretty good, other than Gil, we also have Dani, a tough girl from the Bronx who's clearly a possible future love interest, and I'm not sure about JT but he'll probably be pretty loveable. Also, the coroner, Dr. Tanaka, swooning over Malcolm was hilarious. When the case takes them to a suspect who's actually just another victim, I have to say the joy with which Malcolm decided to chop off the guy’s hand to keep him from exploding was a little scary.

Turns out the killer got his methods straight from The Surgeon himself, and that’s the perfect excuse for Malcolm to go see him. We see his father is kind of in awe of him and he promises to come back if he helps him catch the copycat, perfect excuse for us to keep seeing Michael Sheen. By the time they catch the real killer, we (or at least I) don’t really care about the profile or the fact that the guy was obsessed with The Surgeon, but the rest is enough to keep us interested. Malcolm convinces the murderer to kill him, The Surgeon’s prodigal son, instead of Dani.

Help comes just in time, but Dani saw his pain and asks if he was actually willing to die, he says no, but he’s clearly not so sure about that. Later, when Dani and JT ask about the new information, Gil tells them he was there the night The Surgeon was arrested and that perhaps without realizing the extent of it all, Malcolm called the police on his own father and saved many people’s lives and reassures them he's one of them and they can trust him. Later, we’re shown he still eats the type of candy Gil gave him that night, perhaps to remind himself which side he’s on? In any case, I think the duality in himself can only be interesting to watch moving forward.

"We’re the same."


What did you think about the Pilot? I look forward to your comments.

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