Right off the bat the show just goes all in with our protagonist Malcolm doing something insane and potentially life threatening in the name of catching a killer. It all gets more lit from there.
Let’s get into the cast: this show would not work if Tom Payne didn’t bring just the right mix of arrogance and innocence to his performance. There’s something so brilliantly unhinged about Malcolm that makes you absolutely believe he’s the son of two type A personalities, one of whom is a serial killer. Yet, there’s also a vulnerability in his physicality and delivery that makes you believe he’s still stuck, on some level, at the age he was when his father was arrested. It’s a darkly funny, sad and nuanced performance that shows you why so many of us fell in love with his previous character of Jesus on The Walking Dead.
Then there’s Michael Sheen, Bellamy Young and Lou Diamond Phillips aka The Acting Gawds. All three are basically Malcolm’s parents and you can see how each of them have influenced who Malcolm has become: whether it’s his fascination with the mind of serial killers, his dependence on narcotics or his need to save everyone, each has left an indelible mark and each actor shows their love for him in their every interaction. It’ll be fascinating as the show progresses to see how each of them shaped his life before and after The Surgeon was caught.
As for the rest of the cast Aurora Perrineau and Keiko Agena are badass and adorable as Dani and Edrisa respectively. They both also have amazing chemistry with Payne and I found myself doing something I usually never do with shows this early: shipping both characters with Malcolm. The weakest links so far are Halston Sage as Ainsley, Malcolm’s little sister and Frank Harts as fellow police officer JT. I’ve seen neither before but while there are moments of greatness where Ainsley is concerned (the dinner scene is great, watch her face), JT does nothing for me and seems to just be there to be suspicious of Malcolm and weirdly inappropriate.
Overall I’m looking forward to how the show goes, and how Malcolm, his disturbing family dynamics and his job clash.
Four Heads out of Five
When I first saw the early previews for Prodigal Son, my first thought was ‘This is an incredible cast.’ Tom Payne, from The Walking Dead fame, Michael Sheen, from everything that is good fame, along with Lou Diamond Phillips, headline this new show that styles itself as a Silence of the Lambs dynamic in that the young agent seeks the counsel of a monster in order to save lives. I honestly worried about this but after watching the pilot episode, my fears were put to bed. The only similarity is that the agent visits the serial killer, Prodigal Son takes it much deeper.
The premise of the show is an intriguing one, recently fired F.B.I. agent Malcolm Bright – fired for punching an ignorant sheriff in the face for shooting a serial killer in the back – has teamed up with the NYPD as a profiler to solve murders. He is a jittery fellow that can’t sleep, can’t eat, and has frequent vivid day dreams of his youth. There is good reason for that, his youth was traumatized by his father, infamous serial killer Dr. Martin Whitly. Since his childhood, Malcolm seems to have been trying to atone for his fathers sins, to his own detriment. What he is really fighting is to not become his father. His gift for profiling is prolific, but it comes from a place of understanding all too well a killer’s mind.
The plot of the pilot is inconsequential to the groundwork being laid that is at the heart of the series – the relationship between Dr. Whitly and Malcolm. Suffice it to say, the interaction between the two is the best thing you might see all fall season. It is actually a perfect medium for serialization, my only fears are the eventual “Whitly breaks out of prison” schtick and the “we can never trust Malcolm because of his father” over-saturation.
With elements of Silence, Dexter, Fringe, and others, I hope that Prodigal Son discovers its own path and has a long successful run.
4.25 pilots of 5