A review of “Prodigal Son”

Makayla Voris

Prodigal Son made its first appearance on television on September 23, 2019. Created by Chris Fedak and Sam Sklaver, this crime drama series stars Tom Payne and Michael Sheen, who play a father-son duo with a strained relationship and horrifying past. 

As an avid follower of mystery and psychological thriller, I surprised myself by joining the Prodigal Son band-wagon over quarantine- a little late, but just in time to not wait long for the second season. The show follows Malcolm Bright (Tom Payne), a brilliant and eccentric criminal profiler who is the son of Martin Whitly (Michael Sheen), a renowned serial killer known as “The Surgeon”. At the beginning of season one, it’s made very clear that the two haven’t spoken in some time, but this doesn’t last long. After being thrown out of the FBI for insubordination, Malcolm beings working on a case for the NYPD that follows a killer that seems to be copying The Surgeon’s methods; Malcolm goes to his father for help with a psychological profile and begins a reluctant partnership that proves to be taxing on his identity and already deteriorating mental health. 

All in all, the first season of Prodigal Son proved to be a twisting, suspenseful ride that ended after just twenty episodes. Almost six months later, the first episode of season two aired on January 12, 2021… And it did not disappoint. 

In this first episode, along with tying up loose ends and questions from season one, Malcolm and his team at the NYPD try to catch a murderer responsible for the “justice killing” of a widow who allegedly played a role in her husband’s murder. While on the case, Malcolm visits his father for insight and wrestles with the prying thought that he might be more like his father than he wants to believe. As one might expect, the “justice killer” is caught and put in prison, but not until the NYPD team experiences a trauma that almost breaks them apart. 

I enjoyed this episode for many reasons, one of which was the fact that the writers didn’t shy away from issues that were very real and very present throughout 2020- racial injustice, police brutality, COVID-19, and quarantine. Many of the newer shows that I’ve watched seem to have a world in which these things aren’t happening and important questions aren’t being asked, but Prodigal Son attempted at the very least to include as much of what happened during their hiatus as they could without disrupting the plot. 

Another thing that I appreciated was how neatly the loose-ends from season one were tied up and explained; all too often I see shows that forget plot details or change the way foundational characters are written almost on a whim, but this did not happen here. 

Prodigal Son is a perfect mix of the psychological brilliance and suspense from Criminal Minds, and the quick observations and clunky humor of BBC’s Sherlock. If you enjoy psychological thriller, suspense, or just an interesting mystery, then Prodigal Son might be your next favorite show!