Prodigal Son centers on Malcolm Bright (Tom Payne), whose father, Martin Whitly (Michael Sheen), is the infamous serial killer known as “The Surgeon.” As a child, Malcolm was responsible for bringing his father justice — and he hasn’t seen him in ten years. Extremely gifted, Malcolm became a criminal psychologist and was employed by the Federal Bureau of Investigation in Quantico, Virginia.
After being fired, he gets hired on as a consultant for the New York City Police Department. When a copycat serial killer uses The Surgeon’s killing methods, Malcolm is forced to confront his father. Rather then it being a one-time meeting, he instead finds himself in constant contact with Martin and uses this renewed relationship to accomplish two things — benefit from his father’s knowledge of killing to help the NYPD solve difficult cases and come to terms with the inner demons created by being the child of a serial killer.
Supporting Bright along the way is his boss and longtime mentor, Lieutenant Gil Arroyo (Lou Diamond Phillips); his overbearing mother, Jessica Whitly (Bellamy Young); his sister, Ainsley Whitly (Halston Sage), a television journalist; Detective Dani Powell (Aurora Perrineau), who is sympathetic to Malcolm’s issues; Detective JT Tarmel (Frank Harts), who wonders whether Malcolm is a psychopath like his father; and Dr. Edrisa Tanaka (Keiko Agena), a medical examiner who is Malcolm’s biggest fan.
Tom Payne really brings out all the stops for his portrayal of a gifted, tortured soul. His character is very sympathetic and one of the main draws for me. Also, I’m a big Criminal Minds fan and Prodigal Son has kind of helped fill the void left by the ending of that show. I wouldn’t say the cases in Prodigal Son are as compelling as Criminal Minds, but it’s close enough, and the main draw is the serial killer storyline — that’s where the true fun of the show is at.
The Whitly family is dysfunctional to an almost delicious degree. I love watching the relationship between Martin and his children, fraught with the requisite awkwardness you’d expect given their situation, develop further as the season goes on. Michael Sheen is creepy and extremely convincing as The Surgeon. Payne and Sheen’s scenes together are electric and always a highlight of the episode.
Like Silence of the Lambs with a dash of Criminal Minds thrown in, Prodigal Son is an absolute delight. Between the case of the week and the ongoing family drama, it’s a constant thrill ride with enough suspense and surprises to keep the audience engaged. There’s also a ton of heart and humor to go around as well.
The number two new scripted series on Fox, the network has recently renewed Prodigal Son for a second season and it’s likely to air in midseason due to the COVID-19 production shutdown. The writer is most grateful for this renewal considering the massive cliffhanger in the first season’s final episode — that’s all you’re getting from me. If you’re searching for a fun police procedural laced with serial killer drama, give Prodigal Son a try. The complete first season is available on Hulu.