Producer Greg Berlanti’s latest US series, Prodigal Son plays with the tenuous relationship between a former FBI profiler and his convicted serial killer father.
Tom Payne stars as Malcolm Bright, whose unconventional style sees him fired from the FBI before being hired by NYPD Lieutenant Gil Arroyo (Lou Diamond Phillips). New York is suffering a spate of killings that mirror those of jailed killer Martin Whitly (Michael Sheen), who just happens to be Malcolm’s father.
Father and son are estranged after disgrace was brought upon the family when Malcolm was a young boy and haven’t spoken in 10 years.
But Martin still loves his son and insists, “I love you because we’re the same.” Charming.
Indeed Malcolm is still tormented by the crimes of his father and subjected to night terrors. But when faced with a copycat killer he is forced to engage face to face. In these moments it’s hard not to think of Silence of the Lambs, Mindhunter or The Blacklist.
And when Malcolm enters a crime scene and “reads the room” one is also reminded of Sherlock or The Mentalist
“I imagine the crime from killer’s point of view…it helps me understand the killer,” he states.
Meanwhile his mother (Bellamy Young) offers little, but journo / sister Ainsley (Halston Sage) will doubtless contribute her share of episodic stories.
Some plot moves in the opening episode, particularly those involving an explosive device, were far-fetched and felt like a writer ramping things up to a commercial break.
A lot of the material is familiar territory, but what the two leads have is charisma, with Tom Payne unhinged just enough to keep things entertaining. Michael Sheen, frequently bound and menacing, is thankfully less irritable than his recent Good Fight role.
While it’s clear Malcolm will be forced to dig deep in order to solve murders, I’d be more interested if he indeed gets a Dexter-like taste for blood and is conflicted between good and evil. Can you avoid a family destiny, even one as detestable as this. And should a child be judged for the actions of a parent? If the series can delve into deeper themes rather than solving weekly crimes we may have something.
This one is performances over plot so far….
Prodigal Son begins Wednesday November 13th at 8:30pm on FOX One.