‘Prodigal Son’ Season One, Episode Four Recap: “Designer Complicity”

Courtesy of Fox

Well, Prodigies, this week’s episode gave us some much needed answers while also opening up new questions about just how reliable Malcolm’s newly acquired memories are. Bellamy Young and Tom Payne as Jessica and Malcolm gave standout performances as both struggled with guilt surrounding their action or inaction back in 1998. Let’s dive in to this week’s murder.

We open on the newly expanded dream of the girl in the box. This time, Jessica is seen in a red dress interrupting young Malcolm as he goes to open the box. She is frantic, yelling that his father’s things are off limits. Young Malcolm is confused and scared, but Jessica, terror in her eyes, leans in close and says, “You have no idea what your father is capable of.”

Malcolm comes back to reality in his therapist’s office. He’s shaking with anger and perhaps fear as he explains to the therapist that he triggered this memory by purposefully inhaling chloroform. It’s clear that Malcolm is in deep mental anguish, but he still retains his wit as his therapist admonishes him, saying that “it seemed like a good idea at the time.”

Malcolm now firmly believes that his mother knew about the murders before he went to the police based on this recovered memory. His therapist is understandably skeptical, reminding Malcolm that he’s basing this assumption off of a dream. Malcolm is spiraling, and he breaks a glass in his anger. His therapist is deeply concerned, but before she can react Gil calls Malcolm with their latest case. Malcolm rushes out of the office, grateful for the distraction.

Gil and Malcolm arrive at the scene of the crime, where Tatiana, a social media model, has been found dead. JT offers some context on “TT” as he calls her, and it becomes clear that he was a fan of hers. Malcolm approaches Edrisa, addressing her as Doctor. Edrisa, without thinking, responds with “If you’re lucky!” before immediately blushing. Bashfully and a bit dejectedly, she says, “I mean, hello.” To the writers of Prodigal Son: please make this ship happen immediately.

JT notes that the staging of the body corresponds with Axel X’s first campaign. He is the clothing designer who gave Tatiana her big break and is also her boyfriend. Malcolm posits that an obsessive fan of Tatiana’s loved her so much that he or she had to kill her. Gil interrupts with the news that Axel X is outside, and he and Malcolm go to speak with him.

Axel is angry at being kept from the scene. Axel reveals that Tatiana had many stalkers and “made a second career out of filing restraining orders.” Malcolm, still a little off balance from earlier, notes that his behavior seems suspicious and begins grilling him.

But the tactic backfires as a member of his entourage puts a stop to the questioning, leading Axel away. Gil is upset that Malcolm has compromised the investigation. Malcolm is apologetic, but when Gil pushes him on the cause of his mental instability, he asks Gil for the video interviews on the night his father was arrested. He’s convinced that this will be the way to prove that his mother knew about the murders. Gil, shocked, states that his hands are tied because the NYPD will never release those tapes.

Gil takes Malcolm home, where his mother is waiting for him. She reveals that his father has removed Malcolm from his approved visitor list. Malcolm, stunned, turns on his mother, asking her what she did. Jessica says she wants to keep her son safe, that she can see how these visits with Martin are changing his mental state for the worse. Malcolm sees this in the worst possible light, believing that Jessica has selfish motives for driving he and his father apart. But Jessica (rightly) notes that Malcolm is not well and that these visits have only hurt him. Malcolm bluntly asks her if she knew about the murders and is trying to cover it up. Jessica, heartbroken and furious, tells him that she has endured years of whispers from the media, but never expected it from him. She lays it all on the line, stating that it took everything she had to see Martin again but did it to protect Malcolm. Malcolm coldly states, “Spare me, you knew what he was doing—” as Jessica slaps him, hard, before he can finish his sentence.

After a stunned silence, Malcolm describes his memory with the red dress, eliciting an odd expression from Jessica. But she collects herself and delivers a trademark zinger, saying, “Isn’t it funny to you how your father is a serial killer, yet after all these years I’m still the monster?” But her emotions betray her as she rushes out, holding back tears as she says, “I don’t need you to love me, Malcolm, I just need you alive.” Bellamy Young is outstanding in this episode, showing more of Jessica’s emotional side while also leaving enough suspicious actions to make the viewer wonder what her true intentions are.

Malcolm returns to his father’s cell, rushing past the guard. He wants to know if his mother knew, but as always Martin doesn’t offer any easy answers. Instead, he muddies the waters even more. He rightly notes that he is a pathological liar, so whatever he says won’t be a satisfying answer for Malcolm. He seems to enjoy playing with Malcolm’s emotions while giving him nothing, and Malcolm leaves unsatisfied.

We return to the NYPD office, where a concerned Dani asks Malcolm how he’s doing. Malcolm replies, “Never better,” but Dani sees through it. Malcolm describes the past few days and ends with, “Oh, and I’m a terrible brother,” as he ignores a call from Ainsley. Ainsley leaves a voicemail, angry that her mother has also met with her father. She’s obviously upset, especially now that she is the only Whitly who hasn’t seen Martin since the arrest.

Gil enters, asking about an update. JT reports that Axel has a solid alibi for the evening, and Malcolm describes the killer as an intimacy seeking stalker with a delusion that Tatiana loved him back. JT looks up from his phone, showing the team that there is an impromptu memorial service for Tatiana. Malcolm theorizes that a stalker couldn’t resist attending such an event, so he and JT rush to the scene to look for any suspicious fans.

Hordes of fans are taking selfies at the memorial, but Malcolm zeroes in on their profile. He says they’re looking for a loner who isn’t performatively grieving. JT reveals that he met Tatiana when she was a USO entertainer and that she meant a lot to him. JT notices a loner photographer who he recognizes from Tatiana’s “freak stack” of restraining orders. They convince the photographer, Roger, to come in for questioning using a good cop/bad cop routine. It is clear from this scene that the two are growing a little closer than they were initially.

They continue in the interrogation room, where Roger insists that he had nothing to do with it and that they should look into Axel. Malcolm realizes that Roger must have seen something when he stalked Tatiana, but is afraid to say because it would break his parole.  Roger asks for a lawyer and ends the interrogation. But Malcolm knows that Roger can’t be guilty because unlike the profile, Roger is aware that Tatiana didn’t love him back. When Edrisa’s report comes back, Malcolm sees that Tatiana had to have been facing her killer as she died. She also had minimal defense wounds, which indicates that she knew her attacker. Gil can’t hold Roger on flimsy evidence, and Malcolm retorts that “his hands are tied,” echoing Gil’s refusal to provide the interrogation tapes. Gil moves to reassure Malcolm. He was there and talked to Jessica that night, and he knows she didn’t know. Malcolm states that he believes Gil, but doesn’t trust his mother.

We cut to Jessica going through clothes in her closet. She comes across the red dress and flashes back to a fight she had with Martin while wearing it. She tells him that he has to stop or “it” will destroy their family. It is unclear what she is talking about, but it seems like she’s telling Martin to stop killing. This is reinforced when a chastened Martin says, “Don’t you think I would stop all this if I could?” Jessica storms out after calling him a monster.  Martin stops her before she leaves and seems to suggest that if she stays quiet about what she knows, that they can still have their perfect family. Jessica is confused by this.

We return to Roger in the present. Malcolm sneaks up on him. He demands to know what Roger knows about Axel, saying that the NYPD won’t press charges if he tells the truth. He tries to manipulate Roger, but Roger won’t have it. He walks off, and as Malcolm calls Gil to report that the tactic failed, Roger is struck by a car. Malcolm rushes to his side as the car speeds off.

Malcolm travels with Roger to the hospital. Aside from a few broken ribs, he’s fine. But Roger doesn’t know that yet, and Malcolm pretends that the doctor said he was dying. He convinces Roger to give him the photos he took as one last act before his potential death. A scared Roger complies. Roger also gets a quick moment of hilarity, asking Malcolm to take care of his cat since he is “dying.” Malcolm leaves, satisfied.

Jessica is still in her dressing room as Ainsley arrives. Jessica tells her about the fight she and Malcolm had, saying that it was so epic that “someday Lin-Manuel Miranda will rap about it.”

Ainsley is upset that both her brother and mother are spiraling because of her father. She floats the idea that she is the only one who could talk to him without getting emotional since she doesn’t know him. She thinks an exclusive interview with “The Surgeon” would do wonders for her career. She believes Martin doesn’t even know she exists, but Jessica reveals that Martin watches Ainsley’s newscasts every day and is her biggest fan. This surprises Ainsley. She leaves her mother alone again, and it is clear that the family is even more fractured than before.

The photos from Roger’s camera reveal that Axel and Tatiana had a huge fight before she died, which Dani states is damning for Axel. But Malcolm realizes that the killer is actually obsessed with Axel — killing a girlfriend who was causing trouble, running over a photographer who could bring Axel down. Malcolm believes that it was someone in Axel’s entourage, stating that “family always knows.” He insists that they go to a party Axel is hosting, but Gil seemingly shuts it down.

Malcolm shows up anyway, going to Axel and telling him that he has a stalker. He gets Axel outside the venue. Axel clearly knows who it is but refuses to divulge that information. Just then Joey, the beefy manager, shows up, and it appears he is the stalker. Joey pulls a gun, telling Axel to leave as he aims at Malcolm. Malcolm appeals to Axel, telling him that if he leaves, he is complicit in whatever happens next. But Axel leaves anyway, obviously accustomed to letting Joey handle his more complicated business. All seems lost, but then Malcolm’s master plan is revealed. He knew that Joey’s stalker psychology wouldn’t allow him to be away from Axel for more than five minutes. He used Axel to lure Joey into the alley behind the party, where JT, Dani, and Gil are waiting.

Gil visits Malcolm at home, giving him an update on the case. Malcolm guesses that Gil has more to say than that. Gil calls Malcolm “Sherlock Freud,” which should honestly just be the new title of the show. Gil gives Malcolm the interrogation tape, asking him if he’s sure he wants to see it.

Malcolm turns on the tape, watching his mother get interrogated by the police. She is obviously distressed. Gil appears, trying to get the truth of what she knows. She confides in him, saying, “I knew.” Malcolm is crushed as it appears that Jessica really did know. But then, Jessica continues, saying that she thought Martin was having an affair. The pain in her eyes drives the point home: she didn’t know about her husband’s murders and is ashamed that she couldn’t stop him sooner.  Malcolm breaks down, realizing that his paranoia caused him to assume the worst about his mother.

Malcolm drives to see his mother, who is volunteering at a homeless shelter she funds. Malcolm apologizes for suspecting his mother. Jessica also apologizes for the last few months before the arrest. She was in a dark place, and worries she let him down when he needed her. But Malcolm thanks her for all she did to protect him. Malcolm says that he doesn’t want Martin to get between them again, and they embrace.

But Ainsley has other ideas. She enters Martin’s cell and calls him Dr. Whitly, trying to mask her fear behind a hard-hitting journalist facade. But Martin sees right through it, asking that she call him “Dad.” The camera lingers on Martin’s smiling face as the episode ends, setting up a showdown for next week.

What did you think of this week’s episode? Let us know in the comments!

Prodigal Son airs Mondays at 9 p.m. ET on Fox.

Julia

I am a nursing student and dedicated fangirl from Boston! When I'm not at work, I'm rewatching old favorites like Supernatural and Lost or discovering my new obsessions (too many to count!). I'm a huge Disney fan and my happy place is the Happiest Place on Earth! When not fangirling, I can be found reading, writing and listening to a true crime podcast.

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