Well Prodigies, that was an action-packed episode! Every scene seemed designed to give the viewer a heart attack, between huge revelations and a race-against-time to save Malcolm. Prodigal Son definitely started the second half of the season with a bang. Read on for big reveals and heart-thumping escapes as Malcolm gets some “Alone Time” with a killer…
The episode starts with Malcolm on the ground, hallucinating his mother’s presence. He tries to get up, but quickly realizes he is chained to the floor. The door to the room opens, and in walks Paul Lazar/John Watkins, who took Malcolm captive in the fall finale. He expresses he is happy that they finally get some “alone time” together.
Back at the NYPD office, the team gets the news that Malcolm is missing and Owen Shannon is dead. They focus their efforts on John Watkins and have to hurry, since the killer has been rapidly changing his methods. Dani and JT are eager to assist, but Colette, the FBI officer, puts them both on evidence processing duty instead. JT (and the audience) are annoyed with the FBI interference, but Dani tells him that it is much easier to try to work with the FBI than against them.
Gil talks to Colette about telling Jessica about the situation, but she points out that after Jessica’s recent appearance on television she can’t be trusted to keep this under wraps. She and Gil agree to try to get information from Matilda Watkins, the world’s creepiest grandmother, which goes about as well as you might expect after our introduction to her in the last episode. She is not helpful at all, ranting about how the victims are a stain. Getting nowhere and wanting to find Malcolm, Gil offers to talk to someone who may be able to help…but he’ll need a favor from Colette to make it happen. Gil tells Jessica what’s been going on, reassuring her that he will find Malcolm. He asks for her help, thinking that she may recognize John from all those years ago. He provides her with photographs from John’s house. He also tells her he will be visiting Martin in prison to get his help since John was his protege. Gil warns Jessica that none of this can be leaked to the press as he goes to visit Martin.
Malcolm, forever the profiler, starts analyzing John, noting that it’s strange to see a serial killer change methods and evolve before his eyes. He’s almost giddy, which is definitely the attitude you want to project while being held captive by a serial killer. He wants to know the reason John took him, to which John responds that he thinks the two would be a good team due to their mutual connection with Martin. Malcolm states that he’s not a killer, but John ominously says that Malcolm could be a killer if he makes it through his “trials” like John did. Meanwhile, Dani and JT stumble across a photo that reminds them of the camping trip Malcolm said he took with John and Martin, which now seems like a major clue to Malcolm’s whereabouts.
Gil starts to interrogate Martin, which quickly evolves into a sparring contest between the two since Gil is a major father figure in Malcolm’s life, about which Martin seems rather sensitive. Gil is careful not to reveal that Malcolm is missing and leads Martin to believe that he’s simply trying to profile the Junkyard Killer. Martin thinks Malcolm must be listening in and wonders why, saying that he will of course help Malcolm and Ainsley if they need him, but that he needs to see Malcolm. Gil is then forced to tell him that John Watkins has Malcolm and that they need Martin to help find him. Martin, uncharacteristically shocked, says that if John has him then Malcolm is already dead. He collapses and they call for help.
Malcolm continues to profile John as he discusses his past, including his mother, who was a sex worker. He thinks this is why John goes after people struggling with addiction and sex workers. John mocks Malcolm, saying that unlike him at least John can remember his own origin story. He dismisses Malcolm’s interest in the girl in the box, saying Martin took care of her and that she was unimportant. He also shows Malcolm a nasty scar from a stab wound, saying Malcolm gave him this wound on the camping trip all those years ago. For revenge, John then stabs Malcolm.
Ainsley is now a minor celebrity after the interview with her father, which is good for her career yet uncomfortable for her personally. Her coworker suggests that she do a second interview with her father, but Ainsley wants to focus on the impact it had on her family instead. Jessica keeps messaging Ainsley throughout, telling her to come home as soon as possible. In a rarity for Jessica, she even says please, so Ainsley leaves to see what’s going on.
In pain and losing blood, Malcolm hallucinates his therapist. She gives good advice for an imaginary person, telling Malcolm to stop prioritizing the profile over his own safety. She also tells him to let go of the girl in the box, since she’s holding him back in healing from his trauma. She starts to vanish as Malcolm panics about facing this alone. Meanwhile, Dani and JT are trying to convince the FBI to go to the cabin from the camping trip, convinced it’s where John is holding Malcolm. It takes some work, but they finally get permission to go. They call Gil, who then consults Martin. Martin, depressed and convinced Malcolm is dead, provokes Gil by saying that if it wasn’t for him, Malcolm would still be alive. Martin then says that if Gil knew John the way he did, he’d know Malcolm was gone. Gil manages to convince Martin to draw a map of the cabin, pointing out where John would keep Malcolm if they were at that location.
John drops a major piece of information when he explains why Malcolm stabbed him. According to John, Martin was going to kill Malcolm on the camping trip because he knew too much about his father’s activities. Martin was going to do the deed himself, but couldn’t go through with it. John then took over, but Malcolm got away and stabbed him. Malcolm (and the audience!) is in shock at this reveal.
Ainsley arrives home, and Jessica tells her what’s been happening. They look through the photos Gil gave them, looking for anyone familiar. Ainsley has a revelation and rushes off. She returns with an angel statue she claims she got from Mr. Boots, her imaginary friend/ghost that no one else believed was real. But in an extremely creepy turn of events, it seems that Mr. Boots was actually John, who was spotted by Ainsley as a little girl when he would come upstairs from the basement lair.
The NYPD searches the cabin, but finds nothing, even after looking in the creepy deep basement Martin showed Gil. John takes an ax and leaves to “sacrifice” something, saying “There’s no place like home!” The situation is horrifyingly clear now: Malcolm and John have been in the basement of the Whitly mansion this whole time. Gil calls Martin, who realizes the truth: that John wants to kill the whole Whitly family. Ainsley and Jessica watch in horror as John breaks through the wall with his ax, then run. He manages to wound Ainsley, but Jessica slows him by hitting him over the head. The sequence is filmed well and has the viewer on the edge of their seat, with smashing French doors and realistic fighting from Jessica and Ainsley.
Malcolm again hallucinates, this time his father. He confronts him about trying to kill him on the camping trip, but unsurprisingly the hallucination would rather focus on Malcolm’s survival. He notes that the chain holding Malcolm’s hand is three inches wide and his hand is five inches wide. In order to get free and save his family, Malcolm is going to need to make his hand smaller. Taking a sledgehammer John left behind, Malcolm breaks his thumb to escape the shackles, echoing the scene from early in the season when Malcolm had to chop off a man’s hand to free him.
Jessica and Ainsley are hiding in the bathroom as John approaches. Malcolm, now free, hears their screams and shouts at John to distract him. Malcolm manages to hit John while screaming “This is my house!” He breaks down, but succeeds in saving his family. He tells Jessica that John will never be able to hurt them again as he hugs Ainsley.
This winter premiere was crazy, from the huge revelation about the camping trip to the massive showdown at the Whitly house. What did you think, Prodigies? Let us know in the comments!
Prodigal Son airs Mondays at 9 p.m. ET on Fox and is available to stream on Hulu.