After last week’s action-packed season premiere, this week we get a more typical episode of Prodigal Son, with the team investigating a religiously-motivated killer. Oh wait, did we say typical? What we meant was not typical in the slightest, as Bright and the rest of his crew find themselves learning exorcism rituals, supernatural lore, rare medical diagnoses, and Catholic Church bylaws to crack the case. On top of all that, we get a new recurring character in Friar Pete, and Gil and Jessica’s relationship takes an unexpected turn. Read on to see what happened in “Speak of the Devil”.
We open in group therapy, where it is Martin’s first week back. The therapist asks Martin what’s on his mind, and Martin confesses he’s worried about Malcolm. In a parallel scene, Jessica talks to Malcolm, saying she’s worried too. She tells him she discovered he hasn’t been going to his therapist in months when the bill stopped coming. Malcolm tries to brush it off, but Jessica isn’t convinced. Malcolm is worried that Martin is the only one he can talk to about the overwhelming guilt he feels. Jessica insists that Malcolm come to brunch with her and Ainsley, hoping that will cure what ails him.
At brunch, Ainsley gently teases Jessica for her involvement in her children’s lives, with Jessica retorting that “I don’t meddle … I mother.” Ainsley is moving back to her own apartment after quarantining with Jessica, and shockingly, Jessica is okay with it and even offers to help her pack. Malcolm and Ainsley notice her newfound happiness, with Ainsley bringing up Gil as a potential reason why. Jessica tries to be subtle about it, but it’s clear she’s happy (even if something is troubling her.) Malcolm is called away for a new murder, once again skipping brunch.
Malcolm arrives at a stunning church, where the body of Father Reyes is hanging from the ceiling. JT doesn’t want to talk with Malcolm about the incident with the cop from before, and they go in to investigate. Edrisa is on a hydraulic lift and is clearly having the time of her life using this new toy to examine the body. She sees that the priest’s blood is being used to spell a symbol on the ground, and Malcolm begins to theorize that this is a religiously-motivated killer on a mission. He finds a book on exorcism near the body and wonders whether Father Reyes was performing exorcisms on the side. The nun who found the body, Sister Agnes, is quiet and says she doesn’t want to answer. She’s mostly been working with Jonah, a handyman, on restoring old church paintings. The symbol under the body means “Abaddon,” and Malcolm knows this relates to the end of the world.
Just then, Archbishop Argento arrives. He’s clearly distraught, but when Bright asks for Church records regarding exorcisms, he coldly says that’s private information between the parishioners and the priests. Gil surprisingly doesn’t fight this, which Malcolm calls him out for when Argento leaves. Gil says they won’t get anywhere with the Church by fighting them and that they need to play the game. Malcolm gives Gil his theory: that the murderer has a “possession disorder” that makes them think they’re possessed (this is a real thing, where do they come up with this stuff?). Malcolm decides to go to Martin for help.
When Malcolm arrives, Martin is enjoying some leisure time in the concrete prison yard. Martin says he called in a consultant of his own, a fellow inmate named Friar Pete. Friar Pete himself is a serial killer who went after his victims due to religious delusion. Pete says the way the body was found points to a medical basis as well as a religious one. Malcolm, clearly believing this is all on the Church and not having any faith at all, disregards his theory at first. But Pete knows his stuff, and more importantly, tells Malcolm that Church law dictates a doctor needs to sign off on any exorcisms performed. This allows Malcolm to realize they don’t need Argento’s Church records – they can find the doctor who authorized it instead.
Armed with this information, Malcolm and JT head to see Norman, a victim of “demonic possession” (or, as Malcolm sees it, misdiagnosed and untreated mental illness.) The house is the very picture of haunted, and Norman is exactly the image of demonic possession – eerily calm, calling his mom “Mother” and generally being creepy. His room is lined with salt, and his mother tells Malcolm and JT that the only thing they must do is not cross the salt lines and trigger him. Naturally, Malcolm does this almost immediately, telling JT that he needs to see what Norman does when he’s triggered. Norman loses it, screaming, and JT is flabbergasted at Malcolm’s disregard for his own safety (again.) Back at the precinct, the group discusses the case. Father Reyes was the one working with Norman, and one theory is that Norman snapped and killed him. This is the theory Dani and Gil believe until Malcolm shows them how it doesn’t fit the profile. Father Reyes was killed methodically, following precise instructions from an old medical text. Norman’s rage was destructive, but it wasn’t controlled. Gil grants Malcolm permission to keep looking for the culprit.
Back at the Whitly house, Ainsley is packing while Jessica assists. She calls Jessica out, asking if she’s keeping herself busy to distract herself from something. Jessica plays coy, but Ainsley says, “something’s clearly going on; we’re just not going to talk about it?” Jessica deadpans, “We’re WASPs, it’s what we do” before leaving. Malcolm falls asleep at the precinct and has a nightmare, waking up to Dani, trying to calm him down as the entire NYPD precinct looks on in shock. Dani’s wearing body armor after his last nightmare, and when Bright asks why, Dani wryly says, “because you fell asleep.” The guilt is clearly getting to Malcolm, especially since he can’t talk about it with anyone.
JT and Gil talk about the incident at the crime scene. JT doesn’t want to report it, believing that the other officers will turn on him. He says he’s about to be a father and is afraid that they won’t have his back and something will happen to him. In a moment of full honesty, Gil tells JT that he can’t promise him that there won’t be consequences. Seeing missed calls from Jessica, JT and Gil both decide to “let things shake out” for now.
Dani takes Malcolm back to his apartment, and they chat. She’s distressed by what happened to JT and angry that it took so much injustice for white people to see that there is a problem with police brutality. She also tries to get Malcolm to open up, which goes nowhere. But in the course of their discussion, Malcolm finds himself staring at an old painting he has. He has a revelation: the painting, like the one being restored in the church, is made of lead paint. Lead poisoning can cause delusions. Malcolm realizes it was Sister Agnes who killed Father Reyes.
Malcolm, JT, Dani, and Gil rush to the church, where they hear noises from the crypt below (not creepy at all! Perfectly normal!). Both Argento and Jonah are there, with Jonah distraught to think that Sister Agnes might have gotten lead poisoning from working with him. Gil, JT, and Dani go to find Agnes while Bright stays with Argento and Jonah in the church itself. JT tries to call for backup, but in another instance of racism, the dispatch operator accuses him of impersonating an officer even after JT identifies himself. They’re on their own.
Back in the church, Argento asks Malcolm if there’s something weighing on his mind (yes, it’s that obvious that Malcolm is drowning in some kind of guilt here.) Malcolm does not want to get into the murder coverup with the priest, but he does say that he wishes he had faith. Suddenly, Jonah loses it as the team discovers Agnes tied up in a wardrobe. It turns out Jonah was the one who was affected by the lead. Malcolm tells Argento to leave and locks the door, trapping himself inside with Jonah. He calls Martin, who is playing a game with Friar Pete (what a diabolical duo.) Malcolm explains the situation as Jonah gets closer. Malcolm asks Pete what to do, and he responds with, “Your son’s gonna die.” Martin pivots, saying, “Gotcha. Okay, Malcolm, I don’t think a talk down is going to work in this instance.” Pete tells Malcolm to perform an exorcism, treating his delusion like it’s real. Pete talks Malcolm through it gleefully, and somehow it works – Jonah falls down as though a demon has been expelled.
Back at the precinct, Gil angrily reams out the backup team for not responding to JT’s call for help. JT’s worst fears of his fellow officers not having his back have come true, and both JT and Dani think it will only get worse. Dani wants him to go to the union, but JT is concerned this will make it even worse. He says he’ll take care of it before leaving, and Dani and Gil are concerned as they watch him go.
Gil goes to see Jessica after seeing many missed calls. She’s nervous, and he’s confused until he realizes she overheard what Dani said about her. Jessica says she’s toxic, and she’s afraid if she lets herself love him, he’ll be in danger. Gil tries to insist this isn’t the case, pointing out that she saved him and taking her hand. But Jessica says, “then let me save you again,” and pulls away. Brokenhearted, Gil leaves. Ainsley, having heard it all, says she’s not moving out anytime soon so she can support her mother.
Malcolm goes to Martin to debrief, and Martin is delighted that once again, the two have worked together. But Malcolm tells Martin that he realizes that the voice in his head that belongs to Martin can be tuned out. He says he doesn’t need Martin anymore, and he leaves. Martin, worried he’s losing his son, confesses to Friar Pete. He wants out of prison, thinking this will help him repair their relationship. Pete subtly suggests that Martin join their Bible study group where they are reading “Exodus.” Martin realizes that Pete has plans to escape, and the two smile as we fade to black.
Malcolm Danger Count: Technically, two, but that salt move should really be 10 all by itself.
Prodigal Son airs Tuesdays at 9 p.m. ET on Fox. You can also catch up on Fox Now (only the season 2 premiere is currently available on Hulu).