With the way today’s television is saturated with programming, it’s rare to find a show that can pull from nearly every genre with grace. Many try, but many also fail. However just half way through season one, it is clear that Prodigal Son is exactly that show. Prodigal Son‘s foundation is the well-known crime procedural, but that’s where the commonality ends between it and other crime shows. Prodigal Son adds layer upon layer, taking the very best from family dramas, comedy’s well placed one-liners and sharp wit, and adds a dash of high stakes thriller-style moments that pull fans in. Still not convinced? Here are five more reasons you should be watching Prodigal Son.
1. The Cast
The strength of any procedural show lives and dies on the ability to create chemistry between the people cracking the case (and often the suspects). Prodigal Son has the best cast of any recent network show, led by the excellent Tom Payne as Malcolm. If the audience doesn’t become invested in Malcolm’s story, the whole show falls apart, and Payne’s ability to balance pathos with wit creates a unique and fascinating character the viewer wants to follow from week to week. His chemistry with Michael Sheen, who plays Malcolm’s serial killer father, grounds the show’s fantastical premise in reality. Both actors elevate the already interesting material and turns the show into a true battle of wills.
Payne is supported by a stellar ensemble, each filling different roles within the group. Lou Diamond Phillips (Gil) is the gruff, yet caring father figure we all want in our lives. Bellamy Young (Jessica) delivers classic zingers while portraying emotional pain. Halston Sage (Ainsley) balances confidence and vulnerability as she pursues her passion (sometimes ruthlessly). Aurora Perrineau (Dani) and Frank Harts (JT) make a great team, developing from skeptical investigators to Malcolm’s friends with their own unique ways of handling his problems. And who can forget Keiko Agena as Edrisa, the hilariously relatable pathologist who steals hearts while pining after Malcolm. This cast is excellent, and their ability to balance both the light and dark elements of the show keeps the viewer invested week after week.
2. The Writers
While the cast truly delivers, the words on the page also matter. We wouldn’t have this amazing and original show without the brilliant creative minds in the writers room. Week after week, we are given more depth and character development not only in Malcolm’s life, but the supporting characters as well. We consistently see Payne portray Malcolm with his complete disregard for his own safety. Though it’s not (always) intentional that Malcolm is consistently throwing himself in harms way, it just happens organically as the story progresses. And that is thanks to the brilliant writers behind the show. They understand the characters, find humor in the serious subjects each week, and create a beautiful harmony between the family drama, weekly murder, and season-long story lines. There is never a shortage of innovation or plot holes left unaddressed. We are consistently left with more questions than answers, and when we do have all the answers to a particular plot line, it feels complete.
3. The Plot Twists
Along with the amazing cast and writers, fans can look forward to a thrilling episode every week. Each new episode adds more mystery and excitement for loyal “Prodigies” and continues to keep fans on the edge of their seats. Whether its finding out more about what happened to the “girl in the box” or developments in the weekly case the team is working, fans are never disappointed and can be sure there will be a jaw-dropping moment in each episode. Many viewers are drawn into the constant danger the characters find themselves in and it keeps fans guessing right to the end. The beauty of it is there is no guessing what’s next and that’s why fans come back week after week.
Each new episode not only lives up to the intensity of the pilot episode, but it consistently provides little answers for Malcolm’s childhood mysteries and the interesting family dynamic that leaves “Prodigies” craving more. Crime shows have come and gone but Prodigal Son is here to stay and will deliver a heart-stopping plot twist that will stay with fans until the next episode and hopefully into season two!
4. The Originality
Every season it seems that every major network trots out their newest version of CSI. Most follow a predictable format, with attractive detectives that fit every major stereotype and “ripped from the headlines” crimes (read: stolen from headlines with little difference between the real crimes and the fake ones). Prodigal Son turns all of this on its head from the very first episode. The premise itself, a profiler haunted by his serial killer father’s crimes, is like nothing we’ve seen from a network procedural in recent memory. The crimes of the week have twists to them that even this true crime fanatic doesn’t see coming (a high compliment from the person who frequently wrecks plot twists for friends by guessing the endings). Additionally, the crimes serve the character development and overall arc of the season as opposed to making a show suited for easy syndication. Prodigal Son is the most original network show both in premise and execution in the last few years and that alone makes it worth watching.
5. The Depiction of Mental Health
On television, there’s often a lack of understanding towards mental health. Those suffering from PTSD are usually categorized as “crazy” and dangerous or pitiful figures who deserve our compassion but little else. They also rarely offer a diagnostic label, instead choosing vague symptoms to suit whatever story line the writers have going at the moment and ensuring they can add and subtract symptoms as dictated by the plot. In Malcolm, Prodigal Son creates a character that is human while struggling with complex PTSD. Malcolm is multifaceted and not easily pegged as “the mentally ill character”. The show doesn’t sugarcoat his struggles or the depths of his despair and even gives a name to his symptoms by diagnosing him with c-PTSD. It also shows him regularly visiting a therapist, taking medication, and practicing self care despite his self-destructive tendencies. Malcolm has a witty personality and a circle of friends he can rely on as well as a job he loves and does well. Does he have his struggles? Yes, and the show makes sure to show them onscreen. Does he have a fulfilling and worthwhile life in spite of his illness? Also yes, and the show highlights the many things in Malcolm’s life that make it worth living. It’s an honest portrayal of mental illness and it’s amazing to watch.
From edge of your seat thriller scenes to the touching moments Malcolm shares with his family (excluding serial killer Dad of course) to the most interesting crime of the week, Prodigal Son really does have it all. Crime, family drama, and some really excellent twists all come together with a fast paced tempo to keep you guessing from start to finish. So why wait? Prodigal Son is available to binge watch (and we highly suggest binge watching it) on Hulu or FOX online with a television subscriber login. Prodigal Son airs Mondays on FOX at 9/8c.