Nerds Rewatch: 5 Things We Noticed In ‘Prodigal Son’ Episode 3: “Fear Response”


This week, our #NerdsRewatchProdigal crew focused on episode 3, “Fear Response.” The episode sets up some season-long plot arcs like Malcolm searching for his repressed memories and Ainsley’s growing curiosity about her father. We also got some iconic moments (Malcolm accidentally throwing himself out a window mid-nightmare as Jessica asks to be buzzed in? Iconic). Read on for the moments that we noticed during our rewatch!

Ainsley and Jessica Disagree About Martin

Image Courtesy Fox.

Ainsley has been presented since the pilot as the only Whitly not directly affected by Martin’s crimes. She was too young to remember him and thanks to Jessica has never been to see him since his arrest. But the absence of Martin has only made Ainsley more curious about her father, and her reporter’s instinct to dig into a story begins to creep into her own life as she starts questioning what her mother has told her about Martin. This comes to a head for the first time in this episode.

Jessica: I was protecting you.
Ainsley: You did. You also taught me to be ashamed of who I am. I never knew Martin Whitly. All I know is what you want me to know. Maybe that isn’t enough.
Jessica: Do you sleep at night? When you close your eyes, do you find peace? That peace is because of the choices I made. You can thank me anytime you want.

Jessica sees how damaged Malcolm is from Martin (and to an extent, recognizes she herself has been harmed as well), but is oddly unaware of how Martin still looms large in Ainsley’s life. Both Martin and Jessica play tug-of-war over Malcolm while basically ignoring Ainsley. This blind spot is a great bit of foreshadowing that rewatching the show with hindsight has brought forward.

Martin Manipulates Malcolm

Image Courtesy Fox.

Since the first episode, Martin has been trying to get closer to his son, whether by way of phone calls or an in-person visit. And since Martin has particular knowledge of how criminals and serial killers work, Malcolm has reluctantly been going to him for help, even if he doesn’t want to. In this episode, after watching Ainsley’s newscast about the case, Martin calls Malcolm about the case he’s working on, and Malcolm seemingly asks for Martin’s advice even though he doesn’t fully admit it. Malcolm tells Martin this is not their case, but Martin replies that when both his children take an interest in something, it’s only natural to participate. Before Malcolm hangs up, Martin tells him the case may prove difficult for him and that fear has always been his particular stumbling block, bringing up his tremor and nightmares. Malcolm tells Martin it’s because of him and Martin suggests he swings by but Malcolm tells him he has no intention of returning. Martin deliberately tries to get into Malcolm’s head, talking about the family or the case or why he is the way he is. Malcolm knows that he shouldn’t be talking to his father, even just calling him Dr. Whitly when he hangs up the phone, but he can’t help himself. He goes back and forth between wanting to see him and talk to him to not having anything to do with him. It shows that even with just a small phone call how great of a manipulator Martin really is and how that could play out for the rest of the season.

Gil and Jessica Fight

Image Courtesy Fox.

In the beginning, we saw Gil as the father figure that Malcolm rightfully deserved, and when Jessica shows up at the police station to have a face to face with him for the first time this season, we immediately read a tortured past in their body language. Both tortured by Martin in a way, but also themselves. Jessica is not only three years late in offering condolences to Gil in the loss of his wife, we learn just how close and welcome Malcolm was to Gil’s family.

Jessica: You are the grown man who befriended him, who swore to protect him, and sent him back into the arms of that monster! You knew Gil, you knew more than anyone …

Gil: Yeah, who sent him there in the first place.

So much about Malcolm’s past is revealed in this fight: he was only 11 the first time he visited his dad at Clairmont and Malcolm Bright will do whatever Malcolm Bright wants to do in the end. Their conversation is painful, but it’s a necessary evil in understanding not only Malcolm, but how their characters play out the rest of the season as well.

What Does JT’s Name Stand For?

Image Courtesy Fox.

Prodigies know that this has been the million dollar question surrounding season 1. In this episode, Malcolm really tries to guess what JT’s name stands for while they are on a stakeout. Even in the midst of a fight, Malcolm still is rolling names off his tongue. James? Jonathan? Jacob? The world may never know. Let’s cross our fingers and hope we discover the origin of JT’s name in season 2!

Jessica Whitly Steps Into the Limelight

Image Courtesy Fox.

Thus far we have seen Jessica only as Malcolm and Ainsley’s colorful, possibly overprotective mother. However, this episode begins to flesh out Jessica as a character and let her shine, and wow does Bellamy Young shine as Jessica. She’s sharp-witted and unafraid to do anything and everything it takes to protect her family, even when that includes protecting her children from their father. We also see our first full interaction between Jessica and Martin, both in a flashback and at the end of the episode when she confronts him for the first time in 10 years. It’s evident how terrified she is of him, though she does not let that fear stop her from defending Malcolm and Ainsley. Her witty retorts and sarcastic nature make her an instant favorite with fans going forward!

Prodigal Son is available to watch on Fox Now and Hulu. Join us next Tuesday for another #NerdsRewatchProdigal!

I am a nurse and dedicated nerd from Boston, MA. When I'm not at work, I'm rewatching old favorites like Supernatural or discovering my new obsessions (too many to count!). When not fangirling, I can be found reading, writing, or listening to a true crime podcast. You can find me on Twitter @juleswritesblog for more nerdy nonsense.

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