Keeping Murder in the Family: Why ‘Prodigal Son’ Needs a Season 3


Contributors: Brianna, Jules, Kailey, Kenedi, Megan

From the moment Prodigal Son first hit our screens, the show has brilliantly upended the standard format of the typical crime genre shows. Taking the very best of the crime show structure and adding in unpredictable storylines, intense family drama, and a healthy dose of heart stopping action, Prodigal Son has taken the small screen by storm and we can’t get enough. Every week sees profiler Malcolm Bright partner with the NYPD to solve a crime of the week murder that often poetically parallels the ongoing Whitly family drama and his own personal struggles to balance it all. From fantastic character development to jaw dropping acting from the ensemble cast, there is so much to enjoy in Prodigal Son, and we remain hopeful FOX will soon renew the show for a third season. While we wait to find out the fate of our favorite profiler we’re highlighting some of the reasons Prodigal Son deserves a season 3.

Compelling Writing and Jaw Dropping Storylines

Phil Caruso/FOX

Not every show can pull of high stakes drama, pithy comedic one-liners, emotionally charged heart to hearts, and horror movie creepy moments, but Prodigal Son delivers all that and more every week. Season 2 was filled with the same edge-of-your-seat twists and turns we experienced in season 1, and the writing team outdid themselves week after week. The show has struck a uniquely enjoyable balance between the crime of the week, the drama of the Whitlys and our favorite NYPD crew, and the season long story arcs with an unusual grace that’s hard to find in television today. Prodigal Son always goes the extra mile with their one hour time slot, and not a single minute is wasted. Small details we think are unimportant will tie into the story in a unique way every single time. We saw this in “You Can Run…” when a short flashback of Malcolm playing with a Batman toy in 1998 ended up packing an emotional punch when it resurfaces at the end of the episode as an item in the go bag from Martin’s original escape plan should the cops suspect him.

It’s the kind of range that’s just not common on television today. One week is all high octane energy with witty one-liners while the next has us thinking we’ve tuned in to a creepy horror movie. The writing, story arc, and intellectual prowess of the entire team deserves to be celebrated and needs the chance to explore this amazing world for another year.

Strong Character Development

Phil Caruso/FOX

While the Prodigal Son writers deserve a lot of praise for their carefully plotted arcs that never waste any details, they deserve more praise for how they pay attention to the character arcs on the show. None of the characters are the same today as they were in the pilot episode, from Ainsley’s gradual turn from funny younger sister to possible psychopath to Jessica’s emergence as a tragic figure after initially being a more sarcastic and funny character. Even Edrisa has gone from being a woman stuttering over her words around Malcolm to a smart and confident woman who knows what she wants (while still retaining the awkwardness we love about her). Every case challenges each character and pushes them into different versions of themselves, particularly when cases force Malcolm to think about his own actions or how his past still influences him. In a potential third season, we know these characters will continue to grow in surprising and emotional ways.

Ensemble Cast

Phil Caruso/FOX

We can’t sing the praises of the character development without, of course, highlighting the fantastic ensemble cast without whom Prodigal Son would not be the same. The heart and soul of this show is in the relationships between our main characters and it’s evident the actors portraying them give it their all in every single episode. Tom Payne’s raw, emotional performance as Malcolm Bright makes him instantly relatable. He’s flawed and struggling but doing his best with the hand he’s been dealt to better the world around him. Michael Sheen gives a bone chilling performance as serial killer Martin Whitly. He expertly oscillates between charming and dangerous in a millisecond, making it impossible to look away from his performance. Meanwhile, our amazing NYPD trio of Lou Diamond Phillips as Gil Arroyo, Aurora Perrineau as Dani Powell, and Frank Harts as JT Tarmel balance out the sometimes erratic Bright and bring an essence of calm and quirk as they look after Malcolm’s well-being about as much as he allows. Of course, our wonderfully quirky medical examiner Edrisa (played by Keiko Agena) is an essential part of the show, adding levity to every crime scene.

Of course we can’t leave out the phenomenal Whitly women: Bellamy Young as Jessica and Halston Sage as Ainsley. Young’s performance as the sharp witted, overprotective Jessica captivates us every time she is on screen. Sage has flawlessly portrayed Ainsley as she slowly morphed from perfect daughter to potential psychopath. The on-screen chemistry between them is palpable and lively, making this show one of the best on television right now.

The Endless Possibilities with Backstories

Phil Caruso/FOX

Another reason why Prodigal Son deserves a renewal is because of the endless possibilities with the character backstories. While we’ve gotten to see some of Malcolm and Ainsley’s lives growing up, pre- and post The Surgeon, we don’t really know anything else. What were they like growing up? Was there any difference between them or indication that Ainsley might grow up to be like her father? How did Martin become The Surgeon and was there anything specific thing that drove him to it?

Gil, Dani, JT, and Edrisa are characters we still don’t really know much about. What is the story behind Gil and his late wife? What was Gil’s relationship with the Whitlys like after Martin’s arrest? How did Dani and JT become detectives and Edrisa an M.E., and what are their stories? Of course, most importantly, we must know more about everyone’s favorite bird, Sunshine. How did Sunshine come into Malcolm’s life? Where did she come from? How did that name come about? There is just so much story to tell for each character, and backstories are always a great way to connect the past with the present. Getting another season means we have more time to really delve into these characters and get to know more about them.

Powerful Music

Phil Caruso/FOX

The score of Prodigal Son by Nathaniel Blume combined with the brilliance of its music cues is practically another character on the series. While some moments are simply hilarious, like Martin’s prison montage set to “Survivor” by Destiny’s Child or Malcolm interrogating a man to “I Feel Love” by Donna Summer, often the music adds emotion and dramatic tension. In “You Can Run…”, the song “Mad World” is showcased, not only playing throughout the episode but also weaving into the score as a motif. It grounded the action, reminding us at every turn that this serial killer versus profiler showdown was really a devastating moment for a son who sees the shreds of humanity in his father’s love that no one else can. We have no doubt that in a season 3, the music would continue to inform the show’s most crucial moments.

Riveting Relationships

Phil Caruso/FOX

The character dynamics on Prodigal Son are amazing; no matter who you throw together in a scene, this cast manages to produce insane chemistry. One area where this rings especially true is in the romantic relationship department of the show. The rapture and underlying tension that is produced in scenes between some of our favorite ships (we’re looking at you Brightwell and Gilica) bring a softer and more emotional aspect to the show than you would expect from a procedural crime drama. The heart-meltingly sweet moments that we see between (and sometimes on) cases bring a nice case of the warm and fuzzies to a show that could easily let itself sink into never-ending doom and gloom if it wanted to. While these relationships have been progressing nicely throughout the past two seasons, we can’t help but crave more — which is exactly why we need a season 3 of Prodigal Son.

Lights, Camera, Action!

Phil Caruso/FOX

If we’ve said it once, we’ve said it a thousand times: Prodigal Son‘s production value is truly top-notch. We can imagine there is so much time and effort that goes into creating the perfect shot, as well as editing the show together for the final product to air on our television screens. As we hope the show soon returns for a season 3, we want to show our appreciation for the hard work and dedication that goes into creating the show because each shot or edit that’s made makes an impact. From the arc shots, low and high angles, as well as lighting effects, and how scenes are spliced together so perfectly, we can’t argue that this show has movie magic at its roots. Prodigal Son isn’t afraid to also get up close and personal with the actors as we often see close ups on the characters faces, giving us a glimpse of every facial expression or hint of emotion. We are constantly in awe of the talent of not only the cast, but the crew themselves. We are always surprised and delighted with each new shot and we can’t wait to see what awaits us in the show’s future.

Will Martin Continue to Mentor Ainsley?

Image Courtesy FOX.

Ainsley’s story arc and character development has been full of twists and turns from the get go. Positioned as the “well-adjusted Whitly” in season 1, we slowly learn that she’s not as well adjusted as she thinks. The shocking season 1 finale and the consequences of her killing Nicholas Endicott play out in season 2 has she struggles with the knowledge she might be more like Martin that she thought. Toward the end of season 2 her ruthlessness begins to show as she fakes another murder to teach Malcolm a lesson and begins to rely on Martin who is more than willing to offer her advice on how to function in society. “Pretend to feel when you don’t. Cry every now and then. If you can master that, my dear, the world is your oyster.” Will Ainsley continue to turn to Martin for help in understanding her psyche and how will that affect her? We’ll need a season 3 to find out.

Mental Health Awareness

Phil Caruso/FOX

After two seasons, the show’s depiction of Malcolm’s mental health continues to be respectful and moving, especially as season 2 pushed him to his limit emotionally. Faced with covering up a murder his sister committed while lying to everyone he cares about, Malcolm has never been closer to a breaking point. But we see him reach out for help, whether it’s finally admitting to Dani that he’s not doing well to setting boundaries with Martin. As Dani says to Malcolm when she tries to get him to open up, “Trauma doesn’t just disappear because you want it to, you have to face it. But you don’t have to face it alone.” We feel Malcolm’s highs and lows, but we also see that there is hope there for him if he’s willing to reach out to the people who love him. Tom Payne’s performance combined with the thoughtful writing choices surrounding Malcolm’s PTSD make this a uniquely responsible portrayal of mental health, and we’re sure that a third season would continue this important storyline.

We Still Don’t Know JT’s Name

Phil Caruso/FOX

One of our favorite running bits in season 1 was Malcolm’s continued attempts to guess what JT’s initials stand for. Among Malcolm’s (incorrect) guesses are Jeffie, Julian, Jason, Jamie, John, Jake, Joseph, Jehovah, Jerome, and Juan Tarmel. Each and every time JT shoots him down with either a quippy “no, but thanks for playing” or just a facial expression that screams “you couldn’t be further from the actual answer,” and it’s a delightful exchange each and every time. As much as we love watching Malcolm try to guess his name, we absolutely need to know — which is why a season 3 is a must!

The list for why Prodigal Son needs a season 3 can go on and on. There are so many places for the plot to take these amazing characters, the all-star cast would undoubtedly bring their A game to a season 3, and the phenomenal production will surely give season 3 the same cinematic qualities we already love. Hopefully that season 3 renewal is just around the corner, but in the meantime we’ll be rewatching season 1 on HBO Max and season 2 on Hulu!

Brianna works full time in the publishing industry, passionately building books to bring to the masses. Her first fandom was Harry Potter, which she joined at age 11. Her love for books took her abroad to earn her Masters Degree at University College London, after which she lived in New York City, and now resides in Austin. She loves all things fandom including Supernatural, Doctor Who, and more. Ever the introvert, she can usually be found reading, playing with her dog, listening to music and practicing yoga. Brianna joined the Nerds and Beyond staff in 2018 where she unites her love for all things "nerd" with her passion for writing. Find her on Twitter here: @bookbag09

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