Prodigies, welcome back to the sixth installment of Nerds Rewatch Prodigal! If you’re not familiar with this series, every Tuesday night at 9 p.m. ET/8 p.m. CT, we’ll be pressing play on Twitter to rewatch and live-tweet an episode of Prodigal Son. Last week, we put our rewatch goggles on for episode 5 of season 2, “Bad Manners.” This week, we delved into the events of the season’s sixth episode, “Head Case,” with a new perspective now that we know what events unfold in order to point out some of its most striking moments and features. Without further ado, let’s jump into what we noticed in episode 6!
Sherlock Freud Cracks Another One
We already knew Malcolm was the best profiler out there, but this episode really just cemented that. I mean, come on, who cracks a case while unconscious? At the bottom of an elevator shaft no less. It was very interesting to see Malcolm’s subconscious shift to show him clues throughout this episode. From seeing swans everywhere to the outside sensory input he was receiving while knocked out, everything came together to let him know that something wasn’t just right. I’d like to see how the team explained how Malcolm figured out the Bowery Ripper’s identity on the witness stand, though.
The Iconic Trio
There was a very interesting team-up in this episode that was only just a matter of time. Following Malcolm revealing to Jessica the truth about Ainsley and Endicott, Ainsley has started worrying the Whitly family, especially Jessica. Knowing that her daughter needs to know the truth about what happened, Jessica surprisingly meets with Martin at Claremont. Malcolm soon visits, shocked to see his parents together. Malcolm tells Jessica and Martin it’s a bad idea and that Ainsley learning the full story will only worsen her PTSD. Jessica suggests they tell her as a family so they control the narrative, Martin continues. Ainsley figuring things out on her own “could lead to wild, erratic behavior.” The three of them keep going back and forth over what should have happened, and their dynamic of ganging up on Ainsley makes them even more chaotic than before. While Jessica thanks Malcolm for protecting his sister, she knows that Ainsley needs to know the truth. And even though Malcolm did end up telling Ainsley later in the episode, he might have been too late.
The Bowery Ripper
Every week brings us a scintillating and unique murder of the week for Malcolm and the NYPD team to solve, but this week’s episode gave us a huge twist that we didn’t see coming. The killer was none other than The Bowery Ripper, a serial killer who went dormant over 40 years prior to the latest killing. If he hadn’t used the same MO, same distinct tells as his old crimes, he might have gotten away with yet another murder. There is something intriguing for true crime fans (like myself) about serial killers and it was extremely satisfying to see Malcolm catch this one. I also have to give a shout out to the tight frame shots we saw throughout the episode. First Malcolm looking at the boot prints then later at the boots of the killer and his daughter. Those elements make the show more than just casual viewing, in those shots, we’re taken inside the mind of Malcolm Bright and shown the details he sees and how he draws his conclusions. He could wax poetic about his process, and he sometimes does rather eloquently, but nothing compares to a director and writing team’s ability to show us instead of just tell us.
Dreams Vs. Reality
After Malcolm falls down the elevator shaft, we don’t immediately know he’s in a vivid hallucination. He wakes in a hospital with Dani by his bedside (not exactly shocking) and JT arriving to fill them in on the cuff links (also not unusual). Our first clue that things might be a little … off is Malcolm and Dani’s interrogation. Sure they are usually in sync with each other, but here they are finishing each other sentences and rapid fire back and forth as if they share a single brain. Still, not a dead giveaway. That doesn’t come until Malcolm arrives home and boy were we in for a shock. The minute changes in Malcolm’s hallucination are something we definitely appreciated on a second watch. Jessica’s hair is different and she’s drinking mocktails (the real giveaway during the first watch). Ainsley’s hair is parted differently and she’s in a dress that screams less our Ainsley and more “little sister” as if this is how Malcolm thinks of her. Then of course there’s the obvious like Martin and his appearance, but he’s also got more nuanced tells like his praise for Ainsley’s medical skills and his pride in Malcolm. Those kinds of words never come from real world Martin without some kind of manipulation behind them. The episode is full of tiny differences that we loved discovering during our rewatch!
We Need to Talk About Ainsley
“Head Case” represents the beginning of a very dark arc for the so-called “perfect” Ainsley Whitly. The first time watching the episode, it seems like Ainsley is genuinely beginning to remember what really happened to Endicott in real time. But on the second watch, it is clear that Ainsley figures out the truth early on in the season and it waiting to see if Martin or Malcolm will tell her. At the start of the episode, she gives Malcolm the cold shoulder, and we get a moment at Martin’s old desk where she gives Malcolm an out to tell her the truth. But then at the episode’s end, she pulls what may be the world’s most psychotic prank on her brother by trying to convince him she’s killed again. One of the most crushing unresolved plots due to the series’ cancellation (for now) is whether the show was setting up Martin 2.0 with Ainsley or attempting to write her a redemption arc. This prank crosses so many lines that it’s tough to see how Ainsley could come back from it, but her scenes in the finale point towards redemption (at least narratively). This is one of the major plot points we hope to see explored further in a potential third season.
We’ve praised Prodigal Son for its depiction of mental health before, but in this episode in particular Tom Payne turns in a brilliant performance. As the dream version of Martin attempts to convince Malcolm to stay, Malcolm explains why he knows he can’t. To him, ignoring his reality to live in a dream where everything he ever wanted is right there for the taking would be wrong because he’d have to ignore the pain of others to do it. As he says, “Suffering is real. Even if I don’t open the box, the woman in there is still in pain. This is who I am Dr. Whitly. Even in my wildest dream, I’m still a detective. I need to seek the truth, no matter how painful.” It’s made all the more heartbreaking by his admission that he thinks he’s unworthy of Dani’s love in the real world — even when we know she thinks the world of him. It’s a devastating scene that broke the hearts of Brightwell fans everywhere and set up their dynamic for the rest of the season.
Make sure to join us next Tuesday for our live-tweet event under the tag #NerdsRewatchProdigal and the Twitter account @Call4BackupPod as we press play at 9 p.m. ET/8 p.m. CT on episode 7. Additionally, you can listen to our corresponding commentary for this week’s episode on our podcast Call For Backup here. Make sure to stay up to date with all of the news concerning Prodigal Son and the campaign to save the show here. Until next week, Prodigies!