‘Prodigal Son’: Can Malcolm Return to Work After Watkins’ Torture? (RECAP)
[Warning: The below contains MAJOR spoilers for Episode 12 of Prodigal Son, “Internal Affairs.”]
After what Malcolm (Tom Payne) went through with and learned from John Watkins (Michael Raymond-James), it would make sense if he needed a break from all things serial killers. But that’s not how Malcolm Bright works.
Instead, Monday’s episode of Prodigal Son sees him eager to return to work, and his first case back isn’t exactly an easy one. But hey, at least he got a “quality” three hours of sleep with “some REM mixed in there” before his chat with a police psychiatrist, as mandated by Internal Affairs following an incident in the precinct. (After a fight with Gil, he locked himself in a room to shock himself.)
“You’re used to being the smartest person in the world. Not today,” Gil (Lou Diamond Phillips) warns Malcolm of Dr. Simon Coppenrath (Scott Shepherd). “Don’t underestimate him.”
But that holds true for both men involved in this meeting of two great psychological minds.
It’s up to Simon, whose work focuses on the treatment of inadequately processed trauma, to determine if Malcolm is mentally competent to continue his work as a consultant for the NYPD. Part of that includes conversations with the rest of the team about Malcolm and their most recent case. (What they have to say isn’t exactly going to help Malcolm’s case.)
Though Gil wasn’t so sure Malcolm was ready to report to duty, Malcolm insisted he was just “moderately scathed” and showed up at the latest crime scene. (He overheard Dani’s call when she dropped him off at home.) Simon suggests that work is his coping mechanism, and Malcolm turns that on the psychiatrist, asking if he feels fulfilled when he unlocks a patient’s mind and if that helps him understand his own.
Though Malcolm was obviously haunted by something — a hallucination of his younger, dead self, following the revelation that his father tried to kill him as a kid — throughout the case, he keeps the focus of his and Simon’s conversation on the case. There were burns on the victim Tristan’s temples from a week prior to his death, and he was beaten and strangled. He was a runaway, and his last known location was the Vosler Institute, a self-help organization with the attributes of a cult.
Malcolm asks Simon if he’d heard of them; the psychiatrist says cult psychology isn’t his area of expertise but doesn’t give him a straight answer.
Quentin Vosler (Daniel Sunjata) tells the team that Tristan left the Institute and insists they need warrants for his records. But Malcolm checks himself in, with a high enough score on the evaluation to not only meet Quentin but also get electroconvulsive therapy within minutes of that introduction. It was supposed to purge his memories and ease his pain. And when he was shocked, he saw flashes of his younger self and his father.
That and people like Quentin, with false promises and appeals to the vulnerable, anger Simon. Malcolm insists he was trying to solve the case, and nothing’s more important than that because of his past. He feels like if he’d solved the case he lived inside as a kid faster, he’d have saved more people — like Andi.
Tristan had recruited Andi, who had been through the treatment 18 times. Malcolm told her he was investigating Tristan’s murder and convinced her to leave with him. But once outside, as he called Gil to fill him in, Andi was kidnapped — “by them,” according to Quentin. (Malcolm was convinced it was Vosler himself.)
And the Pieces Fall into Place
At this point, Malcolm tells Simon that his trauma helps him and wonders what the psychiatrist knows about that kind of pain. Simon reveals that 10 years ago, he was on vacation with his daughter when he looked away from the road for a split second. She died on impact. Simon had to acknowledge his role in the crash to move on.
Quentin told them of a deprogrammer his Institute had had run-ins with. This man re-traumatizes his members, and Quentin thinks he killed Tristan. But who hired the deprogrammer to take Andi? Her father has money, and deprogrammers cater to wealthy families. That was where Jessica (Bellamy Young) came in, to meet with deprogrammers until Malcolm noted the boots on one, Curtis. They matched prints at the crime scene.
But Malcolm argued that Curtis was just the muscle, not skilled enough to be the deprogrammer. That was when he and Gil fought in the precinct, the night before Simon was brought in. And now we’re caught up to the present, and Malcolm finally tells Simon what John told him about his father trying to kill him as a kid. While his rational mind understands who his father is, the child in him thought Martin cared — until now.
Malcolm had wanted to shock himself to get rid of the hallucination of his younger self since Quentin’s treatment had done just that. And with that, Simon tells him he can’t sign off on Malcolm continuing to work with the NYPD.
But what about Andi, Malcolm worries. He’s the only witness to the kidnapping. Simon assures him that the team will find her, only Malcolm never said Andi was a woman.
Simon is the deprogrammer, which Malcolm figured out when he was about to shock himself. He’d noticed the trash can in the room and recalled Curtis throwing out a pill bottle, for anti-anxiety medication for his rage issues. Simon claims he never met Curtis, yet he’s the one who prescribed the pills. Malcolm set everything up and knew if he was right that Simon would try to discredit him to internal affairs and shut down their investigation. But he didn’t see Simon pulling a gun on him.
Outside the room, Gil and the others pull their guns on Simon while Malcolm tries to talk him down. Simon’s daughter died in a cult, not a car accident, and he became a deprogrammer because he couldn’t save her. Andi reminded him of his daughter. But Simon knows he’s trying to make an emotional connection with him. Since that won’t work, Malcolm just waits for the ECT machine to be charged to shock him. And while Simon didn’t reveal where he had Andi, Malcolm figures out that he took her to the last place he was happy with his daughter: the cottage he mentioned in his story about the vacation.
Is the NYPD in Malcolm’s Future?
After, Malcolm admits to Gil that he’s not okay — and that’s why Gil tells him that after a vacation, he can return to work in two weeks.
Until then, it’s just Malcolm, his parakeet, and his younger self, “a manifestation of [his] subconscious.” While Martin tried to kill them, “he didn’t,” his younger self tells him. And after he fades away, Malcolm knows he’s “going to be okay.”
Well, probably at least until he sees Martin again after what he learned in that room with John Watkins. That is likely going to be quite the confrontation.
Prodigal Son, Mondays, 9/8c, Fox