‘Prodigal Son’ Bosses: ‘The World of the Show Has Been Turned on Its Head’ After Season Finale
[Warning: The below contains MAJOR spoilers for the Season 1 finale of Prodigal Son, “Like Father…”]
Prodigal Son ends its first season with a finale befitting TV’s most psychologically twisted and thrilling series as another member of the Whitly family commits a murder — but it’s not the child Martin (Michael Sheen) expected.
Over the course of the hour, Malcolm (Tom Payne) figured out who killed Eddie — Eve’s sister — and Gil (Lou Diamond Phillips) was stabbed trying to rescue Jessica (Bellamy Young) from Nicholas Endicott (Dermot Mulroney), only for her to save him.
Then, in the final moments, Malcolm pulled a gun on Nicholas, but it was Ainsley (Halston Sage) who slit his throat and then stabbed him repeatedly, bringing about a brutal and bloody end to the man who thought he was untouchable.
“We are cautiously optimistic” about Season 2, executive producer Chris Fedak told TV Insider. “The studio and network, Fox and Warner Bros., have been very supportive of the show.”
Here, Fedak and his co-showrunner Sam Sklaver break down the shocking finale.
I cheered at that ending because honestly I’d been waiting all season for Ainsley to kill someone. She seemed a bit too in control and calm compared to Malcolm, even after she killed Nicholas. And Martin was so proud with his “my girl.” When did you know this was the path you were taking with her?
Chris Fedak: If I’m not mistaken, we had this during the pitch to Fox, way back in the day. We knew we wanted to head towards this moment.
Sam Sklaver: We also fell in love with Martin saying “my girl.” It just felt like such the ending to the season and such an exciting way to lift off the next one. While we didn’t have all of the pieces in place, and it definitely changed along the way, we always knew this was the story that we wanted to tell.
We were very fortunate in our production schedule that we were able to shoot the finale in February before the world changed so dramatically. We shot the finale that we wanted to with enough time.
Did Ainsley have it in her to kill all this time or is it the man Nicholas Endicott was and his interactions/ties with the family that brought it out of her?
Fedak: There’s something special about this very moment, with Endicott threatening her family. It opens a door for Ainsley. Of course, we can’t say what’s on the other side of that door…
Nicholas was so sure he’d never be brought down by the justice system. Was he right?
Fedak: Nicholas is one of those guys that has found himself in terrible situations in the past, but with influence and power managed to get out of it. He wasn’t bulls**tting in that moment. He felt confident.
Am I right to think that Martin’s advice about cleaning up after yourself being the first rule of killing in Malcolm’s nightmare will come into play? Honestly, I’m just imagining Jessica’s reaction is going to be the best.
Fedak: Jessica’s reaction to this will be a delicious thing that I can’t wait to get into for Season 2. You’re definitely tapping into something that we look forward to playing into. If your father’s a serial killer, he’s going to have lots of advice — not always good advice.
Sklaver: And Bright being such an expert profiler, so attuned at how to figure out clues of how to solve a crime, is a good guy to have in your corner, if you needed to cover one up. Not to say that’s the path we’re taking, but you’re right that his training and his father’s knowledge could all be helpful.
What can you say about the ramifications for everyone with Nicholas dead? We already saw with Martin when Nicholas broke the deal.
Fedak: In some ways, the world of the show has been turned on its head, from Martin being moved out of Claremont and into gen pop at Rikers to Ainsley killing Endicott and Gil being stabbed. It’s chaos, and it throws everything into disarray for Season 2. But it’s also a great launching pad for a second chapter in our story.
I also figured either it would be revealed that Gil has actual skeletons in a closet or he’d end up in serious danger because of his ties to everyone. How worried should we be about him?
Fedak: You should be worried about him in the sense that Gil was definitely stabbed in a very dangerous and awful way, and that’ll be something we don’t forget about going into Season 2. However, I will also say Lou Diamond Phillips is a national treasure, and we would be the dumbest showrunners in the world to write him off the show. People who love Lou Diamond Phillips, you will definitely get more Lou Diamond next year.
The boy in the basement finally comes face-to-face with the girl in the box, and as much as he needed to solve Eddie’s murder, Malcolm needed to hear he was only a kid and couldn’t help her much more. How will that affect him? Will he be able to let go of that guilt?
Sklaver: Bright, in that moment, is being given a gift in a way. He’s been haunted this whole season and most of his life with the idea that he couldn’t save this woman, Sophie Sanders. But then through his investigation, he found that he didn’t need to save her. She saved herself. She made a life for herself and she was doing well. Then another tragedy befell her, which was the murder of her sister. The way she reacted, you can’t justify it, but Bright was given a real gift in that moment, where he could save her the pain of being arrested for her actions, and that chapter of Bright’s life, we do have a slight conclusion to.
That’s not to say there aren’t a lot more ghosts in Bright’s past — of course we know his father had dozens of victims — but the Sophie story is one we’re pretty happy with how it played out in Season 1 for Bright. His feeling good about it lasts for all of about two seconds until he finds out that Gil has been stabbed, but in those two seconds, we did get a little bit of closure for him, which was nice.
Jessica fought back against Nicholas and saved Gil. What was the journey you wanted to take her on this season, with regards to the family but also herself and the potential for a relationship with Gil?
Fedak: When you have Bellamy Young, you have to explore the evolution of that character, and she gives you the ability to pretty much do whatever you want to do in that she’s so gifted. We looked at it from, here’s a person who’s pretty much been, not hidden away, but essentially been blocked off from the world and over the course of the season, she’s pulled back into it, by her son, by her daughter, and she is letting down a little bit of her guard.
Because we lost a couple episodes — we wanted to explore that relationship between her and Nicholas as being something where it’s almost like a romantic comedy. We wanted to have them have fun, let her be, “Okay, I can be a person again.” And then the great tragedy being that Nicholas is also a monster. We wanted to explore that as well as the relationship with Gil. We did the first scene earlier in the season between Gil and Jessica, and we were like, “Whoa, there’s immediately a bit of electricity there.” That was something we knew we had to explore as well.
When we started breaking the pilot, we knew we wanted to do a crazy big episode. Gil should come and save Jessica, and of course it would be Jessica who has to save him in the end. She’s such a strong and bold character, that’s the way it should work, and that got us excited.
When you said putting them in a rom-com, I thought of Nicholas’ “I’m head over heels for you” and his delivery.
Fedak: He’s absolutely crazy, but he is actually head over heels for her. We would have loved to build that out more, but because our actors are so good, they were still able to convey that relationship and convey that conviction despite the fact that one of them is an absolute lunatic.
Sklaver: Dermot was so fun in that role, and a fun thing that people don’t know is in the whole quarantine, when we were scoring this show and having everyone perform for our composer at home, Dermot is actually a very accomplished cellist, because being an amazing actor and being brilliant isn’t enough, he also has to be a musician. Dermot plays the cello on all of those scenes, where we see him, which is just another level to how much he helped bring to our show and how grateful we were to have him.
This season has really been a journey for Malcolm in terms of his identity. I talked to Tom about the deliberate choice to call Martin “Dad” in the last episode, and in this one, he introduces himself to Sophie as “Malcolm Whitly.” Is there a point where he might be Malcolm Whitly?
Fedak: No, for the most part, he still thinks of himself as Bright, as this person that he made based on the broken pieces of Malcolm Whitly. But in that moment, he is essentially revealing the real version of himself to the girl in the box because he knows who she really is.
Sklaver: But you’re definitely right that saying the “D” word, when he calls his father “Dad,” it’s not something that we’ve done lightly and it’s not something we’ve ever seen Bright do before. It was only the moment when Martin was about to lose consciousness, when he was about to lose his father, that that young boy inside of him had to scream “Dad” to him, which empowered Martin to do the horrible thing that we saw. He definitely still has a very, very complicated relationship with the little boy that used to be Malcolm Whitly.
Malcolm has really found a family in the NYPD team. How much does he need those relationships with Gil, Dani, JT, and Edrisa and the different things each entails? He and Gil go way back. There’s obviously the potential for something with Dani. We’ve seen him bonding with JT. And Edrisa is just so much fun.
Fedak: We totally agree. One of the great things about this show is it’s not a show just simply about solving murders. It’s about a family. It’s about relationships, about friendship. Those are the things that allow Bright to step back into the world of being a full-fledged human and to also get away from his father and to define himself as something different.
Going into Season 2, we can’t wait to spend more time with Aurora and Frank’s characters, so that we can explore who they are and see their issues and their skeletons in their closets, even if those skeletons aren’t quite as literal as the Whitlys’ skeletons.
Are we going to see JT as a father?
Fedak: Oh, I love that idea. I love that idea. Frank is amazing because he has his own little boy, so that would be a fun thing to have us get into.
Sklaver: Yeah, a big checklist for us is to explore a little bit more about JT and Dani. We really want to go home with them a little bit more, bring those characters to life and spend some more time with them because Aurora and Frank are just such great actors that we want to know more about them. Edrisa as well. We love this team so much, we want to give them all more stories.
Martin and Michael Sheen in the role set a high bar for serial killers, but you also brought in Michael Raymond James as John Watkins and Dermot Mulroney as Nicholas Endicott and they delivered. What did you want to do to make each stand out?
Fedak: When we come across a character who’s a serial killer, and obviously that’s a very rare form of murder, we want to essentially come up with a psychology that matches that character and we can understand and we haven’t seen before.
Sklaver: I know that personally in terms of serial killers, a conversation that we were having once with our tech advisor was, “Are there really that many more male serial killers than female serial killers? Or is it just that the male serial killers tend to get caught?” He definitely thought there were more female serial killers than what we’ve known about. That’s always been something that’s stuck in my head that I want to explore. The female version is both real and terrifying.