‘Prodigal Son’ Bosses Break Down the Series Finale Ending & Tease What Could Be Next
[Warning: The below contains MAJOR spoilers for the Prodigal Son series finale “The Last Weekend.”]
Prodigal Son, Fox’s twisty, addictive psychological thriller, goes out on a high note, with a finale that leaves us wanting so much more after two seasons of pure adrenaline.
Martin Whitly (Michael Sheen) sets out to prove that he’s no longer the serial killer he was to his son Malcolm Bright (Tom Payne) by helping catch another murderer, The Woodsman, in a small town. But in the end, to get The Woodsman to give up his latest victim’s location, Malcolm asks his father to be the man he claims is gone, the one who inflicts pain, “as your son.”
When Malcolm alerts the authorities to their location, Martin makes a run for it and the profiler takes chase. “I was a good father, but you, you were never a good son,” Martin says, and Malcolm realizes he’s decided to kill him. But there is another way — and Malcolm grabs the knife and stabs his father! “I was right, we are the same,” Martin says as he falls to the ground…and Detective Dani Powell (Aurora Perrineau) runs over and sees what Malcolm did.
TV Insider turned to showrunners Chris Fedak and Sam Sklaver to try to find out what would have been — and still could be? — next.
Is it possible that Prodigal Son could continue somewhere else?
Sam Sklaver: As Monty Python said, we’re not dead yet. Chris and I love this show. the cast loves this show, and our fans love this show. Just because our journey at Fox has ended doesn’t mean that anyone else wants our journey to end, so we’re going to keep fighting as hard as we can to find a place to keep telling the story because as epic is our finale was and as happy as we are with how we ended the series’ run at Fox, we know we have a lot more amazing stories to tell and we’re hoping to find a place to tell him. Don’t give up yet.
Is Martin dead? And has your answer changed as a result of the cancellation?
Chris Fedak: No. When Sam and I finished the season, we were also working on a Season 3, which we pitched Fox and it was a great pitch and it was an epic story that we would love to tell. That story lives on in our minds. In regards to your question of the character, our plan was to have Michael Sheen be a part of Season 3. Take that as an answer or not an answer. It’s a half answer.
There are flashbacks.
Sklaver: And he’s lived in Bright’s mind. In Episode 9, he just shows up in the apartment twice in Bright’s mind. That’s a good thing about a serial killer father — he’ll always find a way to be around.
Malcolm knows the moment Martin decides he’s going to kill him. Is that when he decides he’ll kill his father if he has to? In a way, it was always building to this.
Sklaver: I think that Bright, in those last moments, is working on instinct. At so many different times, Bright is a son staring at his father, but in those last moments, I really do think we’re seeing Bright the FBI agent staring down a killer with a knife, and he’s calculated what this killer is thinking. When Martin says there’s no other way, Bright realizes there is, and it’s not that he wants to kill his father so much as I really do think he’s reacting in the moment and realizing the consequences of that. I think Martin wanted to kill Bright. Chris, you can jump in because I’m just guessing, but I didn’t feel like Bright wanted to kill Martin.
Fedak: The fun thing about our show, as well as our cast is we know the story we want to tell, but when it comes to those very cerebral or emotional decisions, we’re also comfortable letting it be a little bit of, you can love your father and also your father could be a serial killer and that could make you messed up. We like that kind of duality and that complexity. But I agree with Sam that in that moment, there’s a part of him trying to save his father, a part of him is like, “You’re not for this world. You can’t live on out in the world. In some ways, prison not only protects the world from you but also you from the world.”
That’s very sad and tragic, but it’s also probably the smartest, the rightest thing Bright could say. But when he sees his father’s eyes glaze over and kind of click into that shark thing, he knows as a profiler what exactly is going to happen: 10 seconds ago, his father decided to kill him. That is what gives Bright a little bit of an advantage in that moment that maybe other people didn’t have is that he knows what’s coming next. He has one chance for one move and he does it. The questions and complexity from that decision would have been the heart and the fun of Season 3.
What would’ve come next? This can’t be covered up like Endicott’s murder, not with Dani there, then there’s Malcolm dealing with how he’d be feeling, whether Martin lives or dies.
Fedak: You’re really trying to get this Season 3 pitch out of us.
Sklaver: We’re hoping we can still tell that story is the honest answer. Chris and I have a really fun Season 3 pitch that for now, we’re going to try and keep under our hats a little bit just because we like it so much. We don’t want to give it away in case we can tell it on screen.
Fedak: The other thing we’ll say is that we wouldn’t do what we did at the end of Season 1 into the beginning of Season 2. It’s very different. You’re right, you couldn’t hide those events.
Other than Malcolm and Martin, who would have had the hardest time dealing with what happened, both with Martin’s potential death and Malcolm’s role in it?
Sklaver: I think everyone on our show. It was a show-altering moment. And that’s what’s so exciting because I feel like throughout our limited run, we’ve found ways to alter the show often. And every time we alter it, we just find a new exciting gear and a new thing to make Bright’s hand shake and keep him at 11, which is the adrenaline that our show loves. This was going to change everything.
Malcolm and Dani finally kissed at one of the worst times ever. Why did you have that moment happened when it did, and what would it have taken for them to make a relationship work?
Sklaver: She would need to have not seen him stab his father. That would probably be one thing that they needed to make the relationship work. That’s just a bad joke. Chris, you could give a real answer.
Fedak: As we worked on Season 1 and Season 2, the Dani-Bright relationship was something that was important to us and we wanted to build because it was a relationship built on a connection. Season 2 really teed up the notion of making that relationship a very core dynamic to Season 3, that can there be a relationship between these two kind of “messed up” individuals. We wanted to explore that because we all hope for them to find something in each other. We wanted to make kind of the spine of Season 3.
Jessica’s [Bellamy Young] line about it taking more than booze and pills to take her down felt like a nice full circle from the series premiere when she spoke about drinking and offered pills to Malcolm. Is she ready to let go of her usual coping mechanisms and move forward in a way she hasn’t been able to since Martin’s arrest?
Fedak: Absolutely. That was another great launching point for where we wanted to take the character: really confronting your past, but also changing your coping mechanisms. Our first conversations when Sam and I sat down were about coping mechanisms. How do you get through life when it’s really super complicated? Some of those coping mechanisms are really destructive and one of them is drugs and alcohol. It wasn’t like we were going to do a very special episode of Prodigal Son about the dangers of drugs and alcohol, but Jessica looking at Gill and seeing a future, that’s great and awesome and we would want to see that in Season 3.
Ainsley’s [Halston Sage] speech to Fern [Anna Gunn] — has she fully embraced who she is and reconciled both the Martin and Jessica parts of herself in a somewhat healthy way? Or might there have been another murder in her future?
Fedak: Her speech pretty much sets up an issue that in this moment she knows that she’s got both dark and light inside of her, using kind of very simple, basic terms, but she knows that she is complicated. She knows that there may be elements of psychopathy in her personality, but there’s plenty of elements of psychopathy in lots of people out there in the world that don’t kill people. She has a complicated psychology. That’s teeing up a lot of things that we would have wanted to explore going forward: Who is that person? And what does she do next?
What can you share about what else we could potentially see moving forward if it comes back?
Fedak: What we realized this season was how fantastic a cast we have and that we could have a lot of fun with our cases, but we could also truly explore the psychology in the home lives and the personal lives of all of these characters. In considering a Season 3, it was really a chance to build out those characters in their lives even more. That would take us into the Dani-Bright relationship and each one of our people and really let the show evolve into this kind of crazy, procedural thriller soap opera that we’ve been kind of inventing on the fly.
Sklaver: I will also say that those last few episodes just showed us how much we loved seeing Martin Whitly out of Claremont. He spent the whole show really just in one set with some flashbacks. In those last episodes, this was fun to see Michael play Martin in a different way in a different place. That was something that we were very excited to keep pushing in Season 3. And maybe we still will.