Monday, September 23, 2019

REVIEW: 'Prodigal Son' - Bright Begins Profiling for the NYPD When a Serial Killer Copycat Strikes in 'Pilot'

FOX's Prodigal Son - Episode 1.01 "Pilot"

Malcolm Bright knows how killers think and how their minds work, because his father, Dr. Martin Whitly, was one of the most notorious serial killers, called "The Surgeon." Alongside his longtime mentor, Gil Arroyo, and detectives Dani Powell and JT Tarmel, he helps the NYPD solve crimes by profiling killers, while also dealing with a manipulative mother, an annoyingly normal sister and a homicidal father still looking to bond with his prodigal son.

In 2018, there were 495 scripted shows airing amongst the linear channels and streaming services. The way people are consuming content now is so different than it used to be. It happens according to one's own schedule. As such, there is less necessity to provide ample coverage of each specific episode in any given season from a show. Moreover, it is simply impossible to watch everything. As such, this site is making the move to shorter episodic reviews in order to cover as many shows as possible. With all of that being said, here are my thoughts on the series premiere of FOX's Prodigal Son.

"Prodigal Son" was written by Chris Fedak & Sam Sklaver and directed by Lee Toland Krieger

Malcolm Bright immediately comes across as increasingly reckless which may force many people into dangerous situations that can do a great deal of harm. The show positions him as a complicated hero. He has lived his life in reaction to the news that his father, Dr. Martin Whitly, is actually an infamous serial killer. The doctor has spent the past 20 years in prison. Bright was the one who called the cops which eventually led to his father's arrest. That's the big reveal at the conclusion of this premiere. No matter how much the police want to be predisposed to disliking Bright because of his family lineage, they instinctively trust that he wants to do good in the word. It's because of his actions that a killer was taken off the streets. Bright was an active participant in that story even though he was still a child at the time. His sister has no memories of that tragic night. She has lived her entire life with the knowledge that her father is behind bars. Ainsley has established a career for herself and honestly wants what's best for her brother. However, Bright is struck with night terrors that can be absolutely debilitating. He literally has to handcuff himself to his bed at night. He can't risk doing any harm to anyone when he falls asleep. He is still directly traumatized because of his father's actions. Martin still wants to teach his son all about murder. There was a time when Bright was eager to visit his father in prison because of the valuable resources such a trip would involve. He hasn't gone in 10 years though because his life took him to the FBI where he needed to sever the connection completely. He could never trust that his father was being genuine with him. He is a psychopath who is always trying to manipulate the system one way or the other. That makes Bright inherently suspicious when his father appears to be connected and may even be motivating a string of copycat murders. That's the core drive of story in this hour. Bright may be fired as a profiler for the FBI but he is quickly able to find work in the NYPD. The FBI is completely in the right to fire him as well. Sure, they may judge him completely because of his father. But they understand that his reckless nature may ultimately get more people killed. That's not the energy they want working for the bureau or leading the charge in the hunt for killers. New York appears to play by different rules. Gil Arroyo is more than fine adding Bright to his team. He is still an effective profiler who can handle himself in the field. But again, he has a compulsion for serial killers. He is drawn to them because he enters their headspace. He wants to know how they think especially in the moments before they kill. It may make him incredible at his job. But it also means he has more empathy for the worst of humanity than the people simply trying to do this work alongside him. Him returning to see his father may only bring more pain and destruction. Bright may even have a death wish by pushing killers to act out their worst impulses on him instead. Both times that happens here other officers arrive to save the day. They instinctively shoot in order to resolve the tense situation. That is the way that they have been conditioned and trained. Dani wants to know whether or not Bright would have let the killer inject him with a dangerous amount of paralytic. He says of course not but no one can know for sure. That ambiguity is actually very welcoming. Sure, it's completely dark and twisted too. Bright doesn't really think through his actions. He just sees his way as getting the job done. That can be equally gory and horrifying though. It's the lesson he may have learned from his father. And yet, Martin is still trying to influence his son. It's crazy that he is still allowed to see patients. He did inspire this man to kill in an identical way. Bright can see that. He believes he knows how to better navigate the minefield of seeing his father. He may not though. As such, it's wise to break free of that entirely. However, it's unlikely he'll be able to abide by that decision considering this is just the start of a propulsive new thriller.