The Martin and Malcolm dance continues. What are we to make of it?
Malcolm delved deep into his past traumas again, and we saw the origins of Malcolm Bright and those pesky hand tremors on Prodigal Son Season 2 Episode 3.
It’s hard to say if the blast to the past has helped Malcolm or potentially caused him more distress down the line. But dare I say he was having a good day?
As expected, Malcolm’s loud proclaim that he wouldn’t have anything to do with Martin again didn’t take. Does it ever? Like a moth to the flame, he’s drawn to his dear old dad, and there’s not much he can do about that.
When Martin calls, Malcolm still inevitably answers. And when something comes up in his cases or his personal life, it leads Malcolm to Claremont. It happens without fail, and neither of them can break this cycle that they have.
But Malcolm isn’t the only one susceptible to Martin’s influence and is haunted by his father. Malcolm does the same to Martin, whether he realizes it or not.
Martin: I love my son. I still do.
Malcolm: Why should I believe you?
Martin: Because you’re the one person that I cannot hurt. You and my own freedom depended on it. Go on, do it. Analyze my sick, deviant mind. You know I’m telling the truth.
The opening scene of Martin’s dream was insightful. He dreamed he escaped, and the first place he went was the Whitly home. A part of Martin does still care about Jessica enough to feel as though she remains his possession, and it was laughable that he thought she’d be pleased by his existence and be eager to have sex with him.
Does he think all of their interactions are mere foreplay? When they do share scenes, Young and Sheen’s crackling chemistry does give off that impression.
The absence of Ainsley was interesting, too. Despite her being the first of his kids to kill a man, it’s still not enough for him to consider or even reference her. Martin’s vision of his return is almost reclaiming the time before he went away when Jessica and Malcolm dominated his life, and Ainsley was too small to matter, I presume.
When it comes to Martin, Malcolm is the one person who gets under his skin. As the dream Malcolm taunted, Martin cares too much about what Malcolm thinks. It’s probably Martin’s fatal flaw in his eyes.
Martin doesn’t care what kind of attention he elicits from his son as long as Malcolm is giving him ANY attention at all.
As conflicting as it is to see the hold that Martin has on Malcolm, part of what makes it so bearable is knowing that Malcolm wields a similar power against his father, too. Perhaps that’s what this hour was angling at when it seemed as if there was an almost whiplash approach to Malcolm handling Martin well.
That little killjoy.
Maybe Malcolm is slowly coming to realize that he’s not fighting against his father with his hands behind his back; Malcolm has a similar pull on Martin that he can manipulate and use at will if only he perfects and hones in on the skill.
Malcolm is the only one who can kill Martin’s joy and get away with it. Hell, Malcolm is the whole reason Martin is in prison, to begin with, and yet his love for his son has never floundered. And Martin knows that.
It was telling when he reminded Malcolm that he’s the one person Martin can’t hurt. A rare moment of vulnerability and truthfulness — he literally gave Malcolm something that could destroy him and has. It’s hard to say if Malcolm is finally processing that and what it’s worth.
The irony of it is that he has hurt Malcolm in a plethora of ways. The barometer by which Martin measures this is so twisted and falls in line with his psychopathy. It’s undeniable that Martin loves the hell out of his son and also that he’s damaged Malcolm beyond what he’s been able to repair.
The flashbacks were delightful, particularly the Malcolm and Martin ones. We get these extra layers of their convoluted bond. A young Malcolm was openly drawn to Martin but equally repulsed by his actions and the effects they were having on his life.
And Martin was so paternal; the fatherly advice and tenderness with the backdrop of dingy concrete walls, bars, chains, and an orange jumpsuit were striking.
It boils down to Martin knows Malcolm better than Malcolm cares to admit. He knows that Malcolm cares about him and is drawn to him even now. The only difference between younger Malcolm and who he is now is that adult Malcolm tries to pretend the allure to his father doesn’t exist.
Malcolm: Why did you betray me? Why would you do something so despicable?
Martin: I’ve been accused of a great deal. Please, be specific.
Malcolm: You told them my name. You destroyed my last chance at a normal childhood. All with one phone call.
Martin: To Remington. How surgical of me.
Malcolm: You’re a narcissistic psychopath, but you know what else you are? You’re a terrible father. I was in that closet for three days, no food, no water, trapped. Was it because I changed my name? Because I left? Or was it because I’m nothing like you, and you can’t stand it?!
Martin: Oh, how you wish that that were true.
He shuts that part of himself down or at least tries to, and Martin responds, knowing the truth of the matter from all the years Malcolm spent coming to the prison to chat with him about life and everything.
But Martin also likes to screw with Malcolm’s head, so it wasn’t a complete surprise that Malcolm assumed Delaney was right about the phone call. Because even with all of the psychoanalyzing and speculation, Martin manages to flip everything you think you’ve figured out about him on its head in the blink of an eye.
It was hard to reconcile the Martin, who showed no real reaction to Malcolm changing his name and seemed happy for his son with the vindictive man who jeopardized his kid’s safety by outing him to the school.
Martin: High school should be fun.
Malcolm: I just need a break. Try something new. Be someone new.
Martin: Oh, you’re changing your name. You don’t want to be Martin Whitly’s son.
Malcolm: I don’t want to be the Surgeon’s son.
Martin: OK, so how are you going to complete this transformation? What are you going to call yourself?
Malcolm: Bright. Malcolm Bright.
As Malcolm recalled the terrible experiences he had at Remington, thanks to Brumback and Nicky, Martin appeared to care. And it does make you think about how Martin never outed Malcolm for their relationship in all of these years when he could’ve.
Their final scene together was one of the best between them. Martin was stunned by Malcolm’s apology, and it reaffirmed why he wants to get the hell out of there as soon as he can.
For as much as Malcolm’s decision to go by a different name made sense, Martin’s point about standing in the Whitly name did too.
It didn’t spare Malcolm from the comparisons to his father. The bullying he experienced from Nicky was probably worse because Malcolm tried to hide who he was.
Dani: Your hand is shaking.
Malcolm: Some neuroscientists believe that the body can store memories. The tremor, I wasn’t born with it. It didn’t happen until years after my father’s arrest.
Dani: Bright, did something happen to you here?
Malcolm: Brumback expelled me, put my name in this little black … book.
Teens are confounding. You would think they would refrain from bullying the child of a serial killer out of fear, not lock them in a closet for days.
It was interesting to note that Malcolm’s tremors didn’t start until his time at Remington. He went at least five or six years after Martin’s arrest without that.
All of these pieces that we get to add to Malcolm’s background are helping us understand him, yes, but also that every bad thing in his life isn’t directly linked to Martin.
Brumback expelled Malcolm for seeking revenge against his bully, and Brumback thought he was like his father. But Malcolm’s actions, while concerning, weren’t unlike what other bullied kids have expressed.
It’s interesting that Malcolm grasps on to any infraction or distinctly human and flawed behavior, lionizes it, and then uses it to self-flagellate himself for being like his father.
His return to Remington for the case was all kinds of fun and wonderfully creepy. Those little delinquents were reminiscent of Riverdale characters, and it felt like its own side show. Who doesn’t harbor some resentment when returning to their alma mater, especially one like Remington?
For a bit, Jessica wanted to believe Malcolm’s past experiences clouded his judgment, but the teens there were creepy and instant suspects regardless.
Gil: Mayor asked me to take the reins.
Malcolm: Of course he did. We must protect the children of the rich at all costs.
You could tell the trio was lying and keeping secrets from the start. But Louisa was the absolute worst.
The Remington scenes gave us fun moments like Edrisa talking about JT and orgasms (he totally listened to her, probably, yes?), and Malcolm profiling a bunch of teens while looking like a drowned rat, but it also gave us enraging moments like Malcolm’s flashbacks and Louisa punching Edrisa.
Speaking of that moment, what happened after that? Did Edrisa identify herself? Did they haul Louisa in?
Where was the concern for Edrisa? Where was her justice?
Looking youthful does have perks. Teenage bullies attacking you aren’t one of them. Edrisa deserved more than glossing over that assault.
Welcome to boarding school, bitch.
It was hard to shake that even as the hour came to an end. It did tip most of us off that there was more to Louisa that met the eye. Once it was evident Delaney wasn’t responsible for Brumback’s death, then Louisa was the next best thing. Louisa did pull out that empathy with killers part of Malcolm, though.
She was in her father’s shadow, a walking legacy with her life mapped out for her, and getting the best grades and attending school across the pond was her best escape.
Louisa’s desperation to escape her father’s reach made her KILL people. It’s incredible what humans do in such cases.
Malcolm could understand her, but he also knew that he never resorted to such things. I appreciated how he stalled her long enough to start the fire in the vault (risking suffocation in the process).
However, as Gil mentions, Malcolm’s brushes with death are avoidable if he communicated and called for back-up.
Dani was across town following a lead that didn’t matter at all while Malcolm was confronting Delaney by himself.
He earned more than a minute of Papa Gil chastising him while he sat in the precinct wrapped up like a burrito. Although, it did make for one of those cute father/son scenes that are like catnip.
Malcolm: I know, I know. You don’t have to say it.
Gil: What the hell is the matter with you, Bright?!
Malcolm: Or maybe you do. I’m fine. Really.
Gil: Give us a minute, Powell.
Malcolm: Ugh, a whole minute? Can’t we just jump to the end?
The only thing that topped it was Dani announcing that JT and Tali had their adorable baby boy. Dani’s investment in the updates was cute, and you already know she’s going to be Aunt Dani.
Aside from that and checking in on Malcolm, Dani took a backseat for the hour.
JT was nonexistent — off on daddy duty. It was a reprieve from other things he has going on, but I am curious about the update.
Ainsley was absent too. The hour was definitely one that focused on Malcolm and Martin.
Malcolm: I’m sorry.
Martin: Excuse me?
Malcolm: I accused you of something you didn’t do, and I’m apologizing.
Martin: OK, here we are. You’re apologizing to me. These are words I did not expect to hear.
The contrast between Martin, the father who loves his son and sought Malcolm’s attention, with The Surgeon, who was willing to threaten and sacrifice anything and anyone for his escape was fantastic.
It is Martin’s psychopathy on full display.
It doesn’t matter that he likes Mr. David, he’s not above shanking the man if it suits his interest. And he doesn’t mind jeopardizing Friar Pete and his friend, Darryl if it means he gets ahead.
He was willing to kill Darryl right there for the key cards. Martin doesn’t give AF. Whenever he speaks about murder, you can tell that he misses killing. His eyes light up just threatening it.
Martin: I know that I am what some people would say problematic.
Malcolm: Problematic doesn’t get you chained to a wall.
Martin: I meant problematic in the sense that I’m not all bad. And that was your mistake at Remington. You should’ve owned your last name. The rich, dashing son of a killer, oh, those little devils would’ve loved ya. Am I right? You’re Malcolm Whitly. You’re my boy. Don’t forget that.
Malcolm: Don’t worry. I can’t.
Martin may actually pull off this escape. And without realizing it, Malcolm is giving him all the motivation to go through with it.
Over to you, Prodigal Son Fanatics. What are your thoughts on the Malcolm/Martin relationship? Are we thrilled for JT and Tali? Hit the comments below.
You can watch Prodigal Son online here via TV Fanatic.
Jasmine Blu is a senior staff writer for TV Fanatic. Follow her on Twitter.