I like Prodigal Son. I wouldn’t say I love it, but it’s an enjoyable show with good characters, wacky case of the week plots and better acting than you’d expect. It’s on my season pass list. Sometimes I even watch it the same night it airs. I’m a solid thumbs up. Since we’re in quarantine and we’ve all lost our filter, however, I just need to blurt something out and get it off my chest. It pisses me off that Prodigal Son won't let Michael Sheen start solving cases from jail. It's what we all want. Maybe it's where the show is going. Hurry up and get there already.
I don’t understand how we’re most of the way through the first season and this hasn’t started happening already. Michael Sheen’s character is a serial killer. He’s also a doctor and has great insight into the human mind. He’s shown a strong interest in helping and giving mind-of-the-killer-type insights whenever asked. But for whatever reason, Prodigal Son has not embraced it yet. An overwhelming majority of the times we get Michael Sheen, it’s him providing buried memories or background into Malcolm’s childhood.
Look: I’m not saying we should totally abandon answering these lingering questions, whether it be the girl in the box or otherwise, but Prodigal Son needs to be honest and admit what it actually is: a slightly dark whodunit with a weird sense of humor and an ace in the hole in Michael Sheen. He shouldn’t be a distraction from the week’s mystery plot. He should be engaged in solving these cases. I want him to be Facetimed into crime scenes. I want him to be helping Malcolm build the criminal profiles. I want him to be the co-lead of the show.
Television is flooded with cautionary tales of mystery procedurals that don't read the room and mistakenly decide the audience wants every damn episode to be interlinked with the personal lives of its characters. You could point to more standard network offerings like Bones, which had multiple serial killers targeting the team for no apparent reason, or you could even point to more critically acclaimed offerings like Sherlock that got really personal life heavy and frankly ridiculous by the end. That’s not what most viewers want.
Sure, it’s OK to have a BIG EPISODE every now and again. If once a season, you want the murder victim to be someone’s sister so it gets personal, that’s fine. I get it. And if you want to continually move the private lives of the characters forward, that’s fine too. But the point of a crime procedural is to solve cases. That should be the main thrust of it each week, but Prodigal Son more often than not seems to think Malcolm’s background is the A plot and the cases are the B plot, or even worse, they try to tie both plots together so Malcolm is solving something that also teaches him about his personal life. Save that for season finales!
This shouldn’t be hard. Give us a ridiculous murder with some outrageous detail. Example: a chef was knocked off and then his famous sauce was poured on top of his corpse! Oh no! Then let Malcolm hit up the crime scene alongside Gil and the other detectives. Then send him to prison to hang out with Michael Sheen and talk about the case. Then have him take those insights back into the field. There can maybe be another phone call later in the episode after we discover (gasp) the chef’s sauce was made with a different ingredient which matters for some reason! Then solve the case and maybe learn one new detail at the end about Malcolm and Martin’s relationship. That’s it. That should be 90 percent of the episodes, along with a moment or two of Michael Sheen hilariously patting himself on the back for how smart he is.
In conclusion, I like Prodigal Son, but it often frustrates me. It could be my favorite weekly crime procedural, but in order to be that, it needs to embrace what it is and start using Michael Sheen to solve the actual cases. I’ll keep watching it regardless because I like mystery shows and we’re all in quarantine, but this is also definitely great advice that should be listened to.