Prodigal Son showrunners on that winter finale cliffhanger and the 'harrowing' fun to come
Warning: This article contains spoilers about Monday’s episode of Prodigal Son.
The winter finale of Fox’s crime drama Prodigal Son may have been have titled “Silent Night,” but the episode was the furthest thing from a serene winter’s eve.
After weeks of tracking a murderer nicknamed the Junkyard Killer, Malcolm (Tom Payne) finally closed in on him in Monday’s episode — only to wind up a little too close to the creepy criminal. Indeed, as Gil (Lou Diamond Phillips) and the gang rushed to find him, the profiler was dragged by his feet by the Junkyard Killer as he told him, “They’ll never find us where we’re going.” Not an ideal way to spend Christmas night.
Elsewhere, Jessica (Bellamy Young) decided to take control of the narrative surrounding her family by announcing a $1 million reward for anyone coming forward with information uncovering what happened to the “girl in the box” — much to her daughter’s annoyance. Again, plenty of holiday cheer at the Whitly house.
With all that and Martin, a.k.a. the Surgeon (Michael Sheen), still locked in solitary confinement after his stunt at the psychiatric hospital, it’s safe to say the Whitlys aren’t in for a restful holiday season. We took all our burning questions to Prodigal Son showrunners Chris Fedak and Sam Sklaver to find out what’s in store for the family in the new year.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: Obviously we have a lot to talk about from tonight’s episode, but first I wondered where the idea for the show originally came from?
CHRIS FEDAK: Sam and I were sitting in my office and chatting about TV shows we were thinking about creating, and this show came out of a conversation we were having about our parents and how they mess us up a little bit. Sam is funny because his father was funny and I’m weird because my mother was a little weird. So we went from that place of defense mechanisms, how we adjust, how we become adults, to what would happen if you had the worst parents in the world? What if your parent was this incredibly famous, notorious serial killer? We played around with that question for a few minutes, and then we were literally at the computer writing it up.
SAM SKLAVER: What got us really excited was, what if your father was a serial killer and he was a really good dad? How much would that screw you up if you thought that this man was a great person and he was a great person, but he also happened to be killing people? It’s just something that we were so excited to stumble upon it. It’s a well that we just keep wanting to go deeper into.
Did you always have Michael Sheen in mind to play that serial killer/good dad?
FEDAK: When we knew Fox was going to make the show, there was this big, gigantic search where we put together a list of names and start to figure out who’s going to be the person. Michael Sheen’s name was always going to be on that list and we were just like, “There’s no way! There’s no way we could possibly get Michael.” Then he read the script and he liked it, and all of a sudden it was just like, “Wait a minute. Everybody stop! Breathe! Hold on!” He’s a generational talent. He’s incredible and for us, we were so stoked and amazed to be working with him. We always wanted someone who could be dark and sinister and scary, but we also needed someone who could be a great dad and wear a cardigan and have a beautiful beard. We didn’t really let ourselves believe that Michael would do the role until he did the role because it’s hard on network television to get this caliber of actors that we got — not just in Michael, but in Bellamy, bringing in Lou. The material brought us some great actors who we were thrilled to get.
Was it a similar no-brainer feeling casting Tom Payne as Malcolm?
SKLAVER: In retrospect all these things seem like no-brainers, but at the time we were desperate to find the lead. The show really isn’t the show until you have that lead. We had a complicated process, but in the end Tom is an amazing actor and he has this charisma that allows you to find him charming but also has a depth to him. You know that he’s in pain, and you’re fascinated by it.
FEDAK: We met with Tom and he still looked like Jesus [the character Payne played on The Walking Dead]. He had that long hair and that big beard, and we were like, “If you give us a pair of scissors, that’s Malcolm Bright.” It took a little bit of convincing, but once we got him, he was always the guy for us.
Let’s talk about this midseason finale. We met a cop who had worked to get the Surgeon arrested back in the ’90s. Going forward, will we see more of that investigation in flashbacks and learn more about Martin as a killer?
FEDAK: We would love to get into the mythology of how Martin Whitly’s case was solved and who the cops were that were going after him. How did he wind up at Claremont Psychiatric Hospital? These are all questions we’re interested in exploring. If we go back in time and imagine what it was like in 1998 and 1999 as he went to stand trial in New York, we kind of look at it like New York’s version of the People v. OJ Simpson.
So do we see him being a good father to Malcolm? Because he did chloroform him and all…
FEDAK: Sounds like you’re being a little bit judgy in regards to chloroform. [Laughs] I think we definitely want to go back; we love those moments. There’s a couple of time periods that it’s going to be really interesting for us to see more of like, what was it like after Martin was arrested and Malcolm would go and see his dad and they’d talk about murder? We love this idea that they talk about murder like other fathers and sons talk about sport.
SKLAVER: We actually have two father-son relationships. We have Malcolm and his serial killer father and Malcolm and his surrogate father, Gil Arroyo. We touched on it a little bit when Dani [Aurora Perrineau] and Bright talk about how Gil used to take Bright on stakeouts when he was a little kid and Bright’s like, “No one ever said my childhood was normal.” But we do like that Gil saw this kid who was in trouble, who could go a lot of different directions, and decided to help put him on the right direction. Of course Gil’s going to question that decision and Jessica’s definitely questioned that decision, but it’s something that they did. Seeing that relationship that Gil and Bright share is very important to us.
Can shippers of Jessica and Gil have some hope?
FEDAK: First off, we would never try and stop any shipper from shipping anything. Do not get in the way of shippers!
SKLAVER: We love the two of them in scenes together, I’m not going to lie. Bellamy and Lou — there is something magical between them. I think there’s a lot of past that they have that we want to unpack before we move them forward in the present, but it’s definitely not something that we’re opposed to. I think we’re shipping them as well in our minds. We’ll see how that plays out.
We saw Jessica ask the public for help finding her husband’s 24th victim in this episode. Does that come back to haunt her in the second half of the season?
FEDAK: We’ll say this, no good deed goes unpunished.
SKLAVER: It doesn’t work out great…
FEDAK: But it doesn’t not work out. It is complicated arc.
SKLAVER: The girl in the box isn’t going to be multiseason story line. The only fun thing about Martin having so many victims is that he has a lot of stories to tell, and the girl in the box is just one of many. We do want to give our audience, who have been so faithful to us, some closure on that explosive turn, so Jessica putting the bracelet out to the world is not in vain — there’s definitely going to be some repercussions.
Does Martin get out of solitary confinement soon? Has that messed him up even more?
FEDAK: He will not be unaffected by solitary confinement, because Martin being alone with his thoughts is one of the most dangerous and scary things you can probably imagine. From a spoiler perspective, we can promise that he will be featured heavily and a be a big part of our return in episode 11.
SKLAVER:To Jessica Whitley’s dismay, he will not stay in solitary forever.
FEDAK: Which also gives us an opportunity to do something we’ve been wanting to do for a while: In episode 11, it’ll give us a chance to put Michael Sheen and Lou Phillips Diamond in the same scene.
Okay, so the huge cliffhanger ending was Malcolm being dragged away to a place no one will ever find him by the Junkyard Killer. Can you tease anything at all about what’s going to happen next?
FEDAK: We’ll say this, where they’re going will turn out to be the scariest place that Bright could possibly imagine.
SKLAVER: When we come back in episode 11, we just don’t let up at all. It’s a harrowing, fun, exciting hour of television that you’ll be hard-pressed to fold laundry during — you just have to stare at the screen and hope for the best.