After a suspenseful previous episode, things took a turn for the dramatic this week, in Prodigal Son 2×11, “You Can Run…” Malcolm knows better than anyone what his father can – and will – do. So this week, he turned his attention to tracking down the Surgeon, now a fugitive from justice. Things don’t go exactly according to plan, of course. But when do they?
OKAY TO NOT BE OKAY
It isn’t exactly a surprise that Malcolm isn’t handling things very well this week. His father escaped from the hospital. After leaving Malcolm a voicemail to profess his murdering days are done. Malcolm is dubious about the truth in this statement, and so are we, frankly. Whatever compelled the respected Dr. Martin Whitly to use his medical training for more nefarious purposes may currently be drowned out by his intense feelings of familial obligation. But they are no doubt still there, lurking in the back of his mind. The question really isn’t if he’ll kill again. It’s when. And whether Malcolm and his team (including the U.S. Marshals brought in to hunt the fugitive down) will find him first.
Martin’s single minded-purpose does raise some serious questions about his intentions, however. Earlier in the season, it seemed that the Whitly patriarch was determined to escape to help protect his children from the looming threat of the criminal justice system. For the moment, at least, they seem to be in the clear. Nicholas Endicott’s murder has been laid at a dead woman’s doorstep. Nobody currently seems interested in digging further. So is Martin’s determination to escape for the good of his family of a more general impulse? Or is there something specific he has in mind?
Well, he’s the Surgeon. There’s no doubt he has something specific in mind. But exactly what that might be isn’t something that Malcolm – or anyone else on his team – has yet begun to fully consider.
Still, while Malcolm is struggling with the stress of his newfound priority – tracking down his father and putting him behind bars once more – it’s hard not to think that he’s in a better place this year than he would have been if this had happened a year ago. Malcolm’s friends may be wary of his ability to be unbiased in his psychological analysis. They may even wonder if he’s mentally able to handle the task that has been laid at his doorstep. But they are his friends. And that, I believe, will make all the difference.
It’s good that Malcolm has such friends, because he’ll likely need their support now more than ever. His desire to apprehend the Surgeon before another life can be lost is undoubtedly real. Heaven knows he’s suffered enough psychological trauma for his father’s crimes. But underneath that very righteous desire, there’s still a boy who once idolized his father. Who longed for nothing more than to be just like him. It is that warring desire that makes it impossible for Malcolm to be as objective as he needs to be to track his father down. Because as it is, it’s clear that Martin has Malcolm’s number, staying at least one step ahead of his son at every turn.
It really shouldn’t be surprising that Martin was able to outwit Malcolm so easily. Malcolm is a brilliant profiler, but Martin is as well, in his own way. In order to be as effective of a killer as he once was, he had to learn how to read people. To figure out what makes them tick. The brilliant Malcolm Bright might not have learned everything he knows at his father’s knee, he learned at least several chapters’ worth.
If he’s going to catch his father (and he almost certainly will eventually), Malcolm will need to remember that this sword cuts both ways. Just as his father has lived in his head for years, he’s likely lived in his father’s. Martin has a pretty good sense of not just how his son thinks, but also what he wants. Not to mention how he will interpret Martin’s own actions. If thee’s one advantage Malcolm has over the Surgeon, it’s that he’s not quite the man his father believes him to be. He’s not as much like Martin as his dad – and occasionally he – thinks.
Malcolm may not be quite the chip off the old block, but his sister Ainsley certainly is. Somewhat more terrifyingly, her father has started teaching her lessons of her own. Only her lessons haven’t been precisely in the line of psychological profiling. Martin’s been teaching her how to hide her possible sociopathic tendencies. Ainsley doesn’t respond to things emotionally as others do. However, Martin has taught her that the ability to pretend that she can – that she can and will cry as others do – will help her hide in plain sight.
Sociopathy isn’t an automatic precursor to homicidal impulses or tendencies. Many people who might be considered sociopaths will never even want to hurt another person, let alone following through on that impulse. But Ainsley has already crossed that line once. She also demonstrated she had no genuine sense of remorse or regret over her actions. One can only imagine how terrifying she could therefore be with the Surgeon whispering in her ear.
And he clearly does have a way of finding people who don’t quite relate to the rest of the world in the expected way and twisting them to his purposes. He proved that well enough with Dr. Capshaw this episode. I had thought she had ulterior motives of her own, causing her to want to get close to the Surgeon for her own purposes. She might not have quite the motives I believed. However, she wasn’t as innocent as she would have had everyone believe last week, after all. Far from being a dupe, tricked into helping Martin escape, it seems she was a willing accomplice. So now that she’s helped him escape, what will these two do next? Your guess is as good as mine.
Prodigal Son airs Tuesdays at 9/8c on Fox.