Prodigal Son 2×12 “Sun and Fun” is the kind of episode that reminds you why you fell in love with television. It’s the kind of episode that has you thankful for the ability to rewind to find out what you missed when you were screaming in surprise and excitement. The kind of episode that has you texting your friends at two in the morning to ask, “Did you see that???” It’s the kind of artfully crafted episode that doesn’t just represent the highlight of the season but the best the entire series has to offer. Perhaps even one of the best hours of television in a long time.
It’s hard to talk about this episode without doing just a long series of keyboard smashes of excitement. But I’ll do my best.
Let’s be honest: watch enough television, and you become a little jaded. (And everyone here at Fangirlish has watched a lot of television.) You know they aren’t going to kill the main protagonist (or series’ big-name draw). At least, they won’t barring something drastic – like an actor died or is quitting the show and they’re trying to finish out the season as best they can. But they won’t do it by choice, and certainly not in a season’s penultimate episode.
However, every once in a while, there’s an episode of television that’s so well-written, that builds such good tension over the course of an hour, that it pulls you in and makes you forget everything you know. Sure, in the back of your mind, you know they aren’t going to kill the titular character. But you get so wrapped up in the action that you don’t even think about that. Or, if you do, you can’t help but think, “But what if they do this time?”
“Sun and Fun” was exactly that kind of episode. It did such a phenomenal job of building tension throughout the episode, that you couldn’t help but forget that everything will be okay in the end. (“Okay” being a relative term when you find yourself rooting on some level for the serial killer.) It had the audience screaming at the television – sometimes language that can’t be replicated in this review. (Honestly, if you saw the messages I texted my friends as I watched, there were an awful lot of f-bombs.)
Everything in this hour of television simply worked. Tom Payne brilliantly sold Malcolm’s building panic over the course of the hour – first driven by determination to capture his father, then by his desperation to save him. Michael Sheen (Dr. Martin Whitly) was compelling as he straddled the line between helpless victim, ruthless killer, and desperate father. Bellamy Young (Jessica) was at her most sympathetic – and ruthless – playing the woman who had once loved her husband but was now willing to stop at absolutely nothing to protect her children. And guest star Catherine Zeta-Jones (Dr. Vivian Capshaw) was chilling as the woman obsessed with being the Surgeon’s equal.
It was a tense hour, one that proved I was wrong a few weeks ago when I thought “Exit Strategy” would be the best episode of the season. Culminating in a cliffhanger that left the audience on the edge of our seats. Of course, we know that Malcolm will be okay. Not only is he the star of the show (and thus generally immune to Death By TV Trope), but Martin’s determination to save him from a pulmonary embolism made it clear his life is not at risk. At least, not by his father’s hand.
But that leaves a number of questions up in the air. Not the least of which is…what does Martin have in store for Dr. Capshaw when he gets his hands on her? He suggested he would let her live, but that leaves a whole host of options on the table. It’ll be a long week of waiting before the season finale, to find out exactly what the Surgeon of capable of, when his son is placed in danger.
Of course, I wrote above that this upcoming episode is the season finale, but news came out this week that it’s meant to be the series finale instead. As crushing as that news can be in general, it’s particularly painful when preceding the best that the series (and television in general) has to offer.
A week ago, I wrote an article laying out some of the reasons why Fox should renew Prodigal Son. As soon as “Sun and Fun” ended, I found myself taking to Twitter to express my astonishment that Fox could cancel such a good show. And, as it happens, I wasn’t alone. #SaveProdigalSon has been trending on Twitter since word broke of its cancellation.
Time will tell if the effort put forth by the fandom will be enough to compel a change in show status – either on Fox or via a streaming service. But it would be a crime for a show this good to end so soon.
Prodigal Son airs Tuesdays at 9/8c on Fox.