[Warning: The following contains spoilers for Monday's episode of Prodigal Son, "Wait & Hope." Read at your own risk!]
Is Prodigal Son going to go there and turn into a full-on "like father, like son" narrative soon? Monday night's episode, titled "Wait & Hope" (after an Alexandre Dumas quote), strongly hinted that there might be a very bitter end ahead for Malcolm Bright (Tom Payne) and Martin Whitly (Michael Sheen). Although Malcolm has devoted his professional life to becoming the antithesis of his old man — capturing serial killers who are just like the Surgeon — a very loaded exchange in this episode hinted that there may only be one way that their twisted relationship can possibly end: with Malcolm killing Martin.
In the episode, Malcolm finagled his way onto the scene of another NYPD investigation, even though his mother Jessica (Bellamy Young) and boss/pseudo-dad Gil Arroyo (Lou Diamond Phillips) insisted that he needed to take some time away on vacation. The killer at large, who had a score to settle with the wealthy Taylor family, was apparently a fan of The Count of Monte Cristo, a novel Malcolm knew well thanks to his father's very theatrical bedtime readings when Malcolm was young. And since Martin's visitation privileges were restored thanks to his success in consulting on a government VIP's health scare, Malcolm was able to pay Martin another visit and pick his brain about this killer.
But first, Malcolm needed to confront Martin about the Junkyard Killer's game-changing revelation in the winter premiere — that his father took him on that mysterious camping trip to kill him. Martin immediately denied the claim.
"Malcolm, I've done bad things, but I never did that. I mean, if I wanted to kill you, I would've," Martin said bluntly.
Malcolm didn't get a chance to reveal whether he believed him though, because Dani (Aurora Perrineau) steered the conversation back to the business at hand. However, it seems unlikely that Malcolm would just take Martin's word for it, considering he still knows his dad chloroformed him and that the "girl in the box" encounter was a real memory.
Malcolm and Martin went on to spar while discussing the elusive killer at the center of the investigation. Martin agreed with Malcolm that his colleagues may have arrested the wrong person when they cuffed a former employee of the Taylor family, musing, "Where are the intangibles — the passion, the finesse, the joie de vivre? Killing people is not easy, believe you me." He then added that the real drama of the Taylors' story was probably "between father and son" — a not-so-subtle wink at his own family dynamic.
"I could be projecting, but he certainly has motive," Martin said of the Taylor son, since his father was forcing to marry someone he didn't love after the apparent death of someone he did care for but who wasn't rich or connected. Malcolm agreed, adding that the elaborate death scenes involved in the case — one of which looked like a trap plucked from a Saw movie — could have been the son's way of "showing off for his father."
Both Whitly men revealed an unsettling level of self-awareness in that brief conversation, even if it was under the guise of solving the crime of the day. Like the Taylor men, Malcolm has also been consistently pressured into taking up the mantle of the "family business" — "by that I mean medicine," Martin joked — so this could be a clue that Malcolm's attempt to fully reject his dad's influence will involve ending Martin's life in a grand spectacle, too.
It's important to note that this entire conversation was a red herring. In the end, the killer was the Taylor son's long-lost love, who actually didn't die in the explosion but came back to seek revenge against the entire family. So Malcolm and Martin's verbal volleying about Taylor's motive to kill his father seems to have a purpose beyond actually solving the case.
It's also significant that Martin's dream that opened the episode echoed the night terrors Malcolm has experienced ever since we first met him. The dream scene marked the time first time we've truly gotten into the headspace of the Surgeon, and it looked an awful lot like what we've seen Malcolm experience with his own nightmares. The obvious takeaway is that Malcolm's mind already works the same way Martin's does, with each of them starring in each other's nightmares for very different reasons: Malcolm fears becoming his father, while Martin fears that he'll be violently rejected by his son. If Malcolm were to ever harm his dad, both of their visions would prove to be prescient.
Note also that Prodigal Son's co-creator Sam Sklaver previously told TV Guide that fans will be in for some upsetting developments with the Whitly family as the first season nears its end. What could be more earth-shattering than Malcolm finally becoming a killer like Martin?
Perhaps most ominously, Malcolm has now wholly rejected the idea of working through his demons before continuing to engage in his damaging profession. By the end of the episode, even Jessica waved the white flag in her attempt to force him on the plane for a healing getaway and embraced her son's desire to work — even if it means he'll be engaging in even more reckless behavior and inching ever nearer to becoming his father along the way.
Prodigal Son airs Mondays at 9/8c on Fox.