[Warning: The following contains spoilers for the latest episode of Prodigal Son, "Family Friend." Read at your own risk!]
The call was literally coming from inside the house on Monday night's episode of Prodigal Son. For the second time this season, Malcolm Bright (Tom Payne) found himself on the case of a serial killer with a mysterious connection to his father, Dr. Martin Whitly, aka The Surgeon (Michael Sheen). The Junkyard Killer, real name Paul Lazar (Michael Raymond-James), has a history with Malcolm's family, but he's also got his own agenda when it comes to the many murders he's been committing in the scrap yard. His so-called "mission" is to clear the streets of vagrants — drug addicts in particular — and he's pretty peeved that Malcolm has interrupted it.
After speaking with the Junkyard Killer through his father's long-forgotten basement phone, Malcolm managed to use his profiling skills to save one man from Paul's secret storage spot, but the perp made it clear that he will not stand for the interference. He lured Malcolm into a solo pursuit and nearly crushed him in a turnstile; Paul also later endangered Ainsley (Halston Sage), who happened to be in the same hospital as the victim, bringing an already personal case even closer to home. All the while, Paul teased Malcolm about how much he knew of his past, indicating that he may even be the key to fleshing out his elusive memory about that childhood camping trip. So, while both Whitly kids escaped their harrowing encounters with the Junkyard Killer, they're hardly done with that case.
Prodigal Son co-creators Chris Fedak and Sam Sklaver tell TV Guide that after his crushing encounter with the Junkyard Killer in this week's episode, Malcolm will find himself next on the Junkyard Killer's mission list — even as the FBI steps in to take over the case from the NYPD.
Take a look at what Fedak and Sklaver had to say about the latest episode of Prodigal Son and what's coming up ahead in the full interview below.
This new serial killer seems even closer to home for Malcolm than the copycat killer that started the season off. Is Martin's serial killer support group going to continue to grow throughout the season, or is this an unusual case?
Chris Fedak: I think it's an unusual case. It's not our instinct to do a show about a cult or a group or anything like that because I think that people like Martin are solitary individuals, but every once in a while they do come across each other. So I think it's something that we think is unique and special, but it's different than some stuff we've done in the past.
Sam Sklaver: In the pilot it was someone who was tangentially connected to Martin who was our killer, but what we do find out in [this week's episode] is that this isn't just a tangential connection. This is a real connection, and that is something that we're actually really excited to explore in depth.
So, that leads into another question I have. Maybe I'm wrong about this, but does this Junkyard Killer actually care about Malcolm?
Fedak: I think that he does care about Malcolm. I think that he is profoundly interested in Malcolm. One of the things that we love about the show is the psychology of each different killer. The Junkyard Killer's psychology is different from Martin's psychology, in that he has more of a kind of mission-based perspective. So to have someone like Bright show up in his way, it's like he's trying to figure out how this fits into his mission, how this fits into his kind of greater cause. So I think he does care, and he wants to know more about Bright.
Sklaver: I think Chris is right. I don't know that the Junkyard Killer cares about Bright, but I do think that Bright is his next mission, and I think that you don't want to be the Junkyard Killer's next mission.
Does Malcolm have a blind spot when it comes to killers that reflect the Surgeon's work?
Fedak: I think he has a gift for understanding killers, having grown up with his father. So in some ways, if there's any type of blind spot that would make him different from another profiler or another detective, it's that he is sympathetic in a way. He can empathize with these people, and we've been exploring that since our pilot episode — the idea of trying to understand how they think makes you, in some ways, connect with them. And I think that's disturbing and strange, but it's also Malcolm's gift.
Sklaver: I might also go so far as to say [that] because the Surgeon was Malcolm's father, he has no blind spot when it comes to killers. He knows everything about them because he learned everything from one of the best.
Fedak: I think his blind spots really are his social life: regular people, eating, talking to people, appropriate things to say, that's where he runs into trouble.
Sklaver: Table manners — anything your parents are supposed to teach you, that could be a blind spot for Bright. But murder is definitely not one of them.
I guess what I was referring to is the fact that this was one of the rare instances that he had to tear up his first-draft profile, which also happened with the copycat killer. So I just wondered if that connection to his father throws him off his game at all?
Fedak: No, I think that — well, that is a close reading of the episode, so kudos to you.
Sklaver: It's interesting that it's in those two episodes. I think the way these things shake out, when we're making our story, we often like Bright's profile to change. As he says in one episode or another, he's not a psychic. He's someone who reads the evidence and gets inside the mind of the killer and tries to figure it out who did it. And as more evidence becomes available to him, his profile can change and shift and alter, and we really like living with Bright through that. He rarely knows the right answer or all of the answers at the beginning, but all of his answers can get him to the right answer.
Do you think it's helping Malcolm or making it worse for him, that he's starting to confirm some of the dream memories are real? Is it improving his work or is it taking a toll on him?
Fedak: I think it is taking a toll on him still. And I think that you're right, though when going with the Junkyard Killer, when he is able to actually speak to the girl in the box, you're dealing with — that's tough for Bright. That's his kryptonite. So that's definitely having a deleterious effect on his work, but more importantly, on his own personal psychology.
It was also a big week for Ainsley — the past two episodes, really have been. And the read I'm getting on her is that she's just as committed to her work or her mission, to borrow from the Junkyard Killer, as Malcolm and Martin. So are we watching her become a Whitly in real time? And was Jessica right that Martin was able to trick her into loving him?
Fedak: Well, first off, the question of being tricked into loving somebody, I don't think that's exactly it. I think he was able to play upon something that she wanted to hear. But I think that the overall emotions that are going on inside of Ainsley, which Halston Sage has done such an incredible job with — we have an amazing cast — is the ability to show that conflicted thing about wanting to have a relationship with your father, even if he's a monster, is interesting and something that we want to explore. But I think she's got a job and she wants to do it really well. That obsessiveness, it speaks to Martin and it speaks to Malcolm and it speaks to her as well. I don't think it equals psychopath; I think it just speaks to being a perfectionist and wanting to be the best at something. And I think she feels very much like a modern woman.
Sklaver: Yeah, we're getting to meet Ainsley at a really exciting part of her life, where she is both doing very well professionally, better than she's ever done, and she's also meeting her serial killer father for the first time in her adult life. Those are two crazy life events to be happening at the same time, and it is very exciting going forward to see how they're both going to have a positive and negative effects on her.
Are we ever going to see a full family reunion, or is Jessica (Bellamy Young) never going to go there?
Fedak: We would love to see a family reunion. That would be amazing.
Sklaver: What's fun about our show, too, is we do get to skip all around in time, and it's something that we're very excited to explore because we got a back nine [episode order], so we get to do 22 episodes. We are more excited about being able to see more of the Whitlys before the arrest, and that's a great way to see the family like you're talking about. In terms of present day, I would love to find out a way to get them all together, and I'm sure Martin would also love that. So, we'll have to see.
How long is it going to take before we finally solve that camping trip mystery?
Fedak: I'm doing the math in my mind right here, so I don't want to give an exact episode...
Sklaver: Sooner than you think! We're very excited that with the world that our show lives in that there's a lot of camping trip-type stories in this family's past. And so it's not something that we're going to drag over multiple seasons, or even that many more episodes. We have a very explosive ending to it and I don't think anyone is going to expect it, and I'm pretty sure it's amazing. I'm just going to say it on record.
Fedak: Pretty vague! Pretty vague!
It's not vague, it's a teaser! OK, so I know it kind of goes without saying given the series title, but it seems like you're finally honing in on some of the religious implications of Prodigal Son. Is that going to come into play more or is it a secondary theme?
Fedak: I think it's a secondary theme. I think that the Junkyard Killer is only one type of killer or one type of perspective. ... He sees himself on a divine mission. It doesn't mean that all of our cases will be on a divine mission. I think when we came up with the title Prodigal Son, we loved the idea [of] what if the dad was bad and the son was good and that made him the Prodigal Son.
Sklaver: But you're right, though. The Old Testament and the New Testament both have some gnarly murders in them. We should go look to the texts for some more case studies.
Fedak: I remember when I was in film school, Kirk Douglas came in and he was just like, "You don't have to read any other books. Go in the Bible, all the good stories are there."
Sklaver: It's true. So it does seem like a fun world to go to a little bit more.
We're coming full circle with the FBI now. Is that going to be a big clash? It seems like they'd have to cave a little bit because Malcolm can make direct contact with Paul?
Fedak: There's definitely going to be friction between the two forces.
Sklaver: Nothing has gotten better since Malcolm was with the FBI at the end of the pilot. There's a lot of road to make up.
Fedak: And I think the other thing, too, for the FBI is Bright is kind of an unstable force. Yes, he has a connection to the Junkyard Killer, but that might not be the best thing in the world to try to solve the case. And what's really exciting to us is we wanted to try and come up with a person who is FBI, or 21st Century FBI agents. So with Meagan Good joining the show, she brings a real fun spark as an FBI agent we haven't seen before, and also someone who can call Bright out on a lot of the very guy-centric profiling that we kind of use. So this is a neat thing for us to have fun with and explore.
Prodigal Son airs Mondays at 9/8c on Fox.