Prodigal Son: Family Drama can be Murder – HBO Max Review

The son of a serial killer becomes a criminal profiler in order to stop other murderers.


Malcolm Bright (Tom Payne) is a criminal profiler who works for the NYPD. His father, Martin Whitly (Michael Sheen), is a world-class doctor… and a serial killer known as “the Surgeon” who killed at least 23 people. Martin was arrested when Malcolm was a child and has since resided in an asylum. Malcolm’s sister, Ainsley (Halston Sage) is a TV Reporter while his mother Jessica (Bellamy Young) is a successful businesswoman and more successful alcoholic. Along with Lt. Gil Arroyo (Lou Diamond Phillips), Det. Dani Powell (Aurora Perrineau), Det. JT Tarmel (Frank Harts), and medical examiner Edrisa Tanaka (Keiko Agena), Malcolm uses his unique insight into the mind of a serial killer to track down murderers, sometimes with his father’s advice.

I kinda buy the family resemblance.


I had not heard anything about this show during its first season on Fox, but when the show came on HBO Max, I was told to check it out. I’m not going to say that this show is a game-changer or anything like that, but it is a nice take on the idea of having someone touched by evil being gifted at fighting evil. Malcolm is frequently depicted as being able to envision what the killer did by placing himself in their mindset, something that often seems to damage his psyche a bit. Due to his father and these tendencies, most of his colleagues are at least hesitant to work with him. He has a history with drugs. He also is shown to have insomnia and violent night-terrors. His trauma, while he is able to use it, is still affecting every aspect of his life. I find this to be much more interesting than many other series where the person is just depicted as “dark and brooding.” 

He also gets into some very dark situations.

Michael Sheen is absolutely captivating as Martin Whitly, something that helps sell the belief that he is a psychopath. Whitly is not your typical Hannibal Lecter-esque mastermind. Instead, he’s a blatant narcissist who twists everything to his own glorification. He constantly praises his history as a doctor, claiming himself (accurately) among the best in the world, and says he’s a great father, but he often refuses to acknowledge being a serial killer. Despite that, when it comes up, he suggests that serial killers are better than normal people, making outlandish claims that are often easily rebuffed by those he is talking to. It feels fairly original and potentially more accurate to how such a person might be.

And here I thought he was an angel.

The supporting cast in this show is excellent. Lou Diamond Phillips plays the detective who both employs Malcolm and arrested his father. It gives him a strange relationship to Malcolm and his mother, bordering on being a surrogate father in some ways, but also distanced because he did still technically break up their family. Phillips does a great job balancing the elements. The rest of the team has their own relationships with Malcolm, but my favorite is Keiko Agena as Tanaka, who has a terrible crush on Malcolm and is hilariously awkward around him. 

I do love me some LDP.

Overall, it’s a pretty solid show. I really recommend it if you’re a fan of detective shows. 

If you want to check out some more by the Joker on the Sofa, check out the 100 Greatest TV Episodes of All TimeCollection of TV EpisodesCollection of Movie Reviews, or the Joker on the Sofa Reviews.

If you enjoy these, please, like, share, tell your friends, like the Facebook page (, follow on Twitter @JokerOnTheSofa, and just generally give me a little bump. I’m not getting paid, but I like to get feedback.

Published by


I'm not giving my information to a machine. Nice try, Zuckerberg.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s