The official plot description for Prodigal Son season two episode one teased Malcolm Bright was going to be dealing with the aftermath of his sister’s decision to kill the sleazeball, Nicholas Endicott. And the season two premiere lives up to that description while also offering Malcolm a disturbing new case to piece together.
Episode one, “It’s All in the Execution,” begins with a distraught man on a ledge shocked to discover Malcolm (Tom Payne) is just feet away – also on the ledge. Malcolm confesses he’s had a tough year, what with family problems and his dad constantly in his head. Malcolm mentions his dad’s name and his ledge partner’s only response is a shocked, “Whoa.”
Malcolm attempts to work through his daddy issues while also revealing he knows exactly who he’s standing next to hundreds of feet above the city. His ledge co-occupant is Chester aka The Penthouse Slasher (Hiram Delgado) who Malcolm knew was in the building to slit the throats of the Rose family. Malcolm quickly learns he did get one thing horribly wrong – Chester didn’t ditch the knife after getting spooked out of killing the Roses.
They tussle on the ledge and, unfortunately, the team hasn’t had time to anchor Malcolm’s tether. As they struggle, Malcolm slips and almost allows Chester to fall to his death. Chester struggles to hold on as Malcolm appears to debate the option of just letting him die.
Of course, dear old serial killer dad, Dr. Martin Whitly (Michael Sheen), chooses this moment to ring up his son. Malcolm holds onto Chester who’s dangerously dangling from the ledge while listening to his dad declare he’s heading home. Martin quickly clears that up, revealing he’s heading back to Claremont. He claims he was granted the move after single-handedly preventing Covid “from ravaging the most overpopulated prison on the East Coast.”
Malcolm attempts to get off the phone, but Martin reminds him they haven’t talked in months.
A short while later, Ainsley (Halston Sage) rushes up to JT Tarmel (Frank Harts), microphone ready to capture his response to her questions. He confirms Chester’s in custody but he’s not as poised in front of the camera as Gil.
Ainsley makes this point to her brother and Malcolm reminds her Gil needs time to recover. He also suggests it’s okay if she takes time off, too, given what she’s gone through. Ainsley claims to be fine and Malcolm’s hand shakes as he lies and says he’s fine, too.
The following morning Malcolm screams as he wakes from a dream in which he picked up the blood-soaked knife after Ainsley murdered Nicholas and told his sister he’s the one who actually stabbed him. As he’s trying to clear his head, Malcolm realizes his mom, Jessica (Bellamy Young), is playing the piano and serenading him with “I Say a Little Prayer.”
Jessica apparently practiced piano during months of quarantine with Ainsley. She reveals the dead body of Nicholas has turned up and Malcolm already knows it was retrieved from Lake Peipus in Estonia. He’s obviously not himself but assures his mom he’ll be better with a new case to solve.
Later, Malcolm meets up with Dani Powell (Aurora Perrineau) and seems genuinely excited to be back at work solving murders. JT Tarmel (Frank Harts) explains the victim is Millicent Lee, the widow of a Texas oil tycoon. Malcolm notes the body looks as though it was respectfully laid out. Dr. Edrisa Tanaka (Keiko Agena) asks them to hold onto their heads – she’s such a punster – as she confirms the victim was killed elsewhere. She then shows the team the cause of death by gently picking up the victim’s head. She was decapitated but it wasn’t obvious until her scarf was removed.
Malcolm and Edrisa are both impressed by the precise cut, with Malcolm immediately convinced the death was an execution.
Millie’s New York lawyer confirms her client’s identity and drops the bombshell that her husband’s death might not have been committed by the person blamed. Millie had an affair with a carpenter who followed her to New York, taking up residence in her mansion. It’s just a rumor, but the lawyer seems to think there could be a connection. Maybe the carpenter killed both the husband and Millie.
Malcolm reminds the team beheadings are usually a form of punishment and not about the money. “Our killer is a justice-seeker. That’s why Millie had to die,” explains Malcolm. The preciseness of the cut prompts Malcolm to ask again if it was postmortem, but Edrisa is sure the cause of death was a high-velocity single strike. Malcolm quickly realizes the only possibility is a guillotine was used to sever Millie’s head.
Edrisa believes that explains the pieces of wood from an extinct tree that she found in Millie’s neck.
Malcolm narrows the likely murder weapon down to a 1996 auction in New York. Edrisa’s all googly-eyed over Malcolm’s knowledge while JT looks justifiably concerned. Malcolm admits he doesn’t know who bought it but realizes his dad does.
And now 15-ish minutes into the season two opener we’re treated to our first meeting between Malcolm and his dad. Martin’s happy to be closer to home but confesses he’s in hell because they’ve given him a roommate who makes farting noises and is apparently legitimately crazy. The roommate, Jerry (Michael Chernus), is so out of it watching cartoons that it’s okay for Martin to fill Malcolm in on the decapitation. Martin refuses to disclose the winning bidder of the guillotine auction until Malcolm makes him feel more like a partner again.
Malcolm has a flashback to the moments after Nicholas’s murder and taking instructions over the phone from his dad on how to get rid of the evidence and body. (Malcolm had to chop him up before rigor mortis set in.) Martin believes they should be celebrating the death and manages to get out, “Like father, like..,” before Malcolm cuts him off, demanding he never utter that saying again.
Martin finally writes down the name of the man who purchased the guillotine. Jerry launches a shoe at Malcolm’s head, and Malcolm takes his leave while Martin begs him to stay. Martin shifts his attention to an electrical cord near the TV that’s been wheeled in for Jerry to watch his cartoons. Poor Jerry doesn’t realize who he’s just pissed off.
Dani visits Gil (Lou Diamond Phillips) during his physical therapy and although he’s still weak and recovering, he seems to be doing okay. Dani’s next visit is with Malcolm to the owner of the guillotine, Izzy Collins (Jeremy Crutchley). Izzy shows them around his mansion and admits he’s building a new sex dungeon he plans on filling with toys. He shows off the guillotine which weighs 1,600 pounds and can’t be moved. Malcolm sprays it down, hoping blood will show up with the lights off.
Izzy’s shocked to see the guillotine’s coated with blood and quickly claims he was on a plane the prior evening. Malcolm hears noises and places his ear to the floor, and Izzy says the new sex dungeon’s going in directly below where they’re standing.
They head down to the dungeon and discover someone’s been entombed alive behind a wall of bricks. Malcolm quickly pounds a hole in the wall and discovers Boyd Hicks (Robbie Tann) – Millie’s carpenter boyfriend – chained up and experiencing psychosis. He believes Malcolm’s the person who did this to him and Malcolm plays into his fantasy. He picks up a whip (one of Izzy’s sex toys) and other items, and presses Boyd to confess to killing Millie’s husband. He finally gives in and admits he killed her husband and let an innocent man be executed in his place.
Millie’s murder and Boyd’s torture were revenge for the innocent man’s death. Dani advises Boyd he needs an attorney and he requests Millie’s lawyer, Natalie. Dani and Malcolm are shocked when he reveals she’s from back home in Texas.
A short while later they pull Natalie in for questioning. It turns out it was her brother who was executed for a murder he didn’t commit. Natalie claims she didn’t kill Millie; she’s been busy looking for proof Millie and Boyd actually murdered Millie’s tycoon husband. She’s already submitted a report with her findings to the Texas state attorney – a report that was quickly buried.
Back at Claremont, Martin sets his plan to get rid of his annoying cellmate in action. He snakes the electrical cord under his cot and begins electrocuting Jerry. Jerry jumps around in pain while handcuffed to his bed. Martin shuts it off seconds before a guard arrives to check out what’s going on.
Jerry comes to and explains he felt a jolt. “I feel like the words that I’m saying make sense. Do they make sense to you?” he asks. Martin confirms they do and declares it’s a miracle!
Malcolm, JT, and Dani discuss the possibility Natalie is the killer. Malcolm doesn’t think so as her motivation is to clear her brother’s name. He thinks it’s possible the killer was the judge, a lawyer involved in the case, or a member of the jury. He pauses and Dani recognizes he’s just come up with the answer…and he has.
“What if the killer is the actual executioner?” asks Malcolm. That person would have a motive after receiving Natalie’s report.
They come up with a plan to out the killer by announcing they’ve taken Natalie into custody for Millie’s murder. Malcolm fills Ainsley in on what they’re doing, warning her she needs to keep it a secret. He promises to contact her when the real killer shows up so she’ll get the scoop.
Dani has a heart-to-heart with Gil about Jessica. (Earlier in the episode she asked Malcolm what’s going on between his mom and Gil. Malcolm claimed to have no idea.) She believes he was careless and that none of this had to happen. Dani thinks he played the hero because of Jessica and was ultimately stabbed because of her. Gil admits to making a mistake by letting his feelings cloud his judgment.
“Jessica is a good person,” he says, trying to assure Dani he knows what he’s doing. Dani just wants him to be careful and Gil lets slip that Jackie thought the Whitlys were cursed. He confesses she might be right.
Jessica, looking gorgeous and eager to see Gil, overhears this from outside the door and pauses in her tracks.
Malcolm arrives home just as Dani calls him with the name of the Texas executioner: Tom Henry Glanton. She warns him Tom is in town and Malcolm suddenly realizes Tom’s in his house. Tom explains he’s been watching the investigation and demands they let Natalie go.
Malcolm reveals he knows Tom executed Natalie’s brother and has since learned he was innocent. Tom wanders over and picks up a scimitar from the cabinet. He again demands Malcolm let Natalie go, but Malcolm just chuckles. He doesn’t believe Tom will hurt him since he’s innocent and killing an innocent doesn’t fit his profile.
However, Tom’s really been paying attention. He knows all about Malcolm and thinks maybe he’s a killer, too. “That’s the third time this week,” replies Malcolm. “I must be giving off murder-y vibes. Is it my hair?”
Tom thinks he can set Natalie free by killing Malcolm, which in a twisted way makes sense. Malcolm admits his killer dad’s a part of him and that’s why he understands what Tom needs to do. Before Tom can actually strike out, Malcolm forces him to pause by revealing he never hung up the phone. His confession has been overheard and police are on the way.
Dani makes it to Malcolm’s place before backup’s available. Tom begins to attack and Malcolm arms himself. They go after each other and Malcolm draws the first blood. He also draws the second blood before asking if Tom’s had enough. Tom hasn’t and continues his attack.
Malcolm gets the upper hand and is poised to strike when Dani arrives and forces him to drop his weapon.
Meanwhile, JT’s also arrived on the street along with other police officers. Rather than going to assist Malcolm as JT requests, they call him “boy” and demand he put his hands up even though he clearly explains he’s with Major Crimes. They won’t even let him get his badge out before a white officer attempts to choke him against the wall. JT manages to shove him away so he can breathe, and the other cops all take aim and command JT to put his hands up once again.
JT’s seconds from being shot when both Malcolm and Dani rush up. It’s only after Dani shows her badge and confirms he’s a cop that the officers lower their weapons.
Back at the station, JT’s justifiably upset and certain this is all going to come down on his head. He’s convinced the cops will lie and say he assaulted them and his career will be over. Fortunately, Gil appears in the doorway and assures JT he won’t allow that to happen.
“I know what happened tonight and I got your back,” says Gil. He calls JT a good cop and suggests he go home and kiss his wife.
Malcolm pays another visit to his dad and Martin explains Jerry’s gone now and getting better due to electroshock therapy. Malcolm’s out of sorts because of what Ainsley did and what he covered up. Martin tries to comfort his son by reminding him Ainsley wouldn’t have survived that night without him.
Martin asks Malcolm to step closer and when he does, he grabs his hand. “Thank you for saving my little girl. You realize that, don’t you? You saved your sister,” says an emotional Martin. He asks Malcolm not to torture himself any more about it. But then Martin – being Martin – adds that maybe it’s the idea of getting away with murder, being free on the streets, and knowing what he’s capable of that’s gotten Malcolm all worked up. He describes killing as intoxicating and the ultimate thrill, suggesting Malcolm’s not sure what to do after getting a taste of it.