Fox’s Prodigal Son season two episode six is one of the series’ most twisted episodes. Not only does it briefly fulfill the wishes of those on board the #Brightwell ship, but also by delving into Malcolm’s subconscious desires we’re treated to an alternate world in which Martin is still a successful doctor and Ainsley’s mental health isn’t an issue.
Episode six, “Head Case,” takes place in a supposedly haunted hotel. But before Malcolm (Tom Payne) heads over to check out the new murder case, he’s called in for a meeting with his mom and dad. They want to tell Ainsley the truth about Nicholas’ murder, but Malcolm disagrees. He’s worried she can’t handle the truth in her present state.
Martin (Michael Sheen) reminds Malcolm what happens when you discover you’ve been lied to. Malcolm insists he had to protect his sister – that’s why he covered up Nicholas’ murder in the first place. Martin jokes he could have used a little of Malcolm’s help covering up murders years ago.
Malcolm finally meets up with JT (Frank Harts) at the Kenmare Hotel and points out Duke Ellington used to stay there. The victim is architect Lyle Reynolds who, up until his death, was working on a project to revitalize the building.
The cause of death is a ball-bearing compass jammed into his eyes. Because it belonged to the victim, Malcolm determines it was an impulsive kill. The killer didn’t panic after the murder and wiped away the prints. He believes the killer is a “good old-fashioned psychopath.”
Malcolm spots Ainsley (Halston Sage) interviewing the hotel owner, Ramón Vieja (Joel de la Fuente), not far away. When she asks about accusations of corruption, Vieja cuts short the interview.
Gil (Lou Diamond Phillips) and Malcolm ask for a moment of his time as he walks away from Ainsley. Vieja claims he doesn’t have time and suggests they speak to the artist community currently occupying the 8th floor.
JT, Malcolm, and Dani (Aurora Perrineau) head to the 8th floor and are given a quick lesson on the hotel’s history. The artists – Karina (Elia Monte-Brown) and Wendell (Andrew Polec) – don’t like the renovations but deny harming the architect. Malcolm points out it appears Karina’s been crying, but she insists she barely knew the murder victim.
Interview over – at least for now – Malcolm gets a quick moment alone with Dani in an elevator. They discuss his morning meeting with his parents, with Malcolm careful not to reveal any details other than it was family business.
Two strangers join them in the elevator and introduce themselves as father and daughter, Rupert (Mark Margolis) and Greta Swann (Jessica Blank). Greta reveals they heard a loud argument between Reynolds and Vieja about the elevator. The elevator’s been broken for three months and when Ramon continued to refuse to fix it, Reynolds fixed it himself. She believes that angered Ramon and he killed Reynolds. (Rupert uses a wheelchair and couldn’t leave the building while it was broken.)
Later, Malcolm asks Ainsley for her footage from the Vieja interview. He reveals Vieja’s a person of interest and promises she’ll be the first to know if anything comes of it. Malcolm realizes Ainsley’s not doing well and she confesses she’s suffering from insomnia. She’s been remembering more from the night of Nicholas’s death and doesn’t understand what’s happening. Malcolm again takes the blame and says this is happening because she watched him kill a man.
As they’re talking, Malcolm realizes the footage reveals Ramon was missing a cufflink.
Malcolm calls Dani to meet him at the hotel and winds up beating her to it. As he returns to the spot of the murder, a noise down the hall distracts him. He walks toward it and finds the missing cufflink, immediately picturing how the cut on the victim’s face was made by this metal bird.
Malcolm calls Dani to report his findings. The missing cufflink was located on the 3rd floor immediately under the Swanns’ apartment. Dani says she’ll be right there, however, before she shows up Malcolm hears another noise. As he’s tracking the sound, the elevator dings and the door opens.
The car isn’t there so Malcolm leans forward slightly to look down the shaft. As he does, he’s pushed from behind and falls, screaming, into the shaft!
Malcolm comes to with Dani and JT visiting his hospital room. He claims to be doing okay; the doctor said he has a mild concussion. Despite their protestations, Malcolm convinces JT and Dani to let him accompany them to arrest Ramon Vieja. It turns out the blood on his missing cufflink matched the architect’s.
Ramon admits to smacking his employee but claims he didn’t kill him. He reveals the architect and Karina were in a relationship, pointing the finger of guilt at the artist. Ramon also points out a murder in his hotel is the last thing he wants/needs since it would halt the construction and cost him both time and money.
After they’re done with the interrogation, Malcolm believes Karina was having sex with Reynolds and Ramon didn’t commit murder. He winces in pain and Dani’s quick to point out he should be home resting.
As he’s leaving Malcolm says, “I can make it to family dinner for once.”
Malcolm walks in on Ainsley and Jessica (Bellamy Young) laughing while setting the table. Martin strolls in from the kitchen holding the main dish, joking he’s better with the marinade than he is with a scalpel. This bizarro world’s Martin is still a respected doctor, Jessica’s a loving mom, and Ainsley’s one of the best doctors in New York.
Malcolm’s head aches again and he admits he feels this is all wrong and unfamiliar. His family attempts to comfort him and he brushes away their concern, confessing he was pushed down an elevator shaft and that’s why he’s not feeling quite right.
Malcolm receives a call from the Claremont Psychiatric Hospital while at the dinner table and Ainsley wonders who he knows there. He doesn’t recall knowing anyone at Claremont.
Later, he’s startled awake from a bad dream. He’s in bed next to Dani (yes!) and she reminds him he’s home, in bed, safe. They cuddle as they drift back to sleep.
(In reality, he’s still at the bottom of the elevator shaft, unconscious.)
The following morning, they continue to act like a loving couple, completely at ease with one another. Malcolm confesses he feels happy but there are moments when he believes he doesn’t deserve it. “You deserve all of it. Malcolm Whitly, you are the best person that I know,” says Dani, following that declaration with a kiss.
Their relaxing morning’s interrupted with a call that Karina’s been spotted at the hotel.
Dani and Malcolm question Karina and she denies she killed anyone but admits to the affair with Lyle. She claims she only lied because she didn’t want Wendell to know. He’s also in love with her and she doesn’t know what he would have done if he discovered the truth.
They head up to the loft where they discover Wendell in a pool of blood. He’s dead so that rules him out as the killer. Back to square one.
Malcolm determines his profile was wrong. The blows are “confident” and now he believes they’re looking for an experienced serial killer.
Malcolm receives another call from Claremont and learns there’s someone there with all the answers. He heads over to the hospital and is warned not to step across the red line. The patient turns around and is revealed to be Gil! In this bizarro world he’s the one locked up, not Martin. However, he claims Martin is The Surgeon, a notorious serial killer who’s never been caught.
Malcolm denies that’s the truth or that his dad could ever kill anyone. As flashes of reality flash through Malcolm’s head, Martin joins him in Gil’s cell. He suggests Malcolm not let Gil waste any more of his time.
Malcolm figures out he’s still in the elevator shaft and this is all in his head. Martin claims it’s real, but Malcolm realizes in order to wake up he needs to solve the case. That might jolt him awake.
They head to the loft and Martin’s practically giddy that he gets to make his first visit to a crime scene. Malcolm attempts to put all the clues together and Martin suggests he rely on symbolism. Pages from a book are scattered on the floor and Malcolm shrugs off that connection. Martin points out shoeprints and Malcolm surmises they’re from boots. Greta Swann was wearing boots in the elevator, and Malcolm realizes he’s been seeing swans everywhere during the time he’s been knocked out.
Malcolm pays a visit to Greta’s apartment and although she’s not around, her dad is. Malcolm pulls the pieces together and deduces Greta’s dad is the Bowery Ripper. Wendell had been working on a book about the serial killer who struck the hotel in 1963, killed in this neighborhood, and offed his victims using found objects.
Malcolm has solved the decades-old Bowery Ripper case.
Martin arrives and although Malcolm warns him to keep away, Swann is able to leap to his feet and put a knife to Martin’s throat. Malcolm wonders why he killed again, and Swann claims it was to protect his daughter from finding out he’s a killer.
Malcolm shots Swann to free his dad. However, he’s solved the case and is still stuck in this alternate world. Malcolm doesn’t understand what’s going on.
Hours later, the Whitly family toasts to Malcolm’s success. Martin suggests he invite Dani to join them and Malcolm promises he will when she’s done at the station. They tease him, wondering when he’ll officially make her part of the family.
Malcolm leaves to get snacks and Martin appears at his side to ask why he’d ever want to leave this reality. Malcolm says it’s because it’s all a lie. “This dream…vision…alternate reality…whatever…I thought it was what life would be like if you weren’t a killer, but it’s not. It’s what life would be if I never found out,” says Malcolm. “I need to seek the truth, no matter how painful.”
Martin begs Malcolm to stay, reminding him Dani is in this alternate reality. He’ll lose that if he returns to real life.
Malcolm makes his choice and comes to at the bottom of the shaft, just in time to stop the elevator from crushing him. He grabs a skull that’s been lying next to him and escapes the shaft.
He’s holding the skull and looking a little discombobulated when JT and Dani arrive. He asks when was the last time he spoke to Dani and she says it was 20 minutes ago. Malcolm reveals he knows who the killer is.
They visit the Swann apartment and Malcolm attempts to hand Mr. Swann the skull. He names him as the Bowery Ripper and Swann doesn’t object. He killed Lyle when he found the skull while fixing the elevator. Swann rises from his wheelchair and apologizes to his daughter as they place him under arrest.
Back at the station, Dani admits she believes the hotel really is haunted. She can’t believe Malcolm put the pieces together while in a dream. Apparently, he’s told her most of the story but has left out that they were a couple in the alternate reality. She wonders if she was different in his dream and he replies, “Yes and no.”
Dani asks for an explanation and he claims it’s complicated dream stuff.
Malcolm returns to his place and meets up with Ainsley. He’s decided to fill in the blanks in her memory. Malcolm explains she killed Nicholas and confesses he only lied to protect her. When he tries to assure her everything will be all right, she says it won’t. She opens her coat and reveals her shirt is soaked in blood. “I blacked out again. I’m sorry, I didn’t know where else to go,” she confesses.
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