(Warning: This post contains spoilers for the series finale of “Prodigal Son.”)
“Prodigal Son” ended its two-season run on Fox Tuesday night with a very abrupt series finale that the team behind the psychological drama intended only as a season finale. Unfortunately, the show was canceled by its broadcast home just two weeks before tonight’s second-season closer, titled “The Last Weekend,” leaving “Prodigal Son” with a gut-wrenching cliffhanger to end on.
However, creators and showrunners Chris Fedak and Sam Sklaver told TheWrap they are working with studio Warner Bros. TV to find a new home for “Prodigal Son,” so their “Prodigies” can find out what happens to Malcolm Bright (Tom Payne) and Martin Whitly (Michael Sheen) after the son stabbed his father in a bloody twist of fate in the Season 2 finale.
Ahead of the show’s May 10 cancellation, TheWrap conducted a finale post-mortem interview with Fedak and Sklaver — as well as “Prodigal Son” stars Sheen, Payne and recurring guest star Catherine Zeta-Jones — on April 21, as part of a pre-recorded 92nd Street Y panel that will stream Wednesday. Before we get to some of their answers in this post, we’ll start with the Q&A TheWrap conducted over email Monday with Fedak and Sklaver about their plans to #SaveProdigalSon.
TheWrap: Do you see this as the real end for “Prodigal Son,” or are you hoping to shop it with Warner Bros. to other networks or platforms?
Chris Fedak and Sam Sklaver: We hope not! The studio is talking to other networks and streamers. Sam and I pitched an epic season three shape and would love nothing more than to make it. Maybe without commercials! Like you guys, we have to wait and see… fingers crossed!
What would you say to fans who have a hard time with the finale cliffhanger, not knowing what happens next for Malcolm and Martin? Can you reveal what you had planned for Season 3?
CF and SS: Right now, not much… for fear of ruining stuff. But we did plan to bring back the entire cast, which may answer one of their questions.
If this does end up being the series finale for “Prodigal Son,” what do you hope its legacy is, as — my own personal opinion on this one — one of the most innovative dramas on broadcast television?
CF and SS: First, thank you for that. When we started on the show, we wanted to make something delightfully disturbing. A murder mystery mixed with a family drama that had a twisted sense of humor. And right up to the moment we were cancelled, Fox and Warner Brothers let us do just that. And we’re super proud of the story we’ve told so far. Hopefully, people will find the show and enjoy it and become “prodigies” for years to come. If we get to do more, that would be even better.
OK, now let’s rewind several weeks to before “Prodigal Son” was canceled, when Sklaver, Fedak, Sheen, Payne and Zeta-Jones broke down the twisted Season 2 finale for TheWrap, which sees Malcolm and Martin hunt down a serial killer called The Woodsman in Vermont while on the lam.
What begins as a chance for Martin to prove to his son he has changed his serial killer ways following his escape from prison and their torture at the hands of Vivian Capshaw (Zeta-Jones), ends in “The Surgeon” within Martin being unleashed after Malcolm asks his father to torture The Woodsman to help them find his kidnapped victim.
In the closing moments, Martin is about to stab Malcolm with a knife to try to maintain his freedom after his son calls in his location to his NYPD colleagues. But Malcolm grabs the blade at the last minute and stabs his father in the gut, with Martin dropping to the ground and bleeding out — just as Dani (Aurora Perrineau) arrives on the scene.
“We flip that whole dynamic on its head,” Payne told TheWrap. “We’re just really messing with the audience, because what we found out from screening the pilot way back when is that people didn’t like it when other characters were mean to Michael’s character, which is completely bizarre. But I’ll tell you the truth — that this murdering person has managed to engender the affection of the audience so much that they don’t like it when people are mean to him. So for someone to stab him is a whole other thing. If it was another character that stabbed him, then that would be a huge deal in that character, weirdly, would be disliked. But to make it me that stabs him at the end adds this whole other layer to the whole thing.”
Payne continued: “Looking at it, when that whole idea came up in that last scene, it’s kind of the only thing that can happen with that relationship, is that one of them tries to kill the other one at some point. It’s really the only resolution that I can see — but it’s not planned out. Malcolm hadn’t made that decision, I don’t think, until that very moment. I don’t think he means, necessarily, to kill him. It’s a fight or flight moment. I think you can see what it means to Malcolm written on his face at the end of the season. That relationship is so intense that one of them needs to be released, and there’s one kind of ultimate release. I think if one of them passes away — I’m not saying that’s what happens, who knows where that relationship could go. But I think, ultimately, peace will only be found when one of those people doesn’t exist anymore.”
Now here’s Sheen’s take on the father-son-turned-son-father stabbing.
“That final scene, in a way, answers some questions that have been there from the very beginning of this story about what is Martin capable of feeling or not feeling?” Sheen said. “What is the truth about what he really wants from the relationship with Malcolm? But it brings up more questions as well. I’ve always sort of felt that Martin has an agenda. He has a conscious agenda and he has an unconscious agenda. So his conscious agenda is one thing, and then his actual agenda or sort of a deeper agenda is there, regardless of whether he’s aware of it or not. And then there’s window dressing; there’s stuff that he says is going on and that he feels and that he plays. I mean, he’s in prison for most of it… So he’s been saying that he wants to break out and escape for Malcolm, that it’s about his family. And yet in the moment, when that freedom is jeopardized by Malcolm, he just goes, ‘I kill you, I kill you.’ So there’s him as a human being, and then there’s him as a hunting animal. When his back’s against the wall, in the moment, he’ll do anything to survive. And that doesn’t necessarily contradict the fact that he also wants to have a relationship. He can, in the moment, go to kill his son and at the same time, want a very deep, meaningful relationship with his son as well. I don’t see a contradiction in that, when it comes to Martin.”
Aside from Martin and Malcolm’s drama, the finale also ties up the loose end that is the unhinged Vivian Capshaw, as Jessica Whitly (Bellamy Young) works in a sting with the NYPD to get Vivian to reveal she was actually the one who abducted and tortured Martin and Malcolm — not the other way around. After a physical standoff that Jessica told Gil (Lou Diamond Phillips) she totally had under control, Vivian is arrested and her past murders while operating as a surgeon are discovered.
“It was great that I got to just leave my fingerprints on some of the Whitly family,” Zeta-Jones said. “I’m not finished yet, you know. But it was so much fun. And having that little bit of a magic ticket, like carte blanche to be able to be a little dangerous, but a little risqué, try some stuff — this character just gave me that opportunity and it was a lot of fun.”
Fedak told TheWrap that “nothing would make me happier” than to bring guest star Zeta-Jones back for a potential third season of the show, “because we love to come up with these kind of big crazy notions.”
“Sometimes they’re one episode and sometimes they’re arcs that we can run through the entire season,” he said. “So we would be thrilled. I can’t tell you what our ideas are right now, but we have them and they’re crazy and they’re fun and they’re very much in keeping with what we like to do… The one thing we probably would do differently is we might not do a jump. We did a jump in Season 2 because we were going to have a whole bunch of things that were happening in between, including COVID, so we wanted to create a zone. But I think maybe in Season 3, we would maybe come in a little bit quicker. We have a lot of things that we want to do in a very compressed period of time. You read into that what you may… We’re talking now and we’re so excited with the Season 2 shifts that we’re working on.”
Sklaver gave his own cryptic answer about what would come in Season 3 of “Prodigal Son” — which he said they laid the groundwork for with that stabbing.
“We always try and think of our finale as the launch of our next season, as it were. So really the penultimate episode, Episode 12, is the finale — and then Episode 13 is just going to prove to you that the show can keep going. I think one of the big reasons for that, like Michael was saying, is that whatever Martin’s next move is, it both makes sense and you don’t see it coming, necessarily… That gives us this freedom in the next season to keep telling our story that we’re telling in Episode 13, but it can go to all these great places that are crazy and make sense at the same time.”
Readers can watch TheWrap-moderated “Prodigal Son” 92nd Street Y panel here at 6 p.m. ET on Wednesday.