[Warning: The following contains spoilers for the latest episode of Prodigal Son, “Silent Night.” Read at your own risk!]
The fall finale of Prodigal Son was an eventful one all right. Malcolm Bright (Tom Payne) is in big, big trouble after he failed to correctly profile the blind grandma of the Junkyard Killer and ended up being ambushed by him, with the deceptively sweet little lady’s uproarious approval. Though, to be fair, Malcolm didn’t have much of a choice but to enter the man’s childhood home on the sly; after the FBI claimed jurisdiction, and Agent Colette Swanson (Meagan Good) made sure he would be persona non grata on the case, he couldn’t exactly follow his new lead on company time. Still, it proved to be a dangerous mistake to forego backup, and now we’ll have to wait to find out how the Junkyard Killer handles him, the newest subject of his so-called “mission,” when the series returns.
Malcolm wasn’t the only character who experienced a major change of pace in “Silent Night,” though. After learning from Gil Arroyo (Lou Diamond Phillips) that everything Malcolm said about the mysterious girl in the basement was likely true, Jessica Whitly (Bellamy Young) finally stopped tut-tutting about Ainsley’s (Halston Sage) big interview exposure with Martin (Michael Sheen) and took a leaf out of her media-savvy playbook … well, that and a piece of evidence from the NYPD’s case file.
At the end of the episode, without knowing of the on-going attack on Malcolm, Jessica presented herself to the crowd that’d been hanging around her home ever since Ainsley’s Q&A and implored them to help her in the search for the identity of the woman whose bracelet was recovered by the police. Instead of hiding away or drowning her sorrows with another cocktail, Jessica decided to use the attention on her family to help solve a case that’d haunted it for decades.
TV Guide spoke to Bellamy Young about Jessica’s big power move — and what she’s really hoping will happen as a result of it. Read on below to see what she had to say about Jessica’s decision and what’s ahead when the series returns in 2020.
In this episode, Jessica is taking control in a way that we haven’t seen from her before. In the past, she’s kind of avoided things or shielded her kids from the truth.Why do you think it was necessary for her to have that moment?
Young: I think there’ve been a couple of big, seismic truths that have come out in the last few weeks — that the girl in the box was real and that Martin chloroformed Malcolm. For all these years, she’s been able to deny and bury and try to move on, but the enormity of all that went on, on top of the murders, is really coming down on her hard. So, I think she’s realizing it’s time to take action. She can’t just hide her head in the sand anymore. She’s really gotta control the narrative like her daughter teaches her and take part — take her part — in what’s been happening. So, she tries to do the right thing, and, well, it’s Jessica, so it likely won’t go as she planned. But she’s at least [taking] baby steps towards a real sense of agency, which I don’t think she’s allowed herself to have for these intervening 20 years.
How was it that she was able to have so much disbelief for so long about the girl in the trunk?
Young: I think it’s because that house has been her family’s house for generations, and I think she could — we all have different coping mechanisms, and compartmentalizing things is often a big one for people, and I think it definitely is for Jessica. So she likes to think that Martin had this separate life, and he was somewhere else. He was such a monster and he did horrible things, but in their house on the Upper East Side, in their world, he was a devoted father and a wonderful husband and a source of joy. She tells herself she couldn’t have known because they weren’t within their four walls. So, to think that something as truly gruesome as what his real life was was happening in their own home, it’s just too much for her to fathom. And I think the fact that no body was ever found [even though] the police were all over their house, and her son was very young and had been through so much trauma, I think she had to will herself to believe she was still in a safe space in her own home and that Martin’s ugliness was separate from their lives and that she would keep their lives safe in their home. She would love her children and try to help them through this or help them forget. I really believe it was just true survivor coping skills.
Do you think it feels like a betrayal to her? Is she more angry about that?
Young: Absolutely. I think it feels not just like a betrayal because there’ve been so many enormous unthinkable betrayals from Martin, but now she finally feels like there’s no safe space. There’s nowhere to hide. But in a good way that motivates her to stand in her own two shoes and fight. This is how she knows how to fight: information. Her daughter teaches her that information is power. Plus, she knows she has money, so she puts two and two together and goes to the press. … I also want to say that it warms my heart that, after all she’s been through, Jessica still believes in the innate goodness of people that she goes to the people to ask for help. When I read the script, it just melted me because she really has seen a lot about human nature that is so vile, but at the end of the day, she still fully believes in people. It touched me.
It seemed like she and Gil have something between them, but did stealing that bracelet picture erase some of that trust?
Young: I feel like in that scene she already believes that Gil is no longer a resource. He’s trying to handle her like so many people — specifically, men — have tried to manage her safety and her past before him. So, I think it was much more a choice about agency and saving her family and keeping Martin away from them forever. ‘Cause the point is, if she can get another murder conviction, he won’t be in cushy psychiatric jail, he’ll be in real jail forever. So, I think that’s all that matters to her then is saving her family. Gil has been a wonderful friend to her all of these years, and we talk a lot about what their history might’ve been — and who’s to say, that’s up to [co-creators] Chris [Fedak] and Sam [Sklaver] — I know their connection is very deep and few people in Jessica’s life have stood by her at all. And even fewer can understand what she’s been through. There’s a very small circle, and that includes the two of them, who understand how the world works and understand what happened to her. That’s invaluable.
So, is that what Jessica wants? To see Martin end up in the real slammer?
Young: I do believe so. She believes that if she can get him in real people jail, then she and her family will finally be safe. Now, is that true? It’s impossible to say. And it may be naive of her to think, but I just think that she thinks that she can keep — now that Ainsley’s going to visit him, and Malcolm’s visiting again — if she can just get the influence of Martin away finally, then they’ll be one step closer to safety and a brighter future.
A few episodes back, we got to see Ainsley get into the action. Is there a chance that Jessica — I know she had the watch on her house, but is she going to get into any kind of action scenes or sequences as we go forward?
Young: … I will see you in January.
Prodigal Son returns Monday, Jan. 20 at 9/8c on Fox.