“Internal Affairs” pits two overeducated men against each other as Malcolm’s mental state is evaluated amid another, conveniently-timed crime.
This recap of Prodigal Son Season 1, Episode 12, “Internal Affairs”, contains spoilers. You can check out our thoughts on the previous episode by clicking these words.
Thanks to sneaky editing and a surprising plot, Prodigal Son Episode 12, “Internal Affairs”, stands out as a particularly strong standalone installment of Fox’s impressive procedural. Using the conceit of Malcolm (Tom Payne) being evaluated by Dr. Simon Coppenrath (Scott Shepherd, mercifully freed of Bluff City Law) to determine whether or not he’s fit to return to work following his ordeal with Watkins, the episode is able to delve deep into Malcolm’s fractured psyche while also spinning a fun case-of-the-week yarn while it’s at it.
The timeline is played with throughout “Internal Affairs”. We see “last night” from the perspectives of Gil (Lou Diamond Phillips) and Dani (Aurora Perrineau) and are yanked back and forth, to twelve hours later following some unexplained incident at the precinct, and back again to the case which led to Malcolm alone in a room with too much electricity for his own good. A series of interviews with Simon string the various events together, as Malcolm’s colleagues worry about his state of mind while he continues to defend his decision to return back to work so soon after his torture.
Of course, Prodigal Son Episode 12 also ties Malcolm’s wavering mental state quite explicitly into the case he was investigating – that of torture and murder which involves a secretive cult led by Quentin Vosler (Daniel Sunjata). Bright is willing to go undercover off-the-books and also to endure electro-convulsive therapy in the name of “the case”, or perhaps more accurately in the name of staving off various hallucinations which continue to blight him day-to-day.
This case has all the elements you might expect: a likable young damsel, Andi (Isabel Arraiza), a brutish enforcer by the name of Curtis Marsh (Happy Anderson), and a shadowy figure pulling Marsh’s strings. What you might not expect is that the shadowy figure is Simon and that Malcolm had him figured out all along. Much of what we have been seeing throughout “Internal Affairs” was carefully calculated to give the impression – both to Simon and the audience – that Malcolm’s colleagues had turned against him; that his own mind had turned against him. But as it turns out, no, at least not any more than usual.
While it made for a tense climactic sequence, the presence of Simon and the episode’s whole time-hopping structure served the larger purpose of helping us hone in on Malcolm’s headspace, and the opinions those around him have of him; whether it’s the surrogate father figure in Gil, the burgeoning friend and perhaps romance in Dani, and the begrudging ally in JT (Frank Harts), these feelings are all tempered by a very real mistrust of Malcolm’s mind. And, as we learn, that mistrust is shared by Malcolm himself.
Prodigal Son Season 1, Episode 12 is smart to end with a quiet scene shared between Gil and Malcolm, who had some cross words throughout the episode. It’s decided that Malcolm’s going to take two weeks off for his own good, but he’ll be returning to the precinct thereafter. In the meantime, though, he has himself to keep him company – his consciousness manifests as his younger self, who sits with him on the couch. Both figure they’re going to be okay.
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Jonathon is the Co-Founder of Ready Steady Cut and has been Senior Editor and Chief Critic of the outlet since 2017.