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The Big Clue You Likely Missed Early In The Prodigal Son Season 1

Like "Hannibal" before it, "Prodigal Son" teams a haunted but gifted profiler with a manipulative serial killer, evolving from a procedural series into a distinct story about how evil can pervade everything. And similarly, the Fox drama was canceled after only a few seasons but has earned a persistent cult fandom.

However, "Hannibal" was more of a twisted love story, whereas the title of "Prodigal Son" refers to the tension between Malcolm Bright (Tom Payne), a profiler who gets into the minds of killers, and his father, Martin Whitly (Michael Sheen). A serial killer nicknamed "The Surgeon," Martin was incarcerated for 23 murders when Bright was a child, but the young detective visits him in prison to get advice on a copycat. The NYPD consultant is now caught between solving crimes with the help of his father and the possibility of succumbing to his own dark inner desires.

The series lasted 33 episodes in part thanks to audience response. But the powerful twist ending of Season 1 may have also helped persuade the network to order a second season. Most viewers weren't expecting that cliffhanger, but in fact, a cast interview reveals that "Prodigal Son" dropped a major hint at what was coming early on.

The family photos hinted at Ainsley's killer nature

In a shocking reversal of expectations, the first season of "Prodigal Son" didn't end with Malcolm killing anyone. Even when he had evil businessman Endicott (Dermot Mulroney) at gunpoint, with the murderer telling him he'd never be prosecuted, the profiler hesitated to pull the trigger. Instead, Malcolm's sister Ainsley (Halston Sage) stabs Endicott and slits his throat, then seems to not remember what she's done.

No one really saw it coming, but in an interview with ET Canada to promote Season 2, "Prodigal Son" co-star Michael Sheen pointed out that a background detail in the pilot literally foreshadowed the Ainsley twist. When Sheen was shooting family photos for flashback scenes, the younger Malcolm and Ainsley were present too. "[The photos] made me laugh," Sheen commented, "because I was so focused on little Malcolm, but little Ainsley was literally in the shadow, you know, in the dark behind me. And that image has stayed with me along."

Sheen goes on to explain that Ainsley was a "little flower growing in the dark ... without anyone realizing it," following in the footsteps of his character, Martin. It's a neat little easter egg that in hindsight points to the truth about Ainsley. As interviewer Carlos Bustamante points out, maybe the title of the show really shouldn't be "Prodigal Son," but "Prodigal Daughter."