Perry Mason’s season finale gives us the answers we need, but still feels a bit empty.
It’s the Perry Mason finale and the gang’s all here! Perry! Della! Paul! Emily! George Gannon’s corpse!!
“Chapter Eight” reunites Tim Van Patten directing and Rolin Jones, Ron Fitzgerald, and Kevin J. Hynes writing, and while the conclusion gives us answers, it ultimately feels sort of hollow? It’s hard to really put my finger on what doesn’t entirely fit with this finale, but first things first: here’s what happens.
Perry (Matthew Rhys) is in the courtroom with Ennis (Andrew Howard) on the stand. As Perry peppers Ennis with questions, we see Ennis’ flashbacks of taking the ransom money, killing the other kidnappers, and staging George Gannon’s suicide. Ennis gets the flop sweats as Perry dramatically points out that only Ennis connects the church and the kidnappers.
In the audience, Della (Juliet Rylance) and Hamilton Burger (Justin Kirk) start to exchange pointed looks. Burger stands up and calls out that it’s not going to work. Surprise! This was all a practice run at Perry’s house with Della, Burger, and Paul Drake (Chris Chalk). “No one confesses on the stand”, Burger snaps at Perry. Burger heads out, but not before advising them to rest their case, saying that they’ve established reasonable doubt and that’s enough.
[W]hile the conclusion gives us answers, it ultimately feels sort of hollow.
Della brings up her idea of putting Emily (Gayle Rankin) on the stand and says she’s been prepping her and she’s ready. Perry accuses Della of using Emily as a proxy to fight her own crusades, and notes that being accused of murder is different than having to hide your relationship. Della quietly says that she figured that Perry knew about her and Hazel, but not that he would throw it in her face. Perry makes amends later, but it’s still not a great moment for him.
Emily takes the stand and describes the night Charlie was kidnapped. Matthew (Nate Corddry) was never home, and when he was they fought; George, she says, made her feel “like a person”. She knows now that it was all a lie. She says that Charlie was her heart. The women of the jury are clearly moved by this.
Maynard Barnes (Stephen Root) comes up to cross-examine her. Root is excellent in this role, especially if graded by how much you just want to kick him. He’s condescending and oily, and he keeps reiterating that Emily let Charlie cry in the hotel room while she was having sex with George. Barnes places the entire blame for the kidnapping at Emily’s feet since if she’d never told George about Matthew being Herman Baggerly’s son, then none of it would have happened.
The following day, Perry delivers a heartfelt closing statement that Matthew Rhys entirely blows out of the water. It’s a deeply moving monologue about wanting to fix the wrongs of the world, and it’s stunningly done. The jury is sequestered for five days before announcing that they are deadlocked. Judge Wright (Matt Frewer) declares a mistrial.
Prior to Emily’s testimony, Perry meets up with Pete (Shea Whigham) and acknowledges that he needs Pete’s help. We see the result of this help when Pete meets with one of the jurors and gives him an envelope. Yes, they’d bribed a juror. Pete learns from the juror that the jury was deadlocked 9-3, so they didn’t even need to bribe him after all, and Pete is not happy about this information. That evening, as the team celebrates at Della’s boarding house, Pete tells Perry that he’s going to work for Hamilton Burger. Seems like jury tampering might have been Pete’s limit.
It’s certainly mine, as this revelation entirely cheapens both their victory and Perry himself. Yes, Perry was nervous and didn’t want Emily to hang, but having this victory become a Pyrrhic one sours the whole enterprise. Perry doesn’t need to become a saint overnight, but this is a piece of business that could ruin multiple lives and careers and other than Pete’s defection, it’s entirely glossed over.
There’s a “some time later” montage, where we see Drake and Clara bringing home their baby, Pete giving testimony for Hamilton, and Perry and Della debating inside their newly appointed office. What are they debating? Exactly what Della’s new duties are to be, since once they get enough in the coffers, they’re hiring a secretary and Della’s going to go to law school, and then the firm will become “Mason and Street”.
They’re bickering comfortably when a third voice breaks in to point out that they have a client waiting. The third voice? It’s their new investigator, a nattily dressed Paul Drake! Their client comes in and begins to share her tale of woe with the team, all assembled and ready to go.
At this point you might be wondering what’s going on with Birdy (Lili Taylor) and Sister Alice (Tatiana Maslany) after last week. Well, for characters as deeply enmeshed as they were in the storyline this season, they are little to be found in the finale.
After her mistrial, Emily goes to the McKeegans’ home and Birdy presents her with Faux Charlie. Emily knows it’s not her son but once Baby X starts cooing over Charlie’s stuffed turtle, she decides to live with the lie. At the end, we see Birdy, Emily, and Baby preaching to a good-sized crowd, the newly formed “Holy Church of the Reborn Babe”. Emily is perhaps not a true believer, but she’s willing to smile and nod and raise her new son.
Perry goes out to a small roadside diner and waits for the shift change. The new waitress that comes on is Sister Alice, brunette once again. They go for a walk on the beach. He asks if she’s talked to God lately, and she admits that she isn’t getting many answers these days.
Sister Alice asks him seriously what his pursuit of absolute facts has ever gotten him. Has it ever brought him any peace? As she walks away, Perry calls after her, “Did you really think you could bring Charlie back?” and Sister responds, simply, “I did, didn’t I?”. After she leaves, Perry looks out at the ocean and lets go of the thread from Charlie’s eyes that he’s carried with him since “Chapter One”. If it’s not peace, it’s close enough.
This ending scene is a moving one, even though I’d love to get more of a wrap on Sister Alice. Casting such amazing actresses and then using them as sparsely as Perry Mason did is a real shame. They’re also left in unsatisfactory circumstances, particularly when their stories were such important elements.
Casting such amazing actresses and then using them as sparsely as Perry Mason did is a real shame.
Lupe (Veronica Falcón) makes only two small appearances this episode. She gives Perry the $7,000 she’d once offered him for the property and throws in half a bottle of good mezcal. Perry tries to reject the money and threatens to file numerous injunctions against her purchase. Lupe’s less threatened than she is disappointed, and points out that once Prohibition is over numerous small airfields will close and that, as both a Mexican and a woman, she has to do whatever she can to stay in front of the competition.
Lupe feels like such a wasted opportunity; introduced as Perry’s only real confidante, she was pushed to the background as he became more tied-up in the case, then she just hung around until they needed someone to flirt at Matthew Rhys. Lupe’s plea for understanding from Perry as she points out her very real obstacles just sort of falls flat in a general “Look! Strong women! Being strong!” sort of way.
Della gets the closest thing to a triumphant ending, with a secure job and a planned-out future and a stable relationship. But when Perry tells her she’ll make a great lady lawyer and she has to wink and respond “A great lawyer, no modifier needed!” it’s again just trying a touch too hard.
Perry Mason has had a bumpy time of it this season. A gritty reboot in a sea of them, its initial departures from the canon of the original show came across as frustrating and confusing. Thankfully, the show worked past these first impressions. Though I found “Chapter Eight” to be underwhelming overall, it was still a mostly-satisfying conclusion to this season’s mystery. With Perry, Della, and Drake all set to take up some new clients’ causes, I look forward to Season 2.
- In the episode’s absolute strangest plot wrap-up, we return once more to desert casino The Lucky Lagoon, where Ennis and Holcombe (Eric Lange) are meeting with owner Al Howard (Andrew Divoff), who gives them a wad of cash, ostensibly protection money. Holcombe splits the money with Ennis, assuring him that no matter what happens, Ennis’ wife and kids will be taken care of. Ennis is understandably confused by this but there isn’t time to worry about it as a trio of Lucky Lagoon groundskeepers/toughs descends on Ennis and drowns him in the fountain. Holcombe retrieves the money and Ennis’ badge and apologizes to his dead partner before leaving. Why would Holcombe decide now that it was time for Ennis to go? Are we meant to believe that Holcombe has just been biding his time? What a letdown and a confusing conclusion to Ennis’ character arc.
- Hey, remember when Perry was technically a war criminal? That was something that happened!
- Do we think Gretchen Mol will be back next season as the Ex-Mrs. Mason or is that storyline done?
- Perry leaves Lupe a note asking her to take care of the cows. Did he ever take care of those cows? Someone check on the cows.
- The defense rests on this season of Perry Mason! Thank you all for reading, and let us know your dreams for Season 2 over on Twitter (@thespool).