Perry Mason Chapter Six Recap: Disorder in the court

Perry Mason Chapter Six Merrick Morton/HBO

Perry Mason finally heads to the courtroom and starts picking up the pace.

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The courtroom has always been Perry Mason’s domain. This has (clearly) not been the case thus far with HBO’s reboot, but with Perry (Matthew Rhys) preparing to become a lawyer at the end of last week’s episode and with this week’s news that the show has been renewed for a second season, maybe it’s time for that classic Perry Mason feeling!

Well, not so much initially. Emily Dodson’s (Gayle Rankin) trial has begun and while Maynard Barnes (Stephen Root) has just concluded a two-hour opening statement, Perry stumbles and coughs and reads staring down at the notepad in his hand. Early days, Perry, it’s okay. Emily’s only possibly going to be sentenced to death if you botch this. Perry doesn’t need me to remind him of his responsibility, though, he’s doing enough self-flagellating this week. 

Directed once more by Deniz Gamze Ergüven and written by Kevin J. Hynes, “Chapter Six” decides to bring the plot, by which I mean, there’s a lot of it. As such, I won’t be covering as many of the twists and turns as I might have previously; but that still leaves us a lot to cover! 

Perry Mason Chapter Six
Courtesy of HBO

The biggest issue facing Perry and Team (now including Myrna (Molly Ephraim) on phones), is that they can’t find any way that Detective Ennis (Andrew Howard), George Gannon (Aaron Stanford), and the other two kidnappers are connected. Luckily, Pete (Shea Whigham) finds checks at Gannon’s house that seem to reveal that he was stealing money from the Radiant Assembly; a visit to the Assembly and the theft of a ledger reveal that the church has lots of investments in lots of places–including Herman Baggerly’s (Robert Patrick) real estate concern. 

Myrna gets a phone tip that leads Pete to Colorado, where one of the kidnappers and Ennis himself used to live. A connection! What else does Pete learn in Colorado? The signatory on Gannon’s checks used to work for the same company that theoretically employed Ennis and Nowak (kidnapper). That signatory? Elder Seidel (Taylor Nichols), now of the Radiant Assembly. That’s a few too many people now connected to Charlie Dodson’s kidnapping, wouldn’t you say? 

Maynard Barnes is determined to be as dramatic and petty as possible during Emily’s trial, making Matthew Dodson (Nate Corddry) read Emily’s love letters to George on the stand, and bringing in a witness for whom the defense was unprepared. When called out about the latter by Judge Wright (Matt Frewer), Barnes sends over multiple boxes of disorganized evidence to Perry’s home/office just to be salty. The mystery witness by the way? A hotel front desk attendant who witnessed Emily and George having sex in one room while Charlie cried in the adjourning room. This does not look great for Emily and causes Perry to lay into her later on, pointing out that she had insisted that she and George only exchanged “a few love letters and kisses”. Oooops?

Perry doesn’t need me to remind him of his responsibility, though, he’s doing enough self-flagellating this week. 

Sister Alice (Tatiana Maslany) has two brief but powerful scenes this week; talking to Perry after he blows up at Emily, Sister tells him that Emily lied because she was ashamed and that they’ve all done things that they’re ashamed of. She even teases Perry a little when he asks if she’s done things she’s ashamed of and she says yes; asking him if he expected her to be like Joan of Arc. Sister shows him a collection of gifts that parishioners have left for Charlie Dodson but confesses that she’s not entirely sure what’s going to happen on Easter Sunday. Perry tells her not to come to court again, as her presence isn’t as helpful as she thinks. 

It’s odd that at no point does it seem like either the prosecution or the defense had any intention of calling Sister Alice to the stand. Granted, once she started in on how she’s going to bring Charlie back to life that wouldn’t help Emily’s case, but when the prison matron (Alison White) is brought in and lies about what Emily said to Sister Alice, you’d think it’d help to have her to rebut that testimony. It’s not entirely clear that Perry and team call any witnesses, as it is. 

Birdy (Lili Taylor) is still not super enthusiastic about, well, everything, and when Sister excitedly shows Emily’s signature allowing them to exhume Charlie, Birdy shows Sister her backup plan: a room of neatly packed suitcases. Sister immediately refuses to run away and reminds Birdy of what she said a few weeks ago: Sister Alice is the Church, and as such, she’s in charge. Maslany turns on an intensity here that we haven’t previously seen from Sister Alice, and it’s deeply satisfying to see the effect on her mother, even though Birdy does have a point. 

Perry’s biggest personal trial this week is deciding whether or not to get Paul Drake (Chris Chalk) to admit to having altered his report about the blood trail and George’s dentures. Despite being urged to do so by Pete, Perry keeps his word to Drake, though he does try to press him about Ennis being the first to every Charlie Dodson-related crime scene. Drake is later slipped some money by his Commander for “making the department look good” and it’s clear that his lies and now this effective blood money are weighing heavily on Drake. 

Maslany turns on an intensity here that we haven’t previously seen from Sister Alice.

To that end, he goes to Perry’s house that evening and tells him that he wishes that Perry had forced him to tell the truth on the stand, but that he’s ready to try to make things right. Drake puts the dentures into an evidence envelope and puts them into one of Barnes’ disorganized boxes. He also goes home and puts Clara (Diarra Kilpatrick) on a bus to her aunt’s house in order to get her out of harm’s way. Here’s hoping that it works. 

When coroner Virgil (Jefferson Mays) takes the stand, Perry tries to get the dentures entered as evidence but Barnes calls his bluff and the Judge decides that they can’t be used since Virgil’s autopsy was on a stolen corpse. This is why you have to follow some rules sometimes, Perry. Perry was gearing up for a classic Perry Mason moment, but it fails. 

Barnes’ final witness is the prison matron who was there for Sister Alice’s visit to Emily, and she lies and says that Emily confessed to having killed Charlie (when she instead admitted that she just felt responsible). This causes massive outbursts in the courtroom and it takes Perry and Della (Juliet Rylance) a lot of effort to get Emily through the crowd. 

Juliet and Emily head for home while Perry heads out into the countryside to look for the man who prepared all of the Radiant Assembly’s various shady paperwork; he finds him all right, and he greets Perry at the door with a shotgun in hand. 

Back at the courthouse, as they wait for the car to get moving, Juliet assures Emily that this doesn’t mean that the trial is over, but Emily’s beyond hearing her. I’m not worried, Emily tells Della, as she knows that Barnes will have to drop the charges soon. After all, “once Charlie comes back, he’ll be alive!” Della is left staring at Emily with sad horror in her eyes as Emily smiles into the distance, convinced that her son will soon be alive again. 

This isn’t going to end well. 

Perry was gearing up for a classic Perry Mason moment, but it fails. 

Now that Perry Mason has moved itself into the courtroom, things are happening at a rapid, rapid pace. The news of the show’s renewal does make me wonder if they’re going to wrap up the Dodson kidnapping in the final two episodes or end on a cliffhanger? Given the initial miniseries format, it’s safe to hope that they move on next season and there is some justice for poor little Charlie by the end of this one. 

The plot’s picked-up pace and, well, thickening, are only serving to make the show better. Some of the revelations in this week’s episode were big ones, and at long last most of the “good guys” are all on the same page and working towards the same goal and not just towards the same paycheck. It’s time to start holding the guilty accountable, and it’s going to be satisfying to see. 

Additional Thoughts: 

  • History Corner: The “Ludlow incident” being referenced when Pete is in Denver is the 1914 Ludlow Massacre, where anti-striker militia hired by John D. Rockefeller, Jr. attacked striking coal miners and their families. It can be assumed Ennis and at least one of the other two kidnappers was involved as the hired goons. 
  • Lupe (Veronica Falcón) makes a brief appearance to drink with Perry while he’s conflicted about calling Drake to the stand. Lupe points out that while Drake might die if Perry reveals his secret, Emily will definitely go to the gallows if Perry doesn’t do all that he can. She, or one of her pilots, also flies Pete to Colorado. 
  • When Birdy shows Sister Alice the to-go bags, I was half certain she was about to open the door to show a back-up toddler to be the “resurrected” Charlie Dodson. 
  • Detective Holcombe (Eric Lange) confronts Ennis at home about how he’s been first at all the scenes and finally puts it together that Ennis was involved. Lest we think he’s going to help justice be done, Holcombe instead demands to know who else can link Ennis to the crime, because he wants them dead. Oh, that can’t be good. 
  • Extra credit this week to Matthew Rhys’ excellent John Lithgow impression, as Perry has a little personal breakdown on his trip out of town at the end of the episode.
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