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HBO’s Perry Mason S2 Premiere: “Chapter 9”

by Travlis Hallingquest
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HBO’s coveted 9 pm Sunday spot has showcased HBO’s flagship series THE SOPRANOS, BOARDWALK EMPIRE, GAME OF THRONES, HOUSE OF THE DRAGON, and ROME among others. Yet, HBO’s superb programming has been showcased throughout all the days of the week (the original IN TREATMENT was shown Monday-Thursday), and the sophomore season of PERRY MASON will air on Mondays.  Yes, the highly entertaining THE LAST OF US airs on Sundays, but this does not detract from this outstanding re-imagination of one of American television’s most iconic law series.

PerryMasonS2_ep1Pic“Chapter 9” begins on a lavish casino boat, but the beautiful surroundings are quickly destroyed due to arson. This criminal act was orchestrated by one Brooks McCutcheon (Tommy Dewey, pictured), a wealthy but somewhat dimwitted businessman and philanthropist. The destroyed casino boat was owned by a rival casino operator. McCutcheon is warned by one of the corrupt police officers under the McCutcheon family payroll that he is drawing too much attention to himself.

When our titular character appears onscreen, we see that Perry Mason’s practice is flourishing. Mason is winning a copyright infringement case for a client that owns a supermarket. The client is ruthless and does not want to settle, asking Mason “to be a killer.” The killer instinct wins the case, but Mason is disgusted that his client bankrupted a man, rather than just being compensated for the copyright infringement. In a haunting scene that both chills the spine and recaps the first season, we see Emily Dodson in a nightmare. Dodson was the mother falsely accused of staging a kidnapping that ultimately led to the accidental death of her infant. Dodson (who has committed suicide via drowning off-screen) coughs up water while explaining to Mason she cannot live without her baby. Mason awakens in a cold sweat. The 1950s Raymond Burr lead series displayed a clear-cut distinction between good and evil, for 1950s television was meant to be uplifting for a world that had just experienced a second World War.  HBO’s take on PERRY MASON argues that it takes a bit of evil to combat evil. Perry Mason experiences PTSD from both his time as a soldier in the trenches during WWI and the cases he has had.

The supporting characters of Perry Mason’s legal team from season one are all back. Secretary Della Street (Juliet Rylance) remains his loyal voice of reason and Pete Strickland (Shea Whigham) remains his streetwise work partner and “fixer.” Paul Drake (Chris Chalk), Mason’s private detective, however, is the one member not benefiting from Mason’s success. Drake is having a birthday celebration at his home when we see Mason arrive. Mason apologizes that not much work is available for the PI and offers to Drake a few dead presidents. Drake refuses the offer, saying he wants to earn his wages.

PerryMasonS2PosterStrickland approaches Mason and informs him that a job requiring Drake’s skills has indeed surfaced. Drake accepts the job, knowing that he was selected because he is Black. The job is to spy on a prominent black businessman who has been targeted for assassination.  Using his wife and infant as a decoy, Drake photographs the target at a luxurious African-American owned hotel.

So far we have a potential assassination on the horizon and have witnessed a civil trial. Good stuff, but seemingly pales in comparison to the religious scandals, police corruption, and accidental death(s) of the first season. But wait…Brooks McCutcheon is still on the prowl attempting to be Los Angeles’ savviest businessman. One day after announcing his plans to bring a Major League Baseball team to the city, McCutcheon is shot point blank while sitting in his car. The next morning, a curious child makes the horrific discovery.

The “weeks to come” trailer, shows that two poor Mexican men are charged with McCutcheon’s murder.  Mason will defend the men in a sensationalized trial. This plot appears to be inspired by the case of Nicola Sacco and Bartolomeo Vanzetti; Italian immigrants that were executed for armed robbery and homicide in 1921. Sacco and Vanzetti were convicted with very little evidence. 

HBOWatch will review episodes 2-9 upon the conclusion of this second season.

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