The first season of HBO’s Perry Mason had quite a few twists and turns in the early going, but things especially kicked into high gear late in the season, once the titular character (Matthew Rhys) became the lawyer that he always was in the original radio series, TV show, and made-for-tv movies. The finale to that first season not only provides a bit of closure for the season-long mystery surrounding the death of young Charlie Dodson, but also sets up quite a bit for what could happen in the future—the show’s already been renewed for season 2—for Perry and the rest of the show’s interesting cast of characters.
So what actually happened in the end of Perry Mason Season 1?
Good question. It was an eventful hour, to say the very least. We can start with the biggest takeaway: Emily Dodson walked free from the murder charge against her for the death of her infant son, Charlie—for now, at least. After a rousing closing statement from Perry Mason (and a less-so one from his opposition, D.A. Maynard Barnes (Stephen Root)), the jury was deadlocked and unable to reach a verdict; the judge then declared a mistrial. That means no one is convicted, and the slate is eventually wiped clean.
It’s important to remember here that the jurors need to be unanimous in order to convict—we learn that the deadlock was 9-3. Mason and his investigator, Pete Strickland (Shea Whigham) talk early in the episode about one of their last ditch plays, which it turns out was bribing one of the jurors. But in a twist, two of the jurors were on their side anyway. Emily will almost certainly be charged again (since Barnes has his eye on running for Mayor of L.A., he will continue to want to boost his profile), but for now she’s home free.
While the real killer and chief villain of the story, Detective Joe Ennis (Andrew Howard) doesn’t ever pay for his transgressions in the broken legal system—in fact, he doesn’t even show up for court on the last day, letalone take the witness stand—he does get his comeuppance in the end. While taking another bribe, Holcomb sets Ennis up to be attacked by a group of men and drowned in the fountain; he apologizes to Ennis both just before and just after his death. This tracks—since Holcomb is the one who essentially told Ennis to kill Eric Seidel to cover both of their corrupt tracks, it makes sense that he would himself have Ennis killed to cover his own tracks. Ennis is simply too dirty to salvage at that point, having killed people throughout the entire season and who knows how many others we didn’t see. It feels safe to say that we’ll continue to see Holcomb and Mason crossing paths, but it’s upsetting that Ennis won’t have to answer for his crimes in court.
In the meantime, Emily’s story has a bittersweet and mostly tragic end. She spoke on the witness stand about how the one true love in her life wasn’t her husband, Matthew, or the church accountant-turned-kidnapper, George Gannon, with whom she engaged with in an affair; it was her son, Charlie, who was obviously taken off this earth. After the penultimate episode’s “resurrection” scheme wound up with an empty baby coffin and Birdy claiming an unidentified baby was a resurrected Charlie, Emily joins Birdy; going around town claiming this new baby was a resurrected Charlie becomes the latest religious scheme for Birdy after Sister Alice fled Los Angeles.
On that same topic, Perry eventually tracks Sister Alice down. She’s fled the Radiant Assembly and changed her hair color, now working as a waitress in a droll diner. In the closing moments of the season, Mason shows her that her mother has moved on to her next religious hoax/scheme (the “resurrection baby” with Emily), and the future. Mason wants to know how the baby’s body moved from the ground, and whether Sister Alice really believed in what she was preaching at any point. As he notes, a baby was killed as part of a scheme to prop up a church (remember, it was orchestrated by Seidel, Gannon, and a crew of crooks).
Alice notes, correctly, that the two of them are essentially peas in the same pod—the two of them are tired of being alone. But in the end, it’s their nature that they’ll always be alone, and there’s nothing they can do about it. “Why is that?” she asks, before giving him a kiss on the cheek and leaving. “Did you really think you could bring Charlie back?” Mason asks. “I did, didn’t I?” she responds. This answer is telling in a lot of ways—”Charlie,” for all intents and purposes, is not back. That baby died as part of the kidnapping scheme gone wrong. But at the end of the day, now, there is a “new” Charlie, and Emily is embracing this new Charlie, and the corrupt, broken world continues spinning. No one’s been charged in the killing, and the true perpetrators are all dead. Sister Alice probably didn’t believe in what she was preaching—but, the point here begs, does it really matter?
What does this tell us about the future of Perry Mason?
One of the most exciting parts of the finale is seeing Perry Mason and Associates as a fully set up lawyer shop, complete with their very first paying client. Mason is the practicing attorney, but his trust associate, Della Street, will only be “associate” for so long—she explains that she’s going to law school (on Mason’s dime) and will soon be his partner in practice, name, and title officially. He’s also now employing Drake as his investigator, which is a good thing considering we saw Drake turn in his gun and badge (so it’s good to see him immediately finding his next great professional opportunity). It’ll be fun to see what kind of mystery this gang gets involved in next season.
At the same time, it’s upsetting to see the break-up of Mason and his friend/investigator/associate Pete Strickland go into full affect. The duo’s relationship became more and more frayed as the season went along, and as we see at the end, Strickland really is no longer working with Mason, opting instead to take the steady paying job with Hamlton Burger (who we know is gunning for Barnes’ post as District Attorney). Strickland was the most entertaining character to watch in Season 1 (as most Shea Whigham characters tend to be), and he’ll surely be around again in Season 2. It’ll be fun to watch how these paths all continue to cross, and what mystery case they all get embroidered in again.
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