HBO’s Perry Mason: Chapter Three Review
*This Review Contains Full Spoilers*
On this week’s episode of HBO’s Perry Mason, Chapter 3, Mason (Matthew Rhys) tries to dig for more clues as E.B. (John Lithgow) struggles to maintain a foothold in Emily’s (Gayle Rankin) case as Paul Drake (Chris Chalk) and Sister Alice (Tatiana Maslany) deal with the ties that bind them.
After Emily is taken into custody after her son is buried and her affair with George Gannon (Aaron Stanford) is outed to the public, she’s an emotional wreck and now it’s up to D.B, Mason, and Della (Juliet Rylance) to prove her innocence. With E.B.’s rival Maynard (Stephen Root) constantly getting the upper-hand on them with getting the judge to side with an obscene bail amount that basically keeps Emily in jail and being unable to get the papers on his side, E.B. is on his last legs for what he can do. While he’s been a bout of confidence for the series in the last two episodes, E.B. is much more of a defeated man here. He’s struggles to be able to find the financial support need to help Emily make bail, even in people he once trusted the most, and is having trouble keeping Mason and Della under his control.
With Matthew (Nate Coddry) off the hook, for now, and finally establishing a strong relationship with Baggerly (Robert Patrick), Mason turns his attention to Emily to now prove her innocence and he’s going to need all the help he can get. Still enlisting the help of his main man Strickland (Shea Whigham) and Virgil (Jefferson Mays), his connection at the morgue, Mason is on the hunt for more information about George. Mason gets a tip from Strickland to head to a casino/club to get some information on George through his past work. The “working relationship” between Mason and Strickland is easily one of the strongest aspects of this show as they are absolutely hilarious together. They’re incredibly blunt to each other, constantly give each other shit for their respective shortcomings, and are the odd couple that other people are sick of being around. Ultimately though, it’s their shared love for justice, at a decent price, that keeps them together and makes for a great partnership.
Even for this great partnership though, Mason still leaves Strickland behind with his steak dinner and head to George’s old employer with his lover Lupe (Veronica Falcon). Mason doesn’t find much information here, but we do get more time between him and Lupe and it’s very touching. These two really have a great romantic chemistry and Falcon gives a very seductive and caring performance. The entire sequence at the fountain is perfectly romantic and a testament to how Lupe is really the only bright spot in Mason’s life. Also, this series continues to make Mason’s sexuality a little more ambiguous since revealing that he was discharged from the military by “blue ticket.” There’s a moment where another officer calls him a “fag” for commenting on a woman’s nails and after acknowledging his “blue ticket,” it’s hard to tell if the series is trying to use this moment to reference his sexuality – especially with his relationship with Lupe. Perhaps, I’m overthinking it, but it’s just odd to have something like the “blue ticket” attached to Mason and hold no real value.
Either way, Mason’s trip to the casino doesn’t get much on George and he ends up having to make a connection with Drake in order to get the truth about his reports. After being basically threatened by Ennis (Andrew Howard) and Holcomb (Eric Lange) to play ball and keep quiet, Drake is given an ultimatum when Mason asks him to speak on what he really saw. Drake’s position is actually very compelling to watch as he’s sort of stuck between two worlds. Refusing to help Mason and even beating him down to leave him alone, Drake is forced to face the two kinds of lives that he lives – one as a cop attempting to seek justice and another as a black man attempting to raise and support a family of his own. There’s a great conversation between him and his wife (Diarra Kilpatrick) that delves into this dual life that Drake leads and deciding what’s really important. It’s interesting because there’s no real “wrong” answer here as it makes sense that Drake feels disgusted about what he does to Mason as well as accepting Ennis’ threatening bribe and his wife simply wanting him to do whatever it takes for them to have a great family.
It’s a great inner struggle that Chalk plays up very well and it’s refreshing to see him eventually, partly reconcile with Mason and give him George’s missing teeth that helps Mason see there’s something more than what they already know. Not to mention, it leads to a hilarious morgue scene with Mason and Strickland and sets up a possible partnership between the two. Aside from Drake, we see Sister Alice deal with an identity crisis of her own as we see that Birdy (Lili Taylor) is the one really running the show. Annoyed that she went “off-script” last week, Birdy is looking to set Alice back on the usual course, but that doesn’t suit her. Alice is starting to realize that she’s really becoming a character in a show rather than a voice for God. Her genuine care towards Emily is incredibly admirable and really shows how different she can be outside of the Church. Admittedly, her stuff is kind of confusing in this episode, especially what she exactly means by the end, but there’s definitely something strange and mystical in store for Sister Alice.
This episode also finally gives Della a stronger presence that Rylance absolutely thrives in. Being the only one who has Emily’s emotional well-being, which is at an all-time low as she’s ready to just take the fall so all of this can end, Della isn’t giving up on Emily and really puts herself out there to make sure she stays safe. She snaps at Mason for how Emily being treated worse and being viewed as problematic because she’s a woman, sympathetic for how Emily is garnering a stronger reaction from the public and is being slut-shamed, and even stands up against Ennis and Holcomb for slapping confessions out of Emily. In her time, she’d be easily labeled as a “ball-buster,” but she’s truly a kick-ass character and one of the only characters with a conscience. Rylance adds a sense of determination that makes Della very relatable and rounds out a truly great cast.
Chapter Three continues to push the narrative forward as Drake and Sister Alice deal with an identity crisis and Mason searches for new clues as Emily’s case takes some dramatic and horrifying turns. The overall aim of where things are going is still up in the air, but this incredible cast keeps things going in a steady enough direction to keep any viewer strung along.
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