HBO’s Perry Mason: Chapter Four Review
*This Review Contains Full Spoilers*
On this week’s episode of HBO’s Perry Mason, Chapter 4, Mason (Matthew Rhys) and Strickland (Shea Whigham) try to flesh out the possibility of fourth man being present during Charlie’s death by leaning on Virgil (Jefferson Mays) and the frustrations about the changing times start to get to E.B. (John Lithgow).
After figuring out that George’s (Aaron Stanford) death was not a suicide thanks to a jawing present from Paul Drake (Chris Chalk), Mason and Strickland search for more information and continue to show how much of a delightful detective pair they are. Whenever Rhys and Whigham are on-screen together, it’s genuinely impossible for me not to have a smile on my face because their chemistry and energy together is so great. From how they take George’s corpse and plant it in the bunker of a golf course in order to get it in Virgil’s morgue so they can get a second official opinion to how they re-trace the steps of the central mystery to get shocking conclusions, they are truly the vigilante heroes that make this series so strong and this mystery so tantalizing. They operate outside the law in a way that’s hard not to respect and enjoy, but their actions finally catch up with them, or at least Mason, here.
As we see him trying to pick up the pieces of his old life through a heartwarming phone booth conversation with his son Teddy, we also see his past actions come back to haunt him. Back when we first met Mason in the premiere, we saw that he was getting some blackmailing photos for a chubby actor and in this episode, we see that those nude photos have made it to the press. Looking for retribution, the chubby actor corners Mason in the phone booth and pummels him for revenge. Later when Mason and Lupe (Veronica Falcon) have another lovemaking session, we see the big bruises left on Mason and Lupe discloses how he might be getting too deep into his work. It’s really great to see how Lupe is truly the only sense of solace Mason finds in his life outside of talking to his son and their relationship is one of the brighter spots amongst the darker atmosphere of this series. Not to mention, we see that Mason is invested into the case more than ever and looks to retrace his steps to get a different glimpse.
Mason and Strickland return to the first scene of the series where we saw Matthew (Nate Coddry) and Emily (Gayle Rankin) talking with their son’s kidnappers to get a fresh perspective. It’s a great sequence that shows the prowess and instincts these two have and how their determination has grown in solving this case. Eventually, their drive in finding the “fourth man” leads them to the Elk’s club, a private boys club, where we see them finally learn what we already have known. After a pretty funny conversation with an Elk’s club representative, the two find their likely “fourth man” in Detective Ennis (Andrew Howard) as he sits in at an auction. Looking to get the one up on him, Mason sits next to him and the two quietly jaw at one another about their side’s lack of evidence and how coincidences seem all too convenient. Now that Mason and Strickland have their sure suspicions about Ennis, the pieces are starting to come together.
We also catch up with Sister Alice (Tatiana Maslany) after her revelation last week that left her proclaiming that Charlie was going to be resurrected. Alice’s newest proclamation has left her church divided with one side seeing her as a true prophet of God and the other labeling her as a blasphemer and trying to kill her with snakes. Even worse is that she’s being berated by her mother (Lili Taylor) and higher-ranking members of her church to retract her statement and support of Emily. Maslany continues to deliver a powerful performance as she begins to realize how powerless she is and how the people that supposedly support her the most want to control what she says. As she walks out with an “elder approved” script and talks with her mother about her connection with God, Maslany perfectly displays how broken up she is and how this whole situation has impacted her. However, like any leader looking for their voice in a divided community, the second that she gets an opinion that resembles her true feelings, she’s back to preaching Charlie’s resurrection as the second coming of Christ. It’s another incredible performance from Maslany that slowly secures her name as a big awards contender and she’s not the only one putting in great work in this episode.
Lithgow is absolutely phenomenal as E.B. discovers how times have changed for him and he struggles to grapple with Emily’s case. In some ways, E.B. represents the last of his generation as he finds that his old tricks just aren’t working with the new faces and pace of his work environment. He puts it best when he says that half of his friends are either dead or retired and it’s a poignant line about how times have changed. E.B. can’t even dig himself out of the financial hole that been building for years and Emily case, that he’s clearly losing, is truly is last shot. His attempts to rattle Maynard’s (Stephen Root) cage also fall flat as he threatens to ruin E.B.’s career by blackmailing him with some issues he had with past clients. We really see E.B. at his rope’s end and Lithgow sells this with some raw emotion and genuine sorrow. His big blow up with Della (Juliet Rylance), who we get a deeper look at with how her love life makes her believe Emily so much as she’s in a gay relationship that would be equally scrutinized if people knew, also leaves lasting ramifications.
The big emotional swell of this episode has to be his discussion with Emily in the jail as he’s forced to divulge an honest truth that brings him to rock bottom. It’s a scene that’s the true definition of a heartbreaker as E.B. tries to make it clear that things aren’t going their way before trying to rekindle Emily’s spirits about the case. However, things take a dark and genuinely unexpected turn as we see that E.B. has succumb to his defeats and inability to fight how things have changed as he commits suicide by filling the house with gas and watching the birds one more time. While things are left on an unclear note as we don’t know what the exact result of E.B.’s action will be, it’s a moment that’ll definitely change things going forward. If this is truly the end for Lithgow on this series, he leaves things on an incredibly emotional peak that cements his place as a top awards contender.
This week’s episode gives us some investigative highs as the dynamic duo of Mason and Strickland find new clues that change their investigation and some emotional lows as the changing times finally get to E.B. It’s an episode that showcases the greatness of this series as it delivers swift emotional blows and inquisitive discoveries that’ll change everything going forward.