HBO’s Perry Mason: Chapter Seven Review
*This Review Contains Full Spoilers*
On this week’s episode of HBO’s Perry Mason, Chapter 7, Mason (Matthew Rhys) attempts to take control of Emily’s (Gayle Rankin) case with some shocking new evidence as Sister Alice’s (Tabitha Maslany) resurrection of Charlie draws near and could break Emily’s chances of being viewed as innocent.
After Strickland (Shea Whigham) and Della (Juliet Rylance) helped get Mason some new information that leads him to find a shotgun wielding stranger named Jim Hicks (Todd Weeks), we finally uncover what happened with Charlie’s kidnapping and murder. So, what basically happened is that Elder Seidel (Taylor Nichols) and other Elders, including Herman Baggerly (Robert Patrick, in Sister Alice’s Radiant Assembly of God ended up giving the church a debt that they could never repay. So, rather than face the music, the Seidel tasked Hicks, who was the Church’s accountant before George Gannon (Aaron Stanford), with moving money around so that it could never catch up to them. However, it started to and Hicks decided that he wanted out and was payed for his silence through a mediocre plot of land in the middle of nowhere. Thus, George took over for Hicks and eventually became involved in the kidnapping plot we’ve come to know over the course of the season in order to help wipe away the Church’s debt of just over $100,000.
On paper, it’s a little complicated, but that’s basically what we find out here and watching Mason rub all of this new information in Maynard’s (Stephen Root) face during the trial is absolutely priceless. It’s a total turnaround for him, especially with him pretty much being hopeless last week, and the entire questioning sequences of Hick and Baggerley are just so much fun. Maynard has plenty of “deer in the headlights” looks, Hazel’s (Molly Ephraim) confident strut up to Mason to hand him evidence in the middle of the trial is incredible, and the whispers and reactions of the jury and crowd really solidify this moments as a strong turning point in the case.
It’s also a moment for Mason that totally changes his perspective on life and makes him see it as an act of redemption. With this changing of the tides in the trial, Mason sees what Della has been seeing all along – they still have a chance. Even Strickland makes a funny remark about Mason kind of starting to look like a lawyer and Mason responds with a delightful middle finger. More importantly though, Mason she’s how important it is for Emily that they prove her innocence and it causes a major strife between him and Strickland as well as Lupe (Veronica Falcon). Upon seeing Lupe again, she drops a bombshell on Mason that she’s bought his family farm and is going to do what she’s being saying she’s going to do – tear it down and turn it into runway for her plain. It’s a legitimately shocking moment that creates a heartbreaking divide between two characters that have given the series moments of ease. Personally, I think it’s a strangely cold move by Lupe since the farmhouse is the only thing Mason has left of his parents and it’ll be interesting to see how their relationship continues, if it does, in the next season.
Mason’s mess with Lupe also leads to a surprising confrontation with Strickland that could cause them to part ways. Strickland is tasked by Mason to tail Seidel so that he can’t make an escape from the stand like Ennis (Andrew Howard) has so far. The entire sequence is actually pretty thrilling, but it sadly ends with him losing him in a crowded street parade. The mistake really causes the final straw to break between the two as Mason berates him for possibly ruining the case and Strickland being upset that Mason is solely focusing on this one simple mistake he’s made. In some ways, both sides can be understood since this case is truly make or break for Mason and there’s a lot of good that’s come from Strickland’s recent work. Either way, Strickland is done with Mason’s shit and seems to be parting his own way. Hopefully, this isn’t actually the end of Strickland on the series because it would seem like a forced and unsatisfying way for Drake (Chris Chalk) to fulfill his usual role as Mason’s partner and all too easy.
If Strickland is gone though, that does mean we get more of Drake’s detective work and that’s not a bad thing at all. After an excellent performance last week, Chalk continues to show his talents as Drake begins to take things into his own hands by snagging a look at a police file under the nose of the department and even heads to a seedy motel to find a deeper connection between Ennis and the two Polacks that helped kidnap Charlie. We even get to see Mason and Drake team up to head to a sex club that we’ve seen Ennis frequent and their dynamic is incredibly delightful in its own way. They have different ways of going about things and while Mason doesn’t mind going to blows to get to the truth, Drake has the long game in mind. Regardless, they come away with knowing that Ennis has killed a call girl who knows too much and after we see him even kill Seidel, which is really going to put a damper in Mason’s case, it’s clear that Ennis is covering his tracks and keeping things quiet.
On the other side of this episode, we delve into Sister Alice’s past as we see how her mother Birdy (Lili Taylor) treated her growing up and the extents she’ll go in the present to preserve Alice’s social power. The opening gives us a horrifying glimpse into a younger Alice (Ella Kennedy Davis) and Birdy traveling on the open road. They’re broke and Birdy is desperate to the point that she’ll willing trade her daughter for the help of a strange man and it leaves you horrified with how Birdy attempts to justify it to Alice by saying that God wants her to do this. It’s sadly not super surprising to see Alice have this kind of upbringing since Birdy has put her in the same position now. She’s truly just a pawn for Birdy to live a more luxurious life and it reaches despicable levels with what she pulls at Charlie’s resurrection.
As the day finally comes, Alice is clearly nervous, but sort of calm because of how much she believes, and Emily is truly acting as if this is the last thing she has. However, Birdy is strangely quiet, and we eventually see why. At the resurrection of Charlie commences, we’re left unsure as to what exactly happens, and things take a truly unexpected turn as Charlie’s coffin opens, and his body is gone. It’s a total shock that turns the entire area into chaos and Emily is understandably distraught and Alice is left in a confused shock. Birdy, however, is oddly calm and it’s because she is behind Charlie’s sudden disappearance and has even planted a baby in the streets in order to make Alice seem right. Her desecration of Charlie’s grave makes her desperation absolutely despicable and Alice seems to feel the same way as she runs away – leaving us wondering how things will end with her.
The penultimate episode of the first season of Perry Mason excellently sets up a strong finale as Sister Alice’s resurrection of Charlie takes a horrifying, unexpected turn, and Mason’s stronger showing as a lawyer creates a sense of hope that justice will be served.