HBO’s Perry Mason Season Finale Review
*This Review Contains Full Spoilers*
On the season finale of HBO’s Perry Mason, Emily’s (Gayle Rankin) case comes to a shocking close and Mason (Matthew Rhys) and the rest of the crew try to tie up loose ends and prepare for their future endeavors.
After the chaotic discoveries made after Sister Alice’s (Tatiana Maslany) resurrection of Charlie took an unexpected turn last week, everything is in complete disarray. Sister Alice is completely MIA and Emily is left a little shook up, but also, oddly enough, more clear-headed than ever. Thankfully though, it didn’t impact her case too heavily as we see that Mason is ready to point fingers at Ennis (Andrew Howard) as he takes the stand. Throughout this entire sequence, Mason is really give it his all to try and get a confession out of Ennis. He’s throwing every accusation possible, bringing up his kill happy past, and showcasing every connection he has to Charlie’s kidnapping. It’s actually very riveting to watch, but even though Ennis is definitely starting to sweat, he’s not breaking. Personally, this sequence was so compelling that I actually thought it was real. However, once Hamilton Burger (Justin Kirk) stands up screaming at Mason that “no one confesses on the stand,” it was easy to see that this was just a hypothetical.
What’s really happening is that a desperate Mason is looking for anyway possible to get Ennis to crack and is failing horribly. He barely even has Drake (Chris Chalk) scared and Burger tells him that he might be at his rope’s end if he can’t prove Ennis’ involvement. It’s one of those tricky situations where you know someone’s guilty and they know they’re guilty, but there just no way of proving it. Della (Juliet Rylance) isn’t giving up though and offers a suggestion to put Emily on the stand – which Mason doesn’t initially accept. Mason’s afraid that Maynard (Stephen Root) is going to chew her up on the stand and that Della is only doing this to push a narrative of empowering women and using Emily as a proxy for that narrative.
In some ways, I get what Mason is getting at since Lupe (Veronica Falcon) tries to do something similar by justifying her taking Mason’s family land by saying she has to fight harder for airstrip land because she’s a “wetback” and a woman. The way they come off, it’s almost like they are trying to guilt Mason into not seeing the selfishness of their choices and that he shouldn’t be mad at the jeopardy their situations could put him in – especially Lupe’s. However, both of them do make sense and make good points. They’re both strong representations of people fighting for themselves in a world that wants to keep them down and it’s just as easy to see that their choices or words aren’t exactly easy to say to Mason. Regardless, Mason does end up putting Emily on the stand and Rankin gives a strong, clear-headed performance.
When Mason is talking to her, Rankin displays all of the hurt Emily has over both her incapable of finding genuine love and the loss of her son. It’s a performance that tugs on the heartstrings since she’s really on her last legs and telling the genuine truth – regardless of how it might make her look. The same can even be said when Maynard begins to question her as she stands her ground well and although Maynard tries to make an easy truth of what happened to Charlie, that if she had never had the affair with George that none of this would’ve happened, more than just a “possibility,” Emily doesn’t crumble. She sort of just takes it in and allows it to be a time to reflect on her life lately and it’s one of the strongest moments for her character this season.
It even sort of inspires Mason to make the best concluding speech possible and it’s pretty damn inspiring. It’s kind of the speech you would expect as Mason delves into the differences between truth and justice as well as his time on the case. Rhys is absolutely triumphant, genuine, and emotional in the speech and it shows how Mason has sort of changed since we’ve first seen him. It’s certainly moving and even Maynard’s weak and on the nose retort doesn’t make a dent in how deep Mason’s speech cuts into the jury. Once the jury goes to debate about a verdict, we are left waiting, like everyone else, on the edge of their seat as Mason and Della reconcile their differences and talk about working together after the case. However, we finally get a verdict and it’s not one that pretty much anyone expected – it’s a mistrial.
Look, no one likes a tie, but it’s likely the best possible outcome for Emily. She’s not declared guilty, but also not innocent because Mason just can’t find enough information to prove what Ennis did. Neither side is even all that happy with it as Maynard is trying to make it seem like he didn’t lose the case and Mason is unhappy that there’s no definitive innocent plea and that Emily will likely still carry this guilt. We also see how a mistrial kind of came to be as we see one of the jurors meet up with Strickland (Shea Whigham) to accept his bribe for helping create a mistrial. I guess the conversation between Mason and Strickland earlier in the episode sparked Strickland to help out a bit, but it ended up not even being necessary since Mason was able to convince other jurors to be on his side. Personally, I think the end is satisfying as it subverts expectations in an understandable way and sets up some great conclusions that leaves a bright future for the series.
Strickland ultimately decides to part ways with Mason and help Burger take down the Church by continuing to expose their corrupt endeavors. Drake decide to hand in his badge and bride money so that he can join Mason as his new right-hand man and even reunites with his wife to start their family. Ennis gets his comeuppance as Holcomb (Eric Lange) turns on him after they get the money and while it’s a little lame how he got them, seeing him drown just before he gets away is the kind of swiftly satisfying justice he deserves. Mason and Della end up starting up their own firm in E.B.’s old office with Della saying that she’ll take up her old position, but is going to start working on getting her own law degree so that she can go from being an associate of Mason’s to being right alongside him. Honestly, her arc has been great this season and it’s exciting to think that there’s more to come for her and Mason working together, along with Drake, in the future. Mason even approves of Lupe taking over the family farm and it’s great to see him leaving his past behind.
There’s still one more piece to this puzzle that was left kind of missing for most of the episode – what happened to Sister Alice. Well, Mason ends up finding her as a waitress in a small café, now with short black hair and living her own life outside of the church. With Emily sort of taking her position as she accepts the baby that isn’t really Charlie and Birdy (Lili Taylor) looks to start her own following, Alice is finally able to make her own decisions. There’s a great discussion between the two about hope, their beliefs, and where life will take them that, I think, leaves things on the right note. They’ve been on opposite side of the beliefs throughout the season and having them come together in these last few moments is great as they find themselves in a similar situation. They’re both kind of lost in figuring out what’s next for them, but are willing to forget their pasts and move forward. It’s all perfectly symbolized by Mason letting go of the meaningless thread and letting his bad past stay in the past.
The season finale of Perry Mason closes certain doors in Emily’s case incredibly well by finding an alternate route that speaks to the complexity of the case while also opening some doors for its characters that’ll hopefully lead us into second season that, at very least, is equally strong. All in all, Perry Mason has been a strong return for the iconic mystery series as it’s presented incredibly strong performances, story beats, and style that’s come together in a finale that reassures viewers why it’s coming back for more.