‘Perry Mason’ Season 1 Finale Explained: All the Loose Threads

     August 10, 2020

matthew-rhys-perry-mason-slice[Editor’s note: The following contains spoilers through the Season 1 finale of Perry Mason, “Chapter 8.”]

The funny thing about the last two episodes of Perry Mason is that by the end of “Chapter 7,” the major mysteries surrounding the kidnapping and death of young Charlie Dodson had been uncovered, with murderer, method, and motive all made clear.

However, there was still plenty for “Chapter 8” to explore and address. While our recap of the finale tells the story in full, let’s break down some of the finale’s biggest questions:

How did Perry manage to win his case?

Well, first things first, Perry (Matthew Rhys) didn’t win — a mistrial was declared, so Emily (Gayle Rankin) is now free but technically still vulnerable to being retried. But that may have been pushed to the side in favor of Hamilton Burger’s (Justin Kirk) investigation into the Radiant Assembly of God’s fiances, while District Attorney Maynard Barnes (Stephen Root) refocuses on his campaign for mayor.

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Image via HBO

But Emily’s freedom, at least for now, was literally bought and paid for here, as we learned when Pete (Shea Whigham) meets with one of the jurors to hand over the rest of the bribe. It’s not totally clear if Perry specifically asked Pete to bribe the juror — the only tip-off we get beforehand is the scene between Pete and Perry on the bridge, which ends with Pete asking “what’s the move?”

The twist, though, is that as Pete discovers, they didn’t actually need to do this — there were two other jurors on the panel who received no bribes but were convinced enough by Perry to ensure that the jury was deadlocked. So it wasn’t an honest victory. But it could have been. Afterwards, at the least exciting victory party ever, Pete’s chewing on what happened like it’s a nasty piece of gum, mostly because Perry can’t seem to acknowledge that what he managed to achieve only happened with a whole lot of help.

Who is Mrs. Eva Griffin?

The client (Kristin Slaysman) who walks into Perry’s office at the end of “Chapter 8” isn’t meant to be any ordinary femme fatale-to-be. “Eva Griffin” is the name of the client featured in The Case of the Velvet Claws, the very first Perry Mason novel written by Erle Stanley Gardner. Said executive producer Susan Downey, “the wink-wink at the end, of it being that first case in that first book, was by design, coming out of our showrunners’ minds.”

Here’s a description of The Case of the Velvet Claws:

Thanks to a bungled robbery at a fancy hotel, the already-married Eva Griffin has been caught in the company of a prominent congressman. To protect the politico, Eva’s ready to pay the editor of a sleazy tabloid his hush money. But Perry Mason has other plans. He tracks down the phantom fat cat who secretly runs the blackmailing tabloid — only to discover a shocking scoop.

By the time Mason’s comely client finally comes clean, her husband has taken a bullet in the heart. Now Perry Mason has two choices: represent the cunning widow in her wrangle for the dead man’s money — or take the rap for murder.

There’s every chance that Season 2 could pick up with its own take on that story, but it feels far more likely that Mrs. Eva Griffin is in fact just a “wink-wink” from the writers, and Mason and Associates will find themselves dealing with an entirely different case.

Why did Detective Ennis get killed?

Frankly, he knew too much, and his partner Holcomb had made it clear that the priority for him and others was making sure the crime couldn’t be tracked back to Ennis, and subsequently the people who employed Ennis. At least Ennis died moments after Holcomb told him that his family would be taken care of.

What happened to Sister Alice?

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Image via HBO

Despite Birdy’s (Lili Taylor) supposed certainty, early in “Chapter 8,” that Alice (Tatiana Maslany) would eventually return home, as we see in the closing minutes of the episode that’s not likely. Alice has found a measure of peace up in Carmel, California, working as a waitress and still communing with her faith, despite everything that happened in her name. The door is not closed on her returning for Season 2, though, as Maslany and executive producers Downey and Tim Van Patten told Collider. But for right now she seems like she’s in a good place.

What happened to Charlie Dodson’s body?

We may never know exactly what happened to the missing body of Baby Charlie, its disappearance being one of the show’s only lingering mysteries. Sister Alice may know what happened, but she’s not telling. For more about Charlie, and why Emily moved on at the end of the episode, here’s Perri Nemiroff’s interview with Rankin about that decision.

Why did Perry let go of the thread?

Ever since he took on the case, Perry has been holding onto one of the threads used to sew Baby Charlie’s eyes shut, even at one point trying to identify where the thread might have come from (a futile effort). In the final moments of “Chapter 8,” though, as he gazes out at the ocean, he removes it from his pocket and lets the wind catch it.

Van Patten, who directed the episode, told Collider that “I think [releasing the thread] represents his internal journey, actually, from where we found him in the beginning. Disconnected, disenfranchised, paralyzed, from wherever he came from, and that gave him purpose. And, to my mind, I would say that this is… you see that in the last shot of the show, he’s letting it go, right? Some sort of acknowledgment goes off into the wind, and now he would move on. So it does. I thought it was emblematic of his journey.”

Added Downey: “It’s definitely intentionally symbolic of his evolution. It’s an early piece of evidence that he gets, we see him try to pursue it in a way that he thought would be easy, and quickly learns that there’s nothing that’s going to be easy about this case. And yet he holds on to that symbol, and so, by the end, there is something he’s freeing. Quite honestly, you could take it a step further, outside of Perry and what it means to him, but he always wanted justice for Charlie Dodson, and there’s a part of him that is freeing Charlie, I think as well, at that moment, right.”

“Yeah. It truly is a talisman,” Van Patten agreed.

Check out all of our Perry Mason coverage, including the full story behind the awesome vintage opening titles and interviews with Tatiana Maslany and Stephen Root. And, below, watch Downey and Van Patten go into detail about Perry Mason and where the future lies.

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