There’s nothing like an awful, brutal tragedy to unite people in fascinated horror, and poor Emily (Gayle Rankin) finds herself at the center of the resulting maelstrom in Episode 3 of Perry Mason. After her arrest at the end of last week’s episode, her fate has become more than just a trial, as district attorney Maynard Barnes (Stephen Root) is determined to make it the centerpiece of his future legal career, despite all of E.B. Jonathan’s (John Lithgow) efforts to fight back in the press. And the attention and the trial are tearing Emily apart, as witnessed by her initial plea of “guilty” in the courtroom.
While the fact that Emily was having an affair with one of baby Charlie’s kidnappers is now public knowledge, Perry Mason (Matthew Rhys), your friend and mine, is still digging into George’s involvement with the tragedy — and he’s got some very welcome help in the form of Pete (Shea Whigham) and his excellent mustache. Together, the two of them learn that while George was working for the Radiant Assembly of God church, he was also working for the local casino, which is as good a reason as any for Perry to give Lupe (Veronica Falcón) a do-over on their supremely shitty New Year’s Eve. She flies the two of them to the casino, and while he takes a little time to ask around about George, she wins big at the tables — enough for her to buy Perry’s dairy by the airstrip and turn it into a second runway, something he scoffs at.
Speaking of money, Perry and Pete’s investigation is happening despite the fact that Baggerly is no longer footing the bill for E.B.’s legal services. This doesn’t come as a huge shock, as his son Matthew (Nate Corddry) reacts to learning about Emily’s infidelity by raging about how she’s responsible for Charlie’s death. But it does leave E.B. strapped for cash, and so he comes to a former associate named Lyle in the hopes of getting a loan — and instead gets a warning that Barnes is poking around in E.B.’s past. “You know there’s something there,” Lyle says, and E.B. is spooked.
While Emily is in jail, getting visits from Della (Juliet Rylance) and Sister Alice (Tatiana Maslany) but also getting harsh treatment from her jailers (who are trying to coerce a confession out of her), Matthew is now free. Baggerly tries to empathize with him, telling him that the two of them share “a weakness for degenerate femininity,” which Matthew rejects. But he does seem tempted by Baggerly’s plan for the town of Girard, which he describes as “a city of faith, of family far from the corruption of Los Angeles.” (In reality, Girard was the original name of Woodland Hills, one of L.A.’s more high-falutin’ suburbs, founded in 1922.)
Meanwhile, Paul (Chris Chalk) is getting pressure from a number of different directions. First, Perry finds out that he wrote the original report about the death of the kidnappers, and Paul denies that he changed it. But Perry shakes things up enough to get Detective Ennis’s (Andrew Howard) unwanted attention and deliver a not-so-subtle threat to Paul right by his pregnant wife: “Life can be rough on people who got no friends.”
Paul beats up on Perry when Perry pushes him for the truth (he might be a Black man in 1932 Los Angeles, but he’s still got a badge, which means “I can kick your white ass dead and no one can say a thing”). However, in the end, his conscience gets the better of him and he comes to Perry to reveal what he really saw, and also share a key bit of evidence with Perry: Half a denture he found at the crime scene. One quick illicit trip to the morgue later, and Perry and Pete have confirmed that George was there when the other kidnappers were murdered, and that his “suicide” was faked.
It’s an important revelation, but takes a backseat to the latest theatrics at Sister Alice’s church, as yet another pageant about how mankind keeps succumbing to sinful temptation but can be saved through the prayers of Alice gets derailed after Alice collapses, consumed by a vision: She can resurrect Charlie. That’s… a pretty big swing, Alice. We’ll see how that goes, and whether or not she’s truly touched by God… or suffering from something else.
- In case last week’s flashbacks didn’t make it clear enough that Perry no longer puts much stock in religion after his wartime experiences, “Chapter 3” decides to say it plain. “God left me in France, sister,” Perry tells Alice, and he’s unconvinced by her response: “God is with you whether you acknowledge it or not.”
- I would have really liked to hear the rest of Virgil’s (Jefferson Mays) story about the guy who dressed up like a cherub, especially given the way in which it apparently ended: “Never would have caught him if it weren’t for the mayonnaise.”
- Just when you might have been wondering if you were watching an HBO original drama, here comes a scene featuring gratuitous nudity and racial stereotyping! Boy did the brothel scene not feel necessary.
- Meanwhile, “Chapter 3” doesn’t contain any scenes on the level of Lupe and Perry’s Episode 1 tryst, but even when fully clothed, their sexy energy is one of the best aspects of the show.
- For more on this episode, check out our in-depth interview with Gayle Rankin about Emily’s pivotal courtroom moment.
Perry Mason airs Sundays at 9 PM ET on HBO.