‘Perry Mason’ Episode 4 Recap: See How Things Can Go Without Me

     July 12, 2020

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[Editor’s note: The following contains spoilers for Perry Mason, Season 1, Episode 4, “Chapter 4.”]

Hi. So. I don’t want to be writing about this episode of Perry Mason. This episode, to be frank, is a stone-cold bummer. But the mystery of what happened to Charlie Dodson continues to fascinate people, so let’s dig into the latest developments, as they do contain a few interesting twists.

For one thing, we learn a lot more about the Radiant Assembly of God, and how its high-ranking male leaders don’t like it when Sister Alice (Tatiana Maslany) goes unscripted, as she as a habit of doing more often than not. And the first scene, in which she gets surprised by alleged parishioners who try to attack her with a snake, makes it clear that she’s not exactly a universally popular figure around town.

Then again, who is? E.B. Jonathan (John Lithgow) isn’t really, even though he’s getting his moments of glory in the press. What he would prefer, of course, is enough money to continue funding his law firm, but unfortunately, he can’t get the loan he needs from the bank. Moreover, he’s on the verge of disbarment thanks to district attorney Maynard Barnes (Stephen Root), who has made a point of tracking down his shady financial workings in the past, and threatening to expose him as a thief unless E.B. throws the Emily Dodson (Gayle Rankin) case in one way or another.

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Image via HBO

This is all while Perry Mason (Matthew Rhys) and Pete (Shea Whigham) attempt to figure out what actually happened after Charlie’s death, given the conflicting evidence surrounding the deaths of Charlie’s kidnappers. Their plan isn’t the smoothest, as essentially abducting Virgil the autopsy guy (Jefferson Mays) and having him look at the body of George Gannon mostly just seems to shake up Virgil, but it does mean that Perry is able to get an authentic autopsy for George (after the corpse is re-discovered on a golf course). After trying to figure out the actions of the kidnappers on the night of Charlie’s death, Perry and Pete also deduce that their elusive fourth man was an Elks Club member — and in fact was probably Detective Ennis (Andrew Howard) — though, of course, they can’t really prove it yet.

Della (Juliet Rylance), meanwhile, has gotten sick of swallowing E.B.’s shit, which as we see she has to handle even before he gets to the office. And we get to see a bit more of her home life, living in a boarding house serving creamed cod for dinner, but on the plus side featuring a tenant named Myrna… who is Della’s secret lover! Way to get it, Della. Even if you can’t ever be public about it, because you are living in the year 1932.

Have I mentioned that I’m mad at this episode yet? Well, I’m mad at this episode. So let’s get this over with. While E.B. has been promised new evidence about the Dodson trial, he’s also facing the facts that his former client Matthew (Nate Corddry) has decided to cooperate with the district attorney, and that the district attorney also plans to expose him as a criminal. So his last visit to Emily begins with him trying to figure out a way to save them both… before deciding that he cannot be saved.

And thus, E.B. very deliberately dies by suicide. The last thing he sees is a hummingbird, drinking from the feeder he thoughtfully filled before turning on the gas. It is a lovely shot, echoed in the credits, and again this episode is a stone-cold bummer. I did not like it.

Random Clues

  • The French dip at Philippe’s is in fact legendary, and Phillippe’s is still in business (at least for right now). If you live in the Los Angeles area and have never been… Well, maybe do it now.
  • Once again, one of the show’s best elements is the casual relationship between Perry and Lupe (Veronica Falcón). It wasn’t necessary for Lupe to be topless during their post-coital scene, but it was handled in an impressively mature way.
  • I feel bad for a lot of the characters on this show, but most especially Virgil. He just wanted to hang out with some dudes he thought were cool! It’s not fair.

Perry Mason airs Sundays at 9 PM ET on HBO.

Television