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Mondays with Mason : Chapter Eight

In conclusion, my lord, the case is inconclusive. 

No we didn’t make that up, It’s what Mason says while he tries in vain to put down a decent concluding statement. Maybe it was also said in the writer’s room. 

We are all for revisionism, if it has a place in the story, if the ‘revisionism’ dawns on me when we later understand the workings of the story. But revisionism in place of definite endings is problematic. 

Ever since the first episode we have been doggedly pursuing every clue that this show throws at us, every week we place it with what we already know, to see who killed baby Charlie Dodson? Will they be brought to book? 

Okie yeah, we do know who killed the baby, whose horrific death on the tram car made this the most arresting case to follow on television. 

But is there a sense of satisfaction in the end? 

Partially yes. 

It’s not as neatly tied up as we would expect or as Perry would have wanted his first case to be. He’s really grown from being an investigator, but let’s call this the learning curve shall we?

We could also argue the that the writers did not give us a concrete finish to keep things open for the next season or we could also say that this is a Perry Mason for a different time, a time where there are no definites, it’s all very mixed and hence being inconclusive is not a choice but a characteristic. 

Clue trails go cold, but the series spends much time of the finale in making a statement with the character of Della Street, she not only (and rightfully) bargains her next employment with Perry (not Mason & Associates, but Mason & Street, nice touch) but she also contributes to the case taking a more emotional turn. It’s the most questionable turn the case takes, but one that provides a verdict which doesn’t seem to be a victory for any party involved. 

Our hero is really not arguing the case that he has built which we could say contributes to his inability to come up with solid concluding remarks, because it was Della’s idea to put Emily on the stand. To appeal to the sentiments and not facts. 

Perry had the case, he had Innes- the main perpetrator in our eyes, he could have squeezed the slimy detective in court, hell we even get a glimpse of it in a mock trial, but hell no, apparently no one confesses on the stand. Or so they say. It’s a brilliantly conceived scene nevertheless brought back memories of the 1973 Sivaji Ganesan film Gauravam which too had a similar mock trial, albeit a fruitful one. 

Not so neatly tied up parts linger, while the tied up parts including what happens to Emily Dodson and the trio of Drake, Street and Mason seem to stick out but promise some excitement for the future. 

You can only seek justice when you find the truth, Perry says. But what we got was just parts of the truth, and so justice is not pronounced but hanging in the air, like a thread whose holder we know not.

We enjoyed watching & writing this TV series recap, and we trust you liked our coverage. Tune in back again, hopefully. 

Perry Mason is streaming on Disney+Hotstar and has been renewed for a second season. 

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Mondays with Mason: Chapter Seven

Uncharacteristic for this series, episode six begins with a camera crawling on a field after a girl. The episodes as you may remember just begins mid-scene or mid movement with the words Perry Mason in the largest of art-deco fonts that could occupy our screens.  Much like below

But here is the camera slowly following a little girl admiring nature’s beauty, it’s Sister Alice, no, it’s just Alice before she became the ‘instrument of God’. The only other time this series went back in time was to show the impact the Great War had on Perry Mason. 

Sister Alice is an odd character in the Charlie Dodson case, her story thread strain runs parallel to the case but they never seem to meet, but it’s not too far away. Our now dead George Bannon and Emily Dodson first fell in love in Sister Alice’s Radiant Assembly of God. The establishment itself was funded by Herman Baggerly, who was Charlie Dodson’s grandfather as we got to know, but the biggest trick that the series played is in the character of Alice. The trick was to focus on the grand standing assurances made by the sister and to make us question her power and circle around the drama between Alice and her mother. 

All that is broken in the pre credits sequence. 

A lot of other assurances are broken too in this episode as we approach the end of the mystery, like for instance the friendship between Perry and Pete; both have been on the street detectives from the start but I guess it’s the end of their working relationship. After Perry became a lawyer (he is more confident in his appearance in court), they are no more on equal footing and yeah Pete does “fuck it up” at the most inopportune moment. 

Perry not only loses a working friendship but also his family property which is a terrible blow considering that’s all his motivation when he was in the dumps. In these thick of things though, he fears losing the case more than losing the property. 

There’s a nice running gag about Perry Mason’s suit which attained peak when a lady threw collected garbage as he walked in to court, did we mention that he actually does feel and talk like a lawyer now? Yeah we did, but we also want to point out that Perry is also always on the side of data and points and not emotion and narrative, that’s an admirable thing especially when Della asks him to go easy on the numbers. 

The numbers do make sense, acting on a clue from the last second of the previous episode Perry builds a competent case, almost a winner if not for the misfortune mentioned earlier. What also makes sense are the answers to three of the four questions we raised, and the fourth? Well that’s reserved for the final showdown. 

Just another week. We wait, much like those outside court dangling effigies of baby Dodson, but not with terror but with bated breath. 

The episode ends as it begins, with Sister Alice. 

HBO’s Perry Mason is now streaming on Disney+Hotstar and has been renewed for a second season.

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TV

Mondays with Mason: Chapter Three

The second chapter opened a door and the third one just pulled me down a winding staircase. 

If the layers are coming off, they are not coming off in thin peels but with thick history. 

The last time we left our hero, Perry Mason turning the corner, he had decided to go ahead, system broken or not. And the first few moments beautifully capture how broken the city is, it is told in cross cuts between John Lithgow’s E.B and the crooked DA Maynard Barnes. It is almost played like arguments and counter arguments, only out of court and they have Lithgow visiting a barber. Now what’s a classic American crime show without a shaving scene? So far Perry Mason has been putting in the right genre signals but this episode seemed a little more brighter than the last one, still a two-tone but less noir. 

Yet another classic American crime show trope is a fast talking detective and that’s what Perry says when he means “that words have a tendency to go beyond his mind and through his mouth.” Smart. But Perry has very little to do in this episode, it’s an outing for the others- Della, E.B and Paul Drake. 

E.B and Della are trying to put together the case for Emily Dodson’s bail, with hope to get some sympathy from the judge- while now innocent Matthew Dodson is unable to come to terms with his wife’s infidelity. The whole scene takes place within a prison cell and gives the impression of Emily Dodson being boxed into feeling guilty, which is what reflects in court. It’s a brilliant piece of filmmaking, this has been consistent in all three episodes, so far. 

Remember, we wrote about Perry Mason’s character philosophy? Well he ain’t developed one yet and Della Street rightly points it to him, this is when things don’t begin to go too well for E.B who seems older than usual, time seems to have swept away while he slept, his tiredness comes through, I am afraid there is not much ahead for the lawyer. 

And this is where the trio get fired out of their own case. 

Does Perry Mason really believe that Emily Dodson is innocent? At least that’s what he says when he meets Paul Drake. Does Sister Alice really speak to God, as she claims and can she see an end to this case?

I don’t know, we began with a single string but there are a lot of strands out there now, the case could go any way, it is beginning to feel like a real dense crime novel now and I love it!

Who killed baby Charlie Dodson and why? 

Stay tuned on Mondays with Mason until next week. 

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TV

Mondays with Mason: Chapter Two

The Perry Mason Recap: Season 01, Episode 02

I did not mention in our first episode recap that old Erle Stanley Gardner wrote more than 80 novels featuring lawyer Perry Mason, there were short stories too. 

80. 

When we think about it, especially when we clench our teeth to update a blog and that too with almost zero barriers to publish (except our own will), here was a man who wrote 80 novels with just one character and he had other characters too.

I’m sure that old Erle had his own plot making machine to churn out so many stories, I could almost picture him sitting at a desk going rat-at-tat on the typewriter, often with a pencil in his mouth, which would then be used to reorganize a plot. It’s humbling to picture this.

It was the golden age of pulp, people consumed it a lot, so there wasn’t a necessity to look into the soul of any character, just the bare bores, again just like I picture Erle, I picture a reader too, somewhere in a bunker with a lamp, instead of a pencil, a cigarette in his mouth, reading the exploits of Perry Mason & Della Street, only to wake up next day and go fight Nazis. Character development would have hardly been on his mind. It was a different time, a much harder time to live and these 140-200 pages of pulp gave them the excitement, the respite, the breathing space in a densely packed bunker. A way of escape that could fit in your pocket, along with the cigarette. It’s even humbling to picture this, even in our so called times of distress. 

Which is where I come to chapter two. A great man once said, that the unexamined life is not worth living, and the makers of the HBO series have taken this route, to examine the hitherto unexamined Perry Mason, the one who provided short grasps at entertainment to soldiers, is now a soldier himself, only in an earlier war, the great war, where the trenches replaced the bunker. That sort of looking at death changes people often for the worse, but will he change into the person we know from the books?

Seems unlikely, if you thought (like I did) that the first episode was dark, this one even takes a darker turn. In a sense, most of the characters have been introduced in the first episode barring two. Tatiana Maslany, who gets an entire moving sequence as an introduction to her character and to the Radiant Assembly of God. Note this time, we would come back to this soon. 

So yeah, with the introductions done, the episode literally takes a turn towards noir. It is reinforced again and again with Perry looking beyond a corner,to proceed or not, to face what’s ahead or to turn back? But then for a soldier, turning back is worse than death. He has no option but to stare back at the darkness.

Cut to the case. 

Remember,we left Perry with a strand of thread, he still has it, sitting in a corner. The thread that stitched the eyelids open of the dead baby, maybe we have not seen anything horrific than that, but Perry has. The Dodsons, who lost their baby, are trying to find solace and support from a secret benefactor linked to the Radiant Assembly of God led by Sister Alice who apart from running an influential church presents herself as a lightning conductor to God’s wishes. 

There’s another introduction too, one that is a familiar face , Paul Drake (played by The Newsroom’s Chris Chalk), not as the trusted right hand man and detective of Perry Mason, but a beat cop who discovers the effects of the violence from the previous episode. As is the normal, he is too smart for his peers and his deductions start to hit a wall. 

On the other side of this wall, leans Perry, there is yet another clue that is unearthed but he is beginning to realize that much like war, those who do the legwork don’t control the outcomes as much as those old men who sit around in panelled rooms and talk. Old men with power. 

This distinctly gave me a Chinatown feel, readers can ignore this because I get a Chinatown feel for most things. 

But I really like the dark turn (around the corner) that the series is taking, an earlier non-covid me would have been displeased with the complete absence of my ‘Perry Mason’, but hey, people change and these are not normal times.

Gayle Rankin as Emily Dodson I should say has been a revelation in this episode and slowly like the unwinding of the top, the episode also gives us a little more into the lives involved, we have one more clue, another death found and a hero who is willing to turn the corner. 

Great episode, waiting for more. 

PS The look and feel of this series is all film noir, so yeah obviously it is shot in color but the makers have painstakingly tried to limit the color palette to yellow and a deep blue, the nearest visible equivalents to black and white. Did you notice? Mel Gibson’s Payback too had similar styling. Just recollecting. 

HBO’s Perry Mason is streaming on Disney+Hotstar in India.