Perry Mason episode 2: Everything runs in the family

Perry Mason. Photograph by Merrick Morton/HBO
Perry Mason. Photograph by Merrick Morton/HBO /

Perry Mason episode 2 revealed some Dodson family secrets.

Perry Mason episode 2 uncovered some major information—though the HBO series’ reveals probably weren’t a huge shock to anyone who watches TV crime dramas regularly.

SPOILER ALERT: This article contains spoilers for the latest Perry Mason episode.

In “Chapter Two,” Perry (Matthew Rhys) learned that Matthew Dodson (Nate Corddry) was the illegitimate son of Herman Baggerly (Robert Patrick)—hence why Baggerly was so interested in finding the killer of Matthew’s son.

It also emerged that Matthew had a gambling problem and that his wife Emily (Gayle Rankin) was cheating on him. And during all of this, first Matthew and then Emily were arrested for the murder of their own child.

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None of these things were particularly revelatory; in many crime dramas, the killer usually ends up being closer to home. And the picture-perfect home almost never stays that way. That’s just how the drama unfolds.

The highlights of Perry Mason came from where these pieces of information might be going. For example, Perry found out that Emily was cheating on her husband when he discovered her boyfriend’s corpse—the other man had apparently committed suicide. But it was more like a murder staged to look like a suicide. And how uncomfortable is it that Emily was sleeping with someone involved in her son’s death?

Elsewhere, the show introduced two appealing new characters in Sister Alice (Tatiana Maslany) and police officer Paul Drake (Chris Chalk).

Perry Mason fans know that Paul Drake is one of Perry’s associates, but in the HBO prequel, he was depicted as a beat cop who stumbled across the other two kidnappers’ bodies. He reported his findings but was pressured by corrupt detectives Ennis and Holcomb (Andrew Howard and Eric Lange) to change his report.

A later scene at home, though, showed that Drake wasn’t going to let this go. He’ll keep pushing—and he’ll become a target for Holcomb and Ennis. Plus, how will he meet Perry and start the road to their working relationship?

As for Sister Alice, Maslany was magnetic in her two biggest scenes, at a church service and later at Charlie Dodson’s funeral. Viewers still aren’t sure how she’s going to cross Perry’s path, but the episode gave her a few moments that confirmed there’s something else going on underneath her blustery exterior. She may be all fire and brimstone in public, but Alice carries a heavy weight in private; hopefully Perry Mason will explore more of that in the remaining six episodes.

And how cruel was it that E.B. Jonathan (John Lithgow) chose the day of Charlie’s funeral to turn over the evidence of Emily’s adultery, leaving her to be thrown into the back of an LAPD van before she could even see Charlie buried? That was as harsh as watching Stephen Root play the District Attorney was funny. Root seemed like he was playing a period version of Jimmy James from NewsRadio.

All in all, the second episode of Perry Mason provided valuable clues, even if none of them came as a surprise. And almost more importantly, it finally started to utilize the full cast after several of the key characters weren’t included in the pilot. If the show can keep hold of all these threads, and not let anyone fall by the wayside, it’s only going to get better from here.

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Perry Mason airs Sundays at 9:00 p.m. on HBO and streams on HBO MAX.