Perry Mason season 1, episode 8: The end, but not a conclusion

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

The Perry Mason finale was a fairly open-ended conclusion.

While Perry Mason wrapped up on Sunday, the HBO series didn’t conclude much—leaving a lot of things open for its recently announced second season.

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

In “Chapter Eight,” the Dodson murder trial came to an end, but it wasn’t really a victory for Mason (Matthew Rhys). He didn’t get Emily Dodson acquitted; instead, a mistrial was declared when the jury was unable to reach a verdict.

So by the letter of the law, Emily (Gayle Rankin) wasn’t necessarily out of trouble, but everyone celebrated like she was.

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Plus, TV crime drama fans learned that the mistrial wasn’t exactly an honest one.

Pete Strickland (Shea Whigham) was subsequently seen paying off one of the jurors—although the man pointed out that two other people had voted “not guilty” without needing a bribe.

After that, Pete told Mason that he was taking a steadier job with Hamilton Burger (Justin Kirk) at the District Attorney’s Office, ending their up-and-down partnership. You certainly couldn’t blame Pete for choosing a steady income after however long of riding Perry’s roller coaster.

Now ex-police officer Paul Drake (Chris Chalk) replaced him when Mason opened up his law office, with Della (Juliet Rylance) working as his secretary. However, Della declared her intention to go to law school…and told Perry that he was going to be paying for it!

As for the characters in this particular story, Perry Mason left most of their fates open-ended as well. Ennis (Andrew Howard) was set up by his partner and drowned in a fountain, becoming the fall guy for the Radiant Assembly of God’s scheme, but Emily and her “reborn baby” opened up a traveling church with Birdy (Lili Taylor).

And while Emily became Birdy’s new acolyte, Alice (Tatiana Maslany) had changed her look and started a new life as a diner waitress. Perry tracked her down and the two had a conversation about everything that had happened, before Alice left Perry standing contemplatively on his own, looking toward the future.

The one high point of “Chapter Eight” was its seamless segue into the start of Erle Stanley Gardner’s novels. The woman who entered Mason’s new office at the end of the episode, his de facto first client, was a nod to The Case of the Velvet Claws. And if you listened closely, you could also hear the original theme song. It was the most appropriate place to end a prequel.

But that didn’t make up for the vagueness which preceded it. The episode was written before the season 2 renewal was announced, so we can’t say Perry Mason was leaving teasers for a second go-around. Instead, we had a hero who earned justice by cheating (even if he didn’t have to), the one villain who really got his comeuppance was Ennis (what about Stephen Root’s scheming D.A. who was completely unrepentant—we know Burger will eventually replace him, but he ought to face criminal charges!), and the Alice character felt like she never got fully developed.

As a limited series, it accomplished its primary goal but left much to be desired. With a second season on the way, hopefully Perry Mason will fix some of these issues and develop further into the great piece of noir TV that it can be.

dark. Next. HBO orders Perry Mason season 2

Perry Mason airs Sundays at 9:00 p.m. on HBO. A season 2 premiere date has not been set.