‘Perry Mason’ Season 1: Recap And Ending, Explained: What To Expect From Season 2?


Set during the Great Depression, the HBO period drama series “Perry Mason” is about a former private investigator turned defense lawyer who goes above and beyond to bring justice to his client. The narrative is based on a fictional defense attorney named Erle Stanley Gardner who has appeared in multiple novels and short stories. The character Perry Mason is based on Earl Rogers, a defense attorney who lost only 3 out of 77 cases in his entire career. With well-developed characters and a twisted mystery that is unraveled through the eight episodes, Perry Mason is an interesting watch.

Spoilers Ahead

‘Perry Mason’ Plot Summary: Who Is Perry Mason? What Was The Charlie Dodson Case?

Perry Mason, an ex-military posted in France during the First World War, suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder. The sound of gunshots and bombing often clouded Mason’s mind, and later we get to know that Mason was discharged from his military service with a blue ticket that was often reserved for African American or homosexual servicemen. But in Mason’s case, it was his reaction at the battle of Mount Faucon that cost him. When he saw his men lying on the battleground crying out of pain, Mason shot them dead one after the other to relieve them of their suffering. After being discharged from service, he started working as a private investigator. The blue ticket further explained Perry Mason’s living conditions. He separated from his wife, and as a result, he was forced to distance himself from his son. Perry worked closely with Pete Strickland, and he was thankful to him for teaching him the basics of becoming an investigator. They were paid by the studio to find dirt on the actor, Chubby, and ruin his reputation. While Perry and Pete had caught Chubby in a questionable act, Perry demanded more than the cash they were promised by the studio. He had caught not just Chubby in the act but also the studio’s new starlet, Red. But instead of the extra cash, the studio beat up Perry for trying to outsmart them, leaving him with just a dollar for the trouble.

Perry was asked by Elias Birchard Jonathan, a defense lawyer, to help with the investigation of the Charlie Dodson case. Charlie Dodson, a toddler, was kidnapped, and his parents, Emily and Matthew, were asked to arrange 100,000 dollars to free their son. The parents arranged the money, and a man carrying the baby in the trolley that passed right past their hotel window gave them a peek at the baby’s face. The parents rushed to their son, leaving the suitcase full of money in the hotel room. But after holding her baby close, Emily realized something was wrong. She looked at his face and was horrified to see Charlie’s eyes stitched open. Her son died after he was kidnapped, and the kidnappers decided to stitch his eyes open to extort money from the parents. E.B. Jonathan was hired by Herman Baggerly to look into the case. As a member of the Radiant Assembly of God, Baggerly wanted to help his fellow devotees, Matthew and Emily. The LAPD detectives were hellbent on pinning the blame on Matthew since he had lied about his whereabouts that night and had maintained silence about his relationship with Baggerly, which was way more than just being members of the same church. Matthew Dodson was a gambler and was knee-deep in debt; therefore, the police deduced that he had reasons to orchestrate the crime. He was the illegitimate son of Herman Baggerly, and he was aware that after knowing the trouble his son was in, Baggerly would step in to pay the ransom. But Perry Mason was not ready to agree to the theory produced by the DA’s office, and he made certain discoveries that completely changed the course of the trial.

What Made Perry Suspicious Of The Investigation? What Was Emily Dodson Charged With?

A beat cop, Paul Drake, found the bodies of two men shot dead in a room in the neighborhood he patrolled. He followed the trail of blood from the room to the terrace, and he deduced that the man died while attempting to jump from one building to another, but strangely enough, no body was found. Paul was a black cop, and he was always looked down on by his white colleagues. Even though he was an intelligent and efficient cop, he was aware that he would never be promoted. The detectives involved in the Dodger case, Gene Holcomb and Joe Ennis, threatened Paul to change his report to make it look conclusive. To avoid the possibility of a missing dead body, they wanted him to state that the blood from the terrace led to the room. Paul had no other option but to change his report.

Meanwhile, after the arrest of Matthew Dodson, Perry focused on proving him innocent. It was only possible for someone close to the family to have conducted the kidnapping since the criminals were aware that Matthew was Herman Baggerly’s son. Since Baggerly was a prominent industrialist, the kidnappers knew he would be able to pay the ransom amount, so they targeted Charlie. When Perry discussed the night of the kidnapping with Dodson’s neighbor, he learned that Emily was busy talking on the phone that night. Perry realized that Emily had been lying as well since she told the police that she had fallen asleep when her baby was kidnapped. Upon investigating further, he tracked down the number Emily constantly called. He got the address of the receiver and entered his house. He discovered a dead body on the bed. The deceased man’s face was blown up on one side. Mason found letters written by Emily that were addressed to a man, George Gannon.

George and Emily belonged to the same church and developed a romantic relationship over time. On the bedside table was the suicide note stating how he could not live with himself after what had happened, which is why he killed the other two members of his gang before taking his life. Therefore, on the night of the kidnapping, it was George who kept Emily busy on the phone while his two gang members took the baby out of the house. Emily had been lying all along, and it was enough to prove Matthew’s innocence. While it was true that Emily had an affair with George, Della Street refused to accept that Emily was the mastermind. She had spent time with Emily, and she knew that the woman was completely broken. While Della did not trust the new theory, the police loved it. They had a new perpetrator to blame the murder on, and the evidence collected was enough to end the case. Emily was arrested, and Herman Baggerly decided to stop paying E.B. Jonathan to fight her case. Herman and Matthew believed that Emily should be punished for the murder. E.B. Jonathan was now left with no other option but to take the case pro bono, but he was confident that just like he proved Matthew’s innocence, he would also be able to prove that Emily was not guilty.

Why Did Perry Believe There Was A Fourth Member?

When Emily was arrested for her son’s murder, the entire world refused to believe a word that she said. She was treated with disgust for having an affair with a man and later conspiring to kidnap her baby with his gang. Emily begged and cried, hoping someone would believe her. Perry Mason was asked to further investigate to gather evidence that could prove Emily’s innocence. Mason reached out to Paul Drake to find out if there was anything else besides what he had mentioned in his report. Paul knew he would be risking himself if he admitted the truth, so he maintained his distance from Perry and made it clear that he was not ready to entertain a private investigator. He wanted to come clean, but he was scared that the white detectives would destroy his family. Meanwhile, Sister Alice of the Radiant Assembly of God was convinced that Emily was innocent. She went against the wishes of the church elders and declared her support for Emily. Sister Alice sympathized with her situation; she was shaken to watch a mother being wrongfully blamed for her son’s death. She was convinced that God wanted her to resurrect Charlie Dodson, and she declared that she would resurrect the baby on Easter morning.

Later, Paul Drake met Perry Mason in the darkness of the night. He was ready to help Perry as long as his name was not dragged into court. He handed over the key piece of evidence he had retrieved from the scene. It was a broken piece of George Gannon’s denture. He found the object in the alleyway next to the building where his gang members were shot dead. This proved that George was injured and perhaps died on the spot, indicating that there must be a fourth member who carried his body to his house after having blown his face. But Mason needed to prove his theory. While the denture was a crucial piece of evidence, it was not enough. He went to the morgue, found George Gannon’s body, and matched the denture. He then carried the body out of the morgue and asked Vigil, the attendant at the city morgue, to conduct a second autopsy to understand how George died. The dead body was later kept at a golf course since that was the only way to get a second official autopsy. The autopsy would now prove that the body had a bullet injury and a broken hip, something that the police chose to emit out to prove their theory.

While Mason tried to find ways to prove the theory that a fourth person was involved, E.B. was caught up in his own problems. He was fighting Emily’s case pro bono, and he needed to borrow money to keep his office afloat, but the bank denied him the loan. E.B. held on to the principles of the good old days, and the changing world became more and more difficult for him to accept and keep up with. Even with Mason’s investigation, he did not have enough material to prove Emily’s innocence in court. He had lost faith in himself, and one morning, after following his morning routine, he turned on the gas and shut the kitchen door while he waited to die. His body was discovered by Della, and she called Perry for help. Perry made his death look natural. His body was sent back to his family, even though none of them cared about him. E.B. had spent most of his life focusing on his profession, and in the process, he had ignored his family. E.B. died a lonely death, but for Perry and Della, he remained inspirational.

Ending Explained: What Led To Charlie Dodson’s Death? Did Perry Prove Emily’s Innocence In Court?

Sister Alice was adamant about using the money donated to the church to bail Emily out. She decided to shelter Emily during the court case. Now that E.B. was no longer there to fight the case, they had to either accept the lawyer provided by the court or find someone else. Della knew that Emily had no chance of winning the case if she did not have a lawyer who truly sympathized with her situation on her side. She noted down the names of all potential lawyers, including assistant district attorney Hamilton Burger. Della was hopeful that Hamilton would accept the proposal, but he found it all too risky to go ahead with. It was when Della noticed Perry Mason’s passion that she knew he was the only person fit for the role. With Hamilton Burger’s help, Mason cleared the bar examination and was ready to fight the case in court.

As a lawyer, Mason now realized the limitations that E.B. would often discuss. While he eventually figured out what had happened to little Charlie Dodson, it was impossible to prove his theory in court. With the help of Pete Strickland and Paul Drake, Mason knew who the fourth person was. Mason got suspicious of Joe Ennis when he suggested to Pete that it was his partner Gene Holcomb who was trying to lead the investigation a certain way. One would only try to throw their partner under the bus if they were in trouble. Pete later found checks addressed to a company called Sunroot Services at George’s place. He assumed it was a way to steal money from the Radiant Assembly of God Church. George Cannon was involved in transferring money to a nonexistent company whose address was that of George’s house. He also found out that one of the gang members, Sarecki and Ennis, were in Denver at the same time, further raising their suspicion of Ennis. Upon further digging, Pete found out that the third member of the gang, Stanislaw Nowak, was also in Denver at the same time. It was impossible to call it a coincidence any longer.

With the help of stolen records from the church and by bringing Jim Hicks, the old accountant of the church, to the stand, Mason was able to prove that money was transferred from the church and sent to a nonexistent company, Sunroot Services. Jim Hicks explained that the church transferred the money to claim an asset on its general ledger. The church was stealing its own money because of the large sums of loans it borrowed from several banks to establish the church in two years. The church elder, Eric Seidel, was the one behind the schemes to save the church from drowning in debt. And the records proved that the church was in debt for $100,000, which was the exact amount demanded by the kidnappers from the Dodsons. Herman Baggerly had made several donations to the church, but he refused to pay any longer, and three weeks after his refusal, his grandson, Charlie Dodson, was kidnapped. It became obvious that the church was in dire need of money, and they thought of getting rid of it by kidnapping Charlie Dodson. While the kidnapping now made sense, it was still not known why Charlie Dodson was murdered.

Paul Drake tracked down the hotel where Nowak and Sereki stayed. While the manager refused to give away any information, the maid who worked there shared with Drake that there was a baby with the two men he was asking about. The baby would not stop crying until a third man showed up with his Chinese wife. After the wife joined them, the baby stopped crying. Ennis was known for frequenting a Chinese brothel, and he perhaps brought a lactating sex worker to cater to the baby’s needs.

Perry Mason entered the brothel and asked a sex worker about Ennis and the woman he brought along to take care of a baby. She informed him that the woman was Tang Yin; he took her away for a week, and soon after returning, she overdosed on heroin and died. After studying her body, Vigil stated that she had died due to a drug overdose. It was deduced that because Tang Yin was a drug addict, the milk she produced was poison for the baby. It caused asphyxiation and eventually killed baby Charlie. The kidnappers did not intend to kill the baby; it was accidental. But they were not ready to give away the opportunity to extort money, so they continued with the plan.

Ennis murdered everyone who could connect him to the case, making it impossible for Mason to discuss his involvement in court. Even though Mason wanted to punish Ennis, with the evidence he had in hand, he could only prove to the jury the connection between the kidnappers and the church. Mason emphasized that Emily must not be punished for infidelity. Since the District Attorney, Maynard Barnes, could not provide any evidence that could link Emily to the case, he wanted the jury to rethink and not make a judgment out of anger and frustration. After all, their one decision could end an innocent person’s life. The members of the jury discussed the trial for five long days and finally came to the conclusion that it was a mistrial, and Emily was freed of all charges. Maynard Barnes was adamant about conducting a retrial to prove Emily guilty. Even after being declared free, Emily continued to feel empty from the inside. Losing Charlie had taken a toll on her, and the court case made it worse. She believed Sister Alice when she promised to resurrect her baby, but when that failed, she was shattered. Charlie’s body was found missing upon bringing the casket to the surface, and Emily could not get over that image. Sister Alice’s mother knew that the resurrection would go wrong, so she planned it ahead. When an orphan baby was found on the road, she declared that it was Charlie and that Sister Alice had successfully resurrected him. All her life, Alice believed that she had a special power and that she could truly hear and do what God wanted her to. Her mother made her believe that every situation that they had overcome was because Alice was God’s child. Alice lived with that illusion all her life, and it was only when she realized how her mother planned to fake the resurrection that she decided to break free from the life she had led so far. Sister Alice was nowhere to be found, and Birdy looked after the baby. When Emily was declared free, she decided to meet the baby. Even though the baby did not have Charlie’s features, she convinced herself that it was Charlie. She was desperate to believe that her baby had come back to life, and even though it was untrue, she continued to attest to it.

What Happened To Ennis? What Can We Expect From ‘Perry Mason’ Season 2?

Gene Holcomb brought death upon Ennis. Holcomb was far from an honest detective, but he did not take his partner’s deceit well. Ennis was drowned to death, and in a way, justice was brought to Charlie Dodson. With Maynard Barnes contesting the mayoral election, Hamilton Burger will replace him as the District Attorney. Tired of working as a private investigator, Pete is now determined to work for Hamilton Burger as the lead investigator. He did not feel valued while working for Perry, and that was what pushed him further to join Burger. This change in dynamics between Perry and Pete will be interesting to watch in Season 2 of “Perry Mason.” Perry found Alice working at a diner. She completely gave up the life she was leading and preferred to maintain distance from her past. Her prayers are not as easily answered as they used to be. It is safe to assume that it was Birdy McKeegan who stole the body of Charlie and was also involved in finding a baby who could be posed as Charlie after the declaration of the resurrection. In season 2 of “Perry Mason,” we will see more of the trio, i.e., Della Street, Paul Drake, and Perry Mason, as they together form a legal team. Della established that after receiving her degree from night college, she would work as a lawyer, and the firm would be named Mason and Street. Since Mason now has to deal with the legalities, Paul Drake will lead the investigations. With the change in dynamics and a new mystery to solve, season 2 of “Perry Mason” looks promising.

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Srijoni Rudra
Srijoni Rudra
Srijoni has worked as a film researcher on a government-sponsored project and is currently employed as a film studies teacher at a private institute. She holds a Master of Arts degree in Film Studies. Film History and feminist reading of cinema are her areas of interest.

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