Sunday, August 9, 2020

REVIEW: 'Perry Mason' - Perry Weighs the Different Strategies for Closing Emily's Trial in 'Chapter Eight'

HBO's Perry Mason - Episode 1.08 "Chapter Eight"

After the team receives some unvarnished critique from Hamilton Burger, Della presents an increasingly stubborn Mason with her case for putting Emily on the stand. As the sensational trial winds to a close, Mason, Strickland, Della and Drake attempt to tie up loose ends - and set the stage for their futures.

In 2019, the television industry aired 532 scripted shows across numerous outlets. The way people consume content now is different than it used to be. It happens according to one's own schedule. As such, it's less necessary to provide ample coverage of each episode in any given season from a show. Moreover, it is simply impossible to watch everything. As such, this site provides shorter episodic reviews in order to cover as many shows as possible. With all of that being said, here are my thoughts on the season finale of HBO's Perry Mason.

"Chapter Eight" was written by Rolin Jones, Ron Fitzgerald & Kevin J. Hynes and directed by Tim Van Patten

This finale opens with a massive misdirect. It starts with Detective Ennis on the witness stand while Perry questions him. It plays as the quintessential Perry Mason moment that fans of the intellectual property have likely been waiting for. One of the key characteristics about this person is his ability to get people to confess on the stand. It's a hallmark of his performance that is completely atypical to how the justice system usually works. That moment gives those fans all that they potentially need and expect from this season. It's a moment where Perry gets to walk around showing off his intelligence with the way he misspeaks, redirects and combats with district attorney Barnes. And yes, Perry fundamentally knows that Ennis conspired with the Church to kidnap Charlie and extort Herman Baggerly for money. He doesn't have the evidence to prove it. He wants to rely everything on Ennis cracking under the pressure. The audience has seen why Barnes was reluctant to put Ennis on the stand in the first place. He is a combative witness. He walks around with an aura of authority because he has gotten away with so much for a long time. The justice system doesn't give him his comeuppance though. That occurs much later in a more morally ambiguous way. This show is a play to the noir genre. It set out to tell a gritty origin story for Perry Mason. And yes, this season has cackled with energy as it has depicted the fire that was ignited within him to pursue justice. The season closes with him officially opening Mason & Associates, with Della and Paul working for him. But Emily's trial formed the bulk of the season. It got its hooks into Perry deep and fast. E.B. succumbed to suicide because he couldn't bear the monstrosity that was awaiting his client knowing that there was absolutely nothing he could do to prevent it. He was no longer agile and clever enough to find a way to maneuver around Barnes' domineering tactics. The district attorney has spent every moment attacking Emily. It's a major risk to put her on the stand to tell her side of the story. Lawyers only ask witnesses the questions they already know the answers to. They are forming a narrative. One they hope creates a strong case for them. Della argues that Emily needs to be seen in a maternal light. She has the strength now to get on that stand and be seen as a complex human being. She made mistakes. She isn't responsible for the death of her child though. People took advantage of her. That sinister energy destroyed her family. An impassioned speech from Perry may be enough to save her. And yet, everyone walks around with the assumption that she will be hanged. The public views that as the only acceptable form of justice. It's a way to ease the collective conscience of the city. It offers closure in a way that is immediately understood. The show doesn't want to do that though. It yearns for the ambiguity. It wants to challenge the audience with what truly happened. The judge declares a mistrial because the jury remained deadlocked throughout deliberations. Pete paid off one of the jurors. That is known. However, two other jurors also couldn't proclaim Emily as guilty. As such, Perry did his job. The system doesn't allow for anyone to feel successful or victorious in this moment though. Both Perry and Barnes have had their outrageous moments of anger. That cruelty has essentially destroyed Perry's relationships with Pete and Lupe. The future may be bright for him. But he also has to accept not knowing the answer to everything in this world. He is a man who wants to believe in the law. He trusts that people will seek the right form of justice when they know the truth. He also feels a personal claim to this case. He has to be the one to prove what actually occurred. In reality, Hamilton Burger and Pete take down the church by exposing their financial crimes. Holcomb has Ennis killed because he probably sees him as a liable. Emily accepts Birdy's offer to be a mother once more even while knowing this baby isn't Charlie. The hooks in this case hit such a personal level for so many people across the city. The world still moves forward though. Sister Alice escapes her mother for the first time in her life. That action itself is huge for her personal growth. But it's still unclear just how much control she had over the church and the events that played out across the season. How much did she genuinely believe? How much was she conditioned to accept because her mother abused her for so many years? How much of it actually matters? Again, Perry yearns for those answers. He can't hold onto the personal ambiguity that lingers over this case. He has to move onto the next one. He can't allow the past to prevent him from embracing the future. He has a bright career ahead of him. One that Della has already mapped out with such brilliant precision. He acknowledges that and accepts it. That is so wonderful to see. Mason & Associates may be dysfunctional. Perry's outbursts may always be destined to bring the firm to the brink of destruction. They can still do some good. Emily is a free woman once more. She gets to choose how to live her life. That's her comfort. Everyone else should have that same luxury. It's not on Perry to feel as if there is some unfinished business. He just has to pick himself up and get to work. It's as resolved as he can expect it to be. He needs to cope with that even if the show suggests something deeper and more profound that was lost along the way.