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Perry Mason - Chapter Two- Review

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1.02 - "Chapter Two”
Written by Rolin Jones & Ron Fitzgerald
Directed by Tim Van Patten
Reviewed by KathM

So, wow. I was going to watch tonight’s episode and combine this review with that one, but there is so much going on that isn’t possible. So much happened that my head is still spinning. Let’s recap:

Perry: In addition to finding case-shaped clues, our hero also suffered from some serious nightmares of his time commanding troops during the war. His fight scenes are uncomfortably real, brilliantly shot, and tell us a lot about Perry as a man both then and now. And "then" was not a happy place to be.

Matthew Dodson is Herman Baggely’s illegitimate son, which explains where the $100,000 ransom money came from. He also finds himself under arrest for Charlie’s murder because his alibi during the kidnapping doesn’t stick (he was gambling illegally when the tot was taken).

Emily Dodson continues to sleepwalk through the duties of being the mother of a murdered child whose husband is in jail for the crime. She goes to pick out a coffin with Della but has no energy to make decisions. Everything is too much for Emily, and I can’t blame her. I don’t think I could pick out a coffin for someone I loved no matter how they died. Her cat-loving neighbor tells Perry that Emily was on the phone constantly the night Charlie disappeared, and indeed Perry can see her picking one up now from his vantage point on the cat lady’s porch.

When Perry gets the address she’s been calling he heads over and finds the body of George, one of the kidnappers, half of his head blown off, a typed confession conveniently placed on the bedside table. Love letters in the house link him to Emily, who falls down on the floor screaming when Perry tells her of George’s death. Burnt cash in the fireplace tells us that Georgie has been doing more than wooing Emily, like maybe getting some inside info so he and his partners in crime could kidnap the kid. Did she know what he was doing? Did she help plan it? Part of me feels like there’s still something off about Emily, maybe it has something to do with the way she can’t meet anyone’s eye. Since the idea going around that it was a kidnapping gone wrong, maybe Emily wanted it to go right so she and Charlie could ride off into the sunset with George and a cut of the ransom money.

We meet Paul Drake, reimagined here as a married African American policeman who seems so squeaky clean he’s too perfect for words. He patrols the “colored” parts of town, knowing that he’s never going to get much farther than a patrolman if he’s lucky. As the white detectives who killed Charline’s kidnappers scoff at Paul when he brings them new evidence and tries to share his theories, there are no “colored detectives”. You found the bodies of two of the kidnappers in the hotel room, good boy. Now go back to patrolling and mediating domestic disputes on the colored side of town. Paul’s got good intuition but isn’t allowed to use it, but that doesn’t mean he won’t crack the case wide open. If (or once) he and Perry team up, they should be unstoppable. I do worry about how it’s going to go for Paul, though. It is the 30’s, after all, and we don’t know how color blind Perry and his crew actually are.

E.B. continues to advocate for his client Matthew Dodson to the exclusion of any other evidence or theories. He is positively gleeful when Emily Dodson is arrested because it sets his client free. No matter that Perry (mostly) and Della don’t think she’s guilty; in E.B,’s mind, all that matters is that his own client got off. I’m starting to see little cracks in the pedestal Perry has put E.B. on for all these years.

Sister Alice. I just can’t. The reason I had so much trouble with this week’s review was that every time I tried to write it the whole thing became pages of how “Everything Tatiana Maslany Does Is Art”. I will try and fangirl less now, but it’s hard.

Sister Alice, based on real-life evangelist/revivalist Aimee Semple McPherson, is a storm in a little Harlow blonde teacup. She’s hard to pin down. One moment she’s preaching passionately and athletically to her L.A. audience and her “friends” across the country on their “radio boxes”, the next she’s standing almost meekly in front of her mother asking whether she can go lie down now that the show’s over.

But she's capable of what seems like bits of teenage rebellion, as evidenced by her insistence that the church not only host but pay for Charlie’s funeral when mom Birdie (Lilli Taylor, who is wound so tight she could spring at any moment) wants nothing less. I get the feeling that Elder Baggerly will end up footing the bill.

Maslany steals every scene she’s in, even the ones where she does little more than holding Emily Dodson's hand to comfort her or seeks her mother’s approval about which bible verses to use in the sermon she’s going to give at Charlie Dodson’s funeral (while her mother complains about whether she’ll be able to find a good seat for Clark Gable). Can’t wait to see more of her and how she controls the show’s narrative after her spectacular off-script eulogy for Charlie. I'm also interested in learning more about the Birdy/Alice mother/daughter dynamic.

Charlie’s funeral was certainly interesting. Sister Alice, who her mother and the Elders of the Church assume will give an impassioned but pat speech about innocence lost with some vehement shouts about sin tossed in here and there, veers completely off script and puts the onus on the police brass to find the culprit and bring them to justice. In fact, she demands that they promise to find the killer(s) so Emily and Matthew can find peace. Did anyone else think she might accidentally knock the coffin over when she was busy inciting the crowd from the pulpit?

Her passionate words spur the members of the congregation, shouting at the police to take up Sister Alice’s demands while the police brass sit front and center in the audience and Birdy looks like she wants to sink into the earth. Perry, who peeks his head in, looks slightly amused by how uncomfortable the police look and a little intrigued by Sister Alice. As she leads Emily outside, presumably to the limo to take them to the cemetery, Emily the arrested for the murder of her son.
This is another example of what a great eye the director Tim Van Patten has. The scene of Emily being loaded into the paddy wagon while at the same time her son’s body is being loaded into the hearse in the hearse next to her is golden. The choice to shoot that scene from above really added to the moment.

Okay, that’s it for now...oh no, it isn’t! I do have one complaint:

Less ick, please. My most serious complaint about the series is that there is entirely too much gore and we don’t need to see every little bit. We see George all shot up in his bed, but we do not need a close-up of Perry rooting around in his mouth for a dental plate, we just don’t. Pay attention, HBO, and tone it down a bit, okay? Interestingly enough Paul finds a dental plate as well, in the place where one of the kidnappers who fell off the roof was found. Is there a dentist in our story’s future? If so, no close-ups of drilling.

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