Martin Carr reviews the fifth episode of Perry Mason…
With the demise of E B Jonathan Perry Mason has risen like a phoenix from the ashes. Back stories are given breadth, characters more depth and Sister Alice returns from her convalescence empowered. Being side swiped by an emotional sledgehammer causes people to re-evaluate, brings Della and Mason closer together and subtly introduces Perry the family man. Chemistry between Rylance and Rhys during their pilgrimage provides both actors with dramatic meat to chew on, whilst rejuvenating and reinvigorates a series which was becoming dangerously pedestrian.
Elsewhere the congregation reigned over by Sister Alice goes full on hell fire and miracle healing maniacal, as she demands a call to arms for Emily Dodson. Besotted masses, washed out invalids and religious fervour bring out the protesters brandishing infantile totems, gratuitous placards and cries of descent. Politically there is a fox in the chicken coop as Maynard Barnes pulls strings in a Svengali like fashion by placing puppets, manipulating officials and bending outcomes to his will.
There is a definitive sense of substance as Shea Whigham’s Strickland and Chris Chalk’s officer Drake bring both nuance, emotion and reality to the series as pressure gets applied. Blatant racism and subtler harassment are used in different ways to rile, obstruct and undermine them. Chalk and Whigham maximise on their screen time through gesture, inflection and delivery establishing them as supreme support in a cast already spoilt for choice.
However, where this chapter really pops is in two pivotal scenes towards the end which raise a smile and finally provide Perry Mason with some backbone. Forced into a corner, short on options and worn down by the fight Della and Mason share a space. What starts as a simple exchange morphs slowly into something with monumental repercussions. From the shadows steps a court room warrior armed to the teeth in an ill-fitting suit and brandishing conviction like a bayonet. It is a scene which hinges on the smallest look, the vaguest acknowledgement and then that eureka moment that finally sees Perry Mason gain some gumption.
What follows in a city diner through drizzle soaked glass is both an introduction to someone of note and some extremely clever visual exposition. Renewed, reformed and prepared to go into battle we find ourselves finally in the presence of Perry Mason. Move over Raymond Burr there is a new kid on the block.