Perry predictably involves himself in the Brooks McCutcheon murder in an episode with a bit more action, nastiness, and forward momentum than the premiere.
This recap of Perry Mason Season 2 Episode 2, “Chapter 10”, contains spoilers.
Perry Mason practiced civil law for approximately one episode before remembering his true calling, which as we all know is criminal defense, ideally in the highest-profile cases possible. Perry might pretend otherwise; he might grumble about the media, the prejudicial system, the money men pressing flesh and calling in favors everywhere he turns, often at the expense of people he cares about. But Perry Mason in court, and in front of the press, is the smuggest we’ve seen him in the two hours of the HBO show’s sophomore season. He’s home.
Perry Mason Season 2 Episode 2 Recap
Who is blamed for Brooks’s murder?
We still don’t know who killed useless oil heir Brooks McCutcheon, but we know it wasn’t the Gallardo brothers, Mateo and Rafael, two Mexican-Americans who have been accused of the crime on the basis of incredibly flimsy evidence and a deeply racist system that is bending over backward to prosecute them anyway. It’s a career-making case for D.A. Hamilton Burger, and he has put his best man on the job – Thomas Milligan (an indignant Mark O’Brien).
Everyone knows, or at least seems to suspect, that the Gallardo brothers didn’t do it. The issue is in convincing people they should care, 30s Los Angeles not exactly putting a premium on non-white lives. Perry and Della Street are initially reluctant to take the case, ostensibly because they no longer practice criminal law but probably also, one assumes, because on paper it’s hopeless, but as two of the only people in the City of Angels with a moral compass that remains magnetized, they quickly start getting involved – at first without even telling each other.
Why do Perry and Della take on the case?
I like the different ways that Perry and Della go about things; the former breaks into the impound lot where the car Brooks was shot in is being stored, while Della cozies up to Burger at a charity event to try and silver-tongue him into a plea. They’re different approaches with the same end goal – to find a justification to get involved with the case. For Perry, improper bullet trajectories poke holes in the story; for Della, the surety with which two innocent men will have to take the fall for someone else reminds her she has a responsibility to the truth. Both decide to take the case, and even find a convenient way to fund the defense, suckering greedy grocer Sunny Gryce into a monthly retainer while they research “easy target” acquisitions in the neighborhood for him.
The only missing piece is Paul Drake as an investigator, especially since he’s still smarting from the job with Pete Strickland that Perry threw his way turning out to be fitting up a relatively innocent guy. Perry’s frankness about that – he thought Strickland would play it straight – and unsureness about what’s coming are both enough to compel Paul to join the team. If nothing else, he respects the honesty.
“Chapter Ten” has some of the forward momentum, action, and nastiness that the premiere lacked. You’ve got Perry doing some actual sleuthing. You’ve also got Perry and Paul sneaking aboard Brooks’s gambling boat, which we learn is falling apart and was considerably indebted to various contractors, getting jumped by Detective Holcomb’s goons, and making a public escape. And we have Brooks’s father’s trigger man, Crippen, crushing the head of the ship’s one remaining supplier in a vice like a ripe watermelon.
This is the kind of show, I think, that is better than people think but won’t ever get the credit it probably deserves. It’s a lavish banquet of superb actors delivering note-perfect performances, and it’s also a twisty, conspiratorial crime mystery with great period detail and just-right moral sensibilities. It should be a mega-hit, but it remains a well-liked but not especially widely-watched bit of entertainment, lacking some of that prestige flair. Perhaps now that The Last of Us has stopped gobbling up all the attention, it’ll carve out a bit more space for itself.
You can stream Perry Mason Season 2 Episode 2, “Chapter 10” exclusively on HBO and HBO Max.