SPOILER: Disclaimer for ending of episode in the last paragraph. As we hit the halfway point in Perry Mason, I am so excited to say that the show has mostly found its footing. We left off last week with Sister Alice making the proclamation that she can resurrect Charlie Dodson after having her seizure. This week we start off with the ripple effects of that action (involving worshipers outside the church and her home, involving some snakes) and the church itself trying to control the response. Meanwhile, we deal with Mason and Strickland digging deeper into the Dodson case by getting involved with autopsy man Virgil (Jefferson Mays), to prove if a fourth man was involved in the kidnapping. The most interesting and most engaging aspect of this episode would have to be E.B essentially losing his grip on everything around him.
Before I go further into this episode, I just want to stress how brilliant of an actor Jonathan Lithgow is. A character like E.B Jonathan could’ve easily gone a certain way as an aging, out of touch, senile member of the legal system. What Lithgow does is shade this character in a light of someone who’s just starting to realize that the world he once knew is no more. From a scene of pleading with Emily Dodson (who is awaiting her sentencing) to a fight with Della Street, you see a real person in Lithgow’s eyes. Even in his sparring matches against the D.A (Stephen Root) so far this season, the arch of E.B is something of true tragic poeticism. If Lithgow is not nominated or wins an Emmy, then one of the finest television performances in recent memory will not have gotten the respect it deserves.
Besides the arch of E.B, this episode also had a lot of entertaining lighter moments that moved the episode along. Mason and Strickland’s investigation into finding that mysterious fourth man mines some great comedy between the characters and gives us some surprising revelations. We even divulge into the life of Della Street and learn more about her relationship and personal connection with E.B. Those elements combined allow us to not only learn more about our characters, but let us know just how severe the toll of this case is. While we don’t get much more info on characters like Officer Drake, it’s interesting to dig deeper into our main players.
The only real gripe I have with anything in this episode is a subplot involving Mason and his lady Friend Lupe Gibbs. In its intent, it’s nothing more than a way to flesh out our protagonist by learning more about his personal life. While in early episodes it’s played as heightened comedy, at the season’s halfway point it comes across as nothing more than a place to spew dialogue. That’s a relatively minor contrivance due to the sadness and beauty of the ending. In the final moments of E.B’s possible suicide (where he sees a graceful hummingbird at a feeder he placed at his home in earlier episodes), it ends and sets the stages of what’s to come. The case of Charlie Dodson is one that’s shaping and shaped these characters' lives, so a loss of this kind can certainly change the dynamic in the resolution.