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HBO's 'Perry Mason' Is Off to a Much Better Start than the Opening Season

By Jen Maravegias | TV | March 29, 2023 |

By Jen Maravegias | TV | March 29, 2023 |


The showrunners on HBO’s Perry Mason excel at finding the intersection of LA’s prohibition-era Haves and Have Nots and turning it into an eight-way interchange where their stories not only cross but elegantly merge into one another. As a team, Perry (Matthew Rhys) and his partner Della Street (Juliet Rylance) are still learning how to navigate the crosswalks when Season 2 begins about six months after the events in Season 1 came to a close.

It’s not a particularly comfortable place for Mason, who is suffering a crisis of confidence as well as wallowing in guilt over how Emily Dodson’s case shook out. He has confined their small law firm to a strict diet of civil lawsuits. They’ll pay the bills, but they’re boring him and Della to tears. Civil cases also mean they have no work to give Paul Drake (Chris Chalk), who gave up his place on the police force to work for them.

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Of course, all of that was never going to last very long. When the society pages’ favorite son is found shot to death in his convertible, the down-and-out Gallardo Brothers (Peter Mendoza and Fabrizio Guido) are quickly charged with his murder. Perry Mason is the first person their family turns to for help.

As in Season 1, everything is more complicated than it seems on the surface. Under his smooth Golden Boy exterior, Brooks McCutcheon (Tommy Dewey from the short-lived Pivoting) is a dangerously inept man beholden to his father’s wealth and bitter about it. He has plans of his own that just never seem to work out and he has become a liability to his father, cartoonishly evil oilman Lydell McCutcheon (Paul Raci, Sound Of Metal). Might there be motive for murder there? Or elsewhere in Brooks’ complicated private life? Probably! Perry Mason will find out if there is, no matter who tries to warn him off of the case.

In the same way that part of the Season 1 storyline was inspired by historical events, this season’s McCutcheon case is inspired by the real-life events of the Greystone Mansion Murders. We should expect a lot of juicy, high-society secrets to get spilled.

In the opening episodes of the season, we’re reintroduced to many of the characters familiar from Season 1 like District Attorney Hamilton “Ham” Burger played by Justin Kirk. Veronica Falcón’s bar owner/pilot Lupe Gibbs, shady investigator Pete Strickland (Shea Whigham), and corrupt cop Gene Holcomb played by Eric Lange. Gretchen Mol also returns as Perry’s estranged ex-wife, and we get a good look at Perry’s strained relationship with his son, Teddy (Jack Eyman). This serves as an introduction to his winsome teacher, Ginny Aimes (Katherine Waterston who played Tina Goldstein in the Fantastic Beasts trilogy) who catches Mason’s eye. Wink wink.

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We’re introduced to a new set of supporting characters as well, most of whom populate the upper echelons of L.A. society. We meet Paul Drake’s extended family while he is forced to live with his in-laws since Perry can’t pay him as the season opens. Anita St. Pierre (Severance’s Jen Tullock) is introduced as a potential disruptive love interest for Della, who seems intent on winning her away from Hazel.

The season is off to a fiery start and the story already feels more cohesive than in Season 1. If you’ve read any Raymond Chandler you’ll see a lot of the plot points coming, but that doesn’t make it any less enjoyable. At this point, in our collective unconscious, the story of the down-on-his-luck PI trying to make good as a way to clear his conscious is an archetype. We’re all pretty clear on what the end of this journey will be. It’s which roads they take, and where they intersect that’s keeping us on the hook.

New episodes of Perry Mason air Monday nights on HBO and are available to stream on HBOMax.