Still, it’s fair to say the time away has not been kind to Mr. Mason. For one thing, he has already retreated from the field of criminal law, despite having successfully navigated his very first, and very complicated, case as a defense attorney during the previous season: the defense of a bereaved mother, Emily Dodson (Gayle Rankin), from the charge of murdering her own baby.
The Return of ‘Perry Mason’
The second season of the HBO series, which is based on an Erle Stanley Gardner book series that inspired a classic TV courtroom drama, begins on March 6.
Through a harrowing dream sequence, we learn that Dodson has since drowned herself after months of sending unanswered postcards to Perry demanding to know what the point of it all was. Perry has no more of an answer to that than Emily did; perhaps that’s why he races a motorcycle he was given by a client until he crashes. It’s not as if he has his family farm to give him solace: That was sold long ago to Lupe (Veronica Falcón), Perry’s enterprising bootlegger ex-girlfriend.
Perry’s current and decidedly lower-stakes focus now is civil law, and his most recent gig is representing the grocery store impresario Sunny Gryce (Sean Astin) against a former employee (Matt Bush) who invented many of Sunny’s successful sales techniques and then used them to start his own store. Perry has no taste for hanging this poor guy out to dry, but he is a very good attorney, as it turns out, and he does what he has to until a favorable verdict is won.
The job seems good enough for Della Street (Juliet Rylance), Perry’s assistant and de facto co-counsel, who takes advantage of their steady stream of paying clients to hire an actual secretary (Jee Young Han) to do the work she herself was once tasked with. The civil case work is much less beneficial, however, to the Black ex-cop turned private investigator Paul Drake (Chris Chalk), whose new baby demands a regular source of income that Perry is no longer able to provide. Perry’s former partner, Pete Strickland (Shea Whigham), is able to help by providing Paul with some surveillance work for the ambitious (and, like his friend Della, secretly gay) district attorney Hamilton Burger (Justin Kirk) … but Paul’s family still makes a point of inviting Perry to the cookout when his birthday rolls around. Paul’s wife, Grace (Diarra Kilpatrick), at least, is aware of where his bread can truly be buttered.
While Perry quietly rages against his new role as the defender of the petit bourgeois and Della entertains the offer of a date from a woman she encounters at a restaurant — whose gaydar, it seems, is next-gen — the case that will seemingly dominate the season unfolds. A scion of privilege named Brooks McCutcheon (Tommy Dewey), son of a ruthless magnate named Lydell (Paul Raci), spends his days choking his sex partners behind his wife’s back, his nights torching the speakeasy boats of the competition, and is obsessed with trying to convince somebody, anybody, that there is an audience for baseball in Los Angeles. (He is at least two decades ahead of his time in this respect, at least.)