Season 2, Episode 4: ‘Chapter Twelve’
Life, like a murder case, has its ups and downs. First, the down: Perry, Paul and Della have learned that the brothers Mateo and Rafael Gallardo have been lying and did indeed murder Brooks McCutcheon. Now, the up: Perry, Paul and Della all hooked up. Call it a glass-half-full situation.
First, let’s focus on the amorous success of our three heroes. Della scores with her screenwriter inamorata, Anita, at Anita’s retreat in Palm Springs. Paul and his wife, Clara, carve out a little alone time during a rare 40-minute stretch when they’re alone in their crowded house. (Her sultry dance to Louis Armstrong proves persuasive.) And Perry seems downright stunned to discover the fetching schoolteacher Miss Aimes at his door during the small hours.
Miss Aimes’s visit caps off the miserable days during which Perry learned of the Gallardos’ guilt, which stretch into a long night during which he briefly takes Lydell McCutcheon’s prize racehorse out for a joyride as retaliation for the negative headlines McCutcheon’s pals have been planting about him in the press. (No one does pointlessly petty like Perry.) It all culminates when Perry shows up at school to pick up his son and winds up socking another parent for calling him “Maggot Mason,” per the nickname generated by the radio firebrand “Fighting” Frank Finnerty (John DiMaggio).
Is it reasonable to assume that decking that dude is part of what attracts Miss Aimes to Perry? I’ve never known an educator to respond to an outburst of violence on school grounds by thinking, “Ooh, that guy’s a catch!” Perhaps it’s Perry’s willingness to stick up for himself, and by extension his clients — guilty or not, they’re the victims of vituperative racism among the city’s chattering class — that revs her engine. Either way, we officially have ourselves another new love interest for one of our legal eagles.
I wonder if there might be another on the way, too. As part of her research into Brooks McCutcheon’s stadium scheme, Della pays another visit to Camilla Nygaard. A true Renaissance woman, Camilla teaches piano and researches nutrition when she isn’t overseeing her oil empire. Most important, she encourages Della to be direct about her frustration with Perry’s moodiness and about her ambition to have her name on the firm’s front door.
The Return of ‘Perry Mason’
The second season of the HBO show, which is based on an Erle Stanley Gardner book series that inspired a classic TV courtroom drama, began on March 6.
Sure, Nygaard may just be providing inspiration as a powerful woman — or, in a more sinister possibility, attempting to throw Della off the scent of her own potential involvement in Brooks’s murder. But considering Della’s already established wandering eye, I don’t think we can completely rule out the possibility of another affair.
Getting back to business, Paul is the linchpin figure this week. (Like Juliet Rylance, Chris Chalk has an intense screen presence during his solo sequences that more than compensates for the absence of the title character.) Paul has every confidence that his conclusions about the murder weapon were correct and that the Gallardos used it, just as they later confessed to Perry and Della from jail. But that’s just it: Their confession lines up exactly with what the prosecutors Hamilton Burger and Thomas Milligan say took place. How often does that happen? Paul was a cop long enough to learn that the official story is rarely the correct one.
So he does some more digging, bribing the gun dealer who provided the weapon to the Gallardos into admitting that they rented the piece every day for target practice. Where would they get that kind of money, Paul wonders? And is it a coincidence that Brooks’s murder required the skills of an expert marksman?
The final scene hints at an answer. Using one of Rafael’s prison drawings as a guide, Mateo’s wife, Sofia, retrieves a huge cache of cash from beneath a nearby car. And since Perry is, ahem, busy at that moment, I’ll provide you a theory of my own about it: The Gallardos were paid to assassinate Brooks in such a way as to make it look like a mugging gone wrong.
By whom, though? Was it his disapproving father? A business competitor like Camilla? A rival in the semi-legal casino business? Could it have to do with his violent sexual proclivities, which it seems left Noreen Lawson — the sister of the city councilman in charge of the ward where Brooks’s stadium was to be erected — in her mentally diminished state?
Perry, Paul and Della aren’t the only people searching for answers about Brooks, by the way. His employee turned successor aboard the casino boat, Detective Holcomb, is on the hunt for how the guy managed to procure free food. More precisely, he is eager to know how Brooks and his business partners were making money off the operation, since he isn’t seeing a dime. Stumbling upon the man whom Brooks’s father, Lydell, maimed in the previous episode, he learns that Brooks was accepting huge shipments of produce from offshore vessels on a regular basis — from the McCutcheon shipping fleet, no less.
Why bring in fruits and veggies in such an expensive manner when California is overflowing with them? Was daddy dearest aware his son was skimming from the family operation? Or, as I suspect, was there a lot more aboard those ships than just potatoes?
From the case files:
The show’s director of photography, Darran Tiernan, and the director Jessica Lowrey sure know how to light a scene. The huge blue-white stadium lights that illuminate Perry’s devil-may-care ride on that racehorse, the golden sun that illuminates Della and Anita as they kiss and undress, even the familiar flicker of a movie-theater newsreel taken in by Perry (and the sex worker he pays double to leave him alone) — gorgeous stuff from start to finish.
“He seems a bit broken,” Camilla says of Perry, nailing it. In fact, it seems she is going to assess his character even more accurately when she says, “It can be a bit difficult to be in the trenches.” But after a pregnant pause, she adds, “with someone like that,” indicating that she was speaking metaphorically instead of speaking about his experience during the Great War. That remains his hero-slash-villain origin story, as far as I’m concerned.
At the start of the episode, it’s unclear whether Paul will hand over the murder weapon to Perry. Then, it seems as if they and Della might cover it up together. Then it seems as if Perry might quit the case rather than defend guilty men. In all three cases, idealism and illegality go hand in glove.