Episode five of Perry Mason doesn’t necessarily shed the many weaknesses exhibited in the first four episodes. The speed is perilous in the first half of the episode with a predictable plot line. The aimlessness of the story becomes evident as even a shocking twist at the end of episode four cannot shake up the story.
However, Perry Mason episode five still manages to become the best episode of the series since the first episode. The main reason for this is a change of gears in the second half of the episode that pushes characters into position.
On this platform, I have made it a point to highlight the predictability and slow speed of every Perry Mason episode. Someone fond of the series and a regular reader of our content recently suggested that the series is a typical slow-burn noir.
I don’t think a slow-burn story has an excuse for being too predictable and uninteresting. True Detective was also a slow burn, but it had interesting characters and a steady story to keep things moving. In the case of Perry Mason, the character development is too flat to make it an interesting and easy watch.
However, the second part of episode five does ratchet things up a notch. The good guys become leaner and faster after the passing of their leader, EB.
First, let’s talk about episode five.
What Happened in Perry Mason Episode Five?
A lot of thing’s happened in episode five of Perry Mason. Here are the key highlights to round it up.
The only thing left to confirm EB’s demise was a body. He was in the process of committing suicide in the episode four. In episode five, his death is confirmed in the first scene. Della finds him dead and phones Perry.
Perry and Della take EB’s body and belongings up to his only living son up North. If we don’t see EB’s son coming back in the series later, I think this is another few minutes of valuable time wasted.
Meanwhile, Sister Alice is going through a purple patch. After defying the wealthy Elders of her congregation in the previous episode, the Sister is finally free to take unilateral decisions without a bunch of men showing up at her doorstep with constipated faces.
The wealthy donors leave a financial hole in the congregation. However, Sister Alice manages to wring out $25,000 from the finances to bail out Emily Dodson from the throes of prison.
Later in the episode, we see the Sister somehow managing to make a handicapped man stand up on his feet. The scene is very well shot, one of the best in the series, and effectively portrays the hysteria Sister Alice can generate.
Perry and Della
Perry and Della finally start working together instead of jibing at each other cynically. After coming back from up North, Della has to deal with a court-appointed prosecutor tasked to defend Emily Dodson. It is clear from the beginning that he is not up for the job.
Perry on the other hand decides to visit his wife and son. The death of EB seems to have shaken him up. Perhaps the indifference EB’s son shows at his father’s death scares Perry into seeing his son more.
We also get a chance to meet Perry’s ex-wife. The few moments there serve as a decent window into Perry’s past as a husband and father.
However, the greatest scene of the episode comes when Perry learns about the inept court-appointed public prosecutor. With sheer impudence and show of force, Perry kicks him out of EB’s office, drunk, and visits Della to rant about their collective predicament.
As Perry rattles on about the sorry state of affair they’re in, Della gets an idea. Perry’s rant comes across as a real courtroom argument and Della sees an opportunity in this.
She types out a letter saying Perry had been an apprentice of EB for the past two years. She signs the letter as EB, faking his signature. Furthermore, she manages to find a person willing to tell Perry how to cheat on the bar exam. The duo also manage to convince Emily Dodson to allow Perry to represent her in court.
Thus, we finally see Perry becoming a lawyer in the final scene of the episode.
The episode also takes time to show us how Officer Drake is coming along. With different incidents during the episode, we see Drake questioning his place in society as a black police officer in a segregated society.
There are clear indications that the good officer will take a momentous step in the following episodes of the series.
A Welcome Change in Speed, But Problems Remain in Perry Mason Episode Five
Setting up Perry to defend Emily Dodson was an interesting step. It would have seemed a more natural direction if there was a previous mention of Perry’s interest in pursuing law as a career. Nevertheless, it is an effective way to move the story forward even if the move is purely tactical.
The fact that Perry doesn’t object to this move for a second shows how invested he is in the case.
The problems in the episode are related to some aspects of character development.
Inspector Drake was always going to be an important character. The scenes we see him in would have been much better if they had come earlier in the series.
On one side, we have Perry and Della becoming leaner and sharper to take on the corrupt DA. It would have been great if we had Drake in similar action. However, his character arc is still lagging and it juxtaposes poorly with the rest of the episode. Drake is one of my favorite characters in the Perry Mason series and he should have had more screen time before episode five.
The one surprise package of the series is Sister Alice. Her quest to resurrect the infant is an interesting side story to go along with the trial of Emily Dodson. Like Perry and Della, the Sister is also trying to protect Emily. However, her objectives and methods don’t match with anyone else. This is a sub-plot that could either elevate the whole story or turn it into a train wreck. For the sake of wholesome entertainment, let’s hope it is the former.