Perry Mason: Emily Dodson is the center of attention, guilty or not guilty?

Perry Mason. Photograph by Merrick Morton/HBO
Perry Mason. Photograph by Merrick Morton/HBO /

Perry Mason Episode 3: Is Emily Dodson guilty or not guilty?

Perry Mason Episode 3 opens with an excited Maynard Barnes holding a press conference to reveal the latest scintillating development in the kidnapping of Charlie Dodson. Above his head, he hoists the “purple prose” dictated between Charlie’s mother, Emily, and her lover George Gannon.

It’s quite the juicy story, no wonder a horde of reporters is clamoring for details. Barnes sells the story using actual details from George and Emily’s correspondence. Emily was upset she never got a cut of the money from Herman Baggerly’s estate, so she orchestrated the kidnapping with George and a few hired goons.

A disagreement occurred while divvying up the money that resulted in George’s death and the death of the men they hired — the men who were really killed by Detective Holcomb’s partner Ennis. Barnes is confident Emily will be hanged for her crime.

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Meanwhile, E.B. is seemingly unbothered by the possibility of his client being sentenced to death as he hosts a much more subdued gathering of the press while getting a barbershop touch-up.

With all eyes now on Emily — the much more interesting angle — Matthew is declared innocent and the lawyer is confident he can do the same for his wife (despite him not really doing anything at all for Matthew). Della Street is not as confident as E.B. and evidently displeased with his blasé attitude.

Cut to Perry Mason watching yet another Sister Alice sermon, this one far more subdued than the last. While Alice captivates her audience, Mason slips into the hallowed church halls to do a little exploration of his own.

Once finished, Alice gets her IV fluids of vitamins and saline to keep her strong — she’s the emblem of the congregation, more like a product than a person at times. Mason questions the church elders about former member George Gannon. They’re horrified to learn he committed such unsavory acts, although Alice appears more intrigued by Mason himself.

She tells him God is always with him, but there is a dark, biting undercurrent to the detective’s response, “God left me in France.” Considering what we know about his time overseas, it’s not hard to see why he’s less than impressed with the religious theatrics.

At the jailhouse, E.B. and Della meet with the sullen Dodson couple, both of whom are stewing in their respective grief and anger. E.B. wants them to put on a brave and united front to help sway the jury. They need Matthew to act like a supportive husband.

Perry Mason Episode 3: Emily’s arraignment is botched

A task easier said than done since Matthew can’t help but blow up at his wife about her affair with George. Not that his hands are clean either, what with his gambling and frequent lies.

Nevertheless, his jabs at Emily seem to hit a sore spot as he decries, “You killed our Charlie boy!”  Emily loses her cool and screams at him to shut up. It’s evident his accusation is something she has considered and tortured herself over.

Mason moseys over to the morgue once again, this time with Pete in tow. Together they take a peek at the Polish guys Ennis killed. George’s body was taken to county because of the location of his “love roost,” so Mason and his partner aren’t able to look at him.

Still, something seems off with the corpse they do have. He has a severe bruise on his neck, one the coroner assumes is from someone stepping on his throat until the hyoid bone snapped.

Over a quick lunch, Mason and Pete parse these new details. Why would George kill the two men, one of whom wasn’t even fully dead — hence why he crushed his throat with his penny loafers, then return home and get his shotgun?

Pete suggests he couldn’t live with the guilt of the murders as a religiously devout man, but then why add another unforgivable sin to the list with suicide? They also can’t get the personal effects (like clothes or wallets), because of course, Holcomb and Ennis already scooped them up.

Mason sends Pete on a mission of his own to follow up on some references. He heads to the precinct to come face to face with the jerk that is Commander Joe Morton. He’s not exactly helpful in assisting Mason to get a crime scene inventory, but the charming P.I. finds a secretary who might be more inclined to help him out.

He tries to follow up on his lead involving Officer Drake. Drake isn’t inclined to help him when Mason asks if he can question him about the case report. Even worse, Ennis happens to notice Mason chatting with Drake.

Creepy guy that he is, Ennis follows Drake and his pregnant wife Clara to the market where he not-so-subtly threatens Drake and his family if he opens his mouth around any private investigators, specifically Perry Mason. Of course, he does it under the guise of them being “friends,” buying them produce and whatnot. Then he follows up with, “Life can be rough on people who’ve got no friends.”

Emily’s second arraignment does not go according to plan in the slightest. For starters, she first says she’s guilty, causing a commotion in the courtroom. Since she said it so quietly, she changes her plea to not guilty, but it’s clear Emily feels like Charlie’s death was her responsibility.

Worse still for the Dodsons, the judge agrees with the D.A. to set her bail at an exorbitant price of $25,000 due to the gravity of the charges filed against her.

Perry Mason Episode 3: Della lashes out at Mason

Needless to say, Della is not pleased with Mason for handing over the letters in the first place, despite his arguments that it was his legal obligation. Plus, he got Matthew off the hook, but only by putting Emily’s head on the platter.

In the matter of public opinion, she’s already been declared guilty. Mason’s misogyny rears its ugly head as he continues to blame Emily for just about everything. Della calls him out on it. Why is that Emily is suddenly the main target? Maybe because she’s a woman who is now seen as someone with loose morals and Matthew has money? She hits the nail on the head.

“If she’s feeling guilty it’s because every man around her is saying she is!”

Regrouping with Pete, Mason gets a new lead to follow on the George Gannon case. Apparently, he spent some time working at a casino called Lucky Lagoon. Next assignment for his partner: Find and follow up on any report filed by Officer Drake.

As for Emily, jail is no picnic, but at least she has Sister Alice in her corner. The evangelist shows up to offer her some advice and pearls of wisdom, even alluding to having fallen in love with the wrong man herself in the past. She also seems to help Emily understand that Charlie’s death was not her fault.

Perry Mason Episode 3
Perry Mason Episode 3 – Photograph by Merrick Morton/HBO /

To kill two birds with one stone, Mason invites Lupe along with him to the casino. Those two seem to live a charmed life, taking impromptu air rides and basking in one another’s company. At the “den of sin,” the P.I. speaks with a man named Al Howard who says George up and quit one day raving about the insidious nature of the place. I’m guessing when he got immersed in the church.

Back on his trail to figure out what Officer Drake is hiding, Mason gets punched in the stomach a few times instead of gleaning any new information. His keen eye detected Drake’s kidnapping write-up was much different from his past reports, which were full of details. He knows Drake doctored up the report, but Drake isn’t going to risk his family to get caught chatting with a private investigator.

As for Ennis, he’s busy checking in at a brothel, supposedly one he has a vested stake in, although he’s not there for pleasure on this trip. Picking up cash for the week, he gets a warning from the madame about a man named Mr. Woo Sing, who is not too happy with the way the George case is being covered. Ennis says his boss shouldn’t worry. He’s got it handled. But the madame informs him a man named Mason was sniffing around the Lucky Lagoon, unnerving the detective.

Emily’s defense team is falling apart at the seams. Something is going on with E.B., between his penchant for distraction, losing his train of thought, and mysterious blood droplets in the sink. He’s off his game in a big way.

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Theatrics are the focal point of yet another Sister Alice sermon at the church; this one includes a prop boat! While getting ready to take the stage for one of her 21 weekly performances, Alice and her mother argue over Emily’s innocence. Birdy is not convinced Emily’s hands are clean, no matter what her daughter believes.

To make matters worse, he’s frustrated with Mason’s investigative work and doesn’t understand Drake’s importance to the case. The final kick in the pants comes when Baggerly fires them! Desperate, he reaches out to an old friend in the hopes he can get a short-term loan to get Emily out on bail.

Perry Mason Episode 3: E.B. gets desperate to help Emily

Unfortunately, his ex-colleague refuses to give him any money and also threatens E.B. to keep his nose clean since something they did back in the day could arise if Barnes goes digging. E.B. was involved in something unsavory with the unnamed man in the past, an act that almost got him disbarred. The other attorney advises E.B. on the Dodson case, encouraging him to get her a plea deal and move on.

At home, Drake turns to alcohol to soothe his conscious after giving Mason a beatdown. He discloses his troubled thoughts to his wife. Clara is quick to shut down any potential misgivings Drake may have. She essentially says he should shut up and be grateful to Ennis instead of starting trouble by getting involved in Mason’s investigation.

Despite his blow-up at Emily, Matthew doesn’t appear to believe she’s a cold-hearted conspirator. His father, on the other hand, calls her a beacon of “degenerate femininity,” just like Matthew’s mother. To which Matthew bristles and laments that his dear old dad abandoned them, living it up large while they were penny-pinching.

Baggerly wants to atone for his past mistakes as a father. His plan for doing so? Recruiting Matthew to help him build a “city of faith” called Girard, far away from the “corruption of Los Angeles.”

Unfortunately, things are getting steadily worse for poor Emily. Della arrives at the jailhouse to file a new retainer and notices Barbara, Dodson’s court-assigned matron, is smoking a cigarette in the lobby. Considering Barbara’s only job is to stick by Emily at all times, that’s not a good sign.

Della demands the clerk to take her to Emily. What she finds is a sickly sight. Both Holcomb and Ennis locked themselves in a supply closet to “slap” a confession out of the grieving mother. By the time Della arrives to save her, Ennis is already tucking a confession into his pocket. Ugh.

How does Perry Mason Episode 3 end?

Toward the end of Perry Mason Episode 3, Mason gets some good news. Drake relents despite his wife’s warnings and seeks out Mason. He tells him how the blood trail went up to the roof and not down in the alley as Ennis and Holcomb changed it.

He also gives him the dentures he found — which we know were likely George’s based on Al Howard referring to his former employee’s “cheap dentures” and the piece Mason found in his bloody head in the last episode. Mason might be fired, but as he told his partner, the case has his hooks in him, and he believes in Emily’s innocence now.

With the teeth plate in hand, Mason and Pete race to the county morgue to find George’s body before its cremated. Carefully, the detective slides it into his mouth, noting that it fits snugly along the other half, confirming George was present when and where the other men were murdered, his body later moved and staged to look like a suicide.

“Who killed you?” Mason wonders.

At the church, Alice puts on her extravagant show of saving sinners on a boat at sea before erupting from her hidden place and relishing in the roaring cheers of the crowd. Except, something isn’t quite right, as she starts to hear a rush in her ears and voices in the distance. Suddenly, Alice collapses and starts having some sort of fit.

Perry Mason Episode 3 ends with Birdy rushing to her daughter’s side along with a doctor. Alice slowly comes to, telling her mother they don’t have to worry about Charlie anymore — because she’s going to resurrect him.

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Odds & Ends from Perry Mason Episode 3

  • Perry Mason feels like what Penny Dreadful: City of Angels tried and failed to be. Also, I find it amusing both shows have a version of real-life radio evangelist Aimee Semple McPherson.
  • I wanted to hear the end of Virgil’s story about the guy who dresses as a cherub!
  • Did anyone else think the brothel scene was kind of racist? I’m also not entirely sure what its point was in the overall plot just yet.
  • Something I noticed when Mason was exploring the artifacts at the church was a picture labeled “child adoption” behind a display case. And as The New York Times recap mentioned, Alice’s statement about Emily not killing the child “any more than I did — bad men did that,” makes her seem mighty suspicious suddenly.

What did you think about Perry Mason Episode 3? Do you believe Emily Dodson is innocent? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below.

New episodes of Perry Mason air Sunday nights at 9:00 p.m. ET/PT on HBO.