Perry Mason Season 1, Episode 4 recap: E.B. makes a devastating decision

Shea Whigham in Perry Mason Season 1, Episode 4 - Photograph by Merrick Morton/HBO
Shea Whigham in Perry Mason Season 1, Episode 4 - Photograph by Merrick Morton/HBO /

Episode 4 of Perry Mason sees E.B. stuck between a rock and a hard place.

The fourth episode of Perry Mason opens with a rather shocking scene involving Alice and a “gift”  from some of her constituents. Having taken ill, she resides at home but still receives visitors from the church who come to visit.

A seemingly innocuous church-going family arrives with a cherubic little girl carrying a box of sweets — or so she says. Alice opens the box, expecting something delicious, and is greeted by massive black snakes.

All three family members start yelling at Alice, telling her she is befouling God’s good name, etc. The scene lets us know that the churchgoers are not taking the idea of Alice “resurrecting” anyone very well. Given the timeframe, it’s apparent the religious zealots feel she’s channeling some much darker than God, especially if she’s suggesting a form of necromancy.

Perry Mason and Phil hunt for the mysterious fourth man.

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The hunt for the fourth man continues in Episode 4. Perry and Phil hoodwink Virgil into conducting a second official autopsy on George’s body. They cajole him into Perry’s house under the pretense of drinks and storytelling, only for him to discover George’s body stashed in the basement.

Later, a few yuppies on the golf course stumble across George’s body prostrated across a sand trap.

It’s messy and illegal, but by “discovering” the corpse under Virgil’s jurisdiction, Perry and Phil ensure he’ll be able to do the cutting this time. He’s not happy about seeing ol’ George in his morgue, but he does his job.

With the new report, Emily’s defense team can prove George died with a shattered hip and bullet hole in his shoulder, indicating foul play.

Beyond that, Perry and Phil try retracing the steps of the fourth man. They head back to the scene of the crime and find a hotel room they believe the kidnapping mastermind stood while watching the Dodsons from across the way.

Following Drake’s hint about the blood trail leading up, rather than down, the boys discover a back entrance leading to a social club called the Elks Club. Guess who they find attending an auction inside? Yep, Mister Ennis himself.

Perry takes a seat beside him, just to make him sweat. While Ennis feigns innocence, it’s clear Perry circling way too close for comfort.

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Sister Alice doubles down on her promise of resurrection.

After Alice’s literal fall from grace last week, she’s taken to her sickbed while her mother and the church elders scramble to come back from Alice’s resurrection speech. Her claims of being able to bring Charlie back from the dead have not gone over well with the devout religious community.

Between snakes and cries of Alice being a blasphemer, it comes as no surprise the all-white, all-male, group of elders want her to denounce her former assertions and to cease her public support of harlot, baby-killer Emily Dodson.

I particularly loved the scene where Birdy stands in front of a crowd of the men in the room, all of them claiming the church is being run into the ground by “hysterical women.” Yet, at the same time, they need Alice to maintain the face of the church and keep the financial contributions coming, she’s their money ticket, but only if they can control her.

Birdy eventually agrees to convince Alice into censoring herself and coming around to the elders’ plan of action. Alice takes the speech written for her by the elders and starts to do what they ask in front of a maddening crowd, but then one man breaks free and reaches the front, past all the security.

He offers Alice a baby blanket because little Charlie will be cold when he returns! Alice pauses for a second before throwing the speech away and crying out that Emily is innocent and she will resurrect Charlie on Easter Sunday! Chaos breaks out following her announcement.

E.B. makes a devastating decision.

The main focus of this episode is E.B. and his downward spiral. He’s having a hard time making any headway in Emily’s case despite the new evidence discovered by Perry. The main reason for this is due to the duplicitous Maynard Barnes, who knows E.B. previously embezzled money from his clients to stay afloat.

E.B. thought he could get the charges dropped against Emily by detailing to Maynard his secretive new evidence (the second autopsy and fourth man theory). Unfortunately, Maynard wound up being a step ahead with evidence of E.B.’s past crimes.

He gives the lawyer three options, either force Emily to take a plea deal, go to trial, or disbarment. It’s a tough spot for E.B. because he knows he’s not likely to win in trial, not under the current circumstances, especially not with Maynard having Holcomb and Ennis in his pocket.

He’s heartbroken by Emily’s reaction when he tries to encourage her into taking a plea deal, but serving 20 years in jail for a crime you did not commit is no joke. E.B. can’t bring himself to make her do it.

That leaves one last option: disbarment. It wouldn’t be too difficult either considering E.B. has no money to keep his business afloat, having been rejected for another loan by the bank.

Sadly, E.B. takes his frustrations out on Della, the only person to truly be there for him through thick and thin. The two have a screaming row at the office before she goes home for the night. It’s the last time they’ll ever see each other again.

At the end of the episode, in a moving and beautifully filmed sequence, E.B. resigns himself to his fate and takes his own life. I had a feeling we would get here, especially given the foreshadowing of his death in the previous episode and throughout this one. It’s a somber sequence, but an excellent performance by John Lithgow. I’m sure he’ll be using the fourth episode for his Emmy reel.

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Odds & Ends

  • I thought it was kind of fun to see another True Blood alum pop up (aside from Stephen Root) in this episode during the scene at Della’s (house?). Say hello to Steve Newlin!
  • This episode reveals that Della has a girlfriend! According to The AV Club, this is a change in the direction of the books where Della’s love interest was Perry. That could still happen later on, but I’m happy with this development for now.

What did you think of the latest episode of Perry Mason? Are you surprised by E.B.’s decision? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below.

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