Perry Mason Season 1, Episode 6 recap: Emily Dodson’s trial begins

Perry Mason Season 1, Episode 6 - Photograph by Merrick Morton / HBO
Perry Mason Season 1, Episode 6 - Photograph by Merrick Morton / HBO /

Perry Mason Season 1, Episode 6 recap: Emily Dodson’s trial begins.

The sixth chapter of Perry Mason begins with the opening arguments for Emily Dodson’s trial. Maynard Barnes is in his element, delivering a rousing speech complete with all the scandalous elements of a thrilling murder case.

He claims Emily was the only person with the means to kill Charlie and, as a woman overcome by lust, obviously innate evil.

In the new episode of Perry Mason, when Perry moves to make his introduction on the defense’s behalf, he chokes. It’s hard to watch. First, he fumbles by inserting his personal beliefs and admitting to the court he’s new. Then he starts coughing, needing to pause to get water — except his own client doesn’t have any, yet another sign of disrespect, so he’s forced to take a glass from his competitor.

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Finally, Perry manages to say the prosecution’s entire case is circumstantial before we cut to a scene back at Della’s, which appears to be the defense’s makeshift headquarters. Della has sketched drawings of the entire jury and pinned them to a board and Pete attempts to cheer Perry up by comparing his stage fright to him getting pee-shy.

Della’s next plan of attack for Perry is to highlight the inaccuracies in Maynard’s investigation, he says George Gannon had a garage — George’s home never had a garage. Since Pete is the official investigator now with Perry taking over as attorney, photographing the evidence falls to him.

Perry obviously feels nervous, they did not begin the trial in confidence. Della notes it wasn’t entirely his fault, the jurors were distracted by Emily, whose nerves made her look guilty.

On the next day of trial, Matthew takes the stand. Maynard has him read the inflammatory love letters between his wife and George out loud. The prosecution’s main plan is to make Emily seem like an evil harlot who is easily believable as a murderer.

For the defense, things get a little better with Perry’s line of questioning. He calls attention to the fact Matthew has lied multiple times, about his millionaire father Herman Baggerly, his gambling addiction, and his whereabouts the night of the kidnapping.

He also prods Matthew to admit he was not happy with the cops when they “falsely” arrested him the first time, yet now he thinks they’re right regarding his wife’s guilt. Matthew then loses his cool on the stand, saying he’s not even sure if Charlie was his biological son and screaming at Emily until the judge threatens to hold him in contempt.

Meanwhile, Pete heads to George’s old home to snap pictures of the garage that never existed. He sneaks inside while workmen are sprucing the place up to put it up for sale and notices a box of mail, something inside intrigues him.

Perry Mason: An explosive witness testimony threatens everything.

Maynard, as slippery and corrupt as he is, invites another witness to the stand named Terrence Smith. He’s a strange fellow who manages the Star Hotel. Perry is instantly annoyed because the prosecution did not give him any discovery material on Terrence.

Of course, Maynard pretends they did, saying they gave it to his preceding attorney Frank Dillon, but we all know that’s probably a lie or Dillon withheld it intentionally.

The judge allows it, and Terrence details an occasion where George and Emily checked in under an alias, Mr. and Mrs. Kelly. He says he heard a baby crying and found little Charlie alone on a bed in his room while George and Emily had sex in the connected one.

Emily looks ashamed as he reveals this, and we see it occur in a flashback sequence. The entire courtroom is aghast and Perry is livid. He and Emily get into a row later as he confronts her, saying all she told him happened between her and George were love letters and stolen kisses. Emily tries to defend herself by saying she left the door open so she could see him the entire time.

That’s not going to impress the jury, and Perry says as much, imploring her to tell him every detail. Charlie’s mother is frustrated with her lawyer too, though, since he promised her he’d find her son’s killer and that has yet to happen.

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After their blowout, Perry finds Sister Alice has come for a visit. She says he was hard on Emily and he agrees, but it was for good reason. They discuss shame and his prowess in court, Alice thinks he’s better than he thinks he is — especially when he questioned Matthew.

He advises her not to come to court tomorrow, she’s not helping in the way she thinks she is, which is probably true considering her reputation.

Perry’s mounting frustration with the case spills over when he finds Della, Pete, and Della’s girlfriend Hazel bogged down in boxes of evidence sent over by the D.A. Maynard used a classic “dumping” tactic to bury anything they have other mountains of old, pointless stuff from old cases all mixed together.

Plus, Hazel discovers a potential link between Ennis and one of the kidnappers, they were both in Denver at the same time. Perry fails to see the significance and storms out of the room. Moments later, Pete approaches him outside as he looks on at the nearby airstrip. He shows him what he found in George’s mail stack, a check from a place called Sunroot Services which is linked to the Assembly of God. It looks like George may have been stealing from the church.

Pete suggests Perry use the teeth evidence they found, it’s their biggest leg up over the prosecution, but it would mean betraying Paul Drake‘s trust. Who cares? Asks Pete, he says Paul is just like all the other cops who look the other way to save their own skin.

Using the denture plates and proving George’s death wasn’t a suicide, along with sending Pete to Denver to investigate the connection between Ennis and the kidnapper are the best chance Emily has. Maybe Perry did give Paul his word, but as Pete points out, what about Emily, who is being “danced to the gallows” by Maynard?

Perry Mason: Paul Drake takes the stand.

In court the next day, Officer Paul Drake takes the stand and it looks like Perry might finally bring the dentures evidence into play. Ultimately, however, he chooses to honor his word with Paul and does not. However, he does try to throw suspicion on Detective Ennis, who managed to show up first to the scene for multiple crime scenes pertaining to this case, each time, alone.

Even though Perry doesn’t throw Paul under the bus, his line of questioning dances extremely close and Paul looks visibly nervous as he exits the courtroom.

Later, he receives hush money from Commander Joe Morton for keeping quiet, which doesn’t really sit right with Drake. He shows up at Perry’s to tell him as much. Paul is a good man who is afraid, as a Black man on the police force, he doesn’t even get to work alongside white cops — he can’t even handcuff white criminals. It’s a dark and concerning truth, both real to life and timely.

Paul decides he’s going to help Emily Dodson after all. He pulls out an evidence envelope and slides the denture inside, surreptitiously slipping it into one of the many boxes sent over by the D.A. No one ever knows what’s inside them anyway!

“Look what I just found,” Perry says as he pulls it out.

Since Paul is now all-in on Emily’s case, he decides to ensure his wife and child are safe by sending her out of town.

Worst of all, though, is the fact the dentures wind up not being admissible in court because Maynard and the judge suck. Virgil is called to the stand and while he does say the dentures are George’s, the jury has already been highly disturbed by morbid autopsy photographs of baby Charlie — part of Maynard’s plan.

The judge does not allow Perry to use the dentures or anything from the second autopsy in court, which sinks his one surefire win for Emily.

Perry Mason: Emily holds on to hope in the form of Alice’s Easter Sunday plans.

Even worse, Maynard calls the prison matron, Barbara, who was assigned to keep a watchful eye on Emily at the prison the entire time. We know she messed up once already when she allowed Ennis and Holcomb to brutally beat Emily in hopes of getting a confession.

Well, then she perjures herself on the stand, claiming she heard Emily specifically confess to suffocating Charlie and stitching his eyes. The entire courtroom erupts in a furor as Maynard hones in on calling Emily a murderer.

Afterward, Della tries to tell Emily not to give up hope, but she’s become somewhat glassy-eyed and serene. It won’t matter after Easter Sunday when Alice resurrects Charlie. There cannot be a trial if he’s not dead.

Speaking of this magical resurrection, Birdy is growing increasingly worried about the ruin Alice will bring to them and the church. She has their bags packed and ready, prepared to run. Alice tells her she won’t run but if her mother wants to go then she should.

Perry Mason: Pete and Della score some big leads.

Even though the dentures might be out, Della and Pete find other leads that could help prove Emily’s innocence. In Denver, Pete traces back payments to the kidnappers to Elder Siedel from the church!

As for Della, after stealing the ledger from the church and digging around in the strange Sunroots deal George was receiving checks for, she uncovers a real estate deal essentially showing the church has been siphoning money from their donors. The homeowner is a man named Jim Hicks, and Perry pays him a visit at the end of the episode. He opens the door while holding a shotgun and asks if he’s  Emily’s lawyer, apparently, he’s been waiting for Perry to show up.

Also worth noting is a confrontation between Holcomb and Ennis. Upon realizing that his partner is as crooked as they come, Holcomb confronts him while he’s out working on cars and starts beating the vehicle to pieces. He tells Ennis that if anyone is left alive that can call him out for being guilty, he wants them dead.

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New episodes of Perry Mason air Sunday nights at 9 p.m. ET/PT on HBO. Episodes are also available to watch on HBO Max and places where HBO is available as an add-on.