Warning: this article contains major spoilers for the season 2 finale of Perry Mason.
It would be quite unlike HBO’s Perry Mason to wrap up its second season with a totally happy ending. It shouldn’t come as much of a surprise then that the season 2 finale of Perry Mason brings the show’s latest courtroom case to a bittersweet and emotionally complex conclusion.
For starters, Perry (Matthew Rhys) accepts the punishment chosen by Judge Durkin (Tom Amandes) for concealing his case’s murder weapon and agrees to serve a four-month prison sentence following the conclusion of the ongoing Gallardo Brothers trial. In doing so, he buys himself, Della (Juliet Rylance), and Paul (Chris Chalk) enough time to successfully convince Melville “Phippsy” Phipps (Wallace Langham) to give them the photographs that his boss, Camilla Nygaard (Hope Davis), has been secretly using to blackmail Hamilton Burger (Justin Kirk) for most of Perry Mason season 2.
Freed from the potential scandal that had been looming over his head for weeks, Hamilton offers a new deal to Perry and Della, one that guarantees the freedom of one of their clients and a 30-year prison sentence for the other. Presented with the deal, Mateo (Peter Mendoza) agrees to plead guilty to the murder of Brooks McCutcheon (Tommy Dewey) so that his younger brother, Rafael (Fabrizio Guido), can go free and attend art school. The trial, in other words, ends with Mateo rightfully serving time for his murder of Brooks and Rafael getting a shot at the life he deserves.
In the same meeting where they give him the negatives for the very photos that have been used to blackmail him, Perry and Della also give Hamilton enough evidence to launch a successful, federal investigation into the crimes of Camilla Nygaard. Consequently, in the second half of the episode, Della pays a visit to Camilla and expresses her disappointment over discovering who she really is just moments before a group of FBI agents appears on Camilla’s lawn demanding to ask her some questions.
Later, Hamilton and Della enjoy dinner together with Anita St. Pierre (Jen Tullock), who seems content to let the two lawyers pose as a couple together for the cameras. Paul, for his part, accepts a job digging up dirt on white politicians so that the Black neighborhood he and Clara (Diarra Kilpatrick) are raising their family in can begin to truly flourish. Meanwhile, across the sea in Japan, Lydell McCutcheon (Paul Raci) receives a letter warning him to stay abroad if he wants to avoid the FBI, which he doesn’t seem particularly happy about having to do.
All of these threads culminate with a series of farewell scenes for Rhys’ Perry, who says goodbye to his apartment before making a pit stop at the stables his former girlfriend, Ginny Aimes (Katherine Waterston), frequents. Perry, in his own way, apologizes for being so quick to accuse her of something she didn’t do before asking if she’ll ever be able to imagine a future with him that isn’t tainted by his past mistakes. She doesn’t seem all that interested in the idea, at first, before leaving the door open for her and Perry to try again when he gets out of prison.
And that’s where Perry Mason season 2 ultimately ends: In prison with its eponymous attorney, who has little to keep him company in his cell other than a photo of him and his son.
In a way, the Perry Mason season 2 finale plays out exactly as Matthew Rhys’ weary lawyer would want. Everyone, for the most part, gets held accountable for their sins throughout the season, including Mateo, Camilla, and Perry himself. Even the arrogant Thomas Milligan (Mark O’Brien) is robbed of his long-sought public victory by Hamilton Burger, who not only takes him off the Gallardo case just before its verdict is supposed to be announced but also offers Perry’s clients a deal that secures them a far better fate than what Milligan had in mind.
Just because he ends up in prison doesn’t mean that Rhys’ Perry has fallen into another depressive spiral, either. As a conversation with Della earlier in the episode reveals, Perry has come to terms with the fact that justice can actually be achieved — so long as the person seeking it is willing to make the kind of dirty, underhanded moves that the system demands. His acceptance of that fact marks a major moment of growth for Perry, who seemed willing to give up on the American justice system altogether when the show’s second season initially caught back up with him.
All of which is to say that it seems like Rhys’ Perry may return even stronger and more determined than ever should HBO choose to renew Perry Mason for a third season. Fingers crossed.
Perry Mason season 2 is streaming now on HBO Max.
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