Perry Mason‘s titular lawyer is in pretty dire straits when Season 2 begins, but a high-profile murder case could be just the thing to turn his luck around. (Though not the luck of the guy who was murdered, unfortunately.)
Monday’s premiere opens with a bang (and a blaze) as a waiter at an L.A. supper club and underground casino sets fire to the place before walking out, with patrons screaming and running outside. (File that one away for later.) As for Perry, he’s living in a sparse apartment now and riding a motorcycle (!), reluctantly handling wills and estates with Della to keep the lights on at their law firm. (Della hired a secretary even though Perry complains they have no money.) He’s also plagued by nightmares about Emily Dodson, the woman he defended last season; she fatally drowned after sending Perry a bunch of postcards sharing her post-trial desperation.
We also meet Brooks McCutcheon (played by Casual‘s Tommy Dewey), the filthy rich son of an oil tycoon whose hobbies including choking his mistress with a belt while his wife and kids have lunch nearby. He also has dreams of bringing a major league baseball team to Los Angeles, but his disapproving father (Sound of Metal‘s Paul Raci) thinks he should just concentrate on his family and charity work. Brooks goes ahead and announces he’s bringing baseball to L.A. with a new stadium, though, and he also has a connection to that supper club fire, thanks to that shady police detective Holcomb from Season 1.
Perry is still so haunted by Emily’s death that he takes a spill on his motorcycle, giving him a nasty case of road rash. Still, he limps his way into court to represent a supermarket owner played by Sean Astin who’s accusing a former employee of stealing his ideas to open his own store. The former employee insists he wasn’t being fairly compensated at his old job, but Perry points out how his new market is arranged the same way as the old one, with a very similar slogan, too. He even has a photo that proves the employee held onto the manager’s handbook from his old job — a photo Della didn’t even know about. Oh, and we learn Perry accepted the motorcycle in lieu of payment from a client, so that explains that odd choice.
Perry takes a settlement offer of five thousand dollars to his supermarket owner client, but he wants to squeeze his ex-employee for every last penny. Perry also pays a visit to his old pal Paul Drake, who apparently snapped that photo of the manager’s handbook. Perry apologizes for not having more work for him and tries to hand Paul some cash, but Paul’s too proud to accept it. Still, when Perry’s sleazy friend Pete Strickland comes knocking on Paul’s door late at night to offer him a gig keeping an eye on a guy who works out of a Blacks-only hotel, Paul takes it. (Hey, eight dollars a day was good money back then.) Plus, Della strikes up a flirty conversation with a woman named Anita (played by Severance‘s Jen Tullock)… even though she’s still with her girlfriend Hazel.
Well, that photo must’ve worked, because Perry’s client ends up winning the full damages of $50,000 in court, forcing his ex-employee to sign over his new store to pay off the debt. Della wants to toast their victory — in honor of the late E.B.! — but Perry just feels like a “vulture.” It doesn’t help that Hamilton Berger stops by to rub it in that true justice is only an illusion these days. Paul gets to work snapping photos of the guy at the Blacks-only hotel, using his wife and kid as cover, while Brooks meets with his lawyers, who tell him no baseball team owner wants to move to Los Angeles. They still consider it a backwater town, it seems. (And was that the girl Brooks slept with earlier giving him a dirty look?)
A drunk Perry ends up back at his old farm, which Lupe has now turned into a bar. (“Always a black cloud,” she says while surveying his sad face.) She owns a big piece of land in Cabo San Lucas and wants to turn it into a destination — great idea! — and she and Perry take a shot together. Della takes a shot of her own, calling Anita while Hazel is peacefully asleep. And Brooks takes a shot, too, in a way: He says good night to his lawyer and gets into his car… when we hear a gun cock. The next morning, a kid playing nearby finds Brooks’ dead body in his car. Hmmm, why do we feel like Perry Mason will soon be on the case?
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