When Perry Mason was greenlit at HBO starring The Americans' Matthew Rhys, the buzz was that this would be a limited series. Based upon the character invented by Erle Stanley Gardner, the HBO version of Perry Mason was billed as a prequel of sorts to the long-running CBS show, which aired first on radio and then on TV from the 1940 to 1970s. But when the new show brought in the most substantial debut ratings for HBO in two years, it seemed like there could be more to come. So, will there be a Perry Mason Season 2?
Warning: Spoilers for Perry Mason Season 1 follow. HBO's initial hedging Rhys' turn as the famous lawyer and detective would be a one-and-done homage was short-lived. By mid-season, there was already a renewal notice that Season 2 was a go. That's a boon for the finale, which has a lot more in store for Mason.
The series was initially envisioned as an origin story for the character. It rewound the clock to 1931, a decade before any of the CBS series were set. In it, Mason is a young private investigator with a lack of direction, having been abandoned by his wife. The case that turns his life around comes from mentor E.B. Jonathan (played by John Lithgow), trying to solve the murder of baby Charlie Dodson. As the case takes a bizarre turn, with powerful forces attempting to frame Charlie's mother Emily for her son's death, Jonathan is threatened with disbarment, driving him to die by suicide, and leaving Mason to take the case to trial alone.
But those looking for an underdog triumph story will be surprised at how the case unfolds. After all, this is Mason's first trial (he passes the bar in the episode just beforehand.) His opening statement is a disaster; the prosecution runs rings around him. His crucial evidence is judged as inadmissible. Even his choice to put Emily on the stand for her own defense doesn't work the way he intends; the district attorney, Maynard Barnes, gets her to admit she had some responsibility for her son's death.
In the end, Mason's outcome is a hung jury, the best he could hope for. And it's not even his doing; his investigative partner, Strickland, paid off one of the jurors. But Mason has found a former legal secretary, Della, to help him build his business.
It's a solid start for what could be a new, long-running Perry Mason. With Season 2 greenlit for next year, Mason is ready to take on the system one case at a time. Perhaps next time, he might even win.