by Erle Stanley Gardner
|Country of origin||United States|
|No. of seasons||2|
|No. of episodes||16|
|Running time||56–64 minutes|
|Budget||$74.3 million (s. 1)[a]|
|Original release||June 21, 2020 –|
April 24, 2023
Perry Mason is an American period drama television series created by Rolin Jones and Ron Fitzgerald for HBO. Based on the character of the same name by Erle Stanley Gardner, the series stars Matthew Rhys in the title role and premiered on June 21, 2020.
In July 2020, HBO renewed the series for a second season. In April 2021, it was announced that Jones and Fitzgerald left the series and were replaced as showrunners by Jack Amiel and Michael Begler. The second season premiered on March 6, 2023. Both seasons have received highly positive critical reviews, with praise going towards the cinematography, production design, and performances of its cast, particularly Rhys. In June 2023, the series was canceled after two seasons.
The series focuses on the origin story of famed defense lawyer Perry Mason. In 1932, Los Angeles is prospering while the rest of the U.S. is recovering from the grip of the Great Depression. Down-and-out private investigator Perry Mason is struggling with his trauma from The Great War and being divorced. He is hired for a sensational child kidnapping trial; his investigation results in major consequences for Mason, those around him, and local leaders.
|First aired||Last aired|
|1||8||June 21, 2020||August 9, 2020|
|2||8||March 6, 2023||April 24, 2023|
|Title||Directed by||Written by||Original air date||U.S. viewers|
|1||1||"Chapter One"||Tim Van Patten||Teleplay by : Rolin Jones & Ron Fitzgerald||June 21, 2020||0.884|
|In late 1931 Los Angeles, private investigator Perry Mason is assigned by his friend and mentor, attorney E.B. Jonathan, to investigate the case of Charlie Dodson, a baby boy who was kidnapped and, under mysterious circumstances, had his eyes stitched open after his death. Hired by mogul Herman Baggerly to investigate, Mason quickly becomes suspicious of the circumstances surrounding the case, especially the $100,000 ransom. Mason, a psychologically scarred World War I veteran, struggles with drinking and separation from his estranged wife and son. Later, at a New Year's Eve party, he is beaten when his attempted extortion of a Hollywood executive fails. As Mason follows the case, corrupt detective Joe Ennis visits Charlie's kidnappers, killing two of them and watching as the third falls off a roof to his death.|
|2||2||"Chapter Two"||Tim Van Patten||Rolin Jones & Ron Fitzgerald||June 28, 2020||0.799|
|Ennis and his colleague Detective Gene Holcomb, as well as Los Angeles district attorney Maynard Barnes, accost Charlie's father Matthew with evidence planted by Ennis and the revelation that Baggerly is Matthew's father; Matthew is placed under arrest for conspiracy to commit Charlie's kidnapping. Mason and Baggerly begin to distrust each other; Mason due to Baggerly withholding his connection to Matthew, and Baggerly due to Mason's "blue ticket" discharge from the military; in flashback, the actions that led to Mason's discharge are shown: during a retreat from mustard gas, Mason euthanized mortally wounded soldiers rather than leave them to face painful death from the gas. Adept police officer Paul Drake finds the bodies of two of the kidnappers and follows the blood trail of the third to the building's roof, finding a broken set of dentures in the stairwell below. He is later questioned by Holcomb and Ennis, who treat him with bigoted condescension and tell him to revise his report to fit Ennis's narrative. Mason tracks a series of mysterious phone calls made by Charlie's mother Emily to a man named George Gannon, finding him dead of apparent suicide, the ransom money burned, and letters proving an affair with Emily. At Charlie's funeral, following an emotional and largely improvised sermon by evangelical preacher Sister Alice McKeegan, Emily is publicly arrested as a result of Mason's findings.|
|3||3||"Chapter Three"||Tim Van Patten||Rolin Jones & Ron Fitzgerald||July 5, 2020||0.950|
|Barnes seeks a conspiracy conviction for Charlie's mother Emily as well as the death penalty. At Emily's arraignment, unrest erupts when a distraught Emily nearly enters a guilty plea and Barnes requests a $25,000 bail, which the judge accepts. Believing Emily's guilt, Baggerly abruptly stops funding Jonathan and his team. Meanwhile, Mason's partner, Pete Strickland, digs up information that ties Gannon to a job at a local casino, but Gannon's former boss tells Mason he left voluntarily for religious reasons. Increasingly convinced Gannon was set up, Mason seeks out Drake for clarity on Drake's police report; Drake refuses to speak with him, having been threatened by Ennis. However, Drake's skepticism leads him to give the dentures he found in the stairwell to Mason. Mason and Strickland sneak into the morgue and confirm the dentures belonged to Gannon. Della Street, Jonathan's secretary, discovers Ennis and Holcomb attempting to violently coerce a confession out of Emily. Alice suffers a sudden seizure during a church performance, and upon recovering, claims God told her to "resurrect" Charlie.|
|4||4||"Chapter Four"||Deniz Gamze Ergüven||Steven Hanna & Sarah Kelly Kaplan||July 12, 2020||0.711|
|Horrified by Alice's claim, Baggerly and the other bankrollers of the church demand a retraction after her statement reaches the newspapers. Alice begins to issue a public retraction, but when one of her congregation makes a show of support during her press conference, she instead proclaims Emily's innocence and reaffirms her statement, splintering the church. Mason and Strickland, having stolen Gannon's body, dump it onto a golf course in order to coax an official autopsy out of coroner Virgil Sheets. Additionally, while retracing the steps of the kidnappers, they discover the building used for the ransom location connects to an Elks Lodge and Ennis in attendance at an event. They share their evidence and theories with Jonathan, who attempts to use them to get Barnes to drop charges — only for Barnes to threaten him with spurious claims of larceny that would get him disbarred. Shaken by this, and by the bank refusing to give him a loan, Jonathan intends for Emily to plead guilty, but has a change of heart and urges her to fight. However, the next day, a despondent Jonathan commits suicide in his kitchen.|
|5||5||"Chapter Five"||Deniz Gamze Ergüven||Eleanor Burgess||July 19, 2020||0.884|
|After Street finds Jonathan's body, she and Mason cover up his suicide as a natural death. Della and Mason return his body to the family plot in northern California, finding that E.B. had long been estranged from the rest of his family. Following the trip, Mason visits his son Theodore and ex-wife Linda, who denies Mason's request to have Theodore temporarily live with him. Meanwhile, Strickland begins tailing Ennis and eventually finds him at a Chinatown brothel. Ennis attempts to shift blame to Holcomb, which increases Strickland's suspicions. Alice convinces her skeptical mother, Birdy, to use church funds to post Emily's bail and serve as her guardian, causing the church to divide further. After Emily's new court-appointed lawyer makes a negative first impression, Street discovers he is working with Barnes. As Mason's rage at the legal system reaches a breaking point, Street forges documentation that Mason had been serving a legal apprenticeship under E.B. Emily accepts Mason as her new representation. With help from deputy district attorney Hamilton Burger, Mason passes the bar and becomes a lawyer.|
|6||6||"Chapter Six"||Deniz Gamze Ergüven||Kevin J. Hynes||July 26, 2020||0.959|
|The trial gets off to a poor start when Mason struggles to deliver his opening statement and Barnes calls a surprise witness — a hotel manager who testifies that Charlie was placed alone in a room while Gannon and Emily had a tryst in an adjoining one. Strickland uncovers checks suggesting Gannon was stealing from the church. He also encourages Mason to use Gannon's dentures in court, though Mason is apprehensive about betraying Drake. Mason attempts to get Drake to mention the dentures himself during cross-examination, but to no avail. Strickland travels to Colorado to follow a lead on Ennis and two of the kidnappers, discovering that Ennis worked for church deacon Eric Seidel years prior. Drake later visits Mason and, determined to help, gives Mason an official evidence envelope so he can present the dentures in court. However, the judge rules it inadmissible. Street uses Strickland's information to find evidence implicating Baggerly and others to shell companies owned by the church. Barnes's final witness, the guard from Emily's jail block, falsely testifies overhearing a confession by Emily during Alice's visit, which causes chaos in the courtroom. Mason travels to an address procured by Street far out of the city, finding a man named Jim Hicks. He tells Mason that he has been waiting for him.|
|7||7||"Chapter Seven"||Tim Van Patten||Howard Korder||August 2, 2020||1.038|
|Hicks, who was the accountant for the church prior to Gannon, reveals to Mason (and later in his testimony) that he was a hesitant participant in a financial collusion scheme headed by church deacon Eric Seidel and was given the land to buy his silence. Mason presents Hicks's duplicate financial records showing the church was $100,000 in debt and Baggerly testifies he refused to provide another loan to the church just before Charlie's kidnapping. Strickland returns from Colorado and informs Mason that Ennis and the two dead kidnappers worked as strikebreakers under Seidel for a mining company in 1914, proving their connection. Strickland tails an anxious Seidel in hopes of getting him to testify, but Seidel escapes and goes to Ennis for help. Ennis meets Seidel under the guise of helping him leave town and murders him. Drake tracks the kidnappers' movements to a hotel and is informed by a maid that Ennis showed up with a woman to calm a crying Charlie. Drake and Mason visit the Chinatown brothel, where a prostitute tells Mason that the prostitute Ennis took to the hotel died of a heroin overdose. While viewing her body at the city morgue, Sheets confirms that nursing from a heroin-addicted woman would be deadly to a baby. On Easter Sunday, Alice's “resurrection” ceremony fails disastrously when Charlie's casket is empty. Birdy travels with her to a predetermined location where she finds a different baby and claims it is Charlie. Increasingly disillusioned, Alice flees the scene in distress.|
|8||8||"Chapter Eight"||Tim Van Patten||Rolin Jones & Ron Fitzgerald & Kevin J. Hynes||August 9, 2020||1.115|
|As Mason theorizes putting Ennis on the stand, Burger advises Mason to rest his case and pin his hopes on Hicks' testimony. Street suggests that Mason put Emily on the stand, to which he agrees. However, during cross-examination, Barnes is able to get Emily to claim at least partial responsibility for Charlie's death. Mason delivers a passionate closing statement blaming Barnes for attacking Emily's character instead of pursuing the truth. After five days of deliberation, the jury becomes deadlocked and the judge declares a mistrial. Barnes vows to retry the case and attacks a reporter who brings up the impact the failed trial will have on his mayoral campaign. Strickland meets with a juror he paid off, who reveals two other jurors legitimately voted not guilty. The case is not retried. Despite noting the differences in appearance to Charlie the baby Birdy found has, Emily accepts the baby as Charlie and joins Birdy's traveling, miracle-based church. Strickland leaves Mason to work for Burger, now prosecuting the church's financial crimes. Drake resigns from the police force, while Holcomb has Ennis killed. Mason moves into Jonathan's office, taking on Street as his secretary (and future partner) and Drake as his lead detective. Mason tracks down Alice, who disappeared following the Easter Sunday "resurrection" and works as a waitress in a coastal town, and they bond over their loneliness. At the ocean's edge, Mason lets the black thread taken from Charlie's eye carry into the wind.|
|Title||Directed by||Written by||Original air date||U.S. viewers|
|9||1||"Chapter Nine"||Fernando Coimbra||Jack Amiel & Michael Begler||March 6, 2023||0.372|
|In 1933, months after the Dodson trial, an aimless Perry leans on Della to keep the law firm afloat via civil cases. While Paul accepts a job from an unlikely source, corrupt oil scion Brooks McCutcheon recruits Detective Holcomb in his quest to reshape the future of Los Angeles.|
|10||2||"Chapter Ten"||Fernando Coimbra||Jack Amiel & Michael Begler||March 13, 2023||N/A|
|While Hamilton Burger, now the DA, focuses on two brothers from Hooverville, Mateo and Rafael Gallardo, as their prime suspects, a discovery pushes Perry closer to the case. Later, Della goes on a date with a new flame, Anita St. Pierre, while Paul wrestles with a shocking truth.|
|11||3||"Chapter Eleven"||Jessica Lowrey||Jack Amiel & Michael Begler||March 20, 2023||0.299|
|While Rafael and Mateo are discriminated in both jail and court, Perry continues to pursue justice and confronts Lydell McCutcheon, Brooks' father. Della gets help from Nygaard, the rival of the McCutcheon family in the oil business.|
|12||4||"Chapter Twelve"||Jessica Lowrey||Jack Amiel & Michael Begler||March 27, 2023||0.333|
|Paul's shocking discovery brings the brothers' testimony into question. Perry pursues a plea deal. Della continues her search for answers.|
|13||5||"Chapter Thirteen"||Marialy Rivas||Niko Gutierrez-Kovner||April 3, 2023||0.309|
|Facing potential life in prison without the possibility of parole, Rafael recounts a deadly incident caused by the McCutcheons, in which his and Mateo's sister Rosanna perished. Paul searches for a possible accomplice landing him in danger, and Perry makes a convincing demonstration in court.|
|14||6||"Chapter Fourteen"||Marialy Rivas||Elizabeth Baxa||April 10, 2023||0.324|
|With Holcomb subpoenaed, he helps Perry with some vital information to push the verdict in the Gallardos' favor, only for Mason to be blindsided. Della continues to foster her relationships with Camilla and Anita.|
|15||7||"Chapter Fifteen"||Nina Lopez-Corrado||Mauricio Katz & Pedro Peirano||April 17, 2023||0.455|
|Facing career-ending accusations and potential jailtime, Perry must turn to Strickland for help. With the Gallardos' fate in the balance, Della presses Hamilton for answers, while Paul and his wife Clara chase a dangerous lead.|
|16||8||"Chapter Sixteen"||Nina Lopez-Corrado||Michael Begler||April 24, 2023||0.443|
|As their final day in court nears, Mateo and Rafael prepare for the worst, while Perry, Della, and Paul work with an unlikely ally to sway the prosecution's hand. Perry faces the consequences of his relentless pursuit of justice.|
On August 15, 2016, it was reported that HBO was developing a drama series based on the Perry Mason stories written by Erle Stanley Gardner. The production was expected to be written by Nic Pizzolatto, who was also set to executive produce alongside Robert Downey Jr. and Joe Horacek. Production companies involved with the series were slated to consist of Team Downey. On August 25, 2017, it was announced that Pizzolatto had dropped out of the production in order to focus on the third season of True Detective and that he was being replaced as the project's writer by Rolin Jones and Ron Fitzgerald. The HBO revival and reboot adapted its setting to Great Depression-era Los Angeles, some twenty years earlier than the CBS show (but in line with the earliest novels by Gardner).
On January 14, 2019, it was announced that HBO had given the production an order as a limited series. It was further announced that Jones, Fitzgerald, Susan Downey, and Amanda Burrell would serve as additional executive producers, that Matthew Rhys would serve as a producer, and that the production was in the process of hiring a director. Jones and Fitzgerald serve as showrunners for the series as well. In March, Tim Van Patten was announced as director and executive producer. On July 22, 2020, it was revealed HBO had decided to turn Perry Mason into a regular series, renewing it for a second season. On April 23, 2021, it was announced Jones and Fitzgerald left the series and were replaced as showrunners by Jack Amiel and Michael Begler. On June 6, 2023, HBO canceled the series after two seasons.
Alongside the initial development announcement, it was said that Robert Downey Jr. would star as the titular Perry Mason. On July 25, 2018, it was reported that Downey had dropped out of the role due to his feature film schedule and that a search for his replacement was ongoing. On January 14, 2019, it was announced that Matthew Rhys had been cast to replace Downey. Tatiana Maslany joined in April. John Lithgow was added to the cast in May. In June, Chris Chalk and Shea Whigham were cast in lead roles, with Nate Corddry, Veronica Falcón, Jefferson Mays, Gayle Rankin and Lili Taylor set in recurring roles. Juliet Rylance, Andrew Howard, Eric Lange, Robert Patrick and Stephen Root joined in July. Justin Kirk would be added in October. In "Chapter Five", Lithgow's real-life son Ian appears as E.B. Jonathan's son Byron.
For the second season, Lange and Kirk were promoted to series regulars. Diarra Kilpatrick, who recurred in season 1 as Clara Drake, was upgraded to series regular in October 2021 in addition to Katherine Waterston joining as a new series regular, and Hope Davis among 5 cast in recurring roles. In January 2022, it was announced Whigham would be returning in a recurring capacity, while Sean Astin, Tommy Dewey, Paul Raci and Jen Tullock were cast in recurring roles.
The series premiered on June 21, 2020, on HBO and HBO Max. The second season premiered on March 6, 2023.
The first season was released on Blu-ray and DVD on December 1, 2020.
On review aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes, season one holds an approval rating of 75% based on 84 reviews, with an average rating of 7.3/10. The site's critics consensus reads: "Brimming with top notch performances and dripping in style, Perry Mason's compelling mystery more than makes up for its somewhat messy story." On Metacritic, the season has a weighted average score of 68 out of 100, based on 39 critics, indicating "generally favorable reviews".
Ben Travers of IndieWire said that season one is "built with confidence, patience, and a voice calibrated for today's audiences" and gave it a "B+", writing: "Perry Mason stands as an astounding visual feat for its specific framings as well as its overall world-building. There are striking images of a pitch-black profile and lavish outdoor shots of real Los Angeles locations. In some shows, intimate conversations between two people can clash with the grander scenes... Mason has the intuition (and the budget) to not just balance visual opulence with smaller, private moments, but to blend them."
Season two holds an approval rating of 84% based on 31 reviews, with an average rating of 7.2/10. The site's critics consensus reads: "More cohesive and engaging than its woolly first installment, Perry Mason's sophomore season is a marked improvement driven by an urgent sense of purpose, with Matthew Rhys commandingly watchable as ever." On Metacritic, the season has a weighted average score of 71 out of 100, based on 19 critics, indicating "generally favorable reviews".
With 1.7 million viewers across all platforms, the debut of Perry Mason was the strongest of any HBO series for two years.
|1||"Chapter One"||June 21, 2020||0.1||0.884||0.1||0.604||0.2||1.488|
|2||"Chapter Two"||June 28, 2020||0.1||0.799||0.1||0.656||0.2||1.455|
|3||"Chapter Three"||July 5, 2020||0.1||0.950||0.1||0.633||0.2||1.583|
|4||"Chapter Four"||July 12, 2020||0.1||0.711||0.1||0.583||0.2||1.294|
|5||"Chapter Five"||July 19, 2020||0.1||0.884||0.1||0.567||0.2||1.451|
|6||"Chapter Six"||July 26, 2020||0.1||0.959||0.1||0.720||0.2||1.679|
|7||"Chapter Seven"||August 2, 2020||0.1||1.038||0.1||0.658||0.2||1.696|
|8||"Chapter Eight"||August 9, 2020||0.1||1.115||0.1||0.640||0.2||1.755|
|2021||American Society of Cinematographers Awards||Outstanding Achievement in Cinematography in an Episode of a One-Hour Television Series – Non-Commercial||David Franco (for "Chapter Three")||Nominated|||
|Art Directors Guild Awards||Excellence in Production Design for a One-Hour Period or Fantasy Single-Camera Series||John Perry Goldsmith (for "Chapter Three")||Nominated|||
|Critics' Choice Television Awards||Best Drama Series||Perry Mason||Nominated|||
|Best Actor in a Drama Series||Matthew Rhys||Nominated|
|Best Supporting Actor in a Drama Series||John Lithgow||Nominated|
|Golden Globe Awards||Best Actor – Television Series Drama||Matthew Rhys||Nominated|||
|Hollywood Critics Association TV Awards||Best Cable Series, Drama||Perry Mason||Nominated|||
|Best Actor in a Broadcast Network or Cable Series, Drama||Matthew Rhys||Nominated|
|Best Supporting Actor in a Broadcast Network or Cable Series, Drama||John Lithgow||Nominated|
|Best Supporting Actress in a Broadcast Network or Cable Series, Drama||Tatiana Maslany||Won|
|Make-Up Artists and Hair Stylists Guild Awards||Best Television Series, Limited or Miniseries or New Media Series – Best Period and/or Character Make-Up||Christien Tinsley, Corinne Foster, Steve Costanza and Gerry Quist||Nominated|||
|Primetime Emmy Awards||Outstanding Lead Actor in a Drama Series||Matthew Rhys (for "Chapter Eight")||Nominated|||
|Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Drama Series||John Lithgow (for "Chapter Four")||Nominated|
|Primetime Creative Arts Emmy Awards||Outstanding Cinematography for a Single-Camera Series (One Hour)||David Franco (for "Chapter Two")||Nominated|
|Outstanding Production Design for a Narrative Period or Fantasy Program (One Hour or More)||John Goldsmith, Chris Farmer and Halina Siwolop (for "Chapter Three")||Nominated|
|Satellite Awards||Best Actor in a Drama / Genre Series||Matthew Rhys||Nominated|||
|Saturn Awards||Best Television Presentation (under 10 Episodes)||Perry Mason||Nominated|||