Today, Foxtel screens the newest HBO drama series Perry Mason, but should you be tuning in to tonight’s encore?
When we begin this origin story of one of America’s favourite defense lawyers, Perry Mason (Matthew Rhys, The Americas), it’s 1931 and our favourite private investigator is on the verge of fading into the past. When we meet him, Perry is down on his luck, living in the ruins of his family’s dairy farm, and earning money by stalking a celebrity with his colleague Pete Strickland (Shea Whigham), hoping to catch him in an intimate moment.
Perry’s luck looks set to change when infant Charlie Dodson is kidnapped and held to ransom. His parents, Matthew and Emily Dodson (Nate Corddry and Gayle Rankin, respectively), agree to pay the ransom, but Charlie is killed anyway, found with his eyes stitched open. The Dodson’s hire defense attorney E.B. Jonathan (John Lithgow) and his loyal assistant Della Street (Juliet Rylance) to get to the bottom of what happened to their son. Jonathan calls in Perry to help look into the case, which will play out over the course of the first season.
There’s a lot to unpack in the 53-minute pilot screened for this review. Rolin Jones and Ron Fitzgerald take a classic character with a mostly blank canvas and serve up an interesting take. Perry’s personal and professional issues come to the foreground, between his war service PTSD and his wife and child leaving him, to his blackmail of clients, all while working the case he’s been roped into.
Matthew Rhys is excellent and instantly watchable as always, and the rest of the cast make for a solid ensemble.
Dark, sexy and complicated, Perry Mason might be an origin story, but the first episode sets the stage for the potential of this series, which is a 2020 must-watch.
Perry Mason premieres Monday June 22 at 11am AEST, with a primetime encore at 8:30pm AEST, express from the US.