Yes, it's true. This Perry Mason has a very troubled past resulting from his time at war.
What he experienced on the battlefields on World War I in France is likely what drove him to fight for the underdog.
Because on Perry Mason Season 1 Episode 2, what we witnessed was horrifying.
It seems that when Perry gets maudlin, he recalls the war.
Given what he did there, it's no surprise that he likes to keep his nose to the grindstone and focus on the little stuff.
It's easy-breezy capturing photos of celebrities in compromising positions. He doesn't get caught up in his own shit.
But ever since he saw little Charlie Dodson with his eyes sewn open, Perry has been stuck with the reality that it's not only on the battlefield where people experience atrocities. And if a mother has to see her son in that state, well, it's ripping Perry to bits.
That doesn't negate the fact he still has a job to do. Nor does it wash away his fear that the Emily Dodson might have had a hand in what happened to her boy.
Because of that, he's fighting from many different angles.
No, being a cheat doesn't mean you're a murderer. But in those days, cheating was one of the most low-down, dirty acts of betrayal and people were forced to pay for it. Not by jail time, but in the public eye.
The last time you need to be paying for something moral is just after your son was murdered, but that's where Emily stands.
If the details Perry uncovered cleared Matthew, they damned Emily.
Emily, whoever took your son never meant to hurt him. They just wanted money. And something went horribly wrong.Perry
Still, even after he put into motion the events that led to Emily's arrest, Perry couldn't shake the feeling that they were going after the wrong person.
It doesn't help Emily's case that E.B. just wants to get one over on an old foe. He's using the case in a personal vendetta against Maynard, but it's not too difficult to read the room here -- Maynard is focused and driven with a cold demeanor while E.B. is out of his depth and swinging at every ball.
Maynard, you have, entirely, a bucket of eels.E.B.
Every so often, E.B. seems close to tears, and that's not the man I would want representing me in the courtroom in any event, but certainly not acting as my defense against the murder of my child.
Della: E.B. will take care of everything. Don't you worry.
Emily: Don't worry. We just went casket shopping for my son.
Right up front, he's cocky and sure that whatever case Maynard prepares, he can conquer. It seems like he's taking the severity of Emily's situation too lightly.
Thankfully, Perry and Della are on his team and can guide him to making better decisions. But should they have to do that?
When the three of them are in a room together, that's when I get the good vibes from this season of Perry Mason. Pete, too. The four of them bantering about the evidence while E.B. tried unsuccessfully to remind Della why she was there almost seem like a different show than the darkness of child murder.
Perry: I don't like it here.
E.B.: We do what we don't like so the greater good gets served. You more than anyone else should know that.
That's good, though, because it indicates what can come later, even if it's struggling to exist right now. There is something that better resembles what we know of Perry Mason to uncover.
I'm not sure that any of the antics involving Sister Alice and her church are going to help matters in that direction, but if nothing else, she seems to be a staunch supporter for Emily.
Emily could be anybody to Sister Alice. It's what she represents that lights Alice's fire. That was evident when Alice called on the men taking honored seats in the front row of her church.
Sister Alice went off-script to address those men and remind them that they're her guests and have a huge task at hand.
She promised that she would do what she could to ensure that Emily didn't suffer at their hands, and even better, she got the community to rally around Emily just before the whole group learned of her infidelity.
It's the depression, and people are clamoring for meaning in the desperation of the times. Sister Alice provides that, and if she supports Emily, then others will, too.
What doesn't bode too well for Emily is that Sister Alice alienated the politicos in the audience at a time Emily needs to appeal to their compassion.
But with Perry and Della on her side, Emily should be OK. Because while Perry did his job diligently and it was his work that got the arrest, he's not going to stop digging until he reaches the truth.
That truth will be achieved with the investigative skills of Paul Drake. He's doing a bang-up job of following the evidence. He and Perry have the same nose for leads.
Perry: Do you know how many different types of thread there are in this city?
E.B.: You'll find it, boy-o. That's the kind of thing you're good at.
They haven't really come into each other's orbits yet, but it's pretty clear they will hit it off. After all, we know that Drake will be at Perry's side. It's inevitable.
Drake has fire in his belly that won't allow him to languish on a case, even one that's not his to solve. He never asked to get involved with the child abduction and murder, but we're so glad he did.
That Ennis is the doer and also trying to stifle the pride and good work of Drake is infuriating, but it also shows how determined Drake is to rise above the status quo. That will serve him well.
One of the things that I like least about this fresh take on Perry Mason is that we have witnesses Ennis doing so many despicable things. When I watch a mystery, I want to be in on it.
From what I recall of Perry Mason classic, we were following Perry's lead, not being given side information to help solve the case.
The real mystery to me is that writers and showrunners think it's a benefit to know the bad guys in any detail before the detective finds those leads themself. It ruins the thrill of the adventure and it lessens the impact of the character we're expecting to tie it all together.
Ennis could have been a jerk without us seeing him kill the two guys. That we know he's guilty means we're just rooting for the good guys to take him down. Sure, we have little indication of why he's so bad, but that's not why we like mysteries. The mystery is in how clues unfold and carry the detective to the next.
I'm also not too keen on the gory details. Did Perry have to poke George's mutilated head to find the dental plate? The best mysteries don't need to visually shock you if the story is sound. Which goes back to Ennis' guilt.
We have too much of a lead on him, so dancing around the gory details takes up some more time that won't be spent uncovering Ennis since we already know he's involved.
I'm eagerly awaiting more on Della, too. What's she all about? Why has she taken so deeply to the case? How does she know in her heart that Emily isn't guilty, that neither of the Dodsons are?
Another angle that I'm enjoying is what little we're getting of depression-era life. Perry's on a dilapidated farm. There are homeless living in the streets. Perry wandered by a job board with men pushing and shoving their way to the front trying to find work to feed their families.
Yet there is also reason to hope. Families are turning to God both in the church and on the street. A street preacher gathered a small flock right on a street corner, and the way it was beautifully lit in warm hues drove home why people stopped to listen. Everyone is seeking a little comfort in a dark world.
That's a decent defense for Emily, now that I think of it. What is an affair other than a desire to be loved and comforted? In that decade, who could fault her?
There's a lot that could have been done differently to this point in the story, but there is a lot to admire, too.
What are your thoughts on Perry Mason so far?
Are there parts you wish had been done differently?
Do you think E.B. is the right man to defend Emily?
Drop your thoughts below, and join our Facebook group for Perry Mason HBO Fans, too.
Carissa Pavlica is the managing editor and a staff writer and critic for TV Fanatic. She's a member of the Critic's Choice Association, enjoys mentoring writers, conversing with cats, and passionately discussing the nuances of television and film with anyone who will listen. Follow her on Twitter and email her here at TV Fanatic.