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The Ending Of HBO's Perry Mason Explained

Spoilers for the first season of Perry Mason follow

After eight episodes rich with intrigue, HBO's Perry Mason has brought its first season to a satisfying conclusion. The 1930s-set private eye drama mixed classic noir with some notes from gritty contemporary detective thrillers like True Detective and The Killing to introduce us to Perry Mason (Matthew Rhys), a Los Angeles PI with a lot of determination and a messy personal life.

The first season sees Perry working for a veteran attorney named E.B. Jonathan (John Lithgow). When E.B. takes on the case of a kidnapped and murdered child, Perry finds himself wrapped up in a conspiracy larger than he could have imagined. After the kidnapper is found dead with a cache of love letters to the child's mother, she is put on trial for her son's murder, despite claiming innocence. Perry knows something is amiss with the investigation, but the LAPD and the District Attorney are clearly interfering to hide something. All the while, the connections between the murdered child and a powerful and influential church known as the Radiant Assembly of God, get knottier and knottier.

The mystery at the heart of the season is complex and dynamic, and thankfully for fans, most of the loose ends were tied up by the finale's end. We're going to do our best detective work and untangle as the threads that were laid bare in the finale for Perry Mason season 1.

The truth behind Baby Charlie's murder

Throughout the first season of Perry Mason, mysteries of all sizes present themselves to the viewer. But for the most part, they all circle the central questions: who kidnapped and murdered the baby Charlie Dodson, and why? In the last few episodes of the season, it becomes clear that the answer to that query is to be found in the twisted heart of the Radiant Assembly of God.

Despite having the sheen of a prosperous mega-church, Perry discovers that the Radiant Assembly of God is actually experiencing deep financial hardship. Herman Baggerly (Robert Patrick), the wealthy man who hired E.B. and Associates to investigate the murder in the first place, has been keeping the church afloat through his generous donations. When those donations dried up, a plan was hatched to kidnap Baby Charlie — who happens to be Baggerly's illegitimate grandson — and hold him ransom for $100,000, just enough to pay off the church's debt. Involved in this plot are the church's crooked accountant, George Gannon (Aaron Stanford), Elder Seidel (Taylor Nichols), and LAPD Detective Ennis (Andrew Howard), among others

What was meant to be a simple kidnapping turns deadly after Ennis hires a heroin-addicted sex worker to breastfeed Baby Charlie, not realizing that the drugs in her system would be passed on through her breast milk. When everything goes sideways, Detective Ennis uses his power at the LAPD to silence any witnesses. That is why all of the other kidnappers, including Gannon, were found dead at the beginning of the season. Ennis continues his mission of eliminating loose ends by stabbing Seidel to death in the season's penultimate episode. He's ultimately eliminated himself in the finale after a mistrial leads to Baby Charlie's mother, Emily Dodson (Gayle Rankin), walking free.

Sister Alice's resurrection

Speaking of Emily Dodson, the beleaguered mother had a tumultuous season. The one bright shining light throughout her troubles was Sister Alice (Tatiana Maslany), the charismatic figurehead of the Radiant Assembly of God.

Earlier in the season, we saw Sister Alice take on the charge as Emily's defender and confidant. After having a seizure during the middle of a service, Sister Alice also has a rather controversial vision: on Easter Sunday she will resurrect Baby Charlie, declaring, "What was true in the Bible will be true again!" This causes a schism within the church, with a portion of the former congregation now wanting her dead for blasphemy. When the Easter in question rolls around, Sister Alice goes through with the resurrection, only to find that Baby Charlie's body has been removed from its coffin. A riot ensues, and her mother, Birdy (Lili Taylor), rescues her from an angry mob.

Birdy has spent most of the season trying to tamp down her daughter's more theatrical instincts, and was opposed to the resurrection stunt. However, we also learn during a flashback that Birdy is willing to do anything to get herself ahead in life, including forcing her daughter into sex work at a very young age. During the Easter chaos, Birdy produces a crying baby and exclaims, "Charlie Dodson lives!" Sister Alice sees through her mother's stunt, and flees the crowd and the alleged miracle baby.

In the finale, we learn that Birdy has used the miracle baby to establish a new church, the Holy Church of the Reborn Babe, and roped in Emily. While she clearly doesn't believe that the baby is actually Charlie, after the torments she has endured since her child's death, Emily goes along with the ruse.

Perry starts his own practice, and loses the farm

Not to be overshadowed by the infant kidnapping case he's enmeshed in, Perry's personal life has also been in crisis throughout the season. His longtime employer E.B. kills himself when it's clear that his law practice is going to go under, leading Perry to learn how to be a lawyer on the fly so he can represent Emily in the trial. And if that wasn't enough, he's also clinging onto his family's farm, which he's barely able to take care of.

Professionally, Perry is able to come out relatively on top by the end of the season. Although his first case as a trial lawyer starts off pretty shaky, he ends up with a desirable outcome. In the finale, we learn that Pete Strickland (Shea Whigham), likely at the behest of Perry, paid off a juror to dissent from a consensus to ensure a mistrial. The scheme ends up being unnecessary, as other jurors ended up dissenting of their own volition.

Perry is clearly buoyed by this success, as we see him in the process of taking over E.B.'s old office and starting his own law practice. Of course, he has Della (Juliet Rylance) working alongside him and has even recruited Drake, who quit the LAPD on moral grounds after reluctantly helping to cover up Ennis' role in the kidnapping of Baby Charlie.

On the other hand, after a season of making coy threats, Perry's lover Lupe (Veronica Falcón) finally buys his farm out from under him after the property goes up for auction because he can't keep up with the payments. As can be expected, it creates quite the rift in their relationship.

What does season 2 of Perry Mason have in store?

All in all, things wrapped up quite nicely at the end of Perry Mason's debut run. But that doesn't mean the producers didn't leave a few doors left open for the show's upcoming second season.

As Perry is setting up his new office, he gets called on by a potential new client, a woman calling herself Eva Griffin (Kristin Slaysman), who declares simply, "I'm in trouble." Fans of the novels that inspired the series will recognize her from the very first Perry Mason book, The Case of the Velvet Claws. Whether the second season will follow the plot of that book, or if Mrs. Griffin's appearance was merely meant as a clever nod to Perry's future now that he's established his own practice, remains to be seen.

There are also a few storylines from season 1 that might reappear in the second season. Although the kidnapping plot has been solved, we wouldn't be surprised to see the Radiant Assembly of God continuing to play a role, as it's suggested that there will be a continued investigation into their shady financial situation. As for Sister Alice, at the end of the finale, we see that she has moved and started a new life as a waitress. Her story feels fairly wrapped up, but, there's still potential to bring her back in some capacity.

Season 1 of Perry Mason managed to strike a perfect balance between feeling like a complete story and opening up a larger world. Considering how well everything came together by the season's end, we're looking forward to seeing what darkness Perry Mason's showrunners have in store for us in season 2.