HBO’s crime drama ‘Perry Mason‘ reimagines the story of the iconic criminal defense lawyer created by Erle Stanley Gardner. The HBO adaptation gives its own twist to the character and his story, changing a few things to keep it fresh and in touch with the contemporary audience while keeping it realistic enough for something that happens in the early 1930s. The most significant change the show brings is in the first season when it introduces Mason as a private investigator working for another lawyer. However, at the beginning of the second season, he is a well-established lawyer set to handle a high-profile case. If you are wondering how and when Mason transitioned from a P.I. into a criminal defense lawyer, here’s what you need to know. SPOILERS AHEAD!
How Did Perry Mason Become a Lawyer?
At the beginning of the show’s first season, Perry Mason works for E.B. Jonathan, who hires him to look into the murder of Charlie Dodson. Mason has a lot of problems. He is divorced and unable to see his son as much as he wants. The woman he is sleeping with wants him to sell his farm to her so that she can expand the airstrip for her planes. He has PTSD from the war and is borderline, if not a certified, alcoholic. Still, he is good at his job, and people around him wish for him to recognize that and try and change himself for the better.
There is no denying that there is a spark in Mason, especially when it comes to injustice. He becomes deeply involved in the case of Charlie Dodson. The more he digs into it, the more complicated it becomes and the more passionate Mason gets about solving it. Halfway through the case, the prosecution sets its eyes on Emily Dodson, Charlie’s mother. They point all the blame at her and want her to go down for the murder of her son. The people who hired E.B. and Mason to represent the Dodson family rescind their support.
E.B. struggles with keeping up Emily’s defense. Things don’t look too good for her, as public opinion is staunchly against her. The prosecution also has enough to make it look like she was involved in the kidnapping and murder, especially with the love letters written by her to Gannon, one of the men involved in the abduction. While he had been a great defense lawyer once, E.B. finds himself fading in the court, and whatever will he had left in trying to save Emily is washed away when the DA, Maynard Barnes, threatens to expose his past transgressions and get him disbarred.
Unable to deal with all the pressure, E.B. dies by suicide, which leaves the question of Emily’s representation. Della reaches out to every lawyer in town, but no one is ready to handle what is already a lost cause. One night, Mason makes an impassioned speech about Emily’s case and how injustice is allowed to prevail by the people who are supposed to protect it. His words impress Della so much that she comes up with the idea of Mason representing Emily in court. He is a perfect fit because he is not only intimately familiar with every detail of the case but also believes in Emily’s innocence and wants to secure her freedom.
Della forges a few papers to make it look like Mason had been apprenticing under E.B. as a lawyer. With the help of Hamilton Burger, Mason cracks the bar exam and becomes a lawyer just in time for Emily’s next hearing. Everything happens so quickly that Mason doesn’t get the time to process anything. On his first appearance in court, he falters and struggles, but soon enough, he gets a hold of himself. By the time Emily’s case is wrapped up, Mason is in complete control of himself, and yet another impassioned speech from him leads to Emily’s freedom.
With all this in mind, it is clear that the first season was supposed to end with Mason transitioning from a private detective to a criminal defense lawyer. In that sense, we get his origin story, further paving the path for how events unravel in the following season. There is still a long way for Mason and many more things he needs to learn, but at the beginning of the second season, he is well-settled in his new job. This, however, doesn’t mean that he has let go of his detective side, and that’s what makes him such a great lawyer.
Read More: Is Perry Mason Based on a Real Lawyer or Detective?