Who is Emily Dodson in Perry Mason? How Did She Die?

Image Credit: Merrick Morton/HBO

The second season of HBO’s ‘Perry Mason’ brings a new case to the desk of the titular private investigator-turned-lawyer. The first season serves as the origin story, giving us an insight into the kind of person Mason is and what drives and motivates him. This time around, we find him settled into his life as a lawyer, but things don’t seem to have been so good for him in the time following the success of his first case. In the first episode, we find him haunted by the ghost of Emily Dodson, and the guilt of her death eats away at him. This guilt is one of the reasons why he left criminal law and also why he returns to it.

Tragic Mother of Kidnapped Child

Image Credit: Merrick Morton/HBO

The first season of ‘Perry Mason’ follows the Dodson case. One-year-old Charlie Dodson is kidnapped, and a ransom of one hundred thousand dollars is demanded. The parents, Emily and Matthew Dodson pay the sum, but their child doesn’t come back alive. Not only is he dead, but his eyes are also sewn open. Police investigation points the blame towards Matthew Dodson. However, when it comes to light that Emily Dodson was having an affair with a man named George Gannon, who happened to be one of the kidnappers, the entire blame shifts on her.

For the rest of the season, Emily becomes the center of the case. Instead of finding out the culprits behind Charlie’s murder, the case suddenly turns into a fight to prove his mother’s innocence. At first, Herman Baggerly, a wealthy businessman who was secretly Matthew’s father, pays E.B. Jonathan to defend Emily. When public opinion shifts against Emily, Baggerly rescinds his support, and E.B. is left to defend Emily on his own.

His personal problems and the pressure of defending Emily while facing the threat of disbarment lead to E.B.’s death, and that’s when Mason finds himself with the responsibility of saving Emily. Having served as the private investigator on the case since the beginning, Mason is not only deeply familiar with the case but also feels strongly about getting justice for Emily. Saving her becomes his mission, which is why, perhaps, her death hits him so profoundly.

Cause of Death: Suicide by Drowning

Image Credit: Merrick Morton/HBO

Months after getting a mistrial on Emily’s case, which led to her freedom, Perry Mason discovers she has died. It was suicide by drowning, and the image of Emily in her final moments haunts him. Before this, Emily had written several letters to Perry, talking to him about her state of mind and how losing her son still weighed heavy on her.

While Emily didn’t kill her son, it was projected mainly that she was responsible for it, even if indirectly. Grappling with the unimaginable loss of her son, Emily started believing it was her fault he had died. She started blaming herself for it, and as she lost the support of her husband and the whole world turned against her, she became more resigned to her grief. Things got so dire that, at one point, she almost confessed to the murder.

Emily received Sister Alice’s backing, who claimed she would resurrect Baby Charlie. When the time came, things happened differently than the preacher had imagined. However, Emily did end up with a baby in her arms. Alice’s mother, Birdy, decided to use this as an opportunity to start another church, the one that celebrated the return of the child. For a while, it looked like Emily had accepted this reality. At the end of Season 1, we find her side by side with Birdy, inviting people into the Church of the Reborn Babe. Still, Emily knew that it was not her Charlie.

When the baby is presented to Emily, she notes that the new baby’s eyes are different. Despite this, she accepts the child, hoping to find a fresh start. But she is unable to keep up with this pretense for too long. She talks about it in the letters she writes to Mason, which, presumably, he doesn’t reply to. Sometime later, Emily takes her own life, and Mason is left with a crippling guilt that leads him to abandon criminal law until another similar scenario comes to his doorstep.

Read More: What Happened to Sister Alice? Did Tatiana Maslany Leave Perry Mason?