Perry Mason Episode 1: Chapter One | Review
With Perry Masons, HBO returns to full form of its early 2010’s days of glory.
Boardwalk Empire is back.
The first episode of Perry Masons sends the audience back to the good old days of HBO, reminiscent of the days when Michael Lombardo was gloriously steering the wheels of the company. A periodic drama with high production values is something HBO always knew how to do, and with Perry Masons it seems like they are onto an interesting concept that could carry an entire show not only in terms of storytelling, but also in terms of atmosphere and experience.
Director Timothy Van Patten used to be the key director of the network back in it’s golden era. He directed most of the episodes in the Sopranos, and was the head director of HBO’s classic masterpiece Boardwalk Empire, earning him an Emmy Award for directing the legendary season 2 finale. Back in 2010 when the initial Game of Thrones pilot was described as a “total mess” by the show-runners and everyone involve, it was Van Patten who got invited to re-shoot the pilot, and successfully starting the legacy of HBO’s most successful series. When we heard that a show taking place in the 30’s has Tim Van Patten as it’s director we couldn’t be more thrilled- since ever since the Boardwalk Empire finale in 2014 he hasn’t made a single episode for HBO. He hasn’t really made a single episode, period, if you think about it, apart from one Black Mirror episode. We all missed him so much! Now that he is back for almost a complete series on his own, we hope it means his partnership with HBO got rekindled and we will see him do more work for the network in the future. For he is probably one of the best and most consistent directors to ever work on television, at least in my opinion.
Right at the very beginning of the episode — the first couple of seconds — you see a bunch of people with 30’s hats and you hear the 30’s jazz music you know so well from Boardwalk Empire, only to be crossed with Perry Mason’s original soundtrack, scored by Terence Blanchard, and you understand that Tim Van Patten is back on his Boardwalk style, but it’s gonna be a bit different this time. The whole ambiance is dark and moody, combining 30’s period drama and film noir.
Besides the setting and the obvious corollaries, the resemblance to Boardwalk Empire is simply undeniable. Exactly the thing fans of the shows have been eager to get from HBO in the last 6 years. The character of Chubby, for example, from the first sequence of the episode, seems like something straight from the mind of Terence Winter and Howard Korder that could easily find its way to an episode of Boardwalk. Seeing him watching his own movie and almost dying of laughter surely reminded us of the good old days of characters from the schools of Dr. Valentine Narcisse, Nelson Van Alden or even Big Jim Collosimo. In fact, the concept of a Boardwalk-y character that appears only in the first episode is somewhat of a signature concept of Terence Winter- Colossimo on Boardwalk, Mark Hanna in the Wolf of Wall Street, Old Man Bacalaa in the Sopranos and of course Buck Rogers in the criminally underrated Vinyl. The character of Eli, surely helps to get the audience in the mood of the early 1900’s century once more. The music, the sets, the costumes, it’s all very nostalgic for Boardwalk fans who missed this and Van Patten’s work so bad.
The cast is fantastic. You have Matthew Rhys in the lead role, always looking like he got kicked in the stomach and he’s in agony. Shea Whigham is here, the man who played Eli Thompson on Boardwalk and since then has been in a lot of places, including last year’s hit Joker, the ever brilliant Jon Lithgow is here, Juliet Rylance from The Knick, Andrew Howard from Watchmen and Banshee, and many more.
The story starts slowly by showing us the time and era first, right after presenting us with a vicious crime that will later require Perry Masons’ attention. Perry is a man with issues that he quiets down with booze and his work. Then slowly we get to know the people at play, and how it’s like to investigate crimes in a different time. Seems like there’s a lot to explore in Masons’ personal life and past, like the days in the War and the story with his wife and son. We are surely curious to see where the mystery takes us later this season in this beautifully styled piece of television.
After the brilliant I Know this Much is True, it seems like HBO are currently better at producing mini-series than original full Drama shows, Perry Mason surely had our curiosity from the beginning, but ever since the opening scene with Chubby- its surely got out attention. The story is captivating and the performances are all top notch, and we can’t wait to see what Howard Korder has in store for us for the remainder of the investigation of this hideous crime.
Posted originally on HBOWatch.