Thursday, May 24, 2012

Character development and season 3

The Prudent Prosecutor was on last night. I’ve been looking forward to it for months so I could finally record the first few minutes. The last time it was on, I hadn’t expected it, so I had to run around madly for a tape. (Oh, I hate when that happens.)

It was a delight to see it again, as it always is. And I was struck once more by what an important milestone it is on the road to character development.

As mentioned before, it is often mistakenly considered the only time Perry and Hamilton teamed up to solve a case. It isn’t; it’s just the first real time it happened. It’s also not even the only time Hamilton has asked Perry for help, as he expressly does it again in season 7’s The Accosted Accountant.

Hamilton’s awkwardness in The Prudent Prosecutor is adorably endearing. At this point he and Perry have become quite friendly, at least certainly compared to season 1, yet he still feels uneasy about asking Perry to defend Jefferson Pike. But they’re close enough that he recognizes Perry’s gentle teasing for what it is and it puts him at ease.

I was thinking what a contrast it is to Hamilton’s behavior in the later seasons. By that point he has become extremely comfortable with his dual positions of district attorney and friend of a defense attorney. For instance, in season 8’s The Fatal Fetish, there is no hint of awkwardness whatsoever. He simply greets Perry with a Hello and matter-of-factly says he’s glad Perry’s there. (Of course, that happens during The Prudent Prosecutor as well, but there was also the awkwardness later.) This sort of approach is very common in seasons 7 and 8, and in season 9 when the writers are paying attention.

It’s very enjoyable and intriguing to watch his character grow in this way. I love it when characters change for the better throughout the course of a series, instead of simply remaining static. And of all the main characters, I do believe Hamilton is really the only one who has such immense development. The others stay mostly the same over all nine seasons, except for Perry himself, who does tone down the law-bending escapades that get Hamilton so upset. Della, Paul, and the police basically don’t have any level of expanding development—although Andy does go from being Tragg’s stand-in to a well-rounded character in his own right. But I consider that more of the writers finally getting their footing with the character.

Paul is the only other one whose feelings can sometimes be a mystery, as far as I’m concerned. At least, certainly his feelings towards Hamilton. It’s true that he does tone down the amount of negative comments he makes in season 1, and he does seem friendly when Hamilton joins them in a casual light (particularly in The Purple Woman), but it remains true that every time he mentions Hamilton, it seems to be in a rather derogatory manner. I had hoped that perhaps the events of Paul Drake’s Dilemma would change his mind, but I honestly can’t tell whether or not it made much difference. If he really dislikes Hamilton as much as he seemed to in season 1, it might take a great deal to fully change that.

All the way in season 8, in The Lover’s Gamble, Paul makes a remark concerning Hamilton that certainly made me raise an eyebrow. When the defendant (who, by the way, is a young friend of Della’s) presents Perry with a painting she has made of him, Paul says, “You know, I bet even Hamilton Burger would like one of those. Perry Mason, hanging … in oil.” Clearly he’s not really talking about the painting. And considering how friendly Perry and Hamilton are by season 8, the remark really doesn’t make much sense. In season 1 it would have, considering that one of Hamilton’s most off-the-wall comments to Perry was that if he had his way, Perry would be facing fire and brimstone. But by season 8 he just doesn’t say things like that. He’s matured greatly by then. And he never wanted anything to happen to Perry, not even, I’m sure, in season 1, despite whatever impulsive comments he made.

Hamilton in the television series just wasn’t ever the fellow in the books who would “pass up three murder convictions just to get Perry arrested for littering” or whatever that was that Tragg said once in the books. Book-Tragg was hopefully exaggerating, but in any case, television series-Hamilton would never dream of such a miscarriage of justice.

It’s equally possible that the writers just slipped up with Paul, as they occasionally did with everyone. His occasional silent and apparent friendliness towards Hamilton has to be taken into account too. (And there’s also how he got such a kick out of Hamilton citing Perry for burning trash without a license in The Blushing Pearls, after Paul had kept telling Perry he would get in trouble for his arson. Paul cracking up over what Hamilton opted to do was definitely unexpected. Although that may have been more because he felt triumphant to have been right, rather than because he felt alright towards Hamilton.) Or maybe he just has kind of a twisted sense of humor, as Tarlonniel suggested to me, and that remark in season 8 was not really meant to be as derogatory as the stuff he said and meant in season 1. There are many possibilities.

Hamilton seems to have no desire to have Paul on the rocks with him. My favorite scene in that aforementioned Bartered Bikini episode has him questioning Paul as a witness. Hamilton is never the least bit mocking or sneering, but dead sober. Paul is very serious and calm, and I think you can tell he doesn’t want to be there, but he’s a professional and doesn’t act out. Hamilton is visibly relieved. At the conclusion he thanks Paul for his cooperation and for not forcing him to treat Paul as a hostile witness. I definitely had the sense that he had been honestly concerned about how the examination would go. I can’t recall any of the other specific times Paul was on the witness stand, but I think there was at least one around season 6. I don’t think it was as fascinating as this one, however.

For the most part I have been very happy with season 3 and its moments of character development. Sometimes it unfortunately backslides, such as in The Singing Skirt, but overall it is fairly consistent. That is a surprise to me. I hadn’t remembered it was so good!

My only regret is that we are almost to The Crying Cherub on my local station. Le sigh.

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