While trying to think of a topic for today, I wandered into the Perry Mason Yahoo Group again to see what was being discussed. The interesting topic of “Do any episodes literally depress you” jumped out at me and I began to ponder.
Honestly, I don’t tend to be depressed by Perry episodes. Sometimes the death itself depresses me, but that’s rare, and generally doesn’t impede my enjoyment of the episode overall.
The closest I think I came to being depressed by a Perry episode is The Silent Six. The disturbing revelations that the murder victim was killed because the shooter thought he was the one beating up Susan Wolfe, when he wasn’t, left me with a bit of a cold, shaken feeling. However, on later viewings, that was countered by all the wonderful screentime for Steve. I look forward to seeing this episode every time it’s on, in spite of still being disturbed by the climax in court. Undoubtedly that has to be one of the darkest, most ironic cases.
Other deaths that seem particularly depressing to me are in The Empty Tin and The Lover’s Leap, two episodes I absolutely love.
In The Empty Tin, I did not like that the old man’s nephew (played by Warren Stevens) was killed right after his marriage. And the poor bride was shot too, but she was going to live. What a horrible thing for her to wake up to! I wish that they would have had the husband critically wounded as well, but still alive. I doubt I could even write a little story to save him, since he seemed to have been shot right in the heart.
And in The Lover’s Leap, one of the key plot points is the fact that the angry, divorcing couple was putting on an act and truly loved each other. When the husband fakes his own death and later is killed for real, his wife is so grief-stricken and distraught that she has to buy tranquilizers to try to hide it. Perry eventually breaks her down on the witness stand, as she sobs and wails that she can’t take it any more. At the end, when the killer is revealed, Mrs. Comstock collapses against Perry in tears, still overwhelmed and unable to bear her husband’s death. The guy was a jerk, and she surely could have done better with her romantic interest, but since they did genuinely love each other, the plot thread was discouraging and depressing and left me with a feeling of “What’s she going to do now?”
I very briefly explored a possibility of that in one of my stories. When I wrote a series of scenes to be woven together into the Livejournal.com story Lux Aeterna, one of them features a despondent woman assisting the madwoman Florence when she takes over the world. The woman tells David Gideon that she’s aligned herself with the megalomaniac because she doesn’t care about the old world now that the only person she loved isn’t in it. I never named her, but I did intend for that to be Mrs. Comstock.
Other deaths I find depressing are Captain Caldwell from The Misguided Missile and Mr. Jeffers from The Nine Dolls. Caldwell was killed for knowing too much and not being willing to back down on bringing the criminal to justice. Mr. Jeffers was killed because he had discovered his long-lost (to him) granddaughter and intended to change his will and leave everything to her.
There are a few other scattered deaths throughout the series of people killed simply for being in the wrong place at the wrong time, as well as a few other people who knew too much and several killed for other, equally unfair reasons. I felt bad for the woman in The Fiery Fingers who died because her cousin was so jealous of her. It would be boring if the victims were always slimeballs who pretty much deserved to die, but that doesn’t change that it’s depressing when a good person (or even one not as bad as some of the others) gets offed.
(Then there are the occasional times I find it depressing when one of the slimeballs is killed, such as Simon Oakland’s other Perry character in The Frantic Flyer. That generally happens if I like the actor or if the character exhibits some behavior that makes me pity them in spite of their slimy actions. In that fellow’s case, it’s both. I felt bad for him that he truly loved Janice and she was out to betray him. And then he got killed by the guy who mended his leg, someone he probably came to trust a good deal after all those weeks. That episode is a true parade of slimeballs. Not that many episodes aren’t, but it particularly stood out to me there.)
Overall, though? I still can’t come up with even one Perry episode that depressed me all the way through. I might dislike the death or some other elements, but on the rare occasions that I find an episode truly awful . . . I get irritated, not depressed. And if by some chance I get depressed by an episode on one viewing, I probably won’t on the next.