One of the season 9 episodes my local station keeps is The Final Fade-Out. Often I try to avoid it when it’s on either that station or MeTV, but I’ve really meant to sit down and watch it through once again. Since I was working the night MeTV had it on and I only caught the last half of it, and since the local station’s copy was going to air shortly, I decided to watch the latter airing in full.
Or as full as I could get, anyway. The blasted thing decided to run an emergency test right during one of the scenes I especially wanted to review! I don’t know why they always do that. Without fail, it happens during Perry. Why can’t they schedule it for the time in-between shows? I was happy I have the episode on my 50th Anniversary set to be able to look through later.
Anyway, after watching the cut version and filling in the blanks with the uncut just now, I’ve determined that my basic feeling is still the same. It’s not the greatest send-off for such a long-running series, but it has some fun scenes and bits.
One of my favorites is right after the murder, when Steve and Brice show up to question everyone. That’s when a lot of the real Perry crew gets to cameo, I think. This part is extended in the uncut version. It’s neat to see some of the actual crew on-screen finally. I wonder if the parts they had in the episode were the same roles they had in reality (key grip, best boy, etc.)? We even learn a little of what the crewmembers do. I was as clueless about a key grip as Steve was, but it sounds like they have a pretty important part in things.
It’s also neat that the crewmembers got to interact with Steve. More screentime for him, yay! And Brice handles some of the questioning too. It’s always good to hear him talking.
And I still love the epilogue. I had momentarily forgotten that Hamilton was unable to stammer out a real apology and had to have Steve do it, so I was thrilled that Steve had that one final bit of screentime. Season 9’s “Core Five” all have something to do in the last little scene, very fitting for the end of the series. I also love how the very last bit is Perry and company looking over the information for their next case. The show is ending, but the characters’ lives are continuing off-screen, and things in the Perry world march on just as they should.
I do find it a little sad that since Dan Tobin’s character is also a central part of season 9, and is credited as such, he does not appear in this last episode. I wonder why they couldn’t figure out how to work him into a little scene.
I also wonder a bit why Della doesn’t have more screentime. Perry, Paul, Hamilton, and Steve all have quite a lot to do, but save for one scene where Della interacts with Paul, and the epilogue, it seems that Della is mostly quiet in the background. That’s often her role, but I would have thought that she’d be given something more to do in the final episode.
And honestly, of course murder is not a solution to a problem, but sometimes some of the victims really do act like they deserve it. Barry Conrad is such a teeth-grating, obnoxious, arrogant wretch. It’s awful how he cons Jackson Sidemark and criticizes the aging movie star who gave him his break. He’s so sweet to her face and then acts so horrid behind her back, even while she continues to think he genuinely is sweet. He refuses to even work with her!
Barry is likely one of many commentaries the series did on how real actors can behave atrociously. I really couldn’t feel that sorry for him when he was shot dead on-set.
The episode is certainly unique in that there are two murders, two defendants, and two hearings—and that the defendant in the first becomes the victim in the second. Very tragic, really. He just thought he was free of the murder rap and then he solves the case and is murdered himself because of it.
Denver Pyle turns an excellent performance, as always, as Jackson Sidemark, the first defendant and second victim. I’ve really been impressed with his dramatic work on Perry, and although bumpkins like The Andy Griffith Show’s Briscoe Darling are amusing to watch, I far prefer to see the more serious characters. He certainly was talented, to be able to play both comedy and drama so flawlessly!
Also of interest is Jackie Coogan as the prop man who is even willing to perjure himself to try to clear Jackson’s name. I wonder if the two spoke and he was able to tell Jackson why he lied on the witness stand, since the way he did it made it look like he was trying to get Jackson convicted. Instead, he knew about the pictures Perry had that would show he was lying, and he hoped the case would then be bounced out of court, which is exactly what happened. I was about to say it was sad that Jackson died without knowing the real motivation, but then I remembered the guard commenting that he wondered why Jackson let the prop man on the set after the hearing and I wondered if they could have spoke then. It would have been nice for Jackson to have known that the prop man remained a true friend, albeit a misguided one.
And speaking of the incident in court with the prop man’s perjury, that brings us to what has always been my main complaint about the episode: Hamilton suddenly snapping and accusing Perry of being in on the plot.
Actually, Hamilton’s grilling of the prop man and being furious over the perjured testimony is pretty awesome. It reminds me of how he really tears into some witnesses in season 9, especially the creep in The Fatal Fortune. I love to see him become outraged over someone misusing the court.
But the scene stops being awesome when he suddenly and out of left field accuses Perry of being involved and becomes fixated on that idea. Of course, it’s something that happens often during the series. But it lessens or outright stops for a while, adding to my exasperation that it returns off and on in season 9.
In previous posts I said that my specific complaint with the outburst here wasn’t so much that Hamilton accused Perry again, but that he seemed to think Perry was deliberately trying to show him up and make him look ridiculous. Upon reviewing the episode again, I didn’t quite have that impression, but rather, was simply exasperated by the return of the wild accusations in general.
It really does seem to come out of nowhere. Of course, Perry has orchestrated many eyebrow-raising stunts, many of which Hamilton knows about or suspects, so on the one hand it makes sense for him to present the accusation. On the other hand, since aside from some season 9 episodes the accusations have largely been in the background, the sense of it all seems to get lost. Adding to the confusion of it popping up again at this point and in this way is the fact that there have been other witnesses that perjured themselves and while Hamilton was furious about them, he generally didn’t accuse Perry of being involved. So what causes him to think it this time?
There’s also the question of what causes him to calm down again, since he remains upset after court and is so upset that it makes Steve flee from his presence. That’s definitely worse than usual. But during the second trial he seems quite docile, even when objecting to things. It isn’t just following the second trial that he calms down, even though it’s only then when he tries to apologize.
Perhaps since the wild accusations are such a large part of season 1 in particular, they wanted to have the final episode include the element once more. Or perhaps, as I speculated before, it was something Erle Stanley Gardner wanted, especially since he’s in that episode.
In any case, it does make for a tense situation. When Steve says he had to get away, it’s a definite signal that Hamilton is far more upset than what generally happens. There may have been similar incidents years earlier with Tragg, but I don’t recall Tragg ever mentioning them and this is probably Steve’s first exposure to such a thing.
I do question why, with such a vicious confrontation in court, they decide to be rather anti-climatic by having Hamilton so calm the next time we see him, during the second trial. Perhaps, also as I speculated before, Hamilton doesn’t really think Perry was involved and was just extremely frustrated and upset over the unpleasant surprise in court. Once he has the chance to cool off, he gets over it and can get on with his life, just as in The Ice-Cold Hands.
Without any proof one way or another, however, this is one Perry mystery that will forever remain unsolved.
Overall, The Final Fade-Out is still not one of my favorite episodes, and probably never will be, but I do appreciate the good it has to offer and I love fun things like seeing the crew and Erle Stanley Gardner onscreen. Della should have been given a little more to do, but her screentime is enjoyable and key to the episode, especially the scene with Paul where they discuss examining the film—the thing that leads to the discovery of the true murderer.
The series started nine years prior with a bit of a different Core Five, but it persisted through two cast changes and ends with the current Core Five carrying on and on good terms with each other. That’s a nice thought to take away.