HBO’s newest ‘Perry Mason’ reboot is a modern take on the classic series and, like its predecessor, Season 2 centers around corruption and greed. However, this adaptation is more than just an adaptation of Erle Stanley Gardner’s novels; it draws inspiration from real-life stories as well.
Sister Alice McKeegan and the cultish evangelical church she leads in Perry Mason are inspired by the story of 1930s radio evangelist Aimee Semple McPherson.
The Case of Aimee Semple McPherson
As a Pentecostal evangelist, Aimee Semple McPherson had the unique ability to draw in large audiences. She used faith healing and “speaking in tongues” (the ability to speak unknown words that are believed to be from some biblical language) as powerful tools for motivating her followers.
She also produced stunning weekly dramas with religious themes. These shows were hugely successful, boasting elaborate sets, costumes and high-end lighting effects.
McPherson’s popularity wasn’t without controversy, however. In 1926 she mysteriously vanished from Venice Beach in Los Angeles, leaving behind a trail of death and mourning.
She eventually returned to Mexico. But the case was complicated. The Los Angeles district attorney convened a grand jury to investigate her, but when he concluded she had lied in her testimony before them, all charges against her were dropped.
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The Case of Sister Alice McKeegan
In the premiere episode of HBO’s Perry Mason, Mason (Matthew Rhys) must investigate a case involving Radiant Assembly of God – an evangelical cult led by charismatic lead evangelist Sister Alice McKeegan – who claims that God has told her to bring back the kidnapped baby. This adds further intrigue and mystery to the investigation.
Sister Alice is an original character, yet she bears some resemblance to real Depression-era radio evangelist Sister Aimee Semple McPherson. Her church — with pageantry, costumes and radio drama — are clearly inspired by McPherson’s highly entertaining ministry in Los Angeles during the 1920s and 1930s.
After the first season, executive producers Susan Downey and Tatiana Maslany hinted that there was more to Sister Alice’s story. So now, here is what we know about her and why we may not see her back for season 2. Keep reading to find out!
The Case of Jan Broberg
True crime enthusiasts will recall Jan Broberg’s case as it made headlines recently. Netflix even released a documentary on her case last year, sparking much discussion and controversy.
In that film, it was revealed that at 12 years old Jan awoke in her motor home strapped down and heard mysterious voices telling her she was part alien. They informed her of a mission and required her to procreate with a male companion before her 16th birthday.
She was threatened that if she didn’t report what had happened, her parents would be killed, she’d go blind and her sister Susan kidnapped. This elaborate scheme was orchestrated by Robert Berchtold (played by Jake Lacy) to keep her from reporting what had occurred and thus avoid charges.
In the Peacock drama miniseries, we learn her parents Bob and Mary Ann Broberg did not call the police immediately when Berchtold said he would return. This was because Gail, Berchtold’s wife, blackmailed them by threatening to expose Mary Ann’s affair with him.
The Case of Paul Drake
Paul Drake is Mason’s personal legman and sometimes a source of trouble. At least twice, he’s saved Perry Mason from being shot and killed by gun-carrying suspects who would later be revealed as guilty.
In “The Case of the Nervous Accomplice,” Mason and Drake fabricate evidence (a target shooting stand) to draw out a killer. However, upon arriving in court, the murderer disassembles and discards it to hide his tracks.