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What is Girard? Perry Mason References a Real City Outside of LA In Episode 3
We have about three hours of Perry Mason—the one where the detective makes dirty jokes and always has a low-level whiskey buzz going—under our belts. While the pilot was pretty damn fun, we’ve seen something of a two-episode-long plot dump since then. In Episode Two and Sunday night’s Episode Three, Perry Mason took a not-so-short break to introduce Paul Drake and Sister Alice, make sure we know that Perry is sad, and set up a whodunnit tug-of-war between Matthew and Emily Dodson.
Thankfully, it feels like the plot’s about to break open heading into Episode Four. Sister Alice is tripping on God voices, Della Street caught the LAPD torturing Emily Dodson, and Herman Baggerly unveiled some big plans to Matthew Dodson about the development of a new city named Girard. Baggerly’s big reveal seems like another based-in-real-life plot point that will be critical to Perry Mason going forward.
Near the end of Episode Three, Baggerly has a sit-down with his son, Dodson. We learn that there are some daddy issues in that relationship—Baggerly apparently spent time during Dodson’s childhood away from the family, partying wherever 19th-Century partiers partied, leaving Dodson alone with his mother. Baggerly tells Dodson that he wants to repair the relationship… by building an entire town with him. He pulls out blueprints for a town called Girard.
“The town of Girard,” Baggerly says to Dodson. “It’s about 30 miles from here in the western corner of this very valley. Help me build a city of faith. A family. Far from the corruption of Los Angeles.”
It’s no secret that Perry Mason’s showrunners did their research on 1930s-era Los Angeles, so it might not come as a surprise to you that Girard was a real place. Back in the 1920s, there was a land developer named Victor Girard—who sounds like a character right out of Perry Mason. The guy called himself a “human dynamo.” In 1922, he aimed to develop a Moorish-themed getaway spot in the San Fernando Valley.
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He built up the area with a ton of greenery and a town center, advertised the hell out of it, and sold property for chunks of cash. The Stock Market Crash of 1929, though, eventually killed any momentum Girard has toward making a lasting community, and the townspeople slowly left. Later, Girard had to fend off lawsuits that accused him of misrepresenting the neighborhood. Today, the area that used to be Girard is now a forested valley called Woodland Hills.
Since Baggerly’s reveal only amounted to about a 20-second blip in Episode Three, it’s hard to tell how much the plans for Girard will factor into Perry Mason. If the father-son duo goes through with the plans, will it relate in the slightest to what’s going on in the kidnapping case? For now, it seems like a B plot—Baggerly and Dodson out in California somewhere, building up a religious utopia while Emily fights for her freedom from jail. Maybe, if Perry Mason takes anything from Girard’s true story, it’ll involve some shady dealings. Anyway, take a break from the drama. Make like Perry and tank a cheeseburger in honor of the holiday weekend.
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