Episode 8: Red Sails in the Sunset
By: Carlos Uribe
The Mentalist is a show about Patrick Jane, a consultant for the cops who solves crimes while seeking revenge for his family.
The first clue that this episode of the Mentalist is going to be different from every other episode in the series is when Patrick Jane is running in slow-motion towards a theater. It's a dramatic manipulation of time that predicts the important of the events that are about to occur. This idea that this is a special episode is reinforced when Jane meets with Bret Stiles. Stiles has owed Jane a favor for a while now and Jane is seeking to collect with a crazy plan that might land him in jail for the rest of his life. This is a big development for two reasons. The first is that a favor from Stiles is a valuable one. It's not one that you're going to want to waste on something small or unimportant. This instantly meant that the episode is about Red John. The second is that it sets the expectation of the episode because Stiles states that this is like a plan that Jane has never done before. This instantly draws the viewer's attention that Jane's trick this episode is going to be on a different scale than his normal ones. That the episode cuts to the women's prison that Lorelai is currently incarcerated tells the audience that the plan involves breaking her out. When Jane starts breaking apart his own car to make it look like it's been stolen, he begins his illusion that he's been kidnapped by Lorelai. He's not just helping her escape but engineering an entire abduction scenario for the law. It's a well-thought out plan that Jane develops throughout the episode to ensure he doesn't get in trouble. The entire beginning of the episode serves the usual function of setting up the plot but it's unique attributes help to set it apart from the others ones immediately.
The entire episode is split into two halves. The first half is the part with Jane and Lorelai. The second half is spent with Lisbon and the Homeland Security Agent as they try to find the two of them. The other three characters do show up but they're largely tertiary characters in the episode as they barely contribute. This is perfectly fine since if the episode had spent any real time with the entire team then the episode's quality would have been compromised. This is because this was an episode that was concentrated on Jane's quest to find Red John. It is so much about this that the second half simply isn't as important as the first. It does have some importance. Lisbon is able to provide Jane the key evidence that will probably get Lorelai to eventually turn on Red John. They're able to get Jane at the end of the episode so that he could be back to solving crimes while Lorelai deals with this key evidence. The second half is the closest this episode gets to a normal Mentalist episode but it never really truly gets there. The second half simply isn't as captivating as the first half but it manages to be just as good and it never felt like the writers were using it as filler. The one flaw it might have is that it doesn't really tell us anything about the Homeland Security agent when it should have. He seemed perfectly happy to allow Lisbon to run the operation which means we don't get to see how he would have conducted the search. That the conflict between Lisbon and the agent is very understated means that he was largely just there.
It's really the first half that dominates the episode. This is because it was simply enthralling to watch Jane try to manipulate Lorelai. He allows her to have control of where they go and what they do. He goes as far as to allow her to ditch him at any time. Lorelai has just been in prison for a while so it's natural that the first place she would want to visit is the ocean. Prison is confinement but the open sea is usually seen as freedom. There is no question that her remark about where the boats are heading is a commentary on how they have a complete freedom to travel anywhere within water. Allowing Lorelai to have control allows Jane to make it look like he's being hostage and it allows her to start trusting him. This trust is broken when she finds out that he's been pretending that she kidnapped him which leads to her slipping out that Jane and Red John know each other. That was kind of a given for the viewer but this is the first time it's really been confirmed to the character of Jane. That's about the time that Jane gives her the key evidence that her sister wasn't killed by a stranger but by Red John. Lorelai is angry at first before moving on to denial. Jane knows this is true but he realizes that Lorelai needs to prove it to herself before she'll accept his word on it. He allows her to leave. What did he accomplish this episode? He learned that Red John shook his hands and that they have met. He has started to get Lorelai to doubt Red John so that she'll hopefully betray him to Jane. It's small steps but they're bigger than the ones this show usually takes when it comes to Red John.
Allowing Lorelai to leave also means that Jane has to find a reason on why she left her hostage behind. His decision is to take the car that he's been driving it and ram it into a tree while he's on the passenger side. This makes it look like he's on a car crash and that Lorelai fled on foot. The police don't suspect that she's actually on a truck or that Jane had anything to do with Lorelai's escape. The only exception is Lisbon but she doesn't have any evidence to the contrary. It's this decision to get himself into a car wreck that doesn't just show how dedicated he is to the ruse but to finding Red John. He's willing to place himself in harm's way all because he hasn't been able to properly heal. This point is driven home in an earlier scene where Lorelai talks about her sister's death as a gift because it awakened her. Jane wants to know how to reach this viewpoint. He claims it's because he's bad at healing but he's really hoping that it'll tell him something about Red John or the way that his disciples are so devoted to him. Jane's desperation to avenge his family is the running theme of the season and it's especially strong in this episode. He allowed a felon to escape, made it look like that felon kidnapped him, tried to manipulate that felon, and faked a car crash. These actions are one of a desperate and broken man who hasn't been able to heal.
Red Sails in the Sunset is the best episode of this season of the Mentalist and one of the best the show has done. This episode broke the series standard of having a weekly case every episode and made some unique directing choices that helps set it apart. It's concentration on Lorelai and Jane's hunt for Red John allows it create a really compelling episode that gets us slightly closer to finding out who Red John is. Red Sails in the Sunset has very little flaws-the only major one is not allowing us to get closer to the Homeland Security Agent. It's not good when Jane sees the agent and asks who he is and I have to second that question despite having spent a large portion of the episode with him. It might not be a perfect episode but Red Sails in the Sunset does get close.