Tuesday, January 15, 2013

The Mentalist

The Mentalist
Episode 12: Little Red Corvette
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.

Spoilers Ahoy!

This was a pretty fantastic episode of the Mentalist. Volkner has been a pretty great recurring antagonist. He's a billionaire with a lot of resources. This has allowed him to kill people without actually getting his hands dirty. This makes him a formidable opponent that shares some similarities with Red John. The only difference is that Lisbon knows who Volkner is so she knows where to dig in order to hopefully find some answers. A major problem is that he always seems to be one step ahead of them. They get a warrant to search some offices that might contain condemning evidence only to find out that the office has been completely abandoned. They bring in a suspect for questioning only to find out that he's dead. They find out that a kid happened to witness one of his murders and they have to race against time to save his life. Since this is a broadcast drama, it shouldn't come as a surprise that the kid is saved in the last minute. Volker gets captured personally going after the kid and it appears to be the end of that plot. I wouldn't be surprised if the show finds a way to keep it going because Valkner has a huge law defense but he shouldn't lost the law case. He was caught red-handed going after a kid with a gun. That's pretty difficult to explain especially since the kid is going to tell the jury what he saw happen.

It should be noted that Lisbon is only able to get Volkner because she had enlisted Jane's help. Jane's advise on how Lisbon should investigate the case allows them to get close enough for Volkner to get desperate and make some major mistakes. It is interesting what the writers seem to be advocating here. Catching Volkner required Lisbon to ditch the principles that a law enforcement officer is supposed to stand for. It meant going to the edge of the law and even breaking it at points. Whether it's blackmailing a district attorney or lying to a judge, Lisbon crossed a line in order to get the results she was getting desperate to get. It shouldn't be lost that the person who is basically guiding her into doing these actions is the protagonist of the series. Lisbon might have been a character who tolerates Jane's antics but this is a completely different level. This is Lisbon abandoning her values as a law enforcement officer. There are many cop shows on the air for multiple reasons. One of those is that they're supposed to be promoting law and order. These cop shows have a tendency to have characters of great integrity that the viewers can look up to and mold themselves. Having Lisbon abandon this integrity is as if the show is stating that it is sometimes necessary to break the law. It is the very antithesis of a broadcast cop show. Granted, it's been doing this with Jane from the very beginning but there have been some differences. The primary is that Jane is not actually a cop but a mere consultant so he's not expected by anyone to live up to the same standards. The second is that Lisbon has always been the force that's supposed to control him. Lisbon is a cop but this episode has her abandon these standards without anyone there to keep her in check. In fact, she's being encouraged to play dirty. It is partly because of Lisbon's gradual descent from the integrity her post is supposed to have that makes this episode work so well.

It's because her descent comes from a very real and human place that makes the episode really work. She wants to catch Volkner not just because she's a cop or because he's a terrible man but because he had inadvertently made it personal. She had promised to protect the secretary and she had failed. He had basically bragged to her about how he had done it. If Volkner was just another character then Lisbon would have never thought about blackmail or bluffing to a judge. It would be against her character as there would be no catalyst to drive her there. The secretary's death had deeply impacted Lisbon. This wasn't an immediate impact as it's a death that happened a few episodes ago. The pain of it has only grown as Lisbon has failed at being able to bring him to justice. It is this emotional guilt that allows Lisbon to become so guilty that she's willing to betray her values in order to bring him to justice. Now she can finally begin the process to truly process her feelings over what had happened to the secretary.

Lisbon's actions might have made Volkner act out rashly but it's Jane that ultimately brought him down. Jane is the one who deduces that a kid had witnessed a murder. It's Jane who is able to use his intelligence in order to figure out who the kid is. It's Jane who is able to use his interrogating and observational skills to learn that the kid is actually alive. Lisbon didn't just need Jane's help in stooping to a place where she normally wouldn't go but in actually being able to outsmart the billionaire. This is possibly the only flaw I might have with the episode. This is Lisbon's case and when it comes to Volkner then she's the protagonist. This might be Jane's show in most episodes but he should have merely given her the advice on where to look and what to do. Doing all the leg-work with the kid cheapens Lisbon's pursuit of the killer and once again makes her out to be slightly incompetent. It also means that it's inconsistent with what the entire plot had been trying to do. Jane might have Red John but Volkner was Lisbon's nemesis. She was the one trying to bring her down and this was her victory to earn. This is a flaw but it's not really big enough to ruin the episode or hold it back in a significant way. This is because it's also ironically a strength. Why? It shows that in order to catch Volkner, Lisbon needed Jane. In the same way, in order to catch Red John, Jane is going to need Lisbon.

Little Red Corvette is a pretty fabulous episode of The Mentalist. It seemingly wraps up the Volkner case in a really entertaining and fun way while exploring the idea that having integrity might hold you back when trying to capture monsters. What's the best part is that's it's as entertaining and as engaging as this show can be-this is usually reserved for Red John episodes, but Volkner has been a captivating villain to see taken down.

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