Episode 13: The Red Barn
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.
This week we get a little closer to Red John by getting an actual confirmation into what we all had already predicted. We also get to solve a weekly case that becomes interesting just because of Red John's possible involvement in it. When three skeletons are found inside a red barn, the CBI is brought in to investigate this cold case. The one thing that sticks out is that there's a red smile painted on the barn. This indicates that Red John might have something to do with the deaths or he had at the very least visited the farm. What complicates matters is that the three were dead a decade before Red John had become active. Making matters more interesting is that at the time of the murders, the farm was owned by the Visualize cult in an attempt to build a self-sustaining agricultural empire. So what happened? The daughter of the farm's veterinarian had killed one of them in self-defense. In her attempt to hide the body, they discovered the two other bodies in the barn. In addition to that, they had the sensation that they were being watched. This is a very big clue that this might have been Red John's first kills and that he was at least a potential recruit for the cult. The actual weekly case was a bit dull as it's hook completely rested on it's connection to Red John and the cult. It was completely in service of the Red John plot but it's a bit mysterious why the writers felt the need to make it stand out on it's own by making one the bodies to have been killed separately It just felt like the show needed to ensure that there was someone going to jail so that the procedural format could be kept. The episode would have been better if it had spent even more time on Red John.
The show is currently pointing a huge red arrow at a potential Red John suspect. Ray is a character we had met before who had taken over the team temporarily. He had almost gotten fired because of Jane but he managed to save his career. He comes back in this episode to offer Jane a job but it's revealed that he happened to join the Visualize cult when he was a young adult. There's a suggestion that he might have worked on the barn around the same time that the smiley face was painted. It's entirely possible that Ray is a red herring. It's unlikely that the show plans to reveal the identity of Red John soon even as it continually teases out that it will. On the other hand, this is the first real subject that we've had in a long while. Every other person we've only had some small hints but it's different in this case. There's a lot of evidence that basically tells the audience that they should at least be wondering if Ray has a connection to the serial killer. There is no doubt that this is going to be important in a future episode.
What I do like about this episode is that it basically catches Patrick Jane up to the audience. We've known from the beginning that Jane was likely to secretly meet Red John at some point in the show. We wouldn't know when but this is television. Jane has known that he's shaken hands with Red John for a few episodes now but he's narrowed down the potential list of subjects to about 400 people. He believes that Red John a man in his forties. The good news is now he knows for sure that there is some connection between Red John and Visualize. The audience has sort of guessed that for a long while now but there is now concrete evidence that ties them together. That the show has finally revealed that they're connected is one of the biggest steps the show has actually taken at revealing the real Red John. This leaves me pretty confident that the show might actually start getting serious about laying out hints about the serial killer.
The Red Barn is a perfectly good episode of the Mentalist. There's some moments that are a bit implausible (Patrick being able to remember almost every person he's met since his wife's death) but they don't really detract from the episode. It's good to have at least taken a real step in the investigation rather than doling out fake clues and pretending to give out hints. Who knows? Maybe the ratings troubles of the series will allow it to finally tie up the Red John story so that fans are given closure regardless if it comes back or not.
Lisbon's curiosity at whose on the top of Jane's suspect list was probably the finest piece of acting from Robin Tunney. In fact, this entire episode was basically the strongest she's been maybe the whole series.