Thursday, April 25, 2013

The Mentalist

The Mentalist
Episode 20: Red Velvet Cupcakes
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!

We're coming to the end of the season. Murders have been solved, the Red John case gets some clues, and there's been a recurring theme of Rigsby's feelings for Van Pelt. You would think that the series would be increasing the narrative momentum to get the fans more excited for the finale but this doesn't happen. There is a weekly case but it's of the forgettable kind. The Red John case is barely touched at all this week. The closest this episode gets to the investigation is referencing that Jane is obsessed about cracking it. The only development that happens is that Rigsby and Van Pelt start kissing at the end of the episode. She even goes into his apartment which implies they're going to have sex. The two finally get back together because they're still in love. I actually like this development because I think they made a cute couple the last time around. While I never really liked the whole “you can't date your co-worker” plot excuse that ultimately broke them apart, I felt like their relationship arc has been handled well. At the same time, I can't feel like I'm not really exicted for the next two episodes even as they should start to pick up on the Red John thread. It's a bit odd to watch any procedural that has an overreaching narrative arc because there could be whole episodes where it's barely even mentioned. This makes it hard for any narrative momentum to sustain itself in the long-term nor for it to truly develop over time. Overall, the Mentalist is moving at a current slow pace when it should be picking up speed.

The weekly case was rather dull and forgettable. This girl gets murdered because she was in an unhappy marriage. The victim was trying to save their marriage but she didn't know he was cheating on her. The first suspect was the husband because he's the most obvious person but it's no surprise when he turns out to just be a red herring. The answer lies on a radio show that she appeared on to talk about her marriage with her husband. It's one of those terrible relationship advice shows that are mostly used by people seeking attention. The host of the program admits that most of the people who appear on his show are really seeking their five minutes of fame but he gives personal guidance to couples who go to him to actually try to make their relationship work. Only this host has a serious foot fetish. It's so bad that he had an affair with the victim. He can't help himself but appear like a suspect due to this fetish. Only he's not the killer. It was actually his wife. She found out about his stepping out so she went to confront the victim. She lost it when the victim called her husband a creep. The case is solved. It's actually surprising that it's not the case that's important. Oh, sure, it might have been a secret exploration about how people can't control their fetishes. The husband of the victim can't help but cheat on his wife as he's into dominating women and BDSM. The radio host can't help himself when it comes to women's feet. Lisbon is revealed to have a fetish for turtlenecks. That's oddly specific but okay. No what this case was really about was using it as a way to explore Rigsby and Van Pelt's feelings towards each other.

I wouldn't say that I necessarily ship Van Pelt or Rigsby. I'm not even sure what their shipper name is. Do they even have one? I'm not going to actively root for them to be together but I would like them to be. It's basically the only romantic relationship this show has done that has actually been able to work. You get a sense that the two really do love each other. These feelings are brought out in the open this week. This is because of the weekly case. Rigsby begins the episode by acting jealous. He doesn't like that Van Pelt has met someone while she was in Los Angeles and he's having a hard time hiding it. At the beginning, it looked like another episode where Rigsby would avoid telling the truth to Van Pelt. That is until Jane needed a couple to go undercover at the radio station. He wanted to basically get Van Pelt alone in a room with the radio host so that they could trick the foot fetish out of him. They could then charge him with murder. This was a plan he concocted before the writers revealed the real killer. In fact, I think this is one of the few times, if not the first, where Jane was actually wrong on who the killer was. Anyways, putting Van Pelt alone with the radio host meant she had to go undercover. Since this is a relationship radio show, this would mean having to pretend to be dating Rigsby. The two go on the air and they're able to talk. It's a great conversation as they can not only talk about the time they were dating but also what has happened since. Van Pelt brings up that she likes that Rigsby is a father while he doesn't let her forget that her fiance was a homicidal maniac. The two do have some nice closing moments when Van Pelt talks about the real reason they broke up. It wasn't just to keep their jobs but because she wasn't ready to commit to him. She was young. Rigsby got to basically tell her that he's still in love with her without actually saying it. It's a nice sweet moment where they actually communicated because they had to. The episode ends with Van Pelt going to Rigsby's place because she realizes that they still like each other.

Red Velvet Cupcakes was an okay episode of the Mentalist. I'm very satisfied that Rigsby and Van Pelt are at least temporarily back together. Their character growth expressed in this episode is hopefully a sign that the two will settle down rather than allow the workplace obstacle to get in the way. The weekly case was a bit forgettable but at least it was a way for the plot to show where the characters feel towards each other. It's not an outstanding one but at least the season was able to explore their relationship before Red John takes over the proceedings. There's two episodes left in the season and while the narrative momentum is currently dead, I'm intrigued what's going to happen because of the promise of possible developments in the Red John plot. We know that Jane knew him, he was on that farm, and he's narrowing down the list of subjects. We know we won't get an answer because there's going to be a sixth season but hopefully the series will make some actual headway in the Red John story.

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