Friday, May 10, 2013

The Mentalist

The Mentalist
Episode 22: Red John's Rules
The Season Finale
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!

The fifth season ends with a lot of promise as it gives some much-needed direction to the Red John investigation while at the same time presenting a somewhat self-contained weekly case involving the serial killer. The case involves the death of a young mother staying at a motel. She was hoping to get away from her abusive boyfriend but she met her untimely end. The aspect that draws the CBI into the case is because Red John's smiley face is present at the crime scene. There is some question at the beginning whether this was actually the serial killer or not but Patrick Jane basically claims it is. He doesn't rule out the possibility that an accomplice helped him because the mom's baby is missing. There are two suspects who could have taken the baby. The first is the abusive father who is doing everything he can to reunite his family. He's a violent man as he's first introduced as punching law enforcement to rush into his dead wife's motel room. The second is the uncle that had raised her. He had disowned her when she had married her husband because their families were rivals. The two are the most obvious people who could have done it so of course it can't be them. There is a trick at the end where Jane reveals that it's actually the social worker handling the case. The worker had wanted a child of her own so she helped Red John kill the woman so she could be a mother. It's basically nothing out of the ordinary from what is a typical Red John investigation at first glance. There are two reasons that separate it. The first is the personal connection the case ends up having with Patrick Jane and the second is because there's always the promise that we're going to get the names of the people he suspects.

The personal connection is actually pretty surprising. It starts out simple enough as the community he had grown up with is where the husband lives. He has to interview some of his old neighbors to try and crack the case. The child service place that the social worker runs is one he had spent time at as some kid. It's a nice way to have Red John use Jane's “hometown” of sorts to begin to unnerve him. It comes as a big surprise to Jane when he finds out that he actually knew the victim. It had been thirty years since he had seen her and his only memory of her was when she was a little kid. It's a happy memory that gets triggered by a specific song. The most important part is that he's never told anyone of this memory until after her murder. Red John basically killed this girl and in doing so he took away this memory. It went from being happy to tragic. Jane is already a character who is in a dark place as there's little grounding him to any sense of joy. Removing this memory is only get to send Jane deeper into his obsession towards getting revenge. Red John has managed to find a way to make Jane darker. What's worse is the implication that Red John can actually read Jane's memory. He had targeted the girl specifically because she was a happy memory. Jane had never told anyone so it really does seem like John might have looked into his mind.

A recurring theme on this show has been the conflict between who Jane used to be and the man he is now. He used to be a psychic with his own show that would swindle people for their money. He would pretend to talk to the dead and then charge money. He was a fake. He doesn't believe in psychics. He's now a lawman. There is a moment where another psychic, the uncle of the victim, when he wonders why Jane is currently helping the cops. He assumes it's for atonement when in reality it's for revenge. Red John took his family away from him and Jane lost his old self. He stopped pretending to be a psychic. He's gotten to the point where he will expose other physics or play games with them. His insistence that there are no psychics is one of the strongest ones in the show. It's a firm conviction he holds. The uncle notes how Jane is doomed because he has no faith. Jane might dismiss that but it makes for a lot of sense for Red John to at least try to show himself as someone who has the gift to read minds. Jane's disdain for his old craft creates a great contrast with Red John's claim to having powers. I'm hoping that this theme of whether or not psychic powers are real is one the show is now going to explore in the realm of the Red John case in a way it really hasn't before. Sure, Red John might have killed Jane's family in partial because Jane pretended to be fake. To suggest that Red John is a real one? The plot becomes instantly adds on a layer.

The end of the episode is also a great one. Jane has narrowed down his list to seven names. He gives away one to Lisbon earlier in the episode but they're not revealed until the end in a very creative manner. Red John had predicted that Jane would figure out who his accomplice was in this week's case. He had prepared a DVD with Lorelai reading a message. The message is that Red John knows that Jane has come up with a list of suspects. He actually has Lorelai read them out loud. He gets every name right. He also basically admits to having read Jane's mind before threatening to start killing people until he's either caught or he catches Jane. A very threat that really helps to increase the narrative momentum as he'll start to be an active antagonist. Overall, it's a pretty great cliff-hanger to end the season on as we finally start to narrow down who Red John can be. I don't completely trust the series, despite Bruno Heller's promise that he's not planning a twist and that the names are the real suspects, but if this ends up being true then we'll certainly have a more focused plot that can actually start moving at a decent pace. Overall, I've got to say that this is something that should have happened at the end of the first season-the case has been too abstract without any human suspects to the point where the investigation always stalled.

The fifth season of the Mentalist has been solid. There's been some dull weekly cases and a couple of duds as episodes but it's largely remained a high-quality procedural. Patrick Jane remains a fun character to solve cases even as his obsession towards catching Red John grows. The progress this season towards catching Red John has been slow as Lorelai Martins only clue to Jane was that he shook Red John's hand when they first met. Jane has slowly gone through every single male character since the show has first started and we finally have some suspects that will allow the investigation to start moving. If anything, I believe this will inject the show with the fresh life it needs as it's started to become a bit lifeless at points. Overall, I'm not sure if we'll get Red John at the end of the season (we've been duped too many times) but if the promise is kept then the sixth season should give us the answer and the pace of the narrative should pick up. The Mentalist remains a solid show and I can't wait to see if that list actually pans out or not.

Red John's Rules was a pretty great season finale. The weekly investigation was interesting on it's own and the self-contained quest for the accomplice led to a pretty imaginative cliff-hanger. Having Red John read the list of suspects was pretty clever by the writers and his promise to start killing again promising. Red John might have always been a presence on this show but it's nice to see him take more of an active than a reactionary attitude. The Mentalist promises to change the game and if it can fulfill this promise then I'm expecting the best season from this show yet. I also hope the show keeps up the argument on whether or not it's possible to be a psychic in relation to Red John's so-called powers. That's certainly a great theme for the show to continue exploring. Red John's Rules did what it needed to do: set up the promise of a sixth season and make it exciting.

Other Notes:

A reference-the list of names and who they are:

Bret Stiles: The cult leader of Visualize who has hinted at having insider knowledge on the serial killer. He granted one favor to Patrick Jane: helping him free Lorelai from prison.

Gale Betram: The current director of CBI who once quoted a poem by William Blake, Red John's poet of choice.

Ray Haffner: A former director of CBI, currently a private detective and Visualize member. The only suspect we know that could have been at the barn where Red John's smiley face first appeared.

Reede Smith: An FBI agent who briefly took over the Red John investigation at the beginning of the fifth season. His first name can be derived from “Reed” which means “Red”.

Bob Kirkland: The mysterious Homeland Security Agent that has shown a keen interest in Red John. He killed Jason Lennon.

Tom McCallister: A sheriff who only appeared in the second episode of the series. He's played by Xander Berkeley, who would be a great Red John.

Brett Patridge: The only recurring character introduced in the pilot, he's a Forensics analyst that is always wrong on whether Red John committed the crime or not. Jane doesn't like him and considers him a “ghoul”.

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