At the shocking conclusion of The Mentalist‘s third season, I went searching online for reviews of the episode. For whatever reason, most likely the fact that TM is on CBS which is not a hot bed of buzz worthy, water cooler, cult like shows, and the fact that TM is more a procedural than anything else, there was nothing much out there discussing Jane’s murder of Red John in the middle of the food court. I decided to fill the void and write one myself. I re-read the review this morning after watching the premiere last night. It was interesting to read my thoughts on the finale and expectations for this new season and realize that, in almost every aspect, Heller and his team let me down. Quotes in italics are from my May 20 review.
Food Court Red John is not the “real” Red John
“Unfortunately, I don’t think FCRJ was the real deal. I believe he was yet another brainwashed minion of Red John.”
Heller has consistently said that the apprehension of RJ will be a series ending event. Catching Red John is what drives Jane to help the CBI and once that is gone, so is his motivation as well as the premise for the show. It seemed as if Heller was going to go against the over-arching mystery formula for a refreshing change. After all, it would be very easy to have Jane stay on at CBI once Red John is gone. It isn’t unrealistic that working with the CBI would change Patrick, that he would evolve as a character and continue working with Lisbon, et al, without a selfish reason as his prime motivator. That would be an easier explanation than Red John’s continued manipulation of his minions to do horrible deeds in his name. More on that later.
Stretch the Consequences of FCRJ’s Murder Through Multiple Episodes
At the very least, I would like to see half of season four pass before undoing the cliffhanger. If this is resolved in a few episodes of season four, I’m not sure how interested I am in sticking around. The Mentalist is fun, but predictable. Heller did something unpredictable last night. Here’s hoping he has the courage to stick the landing.
Resolved in 42 minutes. Who wants to bet that next week we will be back to a case of the week? Sure, there are still a few dangling loose ends, namely the suspension of Lisbon’s entire team, but those will be tied off neatly by the end of 4.02. Grace’s trauma will linger, as well, but it will be a back burner story, more of a hardening of the character than the addressing of the issue. We will go through 5 or 6 stand alone case of the week episodes with maybe a nugget of Red John info thrown in here or there, but most likely ignored all together, and at mid-season, there will be a big episode or two focusing on RJ.
Truth and Consequences?
Regardless of the true identity of FCRJ, there will be repercussions for Jane killing a man in cold blood, with his friends and the authorities.
Actually, not so much. Lisbon didn’t seem to feel guilty at all about not being there to stop Jane. She also didn’t seem concerned that Jane murdered someone. Jane thinks it was Red John? Then murder is okay! This goes against everything the character has said for three seasons. She has unequivocally stated numerous times that she does not truck with vigilantism. It’s against the law and she is the law. She will stop Jane (which she wasn’t around to do. Nice character development/consistency dodge there, Heller.) or she would take him down. Instead, she is immediately sympathetic with Jane, breaking rules to prove that he didn’t kill an innocent man. I guess I shouldn’t see this as such a 180 for the character considering 1) her unwavering loyalty to Jane and 2) his ability to manipulate her and the team to do whatever he says (sound familiar?). Still, I’m disappointed in Lisbon and the team’s reaction. Even though the team is suspended for Jane’s actions (among other things) they all jump right in and volunteer to violate their suspensions by investigating on their own. Cho even threatens the mall security guard with death! Really? I mean, really?
As far as the legal repercussions, over in 42 minutes. Jane had the quickest murder trial in legal history. Lisbon was still wearing her arm sling so, let’s be generous and say she wore that for 6 weeks, though in reality, probably only a few days passed. Where was the media frenzy? Where was the snail paced court system? This is California, after all. Those are two hallmarks of California justice.
Minions, Minions Everywhere
Red John’s endless cadre of unselfish sociopaths has become comical and, let’s be honest, patently unbelievable. There is no way you can expect the audience to buy into this dedication and loyalty to a Red John character that we have never met. As a result of this and because Red John always gets the best of Jane and the CBI, the credibility of the show has suffered.
And, add at least two more people to that cadre of minions, the security guard (dead) and Food Court Red John (dead). How is this guy recruiting these people? It isn’t like he’s got a great sales pitch. “Do these things for me, although you will probably end up dead as a result.” The only thing I can think that would in any way plausibly explain RJ’s ability to get people to do his bidding is brainwashing or hypnotism. Those are stretches, even. Was FCRJ’s wife in on the deal as well? We don’t know because, like they so often do, they dismissed her as a source of information by saying “She isn’t talking.” Really? You have Cho threaten a security guard with death to get a surveillance footage but you give up that easy on the only known living link to Red John? Heller is sacrificing the credibility of the show, and his serial killer, by continuing with this farcical ability of Red John’s to manipulate people and the continued stupidity of his law enforcement officers.
In the end, there wasn’t anything game changing about Season Three’s cliffhanger at all. Jane is found not-guilty in record time, the team is still loyal and dedicated to Jane to a fault. Red John is still out there, manipulating people to do whatever he wants. The one difference is that Patrick Jane killed the wrong man. (Note I didn’t say innocent there because FCRJ turned out to be a sociopath holding a girl hostage in his basement. Maybe Red John holds underground “How to get the most out of your Antisocial personality disorder” workshops and recruits people from there. Sort of an initiation. “If you can do this for me without getting killed, you get your ASPD pin and I’ll teach you the secret handshake!) Sure, Jane says at the end of the episode that he feels guilty but does any regular viewer of The Mentalist expect this to change Patrick or effect him in any way? Well, you shouldn’t. Remember Cristina Frye? You don’t? It doesn’t seem like Patrick does either, even though she was the first woman he had been genuinely attracted to since his wife’s death and she was abducted and mentally effed with by Red John because of her connection to Jane. Red John left her mentally comatose and Jane completely abandoned her. She hasn’t been mentioned since the first episode (maybe the second) of season three.
So, my hopes for a new direction for The Mentalist are dashed. I’ve decided that long form mysteries do not gel with the procedural genre. Fringe realized that two seasons ago and has vastly improved as a result. The Good Wife balances character with procedural and has current life events and how they affect the characters as the overarching story. That works. The two shows that jumped on the Lost long form mystery bandwagon while trying to be a procedural (Castle, The Mentalist) have been a disappointment as time has gone on. Be one thing or the other. Have a season long mystery, instead. Dragging out these central character motivating mysteries is frustrating to the viewer and leads to contradictions in story and, most egregiously, character. Will I continue to watch The Mentalist? Most likely, but my expectations are so low that it won’t be appointment television like it has been. I’m about to queue up Prime Suspect on my DVR, The Mentalist‘s new time slot competitor from NBC. I like Maria Bello quite a bit and if they are able to deliver a character driven drama without a long form mystery at its center, then I just might abandon The Mentalist altogether.
- I’ve never entirely bought an attraction between Jane and Lisbon. It has crossed my mind because I feel like it should cross my mind that the two central characters would eventually end up together. (Thanks, Hollywood, for brainwashing me in this way.) This episode, however, made me think it was a real possibility. Jane lit up every time he saw Lisbon and she was definitely giving off unusual for Lisbon vibes. Tunny as Lisbon has always had this somewhat skeptical, sour look on her face that was completely absent last night. Remember Jane saying in the season three finale that Lisbon looked like an “angry little princess” in her bridesmaid’s dress? That furrowed brow anger was gone. I’m still not sure I totally buy them together but it doesn’t seem as far-fetched as it did in seasons one and two.
- Lisbon’s style has always been a little problematic. First off, I love that they haven’t sexed her up or have her running around chasing bad guys in heels, like Kate Beckett does on Castle. Janes joke last season about “Lisbon loafers” was funny but it also was true. They’ve done a great job making her into a realistic police woman. But, they haven’t always dressed her to complement her body type. Maybe they’ve found the right look, finally, but she seemed softer and more attractive in this episode than previous seasons.
- Can we please get one episode where these cops are competent enough to investigate a murder without Jane’s help? Lisbon and Grace visit the dead woman’s wife once and Lisbon runs to Jane and says, dead-end. Their incompetence without Jane is frustrating.
- Here’s a prediction – Red John tries to recruit Grace. She seems like the one person on the team that would be susceptible to his coercion. Hasn’t she had two boyfriends that turned out to be bad? Maybe RJ will try to recruit her and she will “go undercover” to help smoke him out. That would be a great redemption storyline for her because, right now, her character is pretty well compromised with the audience and maybe even the team, though they won’t admit it.
- Here’s another prediction – Red John will go after Lisbon, to kill her, especially if she and Jane get closer personally, or even if RJ suspects Jane has personal feelings for her. That would be a great twist, as well.
- I might keep watching The Mentalist and recapping it to fill the void I found at the end of season three. My season three review has gotten the second most hits of any post I’ve written, behind only my home page. I’m not sure how interesting it will be to recap a procedural so I’m not promising weekly recaps. But, recapping episodes based on Red John is a possibility. Of course, they have to keep me interested, first.