TV Review: The Mentalist 4.14 “At First Blush” – Stooges in a Comedy Troupe

Isn’t February sweeps time? Isn’t this the time of year that we get juicy Red John episodes to tide us over to the next sweeps period? Was the revelation at the end of last week’s episode supposed to tide us over until May? I mean, that was a pretty big ender last week – everyone in CBI plus the FBI knows that Red John is alive, Darcy suspects that Jane knew this fact and I’m sure the rest of Lisbon’s team suspect that as well. So, what do we get this episode? Not one mention of it. I can understand Darcy not being there. Catherine Dent is a recurring character, and won’t be in every show. But, the rest of the team just goes on like nothing has happened? So do Lisbon and Jane? What surprises me about At First Blush (★★) isn’t that no one references the bombshell from the episode before – that is par for the course after all – but that such a dull episode with no relation to the overall story happened during sweeps.

Three things of import happened in this episode, two to do with Cho. Funny, since last week I mentioned that Cho was criminally underused. One, Rigsby finally noticed and mentioned Cho’s dependence on painkillers. Two, Summer finally pushed Cho to admit he liked her and they made out in the elevator. What is it with CBS shows and elevators? I’m happy for Cho and, by the standards of The Mentalist, this romance was practically whirlwind.

The third is less an event than the planting of a couple of seeds by the lawyer, Porchetto, who failed to convict Jane of Food Court Red John’s murder. Porchetto has zero patience for Jane and who can blame him? When Jane declares that the woman Porchetto is trying for murder is innocent because she loves her parents, it’s too much. After Rigsby and Van Pelt visit the original investigating officer, asking questions about his investigation, Porchetto goes to Lisbon and, after he complains about Jane and Lisbon does her standard defense, Porchetto declares that Jane isn’t the problem, Lisbon is. This after the investigating officer laughs at Rigsby and Van Pelt, calling them stooges in a comedy troupe. Give props to The Mentalist for addressing through the show what I have thought for over a season. How will these two little nuggets of discontent play out in the team? Probably not at all. Lisbon was going along with Jane’s ruse and joking around with him in the very next scene. But, at least they acknowledged that her biggest weakness is Patrick Jane. Baby steps. Next up on my list of “Ways to Jolt The Mentalist Out of Its CBS Procedural Rut,” make Jane wrong for once.

Other Thoughts:

  • The episode was directed by Roxann Dawson who I remember fondly from Star Trek: Voyager as B’Elanna Torres. She has become quite a prolific director.
  • Next week’s episode features the return of Morena Baccarin as Erica Flynn, a woman who unnerved Jane like no other. Yea!

What did everyone else think? Glad about Summer and Cho? Irritated or not about the lack of mention, even in passing, of the Red John bombshell? Do you think The Mentalist needs to jolt itself out of its procedural doldrums? If so, how would you do it?

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TV Review: The Mentalist 4.13 “Red is the New Black”

Poor Cho. He needs a storyline, pronto.

So, the secret is out. The tenacious Agent Darcy continued her investigation and discovered that the man Jane killed in the food court was not the real Red John. Does this mean that Darcy is, yet again, a target of Red John’s? It doesn’t seem so but who knows? I can’t figure out what Red John’s motivation for killing the morgue attendant and planting his body in Roslind’s house was. Why does Red John want the world to know he is alive?

Which brings up another good question: what is Red John’s end goal? Obviously, when he started killing he knew nothing of Patrick Jane. But, it seems that since Jane humiliated him on television and he took revenge through killing Jane’s family, RJ’s whole focus is playing a cat and mouse game with Jane. I suppose Red John gets a thrill out of besting Jane and the CBI. Though I don’t know why he isn’t bored by now. They are rather inept at catching him.

As much as I like the Red John aspect of the show, it is becoming problematic because of the complete lack of progress CBI is making. Do we know one useful bit of information about Red John now, four years later, than we did at the beginning? Not really. The CBI has made zero progress but Red John has been wildly successful in running rings around them. Heller and Company have created a teflon killer, someone who always slides out of every situation. He is so far ahead of the CBI and Jane that, at this rate, they have no chance of catching up.

I think it is about time for Red John to be revealed. Not caught, but revealed to the audience and even to Jane and the CBI. It’s time for the viewer to spend time with Red John to understand how he can manipulate so many people to do horrible things in his name. To understand how he is always one step ahead of Jane and CBI. To understand how he knows things he shouldn’t know. To make the viewer fall under his spell just like all of his minions do. As of now, he is an evil enigma, easy to hate because we don’t know him. If Heller and Company want to keep us engaged, they need to make us feel something for everyone involved, not just our heroes. The Mentalist‘s formula (boring case of the week, omniscient serial killer, inept investigators, recurring characters introduced only to be Red John minions) has gotten stale. Revealing Red John and making him a corporeal part of the show would add some much-needed spice. (As would the death of one of the five main characters, except Jane, of course.)

Other Thoughts:

  • I wonder if Rigsby‘s fear of fatherhood has to do with his childhood? I seem to remember some implication of abuse in the episode where Jane hypnotized him.
  • I pray, please God, not to let Rigsby’s fear have anything to do with him pining away for Grace. I am so over that storyline.
  • Jane had no idea who the killer was and Lisbon called him on it. Funny.
  • What happens to Jane now? He can’t be retried for killing Food Court Red John, can he? And what would be the charge in Panzer‘s death? Conspiracy?
  • The only way he could face charges for Panzer’s death is if Darcy proves he knew Red John was alive. How can she do that? Lisbon. Would Lisbon lie and say she didn’t know Red John was alive? I wouldn’t think she would but I don’t know.
  • Another Please God, No: Don’t make Darcy or the young LT minions of Red John. That’s been done to death.

TV Review: The Mentalist 4.11, “Always Bet on Red” – “She’s cute. This will be fun.”

The Mentalist almost did it. They were thisclose to having the team solve a case – a ridiculously pedestrian, uninteresting case – without a shred of Jane’s help.  Police work was being done. Leads followed. Suspects interviewed. Manipulative stings conceived and carried out without a hitch. All while Jane was distracted by something bigger and more sinister (more on that later). Instead of taking this golden opportunity to show that the CBI team could function in a world without Patrick Jane and solve a case  using the only tools that all other law enforcement officers have at their disposal, Jane comes in at the end and solves the case in 30 seconds or less. He gathered them all in the squad room, shook their hands, took their pulses, summed them up in one sentence or less and fingered the jealous, spurned longtime secret girlfriend as the killer. YAWN. But, whatever. Because the other part of the episode was so awesome, disturbing and riveting, I don’t even care.

After a few episodes , which in show time is only a few weeks according to Cho, FBI Agent Darcy (Catherine Dent) returns to interview Jane about the San Joaquin serial killer. She asks Jane point-blank if he is sure he killed Red John. Jane lies smoothly and Lisbon covers her reaction by drinking from her mug of tea. Poor Lisbon. I hope she never plays poker.  Darcy takes his word almost too easily. She is much more slyly perceptive than others that have tried to break Patrick Jane. For one thing, she isn’t confrontational or suspicious, merely professional. She knows that she’s just going on a hunch, a very logical one, and that she won’t ever get Jane to admit he didn’t kill Red John. There is no doubt that she is going to continue on this line of investigation.

Jane is arrogant enough to think Darcy will take his word for it and let the matter drop. Lisbon isn’t so sure. She advocates telling Darcy and the team that Jane didn’t kill Red John. Jane insists it is better than they keep that information between the two of them only, which exasperates and worries Lisbon in equal measure. When Red John sends the CBI a video of him stalking Darcy along with the text message, “She’s cute. This should be fun,” Jane and Grace run to the rescue and bust into Darcy’s hotel room only to find Darcy fine, in a towel. Heh. Lisbon’s worries skyrocket to anger and she accuses Jane of not telling Darcy about Red John being alive to keep Red John to himself. This is the closest these two have come to an all out fight, I think. Lisbon sees RJ stalking Darcy, especially the text message he sent Jane, as the serial killer forming a bond with Jane, that RJ saw Jane’s manipulation of Panzer as a signal to him. Can you blame Red John? Jane knew what he was doing with Panzer and, effectively, gave Red John the go ahead to come out of hiding and commit murder. Does Red John now think that Jane is playing the game with him? That Jane will enjoy watching him hunt his victims? The video and text message certainly indicate that as a possibility. Jane is terrified for Darcy (it’s telling that they both call each other by their first names) and, when the father of Panzer’s first victim commits suicide, Jane frames the dead man for killing Panzer to close the case and get Darcy off of Red John’s trail.

And, Lisbon just sat back and let him do it, even helped him. I’ve decided that she realizes when this is all said and done, when Patrick catches Red John, her career will be over. Everything that she let Jane get away with will come out; the fact that she knew Jane didn’t kill the real Red John will be out; the fact that he manipulated the death of a victim’s father to out maneuver Red John, and to thwart a FBI investigation will come out. And, those are just the things  he’s done this season. The ways that she has let him run roughshod over her are too numerous to number and attempt to detail. She isn’t even attempting to rein him in like she did in earlier seasons. If the viewer ever wondered if her feelings have deepened to something more than professional respect, the fact that a down to the bone, career focused law enforcement officer like Lisbon would risk her career for Jane’s vendetta should be proof enough.

Always Bet on Red (★★★★) showed Jane’s hubris, his belief that he can manipulate everyone and everything toward his goals. That he was doing it in this episode to protect Darcy hardly excuses the fact that he turned a dead man into a killer. His plan has many holes, one of which Darcy is quick enough to perceive – why would Meier stalk Darcy? Others will come out as Darcy continues to investigate Meier. Notably, a copy cat, which Meier is supposed to be, would have studied Red John minutely. No information like that will be found in Meier’s home. Red John will strike again and will confirm Darcy’s suspicions which will lead to her figuring out Jane’s manipulation, and Lisbon’s complicity.

Other Thoughts:

  • Always Bet on Red would have gotten five stars if the team had solved the case without Jane.
  • Jane and Lisbon assume Red John will leave Darcy alone now that the Panzer case is closed. I’m not sure why they believe that so fully because I don’t. I wouldn’t be surprised if he kills Darcy just to prove a point to Jane.
  • I didn’t like the character of Summer nearly as much this episode as I did before. So, she’s stopped hooking. What does she do for a living now? She still looks and dresses like a hooker.
  • There were a couple of places where Lisbon could have put a stop to Jane by revealing the truth about Red John but she didn’t. My guess is she’s decided she’s so far in it now that it is better to stay and try to temper Jane as much as possible, or at least try to be his conscience. She’s not doing a very good job of either, if you ask me.
  • By the way, I have found Kristina Frye.
  • “Because killing someone without government permission is wrong?”
  • “Great legs.”
  • “It was on the news, Lisbon.”
  • “Do you know how messed up that is?”
  • “Panzer. The gift that keeps on giving.”

TV Review: The Mentalist 4.10 “Fugue in Red” – “Are you putting me on?”

“We were all marks today.”

In the past, we’ve seen glimpses of Jane’s past but mainly through the eyes of the people that knew him then. Jane has always been a bit chagrined with his past behavior, clearly and loudly stating that there are no such things as psychics and owning up to the fact that he was a con man. This attitude made him sympathetic. Who doesn’t loved a reformed man with a killer grin and amazing hair? When Jane almost dies and loses his memory as a result, he reverts to his con man personality and the viewer sees just how this man provoked Red John.

In Fugue in Red (★★★), not only does Jane not remember his time with the CBI, but he has also blocked the memory of his wife and daughter, their death and everything about Red John. As a result, I assume his resulting personality change is a much earlier version of Patrick Jane, the ladies man that was always on the prowl. Simon Baker has a great time playing the rakish Jane, looking down Grace’s shirt, grabbing Lisbon’s ass, hitting on Lisbon (repeatedly) and using his “psychic” skills to cop a feel of a woman in a bar, prompting Grace to say, “I hate him.” Lisbon alternates between compassion at Jane’s memory loss and irritation and disgust at this incarnation of her friend. “That’s not him,” she says, defensively, though in the scene earlier she admits that this side of Jane was always there, buried underneath his grief.

Of the team, Lisbon is the most understanding and supportive. Jane alienates Cho when he ditches him during the investigation, Rigsby when Jane steals $63 from his wallet and asks him for tips on how to get in with Grace and Grace when he shows his womanizing side. Lisbon loyally stands by him, trying to do whatever Jane needs to jog his memory. She is even willing to stand aside and let him leave the CBI when he tells her that he just wants to be happy. Until the end when she realizes that he stole half of the ATM robbery money and used it to buy a diamond bracelet for some random woman Jane picked up. Lisbon knows that the Jane she knows would not want to return to that life, would not want to forget his wife and daughter and his quest for Red John. Taking him to his home and showing him Red John’s signature on his wall to make Jane remember is cruel, but necessary.

Other Thoughts:

  • Is it just me or was Lisbon wearing a larger cross in this episode? I thought the cross her mother gave her was pretty small.
  • Jane does a cold read on Lisbon when he first “meets” her after his near death experience. She tells the doctor it was very good. Was she just talking about the stuff about her mother or was she also referring to his reading that they’re working towards sleeping together (see next quote)? Let the debate begin!
  • “No, we’re not sleeping together.””But, we’re working towards it, right? So I haven’t missed anything.” Funny scene, all the way around.
  • Interesting that he uses Lisbon and Rigsby’s first names but calls Cho, Mr. Cho.
  • When Lisbon asks him, in disbelief, if he uses his wedding ring to get over on women Jane replies, “It worked on you.” I wonder if Jane will apologize to Lisbon for all of the moves he puts on her?
  • Jane seems surprised when Lisbon tells him she knows his tricks for remembering things. “We’re friends,” she replies. This episode does a wonderful job of showing how deep their friendship is.
  • Lisbon looks crushed when she realizes Jane stole the money and devastated when she watches him walk down the hall to the room where his family was killed.
  • Simon Baker will probably never get recognized for his work on The Mentalist but his emotions on his face when he remembered broke my heart. Tunney was awesome in the scene as well.
  • “I catch bad guys? Wow, that sounds like fun.”
  • “The closest a guy should ever come to a fitted sweater is getting a woman out of one.”
  • “I hate him.” “That’s not him.”
  • “Fair enough. I’ll miss you but I’ll leave you alone.”

I’m bummed this is the last episode until January. It was a good way to go into the break. What did everyone else think?

TV Review: The Mentalist 4.09 “The Redshirt” – “I like that boom boom pow.”

It's only a matter of time before Red John targets Lisbon to get at Jane.

One of these days, I would like for The Mentalist to have an episode where there is no case, where the team is sitting around, bored to tears, and everything focuses on the interpersonal relationships and personalities of the characters. Honestly, sometimes the mysteries are so slight an uninteresting that they just get in the way of the characters.  “The Redshirt” (★★) is just that kind of episode. The mystery is so dull that I thought of turning off the television halfway in but the character bits sprinkled among the dregs of  the whodunit almost made up for it.

Rigsby digs the Petite Defense Attorney, in fact is turned on by her passion to defend the very people he works so hard to put away. Wayne, I have bad news for you – you don’t have the personality type that will allow you to stay with someone long term that is so at odds with your worldview. I like PDA (heh), too, but this will not last. Cho is still suffering from back pain and is addicted to pain pills. Poor guy. Of course, his taciturn demeanor means that no one will realize the latter until he is deep into his addiction. Van Pelt has moved from anger to humor regarding her luck with men. I wonder what the next phase will be? Lisbon cannot say no to Jane. Her pleading expression when he asked her, early on, to go along with his con was borderline pathetic. Where has our tough as nails Agent Lisbon gone? Probably in the bin along with her Lisbon Loafers. The New Guy In Charge, so inconsequential that I refuse to IMDB his name, showed his inexperience tonight. I’m not sure why he was even in the episode.

The best parts of the episode was a guest star in two scenes, Ashley Williams, whose goal seems to be to guest star on every show on television this year; the final scene with Lisbon and Jane sharing an ice cream sundae (!!); and the preview for next week’s episode that hints at Jane conning the team into believing he has amnesia. That should be a good episode.

Other Thoughts:

  • Clearly, they are laying the foundation for a deeper relationship between Lisbon and Jane. (Do I say this every week?) There have been too many little scenes like the ice cream sundae scene, the way Jane positively lights up when he sees Lisbon, that I Know I’m Powerless Against You look of Lisbon’s. Next week’s preview adds more fuel to that fire, too.
  • No mention of Red John.
  • Or Kristina Frye.
  • “I shot and killed my last boyfriend. Not ready for a relationship yet.”

What did everyone else think of the episode? Would you like to see an episode where there isn’t a case to distract from the characters?

TV Reveiw: The Mentalist 4.08 “Pink Tops” – “I want to use you.”

Cho interrogates Summer as Lisbon looks on. Photo via Daemon TV.

Is it just my imagination or did The Mentalist seem different last night, visually and tonally? I’m not enough of an expert, nor do I care enough to become one, on the differences and intricacies of a particular director’s “style.” The one exception being Rob Bowman’s tendency to cut the top of character’s heads off when framing them. But, there was something different about the look of The Mentalist last night. For those of you that are interested in that aspect of television, feel free to detail the subtleties in the comments below.

Tonally, it felt like the investigation was equally Jane’s and the team’s win. Of course, the final showdown was another one of Jane’s cons, but the investigative portion of the show didn’t get the shaft for the Patrick Jane show. That is a balance that the show needs to continue to hit. Blah, blah, blah. I’ve said all of this before.

The best part of Pink Tops was the introduction of a hooker with a heart of gold (are there any other kind in Hollywood?), Summer Edgecombe (Samaire Armstrong). She was sassy without being confrontational, informational without having an angle. From all appearances, she is just making a living the easiest way she knows how. Cho was instantly smitten with her. Yes, you read that right. Cho. He even cracked a smile. Lisbon, watching Cho interrogate Summer through the two way glass, even confessed to liking her. I don’t blame them. She is a breath of fresh air in a group that needs a little levity. I do hope that she becomes an recurring character, as Cho’s offer for her to become his confidential informant implied. Of course, that just means there is one other person for Red John to target.

Only one mention of Red John, at the end when Lisbon tells Jane, “It’s time. We need to talk about Red John.” He sneaks away, of course, so that’s left dangling. The beginning of the episode implied that Lisbon was working round the clock and getting little sleep, because of the Red John murder, no doubt.

So little happened in this episode, the mystery was middling to fair, that I have no Other Thoughts besides the common refrain, “Where is Kristina Frye?” Maybe if I keep asking that someone will take notice and answer.

 

TV Review The Mentalist 4.06: “Where in the World is Carmine O’Brien?”

I’m always fascinated by the visual cues from what characters wear. I guess clothes say a lot about a person and can give an indication of personality, but television shows and movies go out of their way to subliminally manipulate the viewer’s opinion of characters. The best example of this, recently, was Julianna Hough’s character in Footloose. At the beginning of the movie – after showing her with straight, ultra conservative hair in the prologue – she is all Texas big hair, short skirts, cowboys boots and belly baring tops. Obviously, she’s a wild child.  As the movie goes along and she is “tamed” by the love of that Yankee named after a bird, her clothes veer towards conservative and her hair looses its curl. Similarly, the country boy who Yankee Bird meets in the hallway looks like he just got back from dove huntin’ with his pa. As Big Country learns to dance, he moves sartorially toward Wal-Mart chic (read: jeans and non-cammo t-shirts) and away from Cabella’s camping couture.

You could say that I’m distracted, borderline obsessed, with hair and clothes on television. Not in any sort of “OMG! I must have those loafers Lisbon is wearing” but more towards, “what does that outfit say about the character?” or “does the hairdresser really think that looks good?” So, it’s no surprise that the first thing I noticed on “Where in the World is Carmine O’Brien?” (★★) was Teresa Lisbon’s shirt.  Where is the collar? OMG, is she wearing tiny polka-dots? Lisbon? In Polka dots? What. The. Hell. Then, they had a body shot and I gasped. Lisbon, after 3+ seasons of black pants and dark jeans was wearing…wait for it…khaki. This fashion about-face could mean only one thing – family, friends or a past lover is about to show up, make Lisbon uncomfortable/give depth to her character/result in Robin Tunney emoting a puddle of unspilt tears.

Sure enough, it isn’t long until Lisbon’s little brother, adopted from a single parent family after the mom let him consort with aliens, shows up as a bounty hunter. Big sis ain’t happy about this, even though this is one of the first steady jobs the brother has had in years, because…it’s dangerous? Because he’s putting his precocious 14-year-old daughter in danger? Yep. Let’s go with that. The alternative is that Lisbon thinks his brother is qualified for nothing more than a “trade” or “detailing someone’s car.” It turns out that since Lisbon raised her brothers she still thinks she should have a say in their lives and they should run everything past her. I don’t know about you, but this isn’t exactly the character development I was hoping for with Auntie Reese.

The best part of the episode, hands down, is Lisbon’s niece Annie, and her interaction with Jane and Rigsby. The viewer just knows that this is a tiny tot version of Lisbon, maybe with a bit more playfulness and penchant for derring-do. Lisbon obviously had more pressing things on her 14-year-old mind, like raising two younger brothers in her alcoholic father’s absence, but I wish Lisbon had a bit more levity about her character, or maybe that Heller & Co. took more opportunity to show Lisbon’s lighter side, cuz I think she has one.

The case is, once again, not all that interesting. While Jane held the key to solving it, of course, we saw more real, non-bumbling police work this week than usual. Bravo! Jane helps Van Pelt salve her need for vengeance against someone – anyone – when they take down a randy Russian. He deserved it, but typical Jane, he is enabling Van Pelt’s anger and bitterness instead of helping her. Other than that, nothing on Red John, no mention of Kristina Frye and, for the second episode in a row, the Barely Shaving Boss is nowhere to be seen. Do they really need a boss? Just give Lisbon the job, already.

Other Thoughts:

  • I can’t believe that Jane never quipped that Annie was a Mini-Lisbon. I could have sworn I saw that coming.
  • Who else would like to see Elliot get reunited with ET and Lisbon be given the responsibility of raising Annie? That is exactly what this show needs, a sassy teenager just about the age of Jane’s dead daughter that Jane can bond with. That it would be Lisbon’s niece and bring those two crazy kids closer would make many a Jisbon shipper heart sing.
  • Just once, I would like to see the CBI solve a case without one of Jane’s cons.
  • We get a nice little Rigsby/Van Pelt scene, though I really want them to wait a long time before getting those two back together.
  • I wondered what self-respecting Irishman named O’Brien would name their kid Carmine, an Italian mobster name if there ever was one. The answer is either a) an Italian mother or b) they writers needed a spin on the color red for their episode title. My vote is b.

 

 

Carmine

TV Review: The Mentalist 4.03/4.04 – “You’re in my spot.”

The Mentalist is a unique procedural only in that the denouement centers on a con created by Jane instead of the culmination of standard police work or a crisis. It was a neat conceit in the first season, especially when the team unwittingly helped Jane with his games. Now that they are in on the trick every time, and the fact that the trick works every time, the uniqueness of The Mentalist has become pedestrian and predictable. It is also the reason why The Mentalist does not lend itself well to weekly reviews/recaps. To recap essentially the same episode every week would be a waste of my time, to review an eventless episode that didn’t move the Red John story forward would be nugatory.

As I predicted in my season four review, we are in the middle of otiose episodes that satisfy CBS’s procedural formula but don’t move the Red John story forward. Thankfully, for the last two seasons, Bruno Heller has at least dropped nuggets of information about Jane’s background and given his character development amid the lackluster case of week. Last week, a former client of Jane’s, played by Kelli Williams, appealed to him to find her missing son. Jane explained that he wasn’t a psychic, that he merely conned her years ago and took her money. Jane was at least human enough to look embarrassed, almost ashamed, of what he was before and I have to give him credit for owning up to his shady history completely. The viewer has always known that Jane was not what anyone would call an honorable person, but it was nice to see how his actions in the past still reverberate into the present.

Last night’s episode, “Ring Around the Rosie,” finally had a character state what I have suspected for three years: Patrick Jane is a psychopath. I’m sure for anyone that has been watching the show with any amount of focus has known this for a while. Are we really supposed to believe these professional police women and men do not suspect this about Jane? Are we supposed to accept that they know this but willfully let him manipulate them and always get his way? If it’s the former, Lisbon and company should lose their badges. If it’s the latter, Lisbon and company should lose their badges. Either way, they all look like idiots. That they had the new commander – a young, by the book, very intelligent officer – who unintentionally played right into Jane’s con and looked silly as a result, vocalize the accusation gives the viewer just enough doubt that they can still feel comfortable liking and rooting for Patrick Jane. Too bad, because Wainwright looks like a good adversary for Jane. Who wants to bet he’s a Red John minion? Heck, maybe he will turn out to be Red John.

Other Thoughts:

  • Thanks for making the gun-toting, potential mass murderer from Texas. #wearenotallcrazyhere
  • I do think Jane has the capacity to get close to people, for genuine feelings (unlike a true socialized psychopath) but I think he knows to do that would be to put that person in Red John’s sights.
  • Lisbon likes Jazz. Nice.
  • Cho is not good at blending in on surveillance, is he?

 

TV Review: Prime Suspect “Pilot” – “I can’t imagine not being a cop.”

Thank you Alexandra Cunningham, Peter Berg and Maria Bello for creating – or should I say re-imagining? – a character that motivated to be a cop for no other reason than that’s what she is. She isn’t driven by some personal vendetta or mentally blocked crime in her past. Her dad was a cop. She’s a cop. It’s who she is. What a refreshing concept.

Now that I’ve gotten that out-of-the-way, I’m going to declare now that, as of Friday afternoon at 2:33 p.m. central time, NBC’s adaptation of Prime Suspect (★★★★★), has been my favorite new and returning show of the fall. Maria Bello is perfectly cast as Jane Timoney, an abrasive, tough cop with excellent instincts who has to fight for respect in her male dominated station. I’ve read reviews of the show criticizing the sexism, saying that this is the 21st century, blah, blah, blah. I’m not going to pretend I know anything at all about what it’s like for women in male dominated worlds like the police/firefighters, but my guess is that sexism is still pretty common. I think it felt so over the top in this pilot because that was all the men talked about. It should be tempered, or at least give the sexism a reason besides “just because” – why do the men have such a complex about a woman cop, anyway? – but I think to scratch it completely is doing police women everywhere a disservice.

It’s tough to have much opinion about the male characters in the pilot. All they did was sit around and bash Jane. But, Peter Geherety stood out as Jane’s father. It was another refreshing surprise to have a positive, healthy relationship between a father and daughter depicted.

This is a show I can get behind and make appointment television. (Sorry, The Mentalist. You lose.) There’s no “great mystery” and Bello gives a straight forward, glamourless performance. Pray very hard that NBC has some patience with it because the ratings were abysmal (6 million, 1.8 share). Prime Suspect deserves some time to grow an audience.

Other Thoughts:

  • Does Kirk Acevedo’s presence mean that Charlie Francis will not be returning to Fringe? Say it ain’t so! Though I hope this turns into a regular, long running gig for Joe Toye.
  • I love Jane’s Trilby. Rock it, girl.
  • All the guys in the squad are, “Where have I seen that guy before?” actors. Thank God for IMDB.
  • I hope the directors going forward keep Peter Berg’s visual style. Loved the overhead shots of the city and I loved the cramped, realistic looking squad room.

The Mentalist Season 4 Premiere: “Red Ribbons” – “I feel guilty.”

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.

Other Thoughts

  • 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.