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A game changing episode for The Mentalist

December 2, 2013 - Andrea Johnson
It's not too often that a veteran TV series tries to completely reinvent itself, but that seems to be the case with "The Mentalist," which airs at 9 p.m. Sundays on CBS.

Last week the series ended its long-running Red John serial killer storyline by having main character Patrick Jane (Simon Baker) finally identify (and strangle to death with his bare hands) the man who killed his wife and daughter. I wasn't entirely satisfied with the resolution of that storyline, mainly because the producers didn't bother to answer the many questions about how and why Red John did what he did. Any mystery show worth its salt ought to tell howdunnit as well as whodunnit and The Mentalist didn't do that to my satisfaction.

They did get the character moments right, though. Red John turned out to be Sheriff Thomas McAllister (Xander Berkeley), a character who made his first appearance during the second episode of show's first season. His actions in that episode, which included appearing out of nowhere to offer a young woman a ride, look appropriately creepy in retrospect. McAllister looked creepy in his other appearances on the show as well. When Patrick Jane finally takes his revenge in the episode called "Red John" it happens near the graves of his wife and daughter. Jane straddles Red John and slowly chokes the life out of him, looking both physically and emotionally fulfilled. Then Jane runs off into the sunset, seemingly free at last.

Last night's episode, set two years later, finds Jane living in exile as a beach bum in some unnamed South American country, where the ocean and the sky both look so blue it hurts. Jane does magic tricks for the local kids and has made friends with some of the colorful locals, though they think his Spanish is bad. His former California Bureau of Investigation colleagues have made new lives for themselves too. Kimball Cho (Tim Kang) is now an FBI agent based in Texas; married Agents Wayne Rigsby (Owain Yeoman) and Grace Van Pelt (Amanda Righetti) have left law enforcement and started their own surveillance firm and are the parents of a baby daughter. Agent Teresa Lisbon (Robin Tunney) is a police chief in a small town in Washington state, where it's a big crime when a bike gets stolen. She gives presentations to third graders on what it's like to be a police officer and tries to convince herself she likes the quiet life. Jane has been sneaking letters out to Lisbon using his old carnival pals as a delivery service and she re-reads them during lonely evenings at home.

But things are ripe for a change. FBI Supervisory Agent Dennis Abbott (Rockmond Dunbar) tracks Jane down to his island paradise through those letters he wrote Lisbon and offers him a deal – the murder charges will go away if Jane will come back and work for the FBI. Jane turns him down at first, but reconsiders after he meets a pretty American woman, Kim Fischer (Emily Swallow), and invites her to go dancing on the beach. Jane presents his own list of terms to Abbott, including that he remains a free agent and will get to work with his old colleagues Lisbon and Cho. Too bad for Jane that Kim Fischer also turns out to be an FBI agent, who is assigned to haul him off to detention after he balks at being under supervisory probation for five years.

The show's producer calls this episode a game changer and I definitely see what he means, since it looks like Jane will be solving crimes for the FBI and working with Abbott and Fischer instead of his old CBI friends. It sounds like Rigsby and Van Pelt are being written out of the series altogether and Lisbon and Cho will be around in different roles.

On the plus side, it's nice to see a lighter, happier Jane. The whole Red John storyline was probably past its expiration date. On the minus side, I have my doubts that I will find the new characters Abbott and Fischer nearly as likable as I have the old cast. For one thing, after six seasons it's long past time for the show to deliver something substantive when it comes to the relationship between Jane and Lisbon. I'm not at all interested in watching a love triangle between Jane, Lisbon and the newbie Fischer, though it looks like that's what the producers may have in mind. I also don't think the audience is interested in seeing Jane at the mercy of the no-nonsense Abbott.

What would you like to see happen on "The Mentalist" in the coming episodes?


Article Comments



Dec-02-13 6:16 PM

It sounds like the actors who play Rigsby and Van Pelt are definitely leaving, though. At least they didn't kill them off and even gave them a happy ending. I thought they would be Red John victims.

I didn't particularly like the Kim Fischer character. Maybe she'll improve.


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