Season 6 of the CBS show The Mentalist brought a new status quo. Finally free of the Red John serial killer that had in many ways weighed down the show, Patrick Jane (Simon Baker) was now with the FBI instead of the CBI (California Bureau of Investigation) and with the entire country to dabble in, new and hopefully more interesting cases, and part of a new team with a few familiar faces, he was able to back to the original antics that made the early episodes so much fun.
The DVD for The Mentalist The Complete Sixth Season includes an interesting featurette in which members of the cast and production talk about both the mythology of Red John, and Patrick Jane, as they put it, Redeemed, Recovered and Restored. For me that was particularly interesting, and gave me a better understanding of the minds behind the show, and a fundamental difference of opinions they and I have had for the past six seasons.
They viewed Red John as Patrick Jane’s great white whale. The serial killer was the foe he would go to the ends of the earth to find and slay. For me, Red John was the catalyst of the show. as I recall the pilot and the premise, losing his family to Red John sparked a transformation in Patrick Jane at some level. While one can not say it changed him entirely as a man, it prompted him to be a better man. He joined the CBI, and instead of being a con-man psychic he started using his gifts and powers of observation for good. Instead of doing things that either qualified as committing crimes, or walking very near the edge of that line, he was now on the side of good and catching those who would commit crimes.
Red John inspired Patrick Jane in many ways, the point at which Red John’s crime spree crossed paths with Patrick Jane’s life was a turning point and while Red John may not have been captured, and may not have been changed, Patrick Jane was.
To me, having that as the catalyst was enough. I did not need my damaged hero to go out on a path of vengeance and hatred. Nor did I desire to see Patrick commit crimes once more. Rather I enjoyed seeing him aspire to be someone his family could be proud of — and often achieve that goal. I enjoyed watching the redemption of Patrick Jane through his weekly actions with Lisbon (Robin Tunney) and her team.
If Red John had never been a plot point again after the pilot, I would have been happy. If he had occasionally been mentioned as a piece of Patrick Jane’s back story that would have been enough for me as a viewer.
Watching the featurette and discovering that the producers/writers/directors and powers that be of the show had always considered Red John to have a much more significant role to play in the show was a surprise to me. I had wondered over the course of the seasons when he would be woven back into the story if that had always been the plan or not, and the mythology of Red John answered a lot of questions for me.
It also gave insight into the current roles of Cho (Tim Kang), Rigsby (Owain Yeoman) and Van Pelt (Amanda Righetti). I was particularly intrigued by the conversation pertaining to the passage of time between seasons 5 and 6. When I had heard the show would move forward 2 years I had wondered how the various characters would have spent the time, and as the episodes aired, and we saw how the lives of our cherished team members had unfolded each had taken a very satisfying path… well… okay… part of me felt Lisbon (Robin Tunney) was treading water, just waiting for the return of Patrick Jane (Simon Baker), but even that had felt in character.
Mentalist is. at heart, a fun show. Patrick Jane is an irreverent character, with a fairly good understanding of the law and what the law enforcers can do, and yet he is constantly challenging them to try something unique, bend the rules just a tad and let him try something creative all in the name of capturing the bad guys, and make sure justice prevails.
How can you not enjoy a man, with a child’s heart, and a con-man’s soul, who wants to do whatever it takes to see justice prevail?
Season 6 of the Mentalist is currently available on DVD, and season 7 is scheduled to return to CBS in January.