If you thought The Mentalist was playing it safe, if you thought there were no more shocks to be had, and if you thought you could get to the end of this final season without shedding a tear – think again. You’ve been fooled, Patrick Jane-style.
Since the big shift in style when the cosy CBI team was broken up and Jane was co-opted into the FBI, The Mentalist has coasted – there have been some revisions in cast, lately with the trio of Abbot, Wiley and Vega forming the second line to the regulars of Jane, Lisbon and Cho, but there’s been no real sense of threat since the death of Red John and the dissolution of the Blake Society, and the development of general lovey-doviness between Jane and Lisbon (we’ve held off calling the couple ‘Jisbon’, but it might come to that).
So prepare to have your expectations shattered by this week’s shock developments.
While Jisbon – there, we said it – banter merrily about holidays, and Wiley and Vega finally agree to a date, a well-organised trio of hoodlums holds up a bank. Jane has a little fun using his normal observational techniques to sweat out an accomplice, and the hunt for the robbers begins in earnest.
Cho and Vega set out to canvas locations the accomplice called on a burner phone, and she baits him about his impassive response to his promotion. He almost cracks a smile, so we assume he’s forgiven her for her previous transgressions.
But when the duo spot three suspicious characters in a diner, there’s a shoot-out, one gunman is injured, but another shoots Vega and all three escape.
Vega’s lying in a pool of blood, and we expect the next scene to be in a hospital with a concerned Cho awaiting her recovery – but it never happens. She’s dead.
Well, we never saw it coming, and we admit to being poleaxed by this development. Vega’s puppy-like enthusiasm and her budding romance with Wiley put her very much in Jane’s protective circle – but nothing he could have done would have saved her. Now we understand what the last few episodes, with Jane’s over-protective treatment of Lisbon, have all been about; Vega’s death is the event which will precipitate a crisis in the relationship between Jane and Lisbon.
He’s been wanting to get out of the FBI, and trying to persuade her to quit; she’s been having difficulty in conveying how much the job means to her. Vega’s death and the way it affects the team (particularly Wiley) just shows how much Jane would suffer if he lost Lisbon in a similar way.
Hence, when the three robbers are tracked down to a house where they take a couple hostage, Jane’s almost suicidal decision to go into the house and foment division between the gunmen, rather than allowing Lisbon to take the risks involved in an armed assault.
Gang leader Ace (AJ Buckley, from CSI:NY) is concerned for his wounded brother, but Jane works on the third gunman to persuade him that he’s been swindled out of his cut of the cash. When the two robbers fight over the money, Ace is killed, and Cho plugs the one who killed Vega.
At her funeral, which is remarkably well-attended considering she was supposed to have only one close relative, Jane’s mind seems to be on something else, and he tells Lisbon that he’s leaving; he isn’t afraid of dying, he says, but he is afraid of being hurt if he loses her. Will Lisbon have to make a choice between the FBI, and Jane?
He’s cruel, in a way, forcing her to make this choice, but that’s always been part of Jane’s character. It remains to be seen whether his love for her, which is real, will overcome his fear of loss. He’ll have to make a bigger commitment than he has ever made before.
These closing episodes of The Mentalist have settled into a rather cosy rhythm in which not even the execution of a DEA agent can disturb the love-in. Maybe we’re due for a few upsets before Jane rides into the sunset.
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