And so, we reach the end of The Mentalist. It’s been a long and winding journey, one which has sometimes tested the faith of even the most devoted. At times it appeared that the story of our repentant fraudulent psychic had lost its way; in this final truncated season, it’s been wrenched back on course, but can the conclusion bring closure both to Patrick Jane and to the viewer?
Last week we saw a series of seemingly motiveless shooting murders and trophy-taking from an assortment of drifters and local youths. A (probably) fraudulent psychic, Gabriel, claimed to know something of the murders, but was found tortured and murdered, with the word ‘FAKE’ inscribed on his body.
Jane, recovering from an episode of doubt brought on by the death of FBI rookie Michelle Vega, shows Lisbon a run-down house he has bought, intending to restore it for the two of them to live in; she’s unsure of his commitment, particularly since he won’t remove his wedding ring. Discussions are interrupted by the discovery of another body, and this time the victim has clearly had a blood sample removed.
FBI agent Rick Tork is brought in to help with the case, and (despite the fact that he’s worked with Jane before), puts his foot in it by suggesting that Jane approaches the media pretending to be the psychic the killer is evidently looking for. As public panic spreads, things become so desperate that Jane agrees to the idea.
In an interview with unctuous TV host Dan Glover, Jane initially freezes, then successfully pulls out of the bag all his fake psychic tricks to convince the viewers of his ability. A caller who calls himself Lazarus gives a clue that he killed Gabriel, and as Jane and Tork leave the studio, their car is rammed and Jane is abducted. The killer has evidently been hooked by Jane’s fraud.
Jane wakes to find himself held by a hillbilly type in a remote shack. But he’s in control; left alone, he frees himself from his handcuffs, investigates the killer’s home, and comes to some telling conclusions about his psychosis. Abused as a child, he is trying to resurrect his dead father to gain some form of approval or forgiveness.
Jane manages to escape and causes a gas explosion in which Lazarus is presumed killed; but when Lisbon appears, led to Lazarus’ house by clues from an occult bookstore, there’s no sign of a body.
Safely ensconced in his new shack the following day, Jane decides to propose to Lisbon; and finally, he’s taken off his wedding ring. Once again he can imagine a future, and plans are made for a quick wedding ceremony.
But Lazarus is on the run, burned and set on revenge, and somehow manages to kill TV host Dan Glover, track down the wedding party and turn up at the shack. Since the county’s crawling with heavily armed FBI, it’s not much surprise that before he can do any harm he’s caught by the whole team – including a gun-toting Teresa in full bridal array.
The wedding goes ahead, attended by Teresa’s family, and guest stars Rigsby and Van Pelt – and Teresa, with superb timing, announces that she’s pregnant.
There are a few precious comic moments in the finale, including Jane conning a ring out of a dodgy jeweller, and Cho helping to choose a wedding dress; but there’s a distinct lack of tension. Wouldn’t it have been more exciting to have Lisbon threatened by Lazarus, and Jane having to make some heroic gesture to save her?
The reappearance of Rigsby and Van Pelt is token, and we’re still not sure how fake psychic Gabriel knew what he did about the killings.
But, in any case, in the end, Jane is redeemed; he is given his second chance, acts out again the scenario that led to his punishment by Red John, and this time catches the killer. Pride led to his downfall, humility and repentance to his salvation, and his reward is renewed happiness. It’s all very biblical, as the characters named Gabriel and Lazarus underline.
We’ve come a long way since the first episode of The Mentalist, where we were intrigued to see the clearly disturbed Patrick Jane sleeping in the house where his family had been murdered – sleeping in the very room where their murderer, Red John, had done the deed, under the symbol he left painted on the wall in his victims’ blood. The immense burden of guilt Jane bore for taunting Red John into the killings gave his character unusual depth and resonance; while the hunt for Red John went on, we felt Jane’s pain, and understood his occasional cruelty.
Yet the Red John story arc was concluded unsatisfactorily, with many implausibilities and much wasted potential, particularly in the cavalier killing off of major characters and the underwhelming reveal of the identity of Red John. Had the showrunners’ plans been somehow derailed, or had they never really known how to conclude the saga?
As the series took a lighter turn, with new settings and supporting cast, it floundered; Jane lacked motivation, the darkness at the heart of the series was gone, and crucially, we never bought into the whole Jane/Lisbon romance thing.
We know that opposites are meant to attract, but Jane and Lisbon are such dissimilar characters, he anti-authority and sceptical, she a buttoned-down workaholic, that we could never see them together. We’d rather have seen Jane ride into the sunset with sexy, sinful Erica Flynn (Morena Baccarin). Similarly, the gooey romance between Rigsby and Van Pelt, a prototype for that of Jane and Lisbon, left us unmoved; we never found out about Van Pelt’s hidden past. Wouldn’t it have been more fun if she had turned out to be Red John’s daughter? Perhaps the ’shippers – fans who enjoy the prospect of leading characters developing a relationship – had an undue influence on the development of the storylines.
So, it’s with mixed feelings that we come to the end of The Mentalist; but throughout the whole series, the redeeming factors have been the freshness and originality of the scripts, the novelty of the settings, and the winning charm of Simon Baker. If we didn’t find it as gripping at the end as it was at the start, let’s just put that down to the series becoming more comfortable with age – like Patrick Jane’s sofa.
But we’ll always remember Patrick Jane as we saw him in the early days – irresistibly charming, capable and cheeky, yes, but in his darker hours, haunted by the spectre of Red John.
For all our Mentalist review, go here