Every good hero needs a memorable foe, but there comes a point when viewers just need a little closure. That’s the issue many faced heading into Sunday night’s finale of The Mentalist, when the colour-coded villain resurfaced with yet another kill.
“Red John’s Rules” gave us another glimpse into Patrick Jane’s spotty past, featured the return of Emmanuelle Chriqui as Lorelei Martins, and finally divulged the list of seven people who could potentially be the serial killer. Hopefully, this will be enough to get us all the way to a big reveal next season.
In its fifth season, Jane has been less playful, more morose and mysterious than he has been in the past. Part of what makes the show so fun to watch — his banter with the various suspects, Lisbon and the rest of the team — was dialed back while this overarching Red John saga continued to be pushed front and centre. In part, it had to be that way to capture the frustration that Jane feels due to his continued failure to capture the killer, but, in reality, it also mirrors the sentiments of many viewers, who want this big bad to be wrapped up so we can move on to different criminal masterminds.
Gripping aside, had Red John been revealed in Sunday’s finale, it would have felt rushed. I do appreciate that the killer is now back in full force, that the rules have changed and that he has officially set the terms for next season. Either he or Jane will need to be killed in the end, and we were left with the promise of many more cases in between. Hopefully, that Season 6 arc marks Red John’s last, and the show moves on to new territory.
Of course, we will undoubtedly see many more of Red John’s followers along the way. Just as The Following relied heavily on these characters to bring Joe Carroll and Ryan Hardy together in the end, that is the format The Mentalist set out all those seasons ago. The difference between the two is that one gave closure early, leading us to wonder how they will sustain the momentum going forward, while the other has dragged it out to the point of absurdity.
When The Mentalist first began, creator Bruno Heller promised that if viewers paid close enough attention, we would be able to solve the cases alongside Jane. Based on that promise, we should already know who Red John is, and might not be so shocked when his identity is revealed. But how he knew about Jane’s happy memory — and knew it enough to plot a kill based on it — is baffling. How he was also able to call out the seven names Jane had cobbled together is even more of a mystery, one that I hope we eventually get an answer to. Nothing is worse than when a show shrugs that type of thing off.
Since a good chunk of the finale was devoted to Jane and Red John, there was little time to focus on the rest of the team. Van Pelt and Rigsby had their happy ending the week before, when they starting sleeping together again, and Cho had a big arc last year and earlier this season with his gang-member past. I was happy to see the old Rigsby/Cho dynamic at play while they were chasing down the maid (Cho figured out his partner was back with Van Pelt even though they were keeping it “way on the down low”), and hope for more of that balance going forward. It was also nice to see Van Pelt, who has been absent for a large part of the year thanks to portrayer Amanda Righetti’s pregnancy, actually questioning a suspect for once, and I hope to see her kick some serious career butt in Season 6.