Before season four of The Mentalist, producer Bruno Heller promised surprises, and a “reset.” He felt that last season was “almost serialized,” and wanted to make the individual episodes at least as important as the overall plotline. While he has done that to some extent, the introduction of Agent Darcy of the FBI has reestablished the serialization factor, and the Red John plotline is heating up going into the last part of season four.
One thing we can guess is that, with the renewal of the show for yet another season, the Red John saga won’t be ending anytime soon. Since CBS never seemed to renew The Mentalist until the current season has finished production, Heller is usually faced with three options. He can continue as though he is confident they will be renewed, and have a typical season-ender. He can also do what he did last year: come up with an ending that would work just great as a series finale, but leave himself “wiggle room” for a following season.
The only other option would be to produce two endings for the last show, and go with whatever is appropriate by the end of the season: a cliffhanger or a series finale. If we were to hazard a guess, it would be another “death of Red John” kind of episode with wiggle room, just like last year, but Heller did allude to some swerves this year.
So, we are once again left with speculation about who is really Red John, and where the show is going with storylines. Here are some observations, questions, and possibilities.
1. Agent Darcy (Catherine Dent) will probably get killed.
FBI Agent Darcy
As we saw in the episode “Blinking Red Light,” Red John doesn’t suffer insults wisely, nor does he allow anyone who really fixates on him to live, with the notable exception of Patrick Jane (Simon Baker). He demonstrated to Jane that he was capable of killing Darcy whenever he wants, but for some reason he didn’t. As the show progresses, though, and Darcy is inserting herself firmly into the middle, something has got to give.
Our guess is that, as Darcy gets closer to the truth, Red John sees her as a liability and gets rid of her. There is a possibility that he makes it look like Jane did it, but it is more likely that she dies a signature Red John death. We are guessing it happens in the last or second-to-last episode of the season.
2. Is Red John getting help from high places?
In the first episode, we saw that every potential witness who could expose the framing of Patrick Jane died, and that the deaths were not signature Red John killings. One of the immediate suspects is Director Gale Bertram (Michael Gaston). Bertram went to great lengths to try and take Jane down for the killing of the fake Red John, and broke up Lisbon’s (Robin Tunney)team out of spite after he was suspected as possibly being Red John.
Also, Red John’s resources seem endless, and he seems to know everything about everyone. Our guess is that he has a lot of people in his “debt” through the usual crime drama essentials such as blackmail and the threat of killing their relatives. Since he did have an FBI agent doing his bidding in season three, it isn’t out of the question for anyone to be on his “payroll” at this point.
It was one of the most iconic and idiosyncratic images to ever end a season: Patrick Jane sipping tea in the middle of a food court, gun laying on the table, raising his hands in the air as the police come to arrest him for shooting long-time nemesis Red John. If this had been the series finale, it would have been one of the best endings ever given to a series.
Until May of this year, after the season finale had long been filmed, neither the producers, writers, or cast of The Mentalist knew whether or not the series would be renewed for this season. One would think that renewing a series this good and this popular would be a slam dunk, but you never know what the network decision-makers are thinking.
That is quite fitting, because you never really know what the writers are thinking, either. Now that The Mentalist is indeed coming back for at least another year, the main question is whether the writers left themselves enough “wiggle room” to bring Red John back. The other question is whether or not they would want to.
The first thing this reminds me of is the “Miniature Killer” on CSI. They thought they had the “old man,” but it turned out later to be his foster daughter who was the real Miniature Killer. CBS has definitely set a precedent for teasing the capture of a nemesis, only to bring the nemesis back.
The death of Red John was a lot like the originally edited version of Stephen King’s book, “The Stand.” The story set up a battle of titanic proportions, only to have the antagonist self-destruct in the end.
Throughout the series so far, Red John has never made a mistake. Even when Jane has thought he was two steps ahead, he was really two steps behind. Are we to believe that a “genius” was not only stupid enough to show up at the meeting with Jane instead of sending a patsy or surrogate, but stupid enough to fall for Jane having a gun in his pocket?
Jane’s aversion to using guns is enough to justify falling for the trick, but one would still think that Red John himself would never actually go to the meeting.
In writing, from Horace to Dickens and Hemingway to Agatha Christie to first semester creative writing class to the popular culture of television and even professional wrestling, there is a concept that is always used. It is called “leading the reader.” To make a long story short, it consists of leaving a “bread crumb trail” for the reader or viewer to follow. Writers almost always adhere to this format.
If they introduce something that has no justification from what has transpired earlier in the script, it is called a deus ex machina. A deus ex machina is a term from ancient Roman poet Horace, who died in the year 8 AD. It means “God out of the machine” in Latin. When the Gods appeared in plays around his time, they were either lowered by a crane, or they appeared from a trapdoor in the stage, or “out of the machine.” Horace implored poets and playwrights not to used “God out of the machine” to resolve plots that couldn’t be resolved.
Red John’s uncharacteristic mistakes border on being a deus ex machina. This begs one last question. If the “Red John” that Jane shot was a surrogate or patsy, then who is Red John?
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