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?