First of all, we know one thing. Patrick Jane will be tried for murder in the first episode. The gun that “Red John” had is never found, so he is in jail for shooting an unarmed man. It will be up to the CBI team to find evidence to prove that Jane was apprehending a criminal and not murdering an innocent citizen.
This will beg an obvious question: if Red John is dead, then why did the gun disappear? The first two episodes give a pretty good indication. They continue the tradition of the color red or its variants being in all of the titles: “Scarlet Ribbons” and “Little Red Book.”
In a TV Guide interview, producer Bruno Heller was non-committal. Heller doesn’t “give away the farm” in the interview, but it looks like a lock that Red John will be back. Heller does mention that Jane will be “as fun-loving as ever” but that the audience will see both that side of his personality and the ruthless nature of his core. Simon Baker also said in an interview that the audience will now know that Jane is a “cold-blooded killer.”
So, basically, we will have a Patrick Jane whose character has been made a lot deeper. You will still see a fun-loving person on the outside, a killer on the inside, and probably more searching for Red John. In the first episode, Jane and Lisbon discuss and question Jane’s sanity. Since they couldn’t have him in jail for an entire season, expect the CBI team to find evidence that exonerates Jane of murder. Also expect evidence that the man Jane killed was a patsy and that Red John is still out there.
Whatever they do, it will be done correctly and tastefully. In his interview, Heller said that he didn’t want the audience to feel “conned or led astray.” He also said that this year will focus more on individual shows and less on the serial nature. He said there will be an “overarching narrative going on, but not as intricate.”
As far as the elements that don’t include Red John go, I look for more romance this year. Expect Rigsby to “comfort” Van Pelt this season after having to shoot her fiance in the season finale. I also expect to see an escalation of romantic tension between Jane and Lisbon. I don’t expect either to act on it or even discuss it, but I do expect a lot of physical and psychological teases. They might even spice up Jane’s life with a love interest, which would lend an interesting air to any teases of romance between Jane and Lisbon.
Jane’s character should continue to be an enigma. After the CBI team gets him out of jail, we may see Jane with a more grateful attitude and appreciation for the CBI team. They can’t change the dynamic too much, but I can see them putting more soft on the outside to make up for the hardening on the inside. Heller mentioned always wanting Jane’s character to have “balance.”
Somehow, though, I have a feeling that when the chips are down, they are all going to lead back to Red John.
Of the characters we have met, I see four possibilities for the eventual identity of Red John: Grace Van Pelt, Kristina Frye, Brett Styles, or Danny Ruskin. Each has reasons why they could be Red John, and each has reasons why they couldn’t be Red John. The other possibility is that Red John won’t turn out to be anyone we have seen, but that would be the ordinary approach.
Since The Mentalist is an extraordinary series, I fully expect it to be someone we have been watching. I also expect a “bread crumb trail” to be right in front of our faces all along. If Bruno Heller and staff are fully on their game, Red John’s true identity will not only stun us, but make us say “why didn’t I see that” at the same time.