Red John the ‘nickname’ of the serial killer and principal antagonist from the prime time television show The Mentalist.  He (or she) has been linked to the murders of sixteen women and eight men as of the time of this writing. The victims include the television show’s protagonist’s (Patrick Jane) wife and daughter, a crime set five years before the television show’s pilot episode.  It is unknown exactly how many victims Red John is guilty of or exactly when the killing spree began, but it is suspected to begin sometime around the year 1998.  Click Here To See Latest Red John Theories

Red John‘ is known not to work alone, although the accomplices have a tendency to end up dead as soon as they become liabilities.  The oldest known sidekick is Orville Tanner, the father of Dumar Tanner. The ‘famed’ psychic Patrick Jane was enlisted by the California police to try to get a profile of Red John to help track the killer down and bring the guilty party to justice, but Jane made the mistake of belittling the killer on television and paid for his ‘disrespect’ with the loss of his wife and daughter. His search for Red John has become his obsession, and he makes no claims that he will arrest the killer when discovered, as we can see in this conversation with Agent Teresa Lisbon:

click2play1 Who Is Red John?

Patrick Jane Declares Intentions Against Red John

Red John remains unseen, his face is always hidden in shadows, under hoods, hats or masks.  In the first season finale Red John is seen escaping from an abondoned home that served as a prison to a young woman while Jane and Lisbon struggled against one of RJ’s accomplices. Red John also appeared in the second season finale dressed in a black hooded sweatshirt as he executed the film students Jane and Carter Peake in the presence of Patrick Jane, whom Red John ‘technically’ rescued.

During the season 3 finale, Patrick Jane has agent Teresa Lisbon redial the last number on one of Red John’s accomplices’ telephones and tell  the person that answers that the accomplice is dead.  A gentleman with a very plain, ordinary appearance (played by Bradley Whitford) reading a newspaper in the food court seated near Patrick answers his phone.  Jane has Lisbon confirm the conversation, which matches what Jane saw the man say into his phone, so Patrick confronts him.

Initially, the man denies the situation, but drops some interesting hints that he really is indeed Red John.  The man reveals details about the murders of Patrick’s wife and daughter, more specifically, the smell. This information spurs Jane into violent action and Patrick shoots the man with a gun that was hidden in his jacket pocket.

There has yet to be confirmation that the man was Red John, but since RJ is such an important element of the series which is set to go for seven seasons, it is most probably that the man was simply another accomplice, a tool by Red John possibly to test what Jane’s reaction would be to his revelation.

The identity of Red John remains a carefully guarded secret by the writers, and is completely unknown to the viewers, thus has become a topic of much debate. Red John is nearly always referred to as a “he” but there has yet been no evidence completely disproving that Red John could be a woman that simply uses many male accomplices.

All of Red John’s known accomplices refer to the killer as a ‘him’ and to this point none have given any appearance of lying about that fact, or to have expressed even the slightest doubt. The few moments where the audience has been shown what is believed to be Red John have been definitely given a masculine tone.  All theories are plausible at this point, however, since very little conclusive evidence currently exists.

We have done exhaustive analyses of this elsewhere on the site, but the mystery is still as strong as it has been in at any time during the series.  Writers of screenplays usually like to follow the elements of classical literature.  These and some newer elements have been combined into a sort of de facto “rulebook” for writing.  One of the most important elements is “leading the reader.”

In any creative writing class, writers are taught that everything that happens in a story must have precedent that leads the reader to a logical conclusion.  In other words, everything has to make sense.  At the end of pretty much any good murder mystery, one can go back and find clues that were well-hidden, but definitely there. 

It is “against the rules” for a writer to bring something in from “left field.”  There is even a name for it: Deus ex machina, or “God out of the machine.”  This was introduced in Horace’s Ars Poetica, and is loosely taught as bringing in a solution to a problem that is totally outside of what has previously appeared in the story.  This is great for Creative Writing 101, but what does it mean to us concerning Red John?

It means that, in all likelihood, the groundwork and clues are already present in previous episodes, or the clues will appear before Red John’s identity is revealed.  In other words, we have already seen Red John, and there are plenty of clues that will all fit together in retrospect. 

For better or worse, though, Heller has left so many clues that there is a body of “evidence” for just about anyone in the series being Red John.  It would take a Red John clues spreadsheet covering where everyone was at the exact time of every Red John murder, thus eliminating suspects, to get a closer idea of who he really is. 

How serious is Bruno Heller when he compares Red John to Moriarity?

There is a sub-question here: is Heller comparing Red John to the literary description of Moriarity or the versions of Moriarity that weren’t in Doyle’s original writings?  Though Doyle only had Moriarity appear in one book, his “final one,” Moriarity is ubiquitous in all of the TV shows, movies, and cartoons based upon the Holmes series. 

There is one thing common to all versions of Moriarity, though: he is always a step ahead of Holmes, but Holmes outsmarts him in the end.  Another thing they all have in common is that they aren’t anyone already in Holmes’ life. 

So, it comes down to this: if Heller is serious about Red John being Patrick Jane’s Moriarity, then he won’t be anyone who has appeared as a character so far.