If episode titles and cursory plot descriptions are any indication, we seem to be two weeks ago from finally knowing the identity of The Mentalist serial killer Red John. Whether Jane will straight up murder the bastard, kill him in self-defense or have him arrested is unclear at this point, but regardless, the clock is ticking until we finally have answers to the primary question that was first posed during the pilot: who murdered our main character’s family?
At the end of Season 5, Jane was able to whittle the possible RJs down significantly thanks to the big reveal that he’s met the serial killer before. That, coupled with all of the clues he’s compiled over the years, narrowed the suspect pool to seven names, all of which have been investigated to some extent this season. Thanks to murders and some complicated issues with tattoos, the list now stands at three, though there’s always the possibility of misdirection.
Over the years, I’ve watched every single episode of The Mentalist, read more than my share of wild Internet theories (Van Pelt?), examined creator Bruno Heller’s quotes on the subject and actively tried to follow along with the investigation. In truth, I have no idea who the hell Red John is yet, but there are certain candidates I like a whole lot better than others. So, without further ado, here is my list of Red John suspects, followed by my ultimate prediction on the final page.
Gale BertramAs director of the CBI, Bertram has the law enforcement contacts and the power to be Red John. He also has the three dots on his arm that signify he’s a part of the shady police conspiracy organization the serial killer is allegedly intermixed with. He’s also old enough to have committed the Visualize Barn Murders all the way back in 1988, though he would have been a bit old for his first kill at 26. Beyond that, we’ve known for years that he hasn’t really trusted Patrick Jane and has readily kept others informed of his comings and goings, especially as related to the Red John investigation. He’s also an excellent whistler and is a big fan of William Blake, who, of course, wrote “Tyger, Tyger”.
It seems a bit odd, however, that Jane could have worked so closely with Bertram for so many years without figuring out his boss’ real identity. He eats and sleeps the case. Beyond that, we know Red John is willing to manipulate situations to bring himself closer to Jane, but it’s hard to imagine he willingly lost at poker for years in order to potentially give himself a chance to play cards with our hero once. I can’t imagine he’s the type of guy that would enjoy losing week after week. Plus, Red John has always been described as of average height before, and Bertram is 6 feet, 3 inches tall.
Reede SmithReede Smith is a bad guy. The question is just whether or not he’s the bad guy. We know he’s afraid of heights. We know he shot Bob Kirkland in cold blood. We know he’s a member of the Tyger, Tyger conspiracy and that he’s no fan of Jane. He certainly has the law enforcement background, the lack of conscience and the connections to be Red John, but the specifics of him actually being the serial killer don’t completely add up.
He was extremely young when the first murders took place. We know Red John is fascinated by Jane; yet, Smith seems to be very antagonistic toward him. He also just comes off more as an enforcer or a second in command rather than a man who makes all of the decisions. Yes, his persona could all be an elaborate front, but I would like to think we’ve gotten at least shades of his personality thus far. If so, he’s far from the most likely candidate.
Thomas McAllisterWe know McAllister is a member of the shady police organization thanks to his tattoo. We know he’s more than old enough to have committed the Visualize Barn Murders, and unlike some of the other suspects, he seems to be amused by and enjoys the company of Jane. We know Red John is fascinated by Patrick and would probably behave the same way. Beyond that, McAllister appeared in the second episode of the series, which means he could have been planned as the killer all along, and unlike many of the others on this list, the writers haven’t really worked very hard to sell him as Red John, meaning he would be a big surprise.
It’s a fine line between a big surprise and a giant slice of randomness, and there is great worry that McAllister could potentially be too strange of a pick. For years, he was just the random Sheriff of Napa County. It feels like, if he were actually Red John, he would have popped in a little bit more. Besides, I highly doubt the fans would be okay with McAllister being the big bad. Heller may as well just have drawn someone out of a hat.
Brett PartridgeBrett Partridge is a better suspect than every other person on this list combined. He’s in the first episode of the entire series, and there are few things he seems to love more than espousing outlandish opinions about the serial killer so Jane can shoot them down. I’m not convinced Red John could willingly fake incompetence for years, as Bertram would have needed to do, but I am convinced he could put on an over-the-top act a la Brett Partridge every time he was in Jane’s presence. He also knows the phrase “Tyger, Tyger”, has appeared on a fair number of episodes throughout the series, is frequently referred to by Jane as “ghoul” and is the right age (mid 40s).
But he’s dead. That’s the big elephant in the room here. Partridge was killed during the first episode of Season 6, assumedly by Red John. No one on the show has ever mentioned the possibility of him faking his own death, and Jane, who believes in conspiracies like it’s his job, hasn’t even hinted that he’s concerned about a rising dead situation. Maybe he checked the body for a pulse. Maybe he knows the coroner. We don’t really know the specifics, but because of all of the reasons he’s a great suspect, he will remain that way until we find out someone else is for sure Red John. After all, faking his own death would be far from the greatest trick RJ ever pulled off.
The FieldThere are more than a few people on the Internet who believe Jane’s list is a fake, nothing more than a ruse to give Red John a false sense of security. Then again, there are others who believe he’s genuine but is still wrong about who Red John is. Humorously, there are even some who believe Red John is Jane himself and he simply murdered his own family and dedicated his life to solving their murders as some kind of elaborate ploy to prove his own innocence. Most of these theories are utter nonsense, but there are actually a few people who either haven’t been mentioned or have seemingly been ruled out.
For example: what about CBI Ron? Or Walter Mashburn? Or even acting Visualize head Jason Cooper? The writers can swear up and down that Red John is someone on Jane’s list, but people in show business lie all the time to protect a big reveal. Even if they’re telling the truth, it could easily be someone who we’ve given up on too like Ray Haffner or Bret Stiles. After all, it’s not as if we’re one hundred percent certain Red John himself has the tattoo with the dots. He could easily have merely sent one of his henchmen to commit the most recent murder.
My Prediction: Brett PartridgeYes, being dead is a bit of an obstacle, but from a viewer perspective, you would like to think Heller and company knew exactly who Red John was from the minute they went into production. If that’s the case, Partridge is the one that makes far and away the most sense. He’s done a fair amount of pop-ins throughout the show’s history. He’s got a very memorable personality. He’s blended in as almost a non-threat for years, and he’s always had almost a sly affection for how creative Red John is.
A very high percentage of Internet rumors have long singled out Partridge as the most likely candidate for years. As such, it’s entirely believable the writing staff may have come up with a way to throw viewers off his scent in order to make his grand reveal as our secret antagonist more of a real surprise. If I had to put money down in Vegas on one possibility, I would without question pick this one. That being said, I definitely wouldn’t bet my house.