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Tonight was the big one. After five and a half seasons of a fascinating cat and mouse game between Thomas Jane and the serial killer known as Red John, The Mentalist finally saw fit to reveal the elusive sociopath’s identity and to offer our hero at least some measure of closure. Because of the nature of long-teased surprises, there will no doubt be some who are disappointed by the big reveal, but from where I’m sitting, it was actually a pretty fitting climax for more than a few reasons.
If you’re on the West Coast and haven’t yet gotten a chance to see the episode, or you’ve simply DVRed it instead of watching it live, I would highly, highly suggest holding off on reading this article until after you’ve gotten a chance to watch the events unfold. The twists and turns are far better experienced as complete surprises. Overanalyzing is always far better after something has aired as opposed to before.
One final warning: This article contains spoilers.
Still here? Alright great. Let’s start getting into specifics. Here are five reasons tonight’s Red John conclusion is the right resolution for the emotional and long drawn out story arc.
Lisbon Picked Jane Over The CBIDuring The Mentalist’s hundred plus episodes, there have been numerous instances in which our main supporting character Teresa Lisbon has stood her ground in support of Jane when it comes to following procedures and/ or dealing with her bosses. She unquestionably has the consultant’s back, but that doesn’t mean she’s overtly defied orders that many times. In fact, her main objective is usually to get Jane to work just within the bounds of the rules enough to keep everyone happy.
Forced to pick between the man she cares for so much (and obviously loves) and the job that’s her entire life, she puts her foot down and chooses Jane. In essence, she sacrifices the rest of her career and her good name in law enforcement to let Patrick step outside the law and do the only thing he cares about doing. He has to know how hard that was for her, and as viewers, it’s nice to see just how committed she has become to aiding our hero in his vengeful goal.
Red John’s Identity Makes SenseLet’s face it. Deep down, all of us had some kind of crazy pet theory about who may have been Red John. Like many people, I was convinced it was Partridge, but in the end, Sheriff McAllister makes a lot more sense. Jane has spent his entire time at CBI obsessing over Red John. It doesn’t make any sense that he could have worked with the man and not realized it. He’s always on the lookout for clues. Up in wine country, however, Sheriff McAllister had enough of a buffer.
Plus, McAllister was in the second episode of the entire series, which offers a nice cyclical arrangement. He also has a very menacing voice, is the right age to have committed all of the murders and is very convincing as a sociopath once he gets rid of his cloak of secrecy and confronts Jane as himself for the first time inside the church. He might not be as sexy of an answer as some of the other choices might have been, but sexy and surprising any necessarily always in a series’ best interests.
The Way Red John Died Was RightJane has never been the world’s biggest fan of guns. He’ll carry one if he absolutely needs to, but in general, he’s not overly comfortable. Plus, shooting someone, apart from poisoning, is probably the most impersonal way you could possibly do someone in. It takes away the intimacy of murder and in some ways, the passion. Consequently, it makes a whole lot of sense that Jane would eventually take Red John down with his bare hands. That’s the most personal way possible to kill someone, and no doubt it would have been the most satisfying to Jane too.
As a viewer, it’s also nice to be able to live vicariously through Jane and stretch out the satisfaction of Red John dying a little bit longer. At times, this hunt felt endless. It went on for five-and-a-half years and even had one false ending. If it suddenly ended with a bullet, it may not have offered that prolonged satisfaction. This choke hold did.
There Were The Right Number Of Twists And TurnsWe needed to be surprised. We needed to see a whole lot of layers, and we needed to get a few headfake psych-outs. Red John demonstrated way too many freakish displays of power over the years for a straight line to ultimately lead right to him. There had to be some kind of misdirections, and we get those thanks to the Sheriff’s fake death and the nonsense with Bertram just getting up and shot like some random redshirt. Besides, more twists isn’t necessarily better.
At some point, all of the craziness and all of the tricks had to stop. We needed to clear away the smoke and let Red John and Jane just talk. That’s what we’ve all been waiting to see all along, and the episode actually spaces itself well in allowing the final act to just be the two men inside the church and later in a full-on sprint through the park. From a writing perspective, there’s no way that balance was easy to find.
The Series Could Go Anywhere Moving ForwardUnlike the last time Red John supposedly died, this ending doesn’t necessarily guarantee Jane will find himself in court. He could disappear. He could stand trial. He could be immediately cleared of any wrongdoing because of the dangerous nature of the confrontation. We don’t know, and for the first time ever, the show is no longer angling toward the conclusion of one story arc. The options are totally open, and that’s liberating for viewers. It’s nice to be able to just breathe.
Episode descriptions seem to indicate we’re in for a very large jump in time starting next week. The show will apparently pick up in two years, but what exactly anyone involved will be doing at that point is unclear. Bravo to creator Bruno Heller and company for leaving the roads open. I can’t wait to watch, with full curiosity, as to what’s ahead.