For a show whose premise is built on the past of the main character, The Mentalist has spent very little time fleshing out Patrick Jane’s history. Sure, there have been episodes that focus on Jane’s back story – season one’s “Red Brick and Ivy” hints at Jane’s mental breakdown after the death of his wife and child (1), season two’s “Throwing Fire” flashes back to Jane’s childhood and his relationship with his father, in season four’s “Pretty Red Balloon” we meet a former client of Jane’s when he was a con man – and there are always comments and hints dropped into episodes like little breadcrumbs leading the observant viewer to a full picture of Jane. Still, there are more gaps than there should be five seasons on. In “Red Dawn” (★★★★), Heller and Company rectify that by flashing back to the first time Jane walks into the CBI and how he became their “consultant.”
The title card of the episode reads “several years ago” but an article I read about “Red Dawn” specifically says it takes place 8 years ago. Jane wanders into the CBI office, looking like a homeless man, skittish and unsure of himself. Lisbon, newly promoted, sends him on his way, saying she cannot share the Red John files with a civilian. Jane provokes the agent escorting him out – purposely or not? it is difficult to tell with this version of Patrick Jane – and gets punched in the nose as a result. Minelli wants to avoid a lawsuit (Agent Harrigan has a history of violence) and offers up the Red John files to Jane. Until they can be brought from storage, Jane (2) rides along with Lisbon to a murder scene and though he tries to stay out of the way, he cold reads the victim and gives Lisbon and Cho information that points them in the right direction.
The episode does a good job of showing a damaged Jane, one completely broken and without confidence, which goes a long way to explaining Lisbon’s unwavering loyalty to Jane. Jane, of course, cold read Lisbon, spelling out Lisbon’s motivations and character for those of us that hadn’t figured it out after four years of watching (3) – she is a mother figure and is drawn to damaged men because of her history taking care of her alcoholic father. Every time he crosses the line, every time his arrogance rubs people the wrong way, the Lisbon of today remembers the Jane that walked through the door of the CBI straight from the mental hospital. There have been plenty of times I have wondered why Lisbon puts up with Jane and is so staunch in her support. My suspicion she harbors deep, romantic feelings for Jane has never been enough for me to believe she would willing – repeatedly – put her career on the line for him. However that, in conjunction with her need to nurture his damaged soul, is. It is by far the best revelation of the hour and the one I was least expecting.
Almost everything else is padding and a time capsule of bad hair. Rigsby having a goatee makes sense for the character. Beside’s Lisbon, his hair has changed the most over the course of the show. Cho’s poufy hair was ridiculous, however. He is the type of character that will have the same haircut for his entire life, as well as wearing the same short-sleeved shirts. Cho’s style doesn’t change because he knows who he is. Rigsby is constantly searching for himself. Lisbon’s wig harkens back to her hair in season one and was a nice touch of continuity. Van Pelt was absent because she was not part of the team until the first episode of season one. (4)
Then, we get to the end. Minelli hires Jane as a consultant and gets a call from the FBI, Agent Alexa Shultz to be exact. The same Agent Shultz that arrived in 5.01 to take over the FBI’s handling of the Red John case. She asks Minelli to keep her in the Red John loop, which seems to mean she has been clued into everything that has happened on the case for the last 8 years. Which also seems to suggest she is the mole in the FBI Red John mentioned at the end of last season. If that is the case – and of course it is just as possible this will be a red herring – this is the first time Heller and Company blatantly given out Red John information. (5) Does that mean Heller has an end game in mind and we are on our way to it? I hope so.
- Using too many flashback episodes is not a good idea, but the area of Jane’s life that needs the most exposition is Jane’s life and relationship with his wife. She is a complete blank slate. I can’t even remember her name. All I can remember is they met in the carny world. Instead of showing the audience Jane’s relationship with his wife and child, the show has relied on our preconceived idea how the loss of his family would motivate Jane. He rarely talks about them. We have only seen them in generic, long distance images. The two of them sitting at a piano is the one that comes to mind. We have no vested interest in his wife and child as characters or as people, nor do we have a vested interest in their relationship with Jane. Even when Jane hallucinated his daughter in this season’s second episode, “Devil’s Cherry,” we got nothing at all about her. She was merely there to point out to Jane the pathetic futility of his quest to get Red John. A lost opportunity to broaden the emotional impact of Jane’s quest from what I feel is his prime motivation – assuaging his guilt over the murders.
- How much investigation can be going on with all of the boxes in storage?
- Yes, I am one of those people who needed it spelled out. Don’t judge me.
- It has been obvious the Amanda Righetti is pregnant in real life, what with all of the blousy shirts, sitting behind her desk, holding folders over her stomach and, most glaringly, the large water jug that covered her entire torso in “Blood Feud.” My guess is they shot her future scenes prior to this episode and she is out on maternity leave starting with this episode.
- Who was the man in the limo with Agent Shultz? Has he been seen before? Is he Red John? The limo went past the state capital. What’s the significance of that? Last year, I said it was time for Red John’s identity to be revealed. Did they just do it? I certainly hope so. It would give the show a much more interesting dynamic if they started cutting between what Red John is doing to avoid being caught and what Jane and Lisbon are doing to catch him.