The Good Wife and The Mentalist – One show hitting its stride, the other changing its stride

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Last year, amid the disastrous Kalinda/Nick storyline, I dinged The Good Wife for sucking. Not long after, due to my wonderfully, erudite post, they jettisoned that storyline and went back to what they do best, camouflaging a soap opera as a case of the week procedural. Since the second half of season four and into the first half of season five, which last night ended its 2013 run with it’s 100th episode, The Good Wife has been on fire, creatively, dramatically, emotionally, hilariously and consistently. (Five adverbs in a row. YES!)

Even at its worst, which I will always contend the Kalinda/Nick storyline was, The Good Wife is the best hour-long drama on network television. If The Good Wife were on AMC, HBO, FX or some other cable network, I think it would be considered the best by most critics. Say what you will about the long form storytelling brilliance of The Wire, Breaking Bad, The Sopranos and Mad Men, The Good Wife is better because not only do Robert and Michelle King know how to tell a long form story, they also brilliantly incorporate a case of the week into EACH episode. They have mastered the procedural and the novelization of their world at the same time. It is an epic feat to create the best drama on television within the commercial and FCC constraints the Kings work under.

At the end of season four, the Kings basically blew up their show. They carved Alicia and Carey out of Lockhart/Gardner, and left Kalinda, Will and Diane to nurse hurt feelings and pride. This season, the fallout has been fun to watch, with both L/G and F/A getting the best of each other. They are pretty evenly matched adversaries, much to Will and Diane’s surprise. Alicia is ruthless, cunning and determined to win. My money is on Alicia, not only because it is The Good Wife, but also because she has experience in how to pick herself up from emotional devastation and triumph. Will may seem like he’s in control, but he’s floundering and if he’s not careful, his ambition and drive will destroy Lockhart/Gardner.

Two quibbles, though: There still is not enough Kalinda. I do not understand her loyalty to Will and, as a huge fan of the Alicia/Kalinda friendship, I wish Kalinda had gone with F/A. I didn’t realize until early this season she didn’t even know Alicia was leaving with Cary. I wonder if she’d known that if she would have left anyway, despite lower pay. The second quibble: I don’t want the entire season to be about L/G and F/A fighting each other. I’m already a little weary of the constant gamesmanship. It’s a great dramatic well of tension that will be quickly dried up if they keep tapping it.

the mentalist blue

After five seasons and change, The Mentalist blew up its formula, but good last week. I was excited and anxious to see what the new version of The Mentalist had to offer. I have to say, My Blue Heaven lived up to my expectations. The dichotomy of Jane being a tortured vigilante for a handful of episodes each season while being glib the other episodes was always jarring. Now, Jane is out from under the cloud and we can see the lighter side of him all the time, as well as no longer dour Lisbon. This was a transition episode in the best sense of the word. I don’t think Jane read anyone once. I wonder if his mentalist capabilities are rusty? That would be interesting to see. The most refreshing part of the episode was that Jane was bested, twice. Once by a woman, Kim Fisher, who manipulated him into returning to the states. The other time by Abbot, the stern FBI agent who refused to cower to Jane’s demands. Seeing the shock on Jane’s face, which he quickly masked, was absolutely brilliant. I can’t wait to see this version of Jane play out, hopefully for many seasons to come.

The Mentalist Season Six Spoilers

It seems the internets is buzzing with news on The Mentalist. Well, at least as much as the internets buzzes about The Mentalist. It isn’t a show entertainment sites spend a lot of time talking about. But, a couple of pieces of interesting news has dropped and I thought I’d fill you in.

Red John’s identity will be revealed this calendar year.

Thank God. This is by far the best piece of news. Reading the subtext of what Heller says, the show might stay around after Red John is captured, contradicting Heller’s repeated claim the show would end with the capture of Red John. I imagine the decision on whether or not The Mentalist gets a seventh season will be decided by how good the ratings are after Red John is caught and The Mentalist becomes a straight on procedural, along the lines of CSI, Criminal Minds and NCIS. Hopefully, ratings with be good enough for it to stick around. I like the characters and dynamic enough to watch it as a procedural. Of course, it would also be cool if they had a new overarching mystery each year, one not personally attached to anyone, sprinkled into the stand alone episodes. I guess we’ll have to see how ratings go, and how well viewers like these other developments.

Owain Yeoman and Amanda Rigetti will leave the show sometime this season and their departure might be tied to Red John. I like Van Pelt and Grigsby but they are definitely the two it would make the most sense to ditch. They can go off into the sunset together (hopefully, Grace isn’t a victim of Red John, though I could see that happening, too).

With the departure of two characters, two new characters are being introduced. From TV Line:

Matt, is there anything you can give us on the new FBI agents coming to The Mentalist? –Shena
The two series regular roles being cast are Kim Fischer, an intelligent and (surprise!) attractive thirtysomething ex-homicide detective from Dallas who is not afraid to stand up for herself, and Nick Abbott, an African-American West Point grad/Iraq war vet who while calm in a crisis is not a fella to make angry.

Of course, rumor is this female agent will make the third part of the obligatory love triangle. Now that Red John will be out of the picture, they have to throw some other roadblock into Jane and Lisbon’s way. I don’t have a problem with that, per se, though I hope they resolve the relationship if this is the last season.

These nuggets of news have managed to get me excited about season six, which means I will probably be blogging about it. Sunday nights are going to be busy once again.

TV Review: The Mentalist 5.16 – There Will Be Blood

THE-MENTALIST-Season-5-Episode-16-There-Will-Be-Blood-2_595_slogoSecond verse, same as the first.

Though I should probably say twentieth, or thirtieth verse, same as the first. “There Will Be Blood” was just like every other Red John episode: Jane comes so very close to finding out who Red John is, only to be thwarted when the only person that knows RJ’s identity is killed. Lisbon threatens to kick Jane off the team before relenting and lying/bending the rules to protect Jane. A shady law enforcement officer inserts their team into the investigation. The viewer starts to suspect someone that’s been around for a while might be Red John or at least in league with him. It’s all very redundant and tedious and, just like every other RJ episode, it gets us nowhere.

The Mentalist is two shows in one. One is a standard CBS procedural with a unique premise and an engaging main character. That show could run for years and years on a network that has perfected the art of the weekly procedural. It’s fun to watch, everything is wrapped up in one episode, the central “will they/won’t they” is dragged out for years and years and there is just enough character development and dramatic personal story lines to fake the viewer into thinking the show is a lot deeper than it really is.

Then there is the dark mini-series about a man on a mission to avenge the death of his wife and child. This main character is a tortured, psychopathic anti-hero but is just sympathetic enough for the viewer to root for his success. Both anti-hero and serial killer are brilliant and engage in a test of intelligence and will until one or the other finally prevails. The story is compact, focused, intense and is wrapped up within six or eight episodes. Imagine The Killing, but the original Swedish version. Or the British series, Wire in the Blood, based on a series of novels, but which wraps up the mystery within each short series.

The problem with The Mentalist is it is trying to be both and failing. The lighter episodes seem out-of-place with the dark side of Jane – how can he turn off what drives and tortures him so easily? The Red John episodes go no where because Bruno Heller has long said when Jane catches RJ, the series will end. Though not as popular as it once was, The Mentalist is still solid in ratings. I doubt CBS wants it to end anytime soon. Since Heller and company have nowhere to go with the Red John story so they continually spin their wheels. Pretending to get Jane closer to his nemesis before yanking the rug out from under him and the viewer. Maybe some viewers don’t mind. Maybe they are happy to float along with nothing to show for five years of faithful viewing. I mind. I feel like I’m being played. And, yes, I will say it: as a faithful viewer, I think I deserve better.

A few episodes ago, Jane told Lisbon he had narrowed down the list of who Red John could be to a few people. At least I think he did. All the non-answers blend together at this point. So, when Jane has YET ANOTHER Red John minion in his grasp, and Red John’s lover as well, why didn’t he ask them specifically about those people? Because that would be too logical and it might actually move the story forward. I hope against hope Heller plans to reveal RJ’s identity at the end of this season. Why else have Jane spend so much of the season (off-screen, of course) remembering every man he’s ever shaken hands with and narrowing down the list to a few people?

But, you know what? I’ve said all of this before. My reviews of The Mentalist have become as redundant as the RJ story line. I say the same thing but nothing ever changes. I tell myself I won’t review the episodes unless something happens yet here I am, complaining about the same problems. I’ll end it the same way I end every review, skeptical about where The Mentalist is going but returning every Sunday night, hopeful this week will be different.

Other Thoughts:

  • With The Following’s explicit “serial killer training minions” storyline, I wonder if Heller, CBS and company are shooting themselves for not being a bit more direct about who Red John is and what his “powers” over people are, exactly. Unless Jane turns out to be Red John, any reveal in a similar vein of The Following is going to seem like a copy cat, even though The Mentalist has been coyly using the same idea for five seasons.
  • I’ve not always been impressed with Robin Tunney’s portrayal as Teresa Lisbon but this season she has really cranked up the emotion to a 10. It is pretty obvious she is struggling with how she feels about Jane, about how she continually compromises her integrity to protect him, about her jealousy of Jane’s relationship with Lorelei. I’ve always been skeptical of a Jane/Lisbon pairing because I didn’t feel the attraction/chemistry between the two actors. This year, I buy it, in large part because of Tunney’s performance.
  • Walking away from Lorelei’s mutilated body: “She had it coming.” Jane is a real SOB sometimes.
  • OMG, enough with Rigsby pining for Van Pelt.
  • So, why did the woman who Lorelei kill have a nanny cam? She was single and no one mentioned her baby. I must have missed something in the quick explanation of how they got the footage of Lorelei killing the woman. Sloppy story creation and writing.
  • Are we supposed to suspect Lisbon’s boss is in concert with Red John, as well as the Homeland Security guy? At this point, who isn’t a minion of Red John?
  • So, Lorelei’s sister wrote “Roy” on the ground, but from the explanation we got, it didn’t seem like her sister would have known him well enough to know her killer’s name.



TV Review: The Mentalist 5.06 “Cherry Picked” – “We all have our weaknesses.”

November is sweeps which means a return, if only slightly, to the Red John storyline. Jane is interviewing prisoner transport drivers that would have had the opportunity to drive Lorelei somewhere besides the jail. The investigation wasn’t that compelling though Jane’s it differed from  others he has done. One, Lisbon knew what he was doing. Two, the guilty transport driver was not a mustache-twirling acolyte of Red John’s. And, three, Jane called the police in to arrest the man instead of pushing his buttons to kill himself (which is honestly what I thought was going to happen as Jane walked away from the house). With the arrest of the driver, Agent Alexa Shultz and whoever the man that phoned the driver was, know that Jane knows something. I’m not sure why Jane would tip his hand in that way and there are two more sweeps episodes before we get that answer.

The biggest problem I have with watching procedural shows like The Mentalist, Castle and Elementary is the mystery is easily solved  based on how well-known the guest actors are. The Elementary reviewer on The AV Club has highlighted this phenomenon the last couple of weeks, a phenomenon that occurs regularly on The Mentalist. As soon as I saw Anne Dudek’s name as a guest star I guessed she was the mastermind. This knowledge takes away much of the interest I have in the case of the week. The good news is I got the feeling Lisbon knew the answer to the whodunnit as early and as easily as Jane. I hope this, as well as Lisbon being in the loop as to what Jane is doing regarding Red John, if not included in the execution, means Heller and company have decided to make the team more adept at solving cases without Jane.

Other Thoughts:

  • I can only guess Jane keeping Lisbon at arm’s length is his way of protecting her from Red John? Seems a bit idiotic considering Lorelei implied Red John thinks Jane is a little in love with Lisbon. I think everyone on the team, especially Lisbon, is in danger from Red John.
  • In the comments section of last week’s review, someone wondered how Heller will write Van Pelt out for her maternity leave? I haven’t seen any spoilers about it. If you have seen anything official, or just have a theory/idea, put it in the comments.
  • Next week, I expect a light episode with a Red John cliffhanger to take us to the final episode of November sweeps.


TV Review: The Mentalist 5.05 – “Red Dawn” – 100th episode shows Jane, Lisbon on their first case

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.

Footnotes/Other Thoughts:

  1. 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.
  2. How much investigation can be going on with all of the boxes in storage?
  3. Yes, I am one of those people who needed it spelled out. Don’t judge me.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.

The Mentalist Season 5 Premiere Promo

Those of you that watched last night’s re-run of season four’s finale, The Crimson Hat, were treated to a promo for next week’s season five premiere, The Crimson Ticket. Like all promos, especially on CBS, they tantalize just enough without telling you anything. Luckily, I found this slightly extended promo on the web this morning.



Do you like that they are verbalizing the UST between Lisbon and Jane? Are you as worried as I am that Red John is going to target Lisbon? Did Lorelei cut her hair? What are they doing with Jane’s hair? (Don’t scoff. Simon Baker’s hair is one of the main reasons I started watching The Mentalist, along with that shit-eating grin of his.) Has Rigsby finally stopped talking about his baby all the time? Also, does anyone else think it is hilarious the comment bubble always points to Cho’s mouth in my stock Featured Image for The Mentalist?


The Mentalist 4.23: Red Rover, Red Rover

A few weeks ago I decided I was not going to waste my time reviewing the stand-alone episodes of The Mentalist. The mysteries are terrible and the character development sometimes sprinkled amid the dull investigations had almost completely dried up. It wasn’t that I didn’t want to recap/review The Mentalist, it was that there was literally nothing to talk about. I intended to review last week’s episode (“So Long and Thanks for all the Red Snapper”). After all, the title was inspired by a Douglas Adams book and we met Lisbon’s ex-fiance. Unfortunately, the chance to give Lisbon’s character depth vanished beneath an unusually lame “mystery.” Even the resolution of Cho’s relationship with Summer, though stronger than Lisbon’s non-story, did not have nearly the impact it should have. Both were missed opportunities.

Which is pretty much how you can term season four of The Mentalist – a missed opportunity. After the jaw dropping season three finale and a decent first half of the season, the second half of season four has been a big bag of nothing. The mysteries are increasingly stupid,  the most interesting character issues (Grace with her PTSD, Cho’s addiction) are occasionally mentioned then dropped for episodes or until sweeps roll around. Even the sweeps episodes were pedestrian. The least interesting story (Rigsby becoming a dad) is constantly talked about. I guess we should be thankful his girlfriend didn’t turn out to be a minion of Red John.

Then, there’s Jane. After getting out of his murder charge, much too easily, he spent the entire year pushing the envelope, doing illegal things to further his own ends and to try to stay one step ahead of the FBI agent that suspects he is a disciple of Red John. That? Is damn interesting. Too bad we haven’t heard a word about it in weeks. Jane has gone on with his devil-may-care I won’t get caught and if I do Lisbon will get me out of trouble attitude about his job. I would say “his life” but Jane doesn’t have a life outside of finding Red John. In “Red Rover, Red Rover,” he decides to give up on finding Red John.

Now, this would be a pretty interesting development if it felt like they spent any time this season building up to it. Instead, it just happens. Then, Jane stares into the deep end and see what it feels like to torture another person and to hold their life in his hands. It is horrifying and damn near irredeemable. I understand why Jane’s is at that point because I know that’s where he should be after 8 years hunting for Red John, not because Heller and company have done a good job this year of showing Jane get to this precipice. In contrast, I thought they did a wonderful job in season three building to Jane killing Food Court Red John. This year, the character movement that has happened has been lost amid the flood of meaningless, forgettable episodes. I don’t know how they expect me to care about these characters when I can’t remember why I should. I’m getting very close to the point of not caring about or sympathizing with Patrick Jane.

Other Thoughts:

  • Is this the first season where a recurring character hasn’t turned out to be a minion of Red John? If so, bravo. That was getting old.
  • If ever there was a question of Jane’s ability to be Red John, what he did to the murder suspect should answer it. Jane absolutely has it in him to  be a sociopathic serial killer. In fact, the only thing keeping him from being one might be Lisbon, who is his conscience.
  • Jane’s take down of Wainwright was sad and despicable. I can’t say I like the dude (again, haven’t spent enough time with him) but he was dead on in regards to Jane’s behavior. Vintage Jane, belittling someone who calls him on his faults and misdeeds.
  • When Lisbon tries to help Jane he merely smiles sadly and says, “You’re sweet.”
  • After letting Jane off the hook in the first episode, letting him run rampant for an entire season with no consequences and filling the season with pointless, sub-par even for a procedural episodes, I’m not entirely sure there is anything The Mentalist can do to regain my esteem. Though, making Jane an inmate in a mental institution with Lisbon as his doctor, Grace as the young intern, Rigsby as the orderly and Cho as a mute, comatose fellow patient, and the last four seasons figment of Jane’s imagination might be a fun way to start.