Monday, 13 July 2015

TV Series Review: The Mentalist

I've been meaning to write this review for a couple of weeks now but keep on getting sidetracked with other stuff.

Last year Mr Click got me the first five series of The Mentalist, starring Simon Baker and Robin Tunney. It's your standard American police procedural series, focusing on a team in the California Bureau of Investigation (aka CBI), headed by Tunney's Teresa Lisbon. Baker plays Patrick Jane, a 'mentalist' who consults for the Bureau. In a past life he was a conman who made his money by pretending to be psychic, instead he's got Holmesian powers of deduction and is very good at reading people.

Unfortunately for Jane, he once made some disparaging comments about a serial killer known only as Red John. Red John proceeded to kill Jane's wife and child, leading Jane to give up the sham-psychic life and instead turn consultant to law enforcement in the hopes that he will eventually be able to capture and kill Red John.

Unlike the previous series we were watching (Criminal Minds) this wasn't all new to me. I'd watched pretty much all of the first series and I think most of the second as well. Mr Click had seen odd episodes from the second series because I realised (correctly) that it would be right up his street, but since at that time we were watching it on Sky we just watched them as they aired. He enjoyed them, but not knowing all the backstory to the characters meant he missed out on lots of the main story arc.

Patrick Jane really is a Holmes-type character; he's very skilled at reading people, the way they act, the things they say, the things that they don't do but should; he puts together all the little clues from their surroundings and comes to conclusions which might seem like giant leaps if you didn't understand the stepping stones he goes through to get there. Sound familiar? He even has an addiction, if you can call his obsession with getting revenge an addiction.

He's also completely unorthodox. Jane has no problems ignoring the rules, not telling his colleagues what he's doing, or setting them up to do something while allows a sequence of events to bring a murderer to light. He's reckless and sometimes it's cringe-worthy because you know that anyone doing that sort of thing in real life would be shown the door faster than anything. But it's TV so it works.

The series has a good sense of humour, which I like. The characters in Lisbon's team are colleagues but also friends (or in the case of Rigsby and Van Pelt, on/off lovers). I'm not constantly round the houses of my colleagues, but we meet up outside of work, we chat on Facebook, we do stuff. I know not everyone has that kind of relationship with the people they work with, but lots of people do so I always feel like it's more real when you see teams in TV series actually doing stuff together (it also makes it a little less weird when they get married and the only people they invite to the wedding are the people they work with, I'm looking at you ER).

There's enough there for my little shippy heart to grasp onto as well. I was well aware of the thing between Rigsby and Van Pelt from watching the earlier series before. I love how that little relationship has played out. One that took me by surprise has been the growing relationship between Lisbon and Jane. The way it's gradually being developed makes it feel perfectly right and almost natural.

I like that you're able to try and solve the crime as you watch as well. It's one of my favourite things about these types of, otherwise often dark and gruesome, series. It's what hooked me into CSI and has kept me looking out and watching these programmes ever since. Some deliberately don't give you enough to go with, but The Mentalist nudges you along with the occasional red herring for good measure.

Speaking of red herrings, I love the episode titles. They all feature a word which relates to the colour red and are usually quite punny. Also, I suspect that there's a Douglas Adams fan on the writing staff somewhere because one is titled 'So Long And Thanks For All The Red Snapper'.

As far as I'm aware, there are another two series after the point we've watched up to. I'm glad that it's not been dragged out beyond its shelf-life. As a series like this goes on you can start getting a little fatigued by it and I'll admit, by series five I was wondering how much longer they could make the Red John thing last. I've read some spoilers about what happens next and it looks like they've taken the series in the right direction.

In a series where the main story arc relies on the relationship between one man and an unknown serial killer, it's going to reach a point where it becomes repetitive or unbelievable. I think The Mentalist skirts that boundary line occasionally but doesn't actually cross it. I'm looking forward to getting the final two series at some point to see just what happens next.

And as I mentioned the other week, we're now watching Elementary, which feels like a natural follow on from The Mentalist. Sherlock Holmes and Patrick Jane have an awful lot in common.


  1. I've watched until the end of season six and I must say, they ended the whole Red John thing *just* as I was about to lose my suspension of disbelief. I liked the episodes that happened after that.

    1. I did feel like I was starting to lose patience with it once or twice, but they always did something to help bring me back around again. I'm looking forward to the later series, but I'm also really hoping Santa brings me the rest of Criminal Minds so I can watch the later series of that as well.

  2. They finally told us who Red John was. And the last season was kind of unnecessary. But I think I was getting bored with the show anyway. Jane's schtick got old after a while. And don't worry, I won't give any spoilers. I don't remember who Red John was now.

    1. I think some shows are better off quitting while they're ahead. Like ER went through a slow patch before they announced the final series, then it picked up and was awesome and I didn't want it to end.


Let me know what you think. :-)