“Let the mind games begin.”
If I am forced to choose a show about a fake psychic I will always choose the criminally underappreciated Psych before anything else because I enjoy laughing. However The Mentalist has a charm all its own in faux-psychic Patrick Jane and his band of state investigators who solve serious crimes with only a touch of humor balanced out with a good brain bender.
Patrick Jane (Simon Baker, The Guardian) uses his hyperawareness of the world around him to help the members of the CBI (California Bureau of Investigation) solve cases. His talent comes across as psychic, though he’s the first to state definitively there is no such thing. Using elaborate schemes he is able to point the finger at the perpetrator although it’s not uncommon for him to allow some innocent person to take the fall until the real criminal is revealed. Trying (and mostly failing) to keep him in line is Special Agent Theresa Lisbon (Robin Tunney, Prison Break) who heads the CBI Unit Jane consults with.
The crime drama is one of the most prolific of the scripted genres. What’s more a lot of those shows have a protagonist with a painful history to provide them with the impetus needed to go out there and bring down some bad guys. In this way The Mentalist is no different than say Castle; a show whose plot also revolves (at least partially) around seeking justice for the death of a loved one.
But the difference here is that Jane will do whatever it takes to bring down the man responsible for the brutal slaying of his wife and daughter, and that includes taking actions of a questionable moral nature. Like it or not at his heart Patrick Jane is a master manipulator. This gives him a darker edge than most heroes as we come to terms with Jane’s belief that the end completely justifies the means. In this third season it is at times a struggle for the audience as Jane demonstrates his willingness to use whoever he needs to in order to track down the serial killer Red John who we know killed his family. Sometimes the only comfort we can take in the character is a sense of relief that he is on the right side of the law, but always lurking is the curiosity of what would happen should Jane choose to go to the Dark Side.
Jane is reminiscent of another popular character: Dr. Gregory House from House. There too is a man obsessed with finding answers no matter the cost. Yet what The Mentalist does better than House is provide some humanity to Jane, more in this season than in the preceding ones. Simon Baker gives Jane enough sympathy to keep us rooting for him even as we worry about the outcome of his vendetta. More importantly, we see Jane’s growth this season, and it’s nice to see Baker rein in some of the flippancy that was okay for the first season or two but inappropriate over the course of a season that deals with heavy material for all the characters.
Take for example the scene in which a grateful husband gifts Jane with a religious artifact. In previous seasons Jane would not accept such a gift. He would be dismissive and resolute in his opinions, unwilling to have anything to do with something that goes against his personal beliefs. But in this scene Jane initially protests but ultimately accepts the gift in the spirit in which it was intended.
This season also shows the expansion of Jane’s concerns. Without losing sight of his quest for revenge against Red John, Patrick helps his fellow man much more than before. Not just his colleagues in the CBI, but also the people they encounter during the course of their investigations. This adds another layer to the show, pulling it from the “Case of the Week” format somewhat and changing the group dynamic to a more cohesive one. This season, while Jane does go off on his own, he includes the team much more often and this works because they all finally trust that how they work together is effective.
Although there are more than a handful of episodes that simply stand alone, for the most part you have to be a devoted watcher to follow the arcs of the season. That’s to be expected this far into the show’s run and rewards the fans of the series by calling back things from previous episodes and seasons. All in all it’s a satisfying show to watch and this season ended in such a way as to leave everything up in the air — which guarantees we will keep coming back for more.
My utmost wish for The Mentalist: The Complete Third Season is that they had spread it out over one more disc. Unfortunately by cramming over 1000 minutes of footage over just five discs there are some definite compression artifacts to the video. The muted palette gets somewhat muddled at times and the black levels occasionally creep into too dark. But the Dolby 5.1 is more than a match for the video and never suffers any of the complaints one usually has about the audio stream.
As far as the special features goes, there were some deleted scenes but I only watched them out of curiosity, never because I felt the episodes were lacking and maybe the deleted scene was something that should have been included. The featurettes were okay and I was disappointed to once again not have any episode commentaries.
The Mentalist is definitely worth buying, at least until CBS gets their act together and shows reruns online, or Warner Bros. sells the rights to a streaming service.