Show: The Mentalist
Job: Help the writers save Season 4.
The last season of The Mentalist, according to writer Bruno Heller, “was almost serialized.” And this season? “There still will be an overarching narrative going on, but it won’t be quite so intricate.”
Translated: we are taking a semi-break from Red John. But most of the character development will still center on his case. And we are pretty much going to ignore everything else of interest in the characters’ lives.
No really, it’s great! Now I can watch twenty episodes where not much happens except guest characters get killed, guest murderers get justice, and FBI Agent Darcy gets all up in Patrick’s grill. Now CB can take a break from a favorite show: after watching the first three seasons in a few weeks, she’s been paused on this season’s fifth episode for a month.
But (thank God) the writers called us saying they had penned themselves against a wall. And now the TV Consultants can help. So, dear Mentalist writers, here are our tips for saving Season 4. (NOTE: if, like CB, you are still stuck on Episode 5, the following may contain spoilers.)
1. Don’t phone it in.
In the latest episode (“Something Rotten in Redmund”), the writers literally phoned it in. A running sub plot this season has been Rigsby’s baby. Well, I can’t actually call it a sub plot, since in total it takes up about five minutes of screen time. His girlfriend Sarah unexpectedly gets pregnant. They go to a birthing class. He proposes. She refuses. She calls him to say her water broke. Later, Rigsby tells everyone she had the baby. VIA TEXT.
There is so much material here. Sarah tells Rigsby she’s pregnant and at the same time Grace goes missing: all Rigsby can do is think about finding Grace. Apparently, he and Sarah work through this issue off camera. When does Grace? Her initial reaction to the pregnancy is negative (“Yikes”), but then congratulatory. Is she as over Rigsby as she appears? When Rigsby proposes to Sarah, she simply says no—that she doesn’t want him to propose just because she’s pregnant. And then she walks out of the room. What happens next? They go to a birthing class, and Rigsby has no idea what he’s doing. Later he confusedly asks, “You’re what broke?” Where does this nervousness and confusion go?
Stop phoning it in, writers. Give us something to watch. Even a scene with Rigsby and Cho. Cho could ask…
Cho: What’s up with you?
Rigsby: You don’t want to know.
Rigsby: Sarah’s midwife has decided to induce labor tomorrow.
Cho: Oh. Are you excited?
Rigsby: Yeah! (pauses as worry clouds his brow) It’s just nothing like I expected. She’s doing it in a bath. And she’s—she’s—she’s saving the placenta. To eat.
Cho: You’re right. I didn’t want to know.
Rigsby: That’s not normal. Is it?
(Cho is silent.)
Rigsby: Anyways, I just want everything to be okay. No problems. I don’t know what I’d do.
Cho: Sounds stressful.
2. Stop robbing us of conflict (and resolution).
Cho has a drug problem. Earlier this season he is chasing a suspect and injures his back—by being hit by a car. Each episode we see him popping more and more pills and answering concerned inquiries with a severe “I’m fine.” Then he falls asleep during a stakeout, waking up only just in time to save Rigsby from being shot.
What happens? He apologizes to Rigsby. And then we get a scene where Cho walks into Lisbon’s office and says he wants to talk to her about something. “This is a safe room,” she tells him. “You can talk about whatever you’d like here.” Cho nods. He looks at Lisbon. Lisbon looks at him. We stare at the screen.
He apologizes for being late that morning, walks out of the office, and dumps his pills down the sink.
Wow! Cho really is a robot. While we have seen a very human side of him this season—he fell for a CI (Summer, a hooker) and got addicted to pain killers—it has been in spite of the emotional wall he puts between himself and every person with whom he comes in contact. Summer has to force him into admitting he likes her. Every time Rigsby asks if Cho is okay, he is rebuffed. Grace suggests Cho try yoga to help him recover. He pushes all of these offers of help away.
Then when it comes to the real struggle—having to overcome his proud and private disposition to ask for help from the people who love him—he fails. Yet we’re supposed to believe he has the solitary mental and physical power to throw the pills down the sink cold turkey? Right.
3. Take the problems seriously.
You know who always gets the shaft? Grace. She broke up with the love of her life to save his job. She had to shoot her own fiance. She has to watch Rigsby date a girl two feet shorter than her. She gets creepily hit on by this guy:
But she really is lonely. The writers actually did a good job with this, especially in “His Thoughts Were Red Thoughts,” where we see Grace dealing with a few problems—once again on her own. She has been without hot water for three days, thanks to an uncooperative landlord. And she has to face the wily Bret Stiles (a.k.a. creepy guy, above, also known as cult leader/idol) with no defense but her own intelligence and will.
Thankfully, she comes through! “I’m sort of over bad boys these days,” she tells Stiles, hearkening back to that fiance she had to shoot. It ain’t easy for Van Pelt, but so far she’s made it.
4. Stop laughing at Patrick Jane.
Okay—if you can’t laugh at Jane, you probably have to hate him. So don’t stop laughing at him. But do stop treating him like a joke.
Earlier this season in “Blinking Red Light,” we see Jane at his worst. Jane can be bad? Well, when he manipulates one serial killer (James Panzer, a.k.a. the San Joaquin Killer) into dissing another serial killer (Red John), and then the latter kills the former… I think that can be called bad. Jane acts out of guilt, because he knows who the San Joaquin Killer is but does not have the evidence to stop him. So instead of using his intelligence and his team to trap the killer, he basically coordinates a hit. Does Panzer deserve to die? Sure. But should Jane be the one to decide?
So Jane has unconventional (and sometimes illegal, or at least immoral) methods of seeking justice. And yes, he is often cocky and annoying. And yes, he also gets results. But there is a difference between skirting the rules and outright breaking them, between getting the evidence and playing with others’ lives to do it. Jane can’t be a spoiled kid all the time; when it’s important he should have to face facts. There is a line of believability. And this line is getting hazy.
You’re pushing our patience, writers. So stop treating Jane like a joke. Actually, stop treating us that way too.