Sunday, May 24, 2015

CBS’s ‘The Mentalist’ has NOT revealed Red John

At least, this fan hopes so.

Is CBI director Gale Bertram (top left) really Red John, the serial killer long sought by Patrick Jane (right)? Jane had seven suspects to start the fall 2013 season, and after the Nov. 17 episode, all but two apparently were dead.
Is CBI director Gale Bertram (top left) really Red John, the serial killer long sought by Patrick Jane (right)? Jane had seven suspects to start the fall 2013 season, and after the Nov. 17 episode, all but two apparently were dead.

Sunday night, The Mentalist revealed the identity of serial killer Red John.

Yeah, and it’s going to snow monkeys next Tuesday.

Seriously, CBI director Gale Bertram is the guy who killed the wife and daughter of title character Patrick Jane?

Bertram, a bald, aging petty bureaucrat, who seems more interested in image than criminal behavior, is supposed to be a brilliant sadistic psycho capable of mesmerizing beautiful women?

Assuming you never know who's really dead on TV, who do you think is Red John?
* indicates suspect is thought to be dead
CBI director Dale Bertram
Investigator Ray Haffner*
Homeland Security agent Robert Kirkland*
Sheriff Thomas McAllister*
Forensics analyst Brett Partridge*
FBI agent Reede Smith
Cult leader Bret Stiles*
Other

The show, all about Jane outsmarting everybody but Red John, will wind up as your basic manhunt, with a three-dot shoulder tattoo the whoop-de-doo big clue?

Not buying it. TV doesn’t work that way. The Mentalist hasn’t worked that way.

Supposedly, the final answer will be given Sunday night on CBS in "Red John: The Final Chapter" (if late afternoon NFL football doesn’t delay the whole lineup too much).

"Red John doesn't make mistakes,” Jane said early in season two. “He doesn't leave clues. If you have new evidence, it's because he wants you to have it. The question isn't what does it mean? It's why did he give it to you?”

Again and again, Red John fooled his pursuers. He tricked Jane into killing an impersonator in a mall. Red John let the FBI believe he was escaping in a limo, and a previous CBI director wound up dead, with Red John on the other end of a cellphone duct-taped to the body.

Red John even pulled a baffling trick in which a recording suggests he knew Jane’s list of seven suspects before Jane did. After all, Lorelai Martins was his mouthpiece and she was dead!

True, the math suggests Bertram’s the only suspect left, with FBI agent Reede Smith appearing to be a flunky and a target, and the five other suspects in the grave.

Mentalist creator Bruno Heller has assured us that Red John is one of seven men: Bertram, Smith, forensics expert Brett Partridge, cult leader Bret Stiles, freelance investigator Ray Haffner, Homeland Security agent Robert Kirkland, and Sheriff Thomas McAllister.

“Yes, we can trust that list,” Heller told Entertainment Weekly, adding, “... I would say that definitively: Jane is not Red John.”

The suspicion here is that Red John is once again trying to dupe law enforcement into killing the wrong man.

And Patrick Jane knows this.

Maybe that’s why Jane says he’s “letting go” at the end of the latest episode,“The Great Red Dragon.” (The title, by the way, is a reference to a series of paintings by poet William Blake of a seven-headed beast mentioned in the book of Revelations.)

Maybe that’s why he tells gal-pal agent Teresa Lisbon that it’s “a waste of time” to worry about a coded list found in Bertram’s possession.

Yes, Bertram’s a bad boy, perhaps even the head of the Blake Association, a ring of corrupt law-enforcement agents. That role alone is enough to explain his having a secret room full of weapons and documents, including fake passports. But where’s the brilliance? Or the deeply twisted soul?

We’ve seen Jane play possum before, feigning being down and out in Vegas until Martins showed. Soon she was telling Jane how much he and Red John should have been friends, how they still could be  – if Jane would just bring him Lisbon’s head.

Lurking in the shadows, the cat craves seeing the mouse do some killing.

(Jane carted a box containing a melon with a wig instead.)

An evil genius doesn’t explode a bomb in a room while he’s in it, risking being killed by flying debris or subsequent fire. That casts doubt on all five suspects who were in that room on Jane’s property during the explosion.

So who could have been lurking, watching from a safe distance, if Heller's list is honest?

Either of the first two dead suspects.

Yes, we saw Robert Kirkland shot several times in the back, but remember how he said he had a twin?  Michael Kirkland supposedly worked with Red John and then was killed by him. But consider the old twin switcheroo, with the dead dude actually being Michael, who used his brother’s identity and cleaner record to land a career in law enforcement? That leaves Robert still alive and capable of being Red John.

One flaw: Kirkland asked if he looked familiar, while talking with a Red John associate, who said no. Maybe plastic surgery fixed that, so they didn't look like twins? [Update: Gee, then Kirkland could look like anybody! Even Jason Cooper, the creepy No. 2 guy at Stiles' church.]

That leaves Bret Partridge.

Funny how we never actually saw him die. He acted and looked mortally wounded early this season when he was discovered by agent Lisbon, who turned away, then got snatched from behind.

Funny how pigeons are seen in that house, and pigeon and partridge are synonyms.

Funny how Partridge sounded the most like Red John.

Funny how Partridge was introduced as a marginal character in the very first episode.

Funny how agent Kimball Cho, on the last show, seeks out Partridge’s body and checks for a shoulder tattoo but never peeks at Partridge’s face.

How could Patridge still be alive, while Lisbon and her colleagues clearly believe he’s dead?

Uh, how about because, as we know, there’s a vast conspiracy adept at lying and faking evidence? How about because Partridge, as a forensic scientist, would know a thing or three about faux cadavers?

The not-dead-yet scenario is also the way to explain the recording of Lorelai Martin naming the suspects. She simply made the recording after Jane made his list because she's still alive.

Misdirection, made to look like magic.

Makes sense for Red John to use such a ruse – and later set off a fuse to create a no-lose situation. If Jane dies in the explosion, Red John wins. If everybody dies, Red John must be dead (but isn’t). If a suspect survives, he’ll wind up dead in a manhunt. Regardless, Red John's alive.

One big problem: Something Heller said before the season.

“I can tell you it won’t be a sort of Ten Little Indians type of setup,” he told Entertainment Weekly.

That Agatha Christie novel turned movie, titled And Then There Were None, has everybody on an island killed off one by one, with the killer turning out to be a supposed victim.

Darn, I wish show’s producers and writers would refrain from spoiling some of the fun this way.

It would fun to still be conjecturing about Red John being Grace Van Pelt.

So if it’s not Bertram, isn’t Agatha Christie-like, and the Kirkland theory is too wacky (as are clones and zombies), then who? Another kind of identity fakeout? Some other so-and-so was really someone else? The Ray Haffner we knew was a Red John plant, while the real (and real twisted) Ray Haffner did the devilish deeds?

Reede Smith had himself shot at to cover his tracks?

Or “Red John” isn’t one person. It’s some kind of collective term. They all done it, like a seven-headed dragon? Maybe Martins and others who thought of Red John as just one man, because they’d met only one of the men.

Whatever the outcome, after Sunday’s show, it will be time to move on.

Supposedly the series will skip a couple of years, and pick up on Jane’s life later.

Contact staff writer Peter Mucha at 215-854-4342 or pmucha@phillynews.com.

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