Using my powers of deduction and body-language interpretation, I have come to the conclusion that CBS’s The Mentalist is just starting its second season, and that the creators are tweaking it slightly because they now have the confidence of a series renewal.

With careful observation, I have realized that The Mentalist, competing against the CSIs, Medium, Bones, Without a Trace, etc., needed a good gimmick to raise its signal from the background noise: Patrick Jane (pretty-boy Simon Baker of CBS’s The Guardian and LA Confidential) is a TV psychic turned police “consultant” after his wife and daughter were murdered by a serial killer who calls himself “Red John.” Jane is an atypical anti-hero. He carries no side arm, struts around crime scenes disregarding procedure, takes investigations into his own hands, and asks ridiculous questions of witnesses. He also says bizarre things, keeps secrets from other characters and the audience, and, for lack of a better term, acts weird.

After noticing a couple small details that others missed, I have determined that along with Jane, as before, is his plucky foil, agent Teresa Lisbon (Robin Tunney) who is the head agent for the small team at the California Bureau of Investigations. Jane saved Lisbon’s life at the end of the first season’s finale, and the chemistry between them has never been greater. Of course, in the context of the muted first season, “greater” means it now actually exists.

I have also figured out (although I won’t tell you how) that the secondary players are back as well. Agent Kimball Cho (Tim Kang) covers for and helps Jane, while agent Wayne Rigsby (Owain Yeoman) begrudgingly follows him, and agent Grace Van Pelt (Amanda Righetti) hopes that the team makes morally correct choices while she and Rigsby flirt.

A small detail clued me in on how the show will progress this season. So far, it has been mostly the same. Each episode consists of a complicated (and sometimes far-fetched) murder, which Jane solves by being weird and his team attempt to solve in more legitimate ways. Again, Jane is always right and everyone else is always wrong, although Jane doesn’t always explain how he knows everything – meaning that the writers don’t know either – which can often times become frustrating. Of course, it’s just as frustrating as the 24-hour DNA tests and last-minute courtroom confessions on Law and Order, so fans of those shows won’t be disappointed.

But it is plain as day that Baker is as charismatic, likeable, and quirky as ever. He sucks up your attention like a sponge leaving all other characters in the dust. In fact, this can have the adverse effect of diminishing your concern for the murder-related characters du jour. The Mentalist creator Bruno Heller (HBO’s Rome) counteracts this effect by including the “Red John” sub-plot (or meta-plot), that he inches along in every episode.

So, as I figured out some time ago but have hidden for dramatic effect, The Mentalist continues to be a run-of-the-mill crime/mystery drama with the exception of Baker, who continues to give the viewers a reason to come back each week. If you already enjoy shows like this then you will enjoy this one as well. If you don’t like shows like this you will still be entertained enough to stick around during the commercial breaks. If you feel like suspending your disbelief and concentrating on your powers of deductive reasoning, logic, and attention to detail, The Mentalist will give you an enjoyable hour of primetime television, and very little more.

1 Comments

  • Carlette Cantin
    Carlette Cantin on

    The reason I watch The Mentalist is because it is so enjoyable, nothing wrong with that, and I always find myself smiling by the end of the show and I like that feeling. Besides, the show always keeps one guessing as to what Patrick Jane will be up to next and the lengths he’ll go to to remain with the CBI while he somehow always manages to get one of his compatriats to help him fudge the rules. The difference this year is that he is a bit more secretive about what he up to. It’s what makes the show so different from the usually procedural police dramas, where they follow strict procedures according to the book or police manual. Even in real life police do lie when interviewing those they believe committed a crime and do some sting operations to get information or evidence to break a case and often walk a fine line. The Mentalist just takes it a little bit further.

    Also Patrick Jane appears to be at times quite arrogant and a bit of a smart-aleck, I find that’s a facade he puts on because his character is vulnerable. He feels he needs to solve the cases to be valuable to the CBI or else he is out. I also like the other character’s and their interaction and every once in a while we learn a little more about what motivates them given the circumstances.

    Carla

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