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Who is Red John on The Mentalist?
November 1, 2013 - Andrea Johnson
There are a lot of new shows on TV this fall, but neither "The Blacklist" or "Agents of Shield" have succeeded in holding my attention for longer than a few episodes. But the final countdown to the reveal of a serial killer on CBS's "The Mentalist" does have me interested.
Sherlock Holmes had his Moriarty and The Mentalist's Patrick Jane has his Red John, the most diabolical serial killer to appear on TV in many a year. After five and a half seasons, the show is finally getting ready to reveal the identity of this dastardly fellow, who killed Jane's wife and daughter and a few dozen other people. Judging by the promos for Sunday's episode, the five remaining suspects will be gathered together in a room, with Jane pointing a shotgun at them.
The terror Red John inspires is probably intensified because his identity has never been revealed on the show. Instead, the audience sees the results of his handiwork: victim who have been slashed to death or decapitated and left theatrically arranged. On an earlier episode this season, Jane found the head of his former psychiatrist in an oven. The killer always draws a bloody smiley face somewhere at the scene, using his victim's blood. Red John is also a master manipulator who, like Moriarty in Arthur Conan Doyle's classic, heads a vast criminal network. Red John's various minions, most of them murderers themselves, display a fanatical, near religious devotion to the serial killer.
The question is whether the unmasking of the villain can measure up to the hype. So far they appear to have killed off two of the original seven suspects, creepy criminalist Brett Partridge and even creepier (and murderous) Homeland Security Agent Bob Kirkland. Unfortunately, Partridge and Kirkland happened to be my top two favorites for the criminal mastermind and the others look like pretty slim pickings. Could it be the California Bureau of Investigation boss Gale Bertram, who seems to be up to his neck in a sinister criminal conspiracy? How about Reede Smith, the FBI agent who is also involved in the criminal conspiracy and shot Kirkland in the back in the last episode? Then there's Bret Stiles, a charismatic cult leader, and Ray Haffner, the (undeniably creepy) former CBI agent who is a member of Stiles' cult. The outlier appears to be Sheriff Tom McAllister, who appeared in the second episode of the series and has had his creepy moments too.
To be sure, The Mentalist has been doing its best to spread the suspicion around and leave its audience guessing. Red John is a good whistler, so a couple of the suspects, Haffner and McAllister, have been heard whistling creepily. Red John may have a phobia, so Haffner is afraid of spiders and McAllister might be afraid of birds. It's all looking a little too obvious, so maybe one of the presumed dead suspects faked his own death and is still out there wreaking havoc.
I have my doubts that it will be as easy as that, since the spoilers also say the actual reveal won't happen for another couple of weeks. The eighth episode of the sixth season is called "Red John" and the episode that airs on Sunday is only No. 6. Red John has also yet to seriously hurt or kill one of the regular characters. I wouldn't count on that remaining the case. Ominously, two of the characters, Wayne Rigsby and Grace Van Pelt, just got married and have been going about telling all the other characters how blissfully happy they are. That kind of thing is usually a lead-up to a main character's sad demise.
The Mentalist airs at 9 p.m. Sunday on CBS.
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