'Mentalist' Stars, EP Promise Satisfying 'Closure,' View Season 7 as 'Encore'
Showrunner Bruno Heller, along with stars Simon Baker and Robin Tunney, talk to THR about the final two episodes and address the season-ending dilemma facing Lisbon and Jane.
Will Lisbon and Jane finally take the plunge?
Renewed at the 11th hour by CBS, veteran procedural The Mentalist marches toward its May 18 finale with a season-ending question still unanswered: Will Lisbon make the move to Washington, D.C. and end her partnership with Jane? After the Red John wrap-up earlier in the season, exploring the personal dynamics between Jane and Lisbon was the logical next step.
"The pleasures of the show rests in the byplay between Robin [Tunney] and Simon [Baker]. Getting rid of Red John allowed us to focus on that human aspect of the show," executive producer Bruno Heller tells The Hollywood Reporter. "Red John, as it turns out, was a convenience for Jane because it meant he didn't have to confront the rest of his life and what he's doing."
Now that the Red John chapter is over (for the most part), there was no longer a physical obstacle in the way of Jane addressing the Lisbon situation -- just mental ones. "After [Red John] goes, for both Lisbon and Jane, there is a palpable sense of 'What now? Do I really want to continue doing the same thing?' " Heller says. "It left the two of them without an excuse to decide where that relationship was going. They had always been able to keep it separate. Those questions start bubbling up and the rest of the season was the resolution of those questions."
The show's primary focus had always been "the hunt for Red John, the idea of Jane seeking revenge," Baker tells THR, but when that went away and his partnership with Lisbon temporarily ceased, it was time for Jane to figure things out. "You look around and the person standing next to you for five-and-half-years is nowhere to be seen, there's an emptiness and a hollowness," Baker says. Last week's episode was the most recent indicator of the pair's tense (and complicated) relationship, wherein Jane tentatively lets Lisbon go at her doorstep. "it was an obvious progression to get to the idea of longing and missing that person who, when the dust settles, has always been there and [now] she's not there," Baker says.
It's been choppy waters for Jane to get to a place where he can comfortably jump into a romantic affair. "It is not something you can automatically pick up when you're as broken as Jane is," Baker admits. "Just as you get comfortable with any patterns in life, it's going to twist you to change or grow or stretch."
Being one-half of The Mentalist's main couple has been an "interesting" journey to say the least, Tunney tells THR. Though the show has always been billed as a crime procedural, interest in Jane and Lisbon's endgame has been present from the start. Tunney recalls fielding numerous questions over the years about Lisbon and Jane's romantic future, admitting that she'd always answer the same way: a simple "I don't know." "It's always more interesting when the writers and the actors don't know because I don't think you always know in life and also, it becomes less obvious," Tunney explains.
From her perspective, being in such close proximity to Jane during the Red John saga was a factor in turning the tide for Lisbon. "Lisbon did stand by Jane and was really there for him in the hunt for Red John. They're both lonely people and they had this thing in common. Once that was gone, Lisbon really missed him," Tunney says. "She realized that it wasn't just about catching the bad guy: 'I love being around this person and what does this mean?' The last [few] episodes, [Lisbon's wondering,] 'Is he going to declare himself? Is he going to put himself out there? What are we going to do now?' It's going to come to a head."
There is one thing Tunney was OK with in regards to Jane and Lisbon's prolonged courtship: the timing. "It would've been really inappropriate during all the Red John stuff," she says with a laugh. Baker echoed her sentiment: "There also wasn't any room in the show to do it properly."
"The transition to the FBI has been able to give us room structurally in the story to explore the potential for a relationship between Jane and Lisbon," Baker adds. "The threat of [Lisbon] parting in a way has been able to give it its due and be able to play it out properly, as opposed to just a sprinkle here and there."
As The Mentalist readies for the final two hours of season six, the gang promises that a finite resolution will be on tap. "People can expect closure," Tunney says of the remaining episodes. Adds Heller: "We wanted to make sure that the last episode was as fun and humorous and as lighthearted as a crime procedural can be and I think we delivered that." (For the record, Baker jokingly compared the final run to Grease.)
Will fans be satisfied? "I would say yes," Heller says. "This is a popular show. It's meant for the people. We have tried to make a finale to the season that will please and engage and fill our core audience." Adds Baker: "It will by and large give the audience closure, but I suspect it will leave them craving more."
There are already "plans and a blueprint" for the new season, Heller says, adding that the show's seventh year "is like an encore." "The purpose of an encore is to get people leaving the theater happy and giving them what they want and hitting your marks as strong as possible, so that will be the intention," he promises.
The Mentalist airs Sundays at 10 p.m. on CBS.