'Mentalist' Postmortem: Red John's Identity, CBI's Future and Jane's Next Move
"It was fun to destroy parts of the world that I had helped create and have great fondness for," writer Jordan Harper tells THR. "We have taken a monkey wrench to our show and to the world that the show lives in."
[Warning: Major spoilers from Sunday's episode. Do not proceed if you have not watched.]
Has Red John been unmasked?
Patrick Jane (Simon Baker) and Co. whittled down their list of Red John suspects to one name by the end of Sunday's episode, "The Great Red Dragon": CBI Director Gale Bertram (Michael Gaston). Jane made his discovery known to the public through a press conference broadcast on television, prompting Bertram to go on the run.
The Red John search -- one that kicked off when the series debuted in 2008 -- may be nearing its end, but the conflict is much larger than anticipated with the shutdown of the CBI and the FBI's takeover. The writer of Sunday's episode, Jordan Harper, talks to The Hollywood Reporter about the repercussions of Jane's public declaration, whether Bertram is Red John, a world without CBI and next week's "big, big" episode.
What was the most challenging thing to get right?
The hardest part was knitting together the episode that comes before it and the episode that comes after it -- at least that was the first challenge. I really saw this as the middle part of a trilogy, so I had to make sure I delivered on both those fronts. The episode basically takes place entirely at a spring, which is not the normal tempo for The Mentalist. I had a lot to get done, and I wanted it to be fun to watch. There's a version of this story that could have been told with a lot of exposition and fewer shoot-outs, but I wanted to do the shoot-outs.
What was your favorite scene or moment to write?
There are a lot of things about this episode I really, really liked. I think director Elodie Keene and our crew did a great job with the shoot-out with Owain [Yeoman, who plays Rigsby] and Amanda [Righetti, who plays Van Pelt]. It was by far the most intricate action scene I had ever written, and while it comes off as chaotic on the screen, it was anything but in the planning. I really enjoyed introducing Rockmond Dunbar as FBI agent Dennis Abbott, and we will be needing him again.
This episode knocks off several Red John suspects right away following last week's explosion, leaving Bertram as the person Jane, Lisbon and the rest of the CBI team believe is the culprit. Are they correct?
You'll have to watch and see. I don't want to tip anything from the upcoming episode other than Jane has a lot going on in his head, and he's going to have even more going on in the next episode.
Was it particularly difficult seemingly killing three Red John suspects -- Sheriff Tom McAllister, Visualize leader Bret Stiles and FBI agent Ray Haffner -- at the beginning of the hour? Was that always the plan?
To be honest, that was one of the easiest things I had to come up with because Ken Woodruff wrote the episode before mine [titled "Fire and Brimstone"]. All I had to do was write, "Fade in. The house has blown up." I will say, fewer body parts made it in than were on-set that day, which was a personal regret of mine. I understand that you can't get everything out of life, but there was more than a foot there. Our show isn't normally that gory, but we wanted to make very clear that that was a human foot and there were dead bodies in there. Choreographing Lisbon coming into that scene and how fast her mind has to move from who survived this, did anyone survive this, to Smith surviving it, to thinking Smith is Red John, not knowing there were other people with tattoos, she's exactly where Jane was the episode before that. And keeping track of what everybody knows and don't know in that time span was very challenging.
Jane's press conference revealing to the public the identity of Red John was a big move. What does that mean for everyone involved moving forward?
One of the reasons that that is an important scene is Jane knows. And as the audience quickly sees, he's exposing the leader of the CBI as a killer, and that's something that will have repercussions and does in the episode. It's not something he does idly.
You touched on Abbott's entrance, with him shutting down the CBI and relieving everyone of their duties. What is Jane and Co.'s next move and what is their state of mind at the moment?
These are questions that are going to be addressed very quickly in the "Red John" episode. It's a big move to have the CBI shut down. It means Jane doesn't have the backstop he's always had, a veneer of law enforcement that allows him to operate in the way that Jane operates. When he loses that -- well, you can't count Jane out -- he does lose one of the best cards in his hand.
Talk about the scene between Lisbon and Jane after they find out the FBI is taking over, when Lisbon essentially tells him that he won't give up.
I'm glad you picked up on that. To me, that's a big difference between quitting and letting go. The alcoholics say you gotta know the difference between the things you can change and the things you can't, and you can't always force things to go the way you want. But if you let go, you might be able to find other ways of making things work.
Will more information be divulged about The Blake Association?
We're going to keep talking about it.
Now that CBI is evidence, how do Jane, Lisbon, Van Pelt, Cho and Rigsby come back together?
It's going to unfold in the next few episodes. As someone who's written on the show for a long time, it was fun to destroy parts of the world that I had helped create and have great fondness for. We have taken a monkey wrench to our show and to the world that the show lives in. Quite a bit of enjoyment came out of that.
What is the world like without CBI at its core?
It's bigger. That's about all I can say, because there's a lot unfolding. It's a brave new world.
With the Red John mystery looking like it'll wrap up soon, are seeds planted for the next big arc?
It's fair to say that while there is going to be a huge shift in the story after this, it's not going to come out of nowhere. Everything that precedes is going to have logical antecedents in these run of episodes.
Without revealing too much, how would you characterize Jane and Bertram's encounter?
I realize that this episode raises a lot of questions. Normally at the end of one of our episodes, you're able to say more definitive things than I am able to say right now. Jane and Bertram will meet again. (Laughs.)
What are you hoping to explore further?
We're in a whole new world now. I'm currently working on my next episode, and I'm getting to do things I've never gotten to do on The Mentalist. It's nice after this many episodes to open the world up and feel like a new show.
Preview next week's episode, which you've said is the last of the "trilogy," so to speak.
It's called "Red John." It's written by Bruno Heller and directed by Chris Long, one of our executive producers, and it's a big, big episode. In the history of our show, it is easily the biggest episode we've ever done. In a lot of ways I'm just setting the table.
The Mentalist airs Sundays at 10 p.m. on CBS.
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