In last spring's finale, The Mentalist rather wrote itself into a corner by having its main character kill a man in a crowded mall, in full view of witnesses. I was interested to see how it would get out of this, but now that I know . . . well, I'm not sure I really like the answer. Read on for more.
I'd been afraid they were going to drag out the Jane-in-jail thing, so at least they didn't do that. By the end of the episode his trial is already over and he's cleared of all charges. And the man he killed was certainly a bad man - that was made very clear in this episode - and so, for a moment, it seemed like this arc might be resolved quickly and efficiently, if somewhat anti-climatically.
But then! But then. At the very end of the episode, Jane tells Lisbon that oh, nope, that wasn't actually Red John at all. And my reaction was basically RRRRRGH. Now, it's possible that the show will come back from this, that Jane will have some valid reason for thinking the guy wasn't Red John that he didn't know before. But in that moment, it reminded me of nothing so much as Burn Notice, in which Michael keeps "finding out" who burned him before concluding, with or without evidence, that there must be another level to the conspiracy. I don't mind it on Burn Notice as much as some people do, but I'm not sure it will translate well to The Mentalist because of the difference in scale. On Burn Notice, there are all sorts of official and unofficial government and intelligence agencies involved, so I can buy a big, complicated multi-level conspiracy. But The Mentalist has always identified Red John as a singular serial killer who sometimes - rather inexplicably - has various people secretly working on his behalf. But, you know, why? If we're in for seasons of "But that wasn't really Red John either" denouements, the show needs to make a compelling case for the fact that Red John has the abilities and resources to pull it off.