Review: The Mentalist 2×1

Nice, but it's time to call it a day

Simon Baker in The Mentalist

In the US: Thursdays, 10/9c, CBS
In the UK:
Five. No air date yet

Out of all the new shows in the US last year, there was one big winner, the conclusive champion triumphing over all others: The Mentalist. Created by Rome‘s Bruno Heller, it sees former ‘psychic’ Patrick Jane (Simon Baker) join up the the California Bureau of Investigation to hunt down the serial killer, Red John, who killed his family and offer his unique services to solve other crimes while doing.

Jane isn’t a ‘real’ psychic, but uses all the powers of those frauds – cold reading, misdirection, observation, etc – to deduce who the guilty party is. Although it might not be called Sherlock Holmes, that’s essentially what Jane is – a man whose ability to observe and deduce is so powerful, he knows who the guilty person is within seconds and just has to spend the rest of the episode proving it.

Despite the Red John storyline, The Mentalist is essentially a standalone show in which every episode has little to do with Red John. Instead, unlike all those serial shows that were so hot a few years ago, The Mentalist made it to the top of the ratings through not requiring the viewer to know anything or to pay that much attention: instead, you can dip into and out of The Mentalist whenever you want, content in the knowledge that you’ll just get to see that nice Simon Baker being very charming and quite clever while solving a generic crime story.

And frankly, as pleasant as that is, I’m bored of that now.

The big set-up for season two is the introduction of a new team to take over the Red John investigations, after it’s become clear that Jane’s CBI colleagues are a load of old rubbish. Really, they are. You wonder how they manage to tie their shoelaces without him, and the show quite explicitly says that, too.

So not only are we going to get less Red John now, much of the season two story arc is going to be about the battle of wills between Jane and the new FBI guy running the investigation. On the one hand, it should be interesting, judging from this first episode, to see the lengths – mostly illegal – Jane will go to to get back on the case or at least to find out what’s going on with the investigation.

On the other hand, I’m really not sure I’m that interested in everything else in the show. Yes, Jane’s clever bits of detective work are interesting, and Simon Baker is phenomenal. But they’re not so interesting that I want to spend an hour every week watching it and the other characters aren’t really that interesting at all, particularly since they seem like a bunch of 18-year-olds messing about, rather than actual law enforcement officers. The cases that Jane has to solve are very, very dull – I can barely even remember what this week’s was about.

Which is a shame, because the show has such great potential and I really enjoyed it at first. But as the third season of Lost showed, treading water and never advancing a plot isn’t a way to keep viewers interested for very long.

Okay, ratings prove otherwise, so clearly I’m in the minority here, but I think I’m going to call it a day with The Mentalist now.


  • Rob Buckley

    I’m Rob Buckley, a journalist who writes for UK media magazines that most people have never heard of although you might have heard me on the podcast Lockdown Land or Radio 5 Live’s Saturday Edition or Afternoon Edition. I’ve edited Dreamwatch, Sprocket and Cambridge Film Festival Daily; been technical editor for TV producers magazine Televisual; reviewed films for the short-lived newspaper Cambridge Insider; written features for the even shorter-lived newspaper Soho Independent; and was regularly sarcastic about television on the blink-and-you-missed-it “web site for urban hedonists” The Tribe. Since going freelance, I've contributed to the likes of Broadcast, Total Content + Media, Action TV, Off The Telly, Action Network, TV Scoop and The Custard TV.

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