This is the first in a series of bimestrial articles about Red John. The next one will be in mid-November. Keep in mind that this will be different from my reviews of The Mentalist.
SPOILERS FOR SEASON THREE!
A little backstory before I start, I only started watching The Mentalist this past television season. I got caught up on the early episodes on DVD, and I'm glad I did, because it's one of the best shows on nowadays. It's funny, the mysteries are engaging, and Simon Baker is a great actor. But the one thing that particularly interested me was the serial killer, Red John (hereafter after called RJ).
Throughout the series, Baker's character (Patrick Jane) tries to track down and kill RJ, who murdered his wife and daughter. In this past season finale, "Strawberries and Cream", Jane killed a man who claimed to be Red John in the food court of a mall.
When I first watched this episode, I too believed RJ was killed. It was a little early in the series, but I didn't see anyway around it. I thought it was a fantastic ending and that it would have been an excellent series finale, had the show been cancelled.
But then I started to think about it some more, and now not only am I utterly convinced is RJ not dead, but killing whoever that was in the mall played right into the real Red John's hands. Here's a history of the past season and how I came to my conclusions:
Since the end of season two, the only foolproof tell-tale sign of RJ was the phrase "Tiger Tiger". It came from a William Blake poem that RJ quoted in the season two finale. Midway through this season (3), there was a cop-killer named Todd Johnson. Jane caught him fairly easy and the CBI (the police that Jane works for) brought him in for questioning. However, before they took him in, Johnson told Jane that he had information on RJ, and that he would only tell him (Jane).
Just before he could tell Jane, someone lit Johnson on fire. In the hospital, before he died, Johnson said the words, "Tiger Tiger". It was official. He really did have a connection to RJ. Internal Affairs agent J.J LaRoche was sent in to investigate. Several months later, CBI Special Agent in Charge Madeleine Hightower was framed for the Johnson murder,because she was having an affair with one of Johnson's victims. She didn't do it, but she was forced to go on the run,not just from the CBI,but RJ,also.
For several months, Jane tried to find the person that set Johnson on fire; because not only did that person frame Hightower, but they had access to the CBI, and could have been feeding information back to RJ about the investigation. Jane even had someone break into LaRoche's house to get the list of suspects. No luck, though. Jane's investigation hit a dead end.
However, not long after the break-in, RJ resurfaced in an attempt to kill Hightower. Her cousin had been sending her money since she was on the run, and RJ had one of his proxies (a gas station owner) try to find the records of the money transfers. Thankfully, it didn't work. Hightower sought out Jane and got his butt in gear to find the list.
Jane then blackmailed LaRoche and got the list. There were five names on it, only two were important: Gale Bertram, CBI director; and Craig O'Laughlin, FBI agent and Grace Van Pelt's (a member of the CBI who works with Jane) fiance. And if none of them did it, then LaRoche did it. Jane set up a trap for the suspects in a hotel room. At first, the evidence was pointing towards Bertram as the culprit. Jane thought so too, and asked Bertram to meet him at the mall.
Bertram did this, supposedly told RJ about it, and met Jane at the mall. Meanwhile, since they thought they caught the mole, they thought Hightower didn't need protection anymore. Teresa Lisbon (another member of the CBI) was already at Hightower's cabin awaiting the arrival of Van Pelt and O'Laughlin. But something that Bertram said at the mall made Jane realize that O'Laughlin is the real killer. O'Laughlin attempted to kill Hightower, and shot Lisbon, but was killed before anyone died.
Jane told Bertram to leave, since he wasn't needed anymore. Jane asked Lisbon to hit the redial button on O'Laughlin's phone and tell the person who answered that O'Laughlin was dead. As luck would have it, the man who answered was sitting two tables away from Jane in the food court. (Before I continue, I just want to say that, by the time this episode aired, I had already figured out that Bradley Whitford was going to be in this episode. There were some pictures on Zimbio of him during filming.)
Jane and the man talked for a while. The man said he was going to retire from serial killing and start to do some good in the world. He said he was sorry for causing Jane all that pain, but told him to move on with his life. He got up and started to leave, but Jane asked him to prove that he was who he said he was. The man then told Jane what his wife and daughter smelled like as he killed them (the titular strawberries and cream). Jane walked up to him and shot him with a gun that he had in his pocket.
The man in the food court claimed that he was RJ. Certainly he had a connection to RJ, there's no denying that. My bone of contention is that he was the real RJ. My first point is he didn't say "Tiger Tiger". Not once. Didn't even mention it. That alone would have been the icing on the cake, but working on that assumption, I figured out more. If RJ is alive, but Jane and the rest of the world thought he was dead, he would have absolute power. He could do anything he wanted. And he would have finally beaten Jane.
My hypothesis is later in the season, after Jane is released and everything settles down, RJ will resurface to play mind games with Jane. After all, Jane's that one that killed him. He couldn't turn around and say this is the real RJ.
Anyway, there were some other things that I'll save for my next column. Sincerely, Observer.