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The Mentalist

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TV Series Review

Patrick Jane used to be a phony psychic. His heightened sensitivity to detail, manipulation skills and ability to read people helped him make a killing, financially. But ever since a psycho-serial killer murdered his wife and daughter, Jane's been using his not-so-mystical powers to solve crimes and catch bad 'uns—first as part of the California Bureau of Investigation and then for the big boys at the FBI, mostly partnering with Det. Teresa Lisbon and her homicide squad.

In his seventh season of CBS crime-fighting (at the time of this review update), Jane is more at peace, it would seem. He's managed to bring his family's killer to terminal justice. His partnership with Lisbon has become something more than a business relationship, and the two are talking about riding off into the sunset together.

If Jane can, that is. After learning the tics and tells of serial killers, settling in to be a beekeeper just doesn't have the same thrill.

Cut from the same cloth as Monk, The Mentalist features another smug-yet-likable San Francisco savant tormented by his wife's murder and committed to bringing evildoers to justice. Such men are 21st-century superheroes for people who'd rather TiVo CSI than pick up a comic book. No masks. No capes. No secret identities. Their powers are cerebral and their weaknesses are, well, far more common than a fatal kryptonite allergy.

Speaking of weaknesses, Jane is a pragmatist who'll lie, cheat or pick a man's pocket to solve a case. Old habits die hard for this ex-charlatan. But since he now scams only bad people, the show's creators approve of his ethical relativism.

Edgier than the aforementioned Monk but less graphic than CSI, The Mentalist can feature gory crime scenes and violent flashbacks. Characters can be verbally abusive and profane, and they often engage in frank sexual banter. In the show's tangled whodunits, the motives and red herrings frequently involve adulterous affairs or deviant behavior. Drugs and alcohol often play a supporting role.

The Mentalist is intriguing but frustrating at a spiritual level, as conversations about supernatural phenomena pit skepticism against faith. Jane doesn't buy into "real" psychics, but he also scoffs at the very notion of an afterlife. Conversely, a sweetly naive colleague at one point says she believes in heaven, but she's also open to metaphysics.

Still, smart and taut describe this CBS procedural. If it sought less shock value and acknowledged a rational spiritual middle ground, it could achieve (if you'll pardon the pun) a happy (if still fake) medium.

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Episode Reviews

Mentalist: 12-28-2014
Mentalist: 11-17-2013
Mentalist: 11-4-2010



Readability Age Range


Drama, Crime



Simon Baker as Patrick Jane; Robin Tunney as Teresa Lisbon; Tim Kang as Kimball Cho; Owain Yeoman as Wayne Rigsby; Amanda Righetti as Grace Van Pelt






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Year Published



Paul Asay Bob Smithouser

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