Police consultant 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. But since a sadistic serial killer called Red John murdered his family, Jane has partnered with Det. Teresa Lisbon and her homicide squad to solve killings—with an eye toward bringing his family's butcher to terminal justice.
Cut from the same cloth as Monk, The Mentalist features another smug-yet-likable San Francisco savant tormented by his wife's unsolved 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 scams 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 dialogue. 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 as well.
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 named Grace 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 medium.
"The Great Red Dragon"
Jane announces the identity of Red John—a member, it would seem, of a shadowy organization called The Blake Association. It's an illegal support network made up of people in law enforcement who cover for one another as they steal and kill.
A bartender is brutally murdered with a broken whiskey bottle. (We see the killer smash the weapon on the man's head and then jam it into his body—just offscreen.) We see a severed and charred foot. A man's skin is shown to be grotesquely missing in spots. A guy gets shot in the gut, and amid his screams, the bullet is removed without anesthesia. (We see the doctor stick a bloody, gloved finger into the wound.) Jane is almost killed. People throw punches, wrestle and kick.
We hear about an FBI officer's previous problems—drug addiction and the accidental shooting of a 12-year-old girl. He also admits to killing someone else. A glass of whiskey is downed. We hear "d‑‑n" (twice), "h‑‑‑" (five or six times) and "a‑‑" (once). God's name is misused a few times. The episode wraps up with Jane in a church, looking at paintings of Mary, Jesus and Moses.
A rich mogul and his bodyguard are apparently killed in an opening-scene explosion. Suspicion initially falls on rival Walter Mashburn. Then, after he's cleared, Teresa hops into bed with him. "It was nice seeing you, Walter," Teresa says afterwards, giving him a kiss before leaving.
Teresa's nearly shot by a sniper and stabbed by a voluptuous German model (a jealous ex-wife of Walter's). Walter punches Patrick in the face. Another suspect has a fascination with the memorabilia of dead celebrities—and Patrick buys part of the car in which James Dean was killed, just to upset the guy. This guy's also suspected of having an affair with the victim's wife.
Folks are served champagne. Patrick pilfers a toupee. Teresa reveals her bra before she puts on a shirt. A crude reference to testicles is made. Characters utter mild sexual allusions and say words such as "d‑‑n," "h‑‑‑," "b‑‑ch" and "b‑‑tard." They also misuse God's name.