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Dear Writers of The Mentalist

November 14, 2009


I realize that my opinion will have absolutely no impact on the one solid success to come out of last year’s freshman class, but something’s been bugging me about The Mentalist, and if I can’t blog about it, where else can I turn?

I’m probably not going to stop watching the show because of this issue, but I’ll certainly continue to complain about it, and the reason it prompted its own post was that the issue itself was very nearly raised on the show. Namely: Patrick Jane is a menace to society.

Yes, Simon Baker is adorable, and we all love his witticisms as the former psychic/con man. Yes, as a procedural in a world of procedurals, some suspension of disbelief is required. Had a man like Patrick Jane really spent the weekend in County Jail, they would have had to scrape what was left of him off the floor come Monday morning. So forget the ridiculous plot devices – the show already  maintains a healthy amount of self-deprecation (for example: Cho asking Jane how he managed to escape and find a change of clothes only to have Jane walk off in the middle of the explanation). What’s really starting to get to me is the idea that there are absolutely no consequences for the character.

I don’t like the bully that is Sam Bosco anymore than I’m supposed to, but the man kind of has a point. There are no boundaries for Jane, no matter how hard other people try to impose them on him. He even said it himself early on in the first season: he plans to kill Red John given the chance.

That’s not just the grief talking. Jane doesn’t simply ignore the rules, he purposely goes out of his way to step on them, knowing that he can get away with it. And why shouldn’t he believe that? No one’s managed to change his mind so far. The fact that Lisbon hoped Jane would learn a lesson from his stint in jail was ridiculous, especially since he played her and got her to free him anyway.

The problem isn’t that he does whatever he wants, it’s that he doesn’t even seem to recognize that what he’s doing is endangering others. The laws don’t apply to Patrick Jane, and what that does is take away the suspense. He can and will do anything, so there are no surprises. There’s no tension – especially now. He can’t get fired, he won’t get arrested, he certainly won’t get killed. He’s already lost his family – he has nothing left to lose.

What especially bothers me about the direction the writers have taken is that Jane, instead of coming off as a flawed, tormented, but ultimately sympathetic character, seems like a selfish sociopath, redeemed only by Simon Baker’s charm. He doesn’t particularly care about the people he works with, and clearly doesn’t need them. The rest of the CBI team is immaterial; their sole function is to show up and arrest people once Jane’s solved the murder. (An article in this week’s TV Guide claims this Thursday’s episode will change that perception, so I’ll have to wait and see.)

It would be different if Jane showed some understanding that he’s living dangerously, that he’s breaking the rules, instead of acting as if rules are simply for other people. He has no self-awareness in terms of his reckless behavior, no moment of, ‘Yes, I know what I did was wrong, but I don’t care because I saved someone’s life.’ He never admits to being wrong.

That arrogance isn’t charming. Neither is the fact that he treats the rest of the CBI team like stooges who exist to be his playthings. There’s no partnership between him and Lisbon, no sense of equality. It’s actually hard to argue that Jane shouldn’t see himself as superior – he clearly is superior.

And that’s boring. It’s one thing to watch Jane manipulate the bad guys week after week, that’s entertaining. But to watch him manipulate his so-called team, and to have them take it and come back for more, really doesn’t show anyone in a flattering light. I’m not saying he suddenly has to become a team player, take a back seat to Rigsby, Cho, and Van Pelt (I get it, the man is a tortured soul), but since he has been working with these people for so long, you might think he’d have grown enough to actually communicate with them. After all, they’ve shown time and time again how far they’ll go for him.

I think one problem I’m having is that Lisbon seems to place enormous trust in Jane for something we don’t know about yet. It’s gotta be big. Otherwise, I just can’t accept that a confident, intelligent, state agent like Lisbon would suffer his games. I like his approaches to solving crime, that’s what works – what I don’t understand is why he has to keep his own superior in the dark about his plans. It’s not like she’ll say no, (or, even if she does, that he’ll listen). He’ll do what he wants anyway, so the writers should let Lisbon in on the plots. It would be nice for the agent in charge to actually have a clue of who she’ll be arresting in the final minutes, before Jane makes his big announcement – even if we don’t.

The show is unbalanced because Patrick Jane has all the power. It only took him seven weeks to break mean old Agent Bosco, and only a portion of that time was really spent trying. It’s only a matter of time before he gets Red John. He’s so brilliant after all, and there’s nothing that’ll stand in his way. So, really, other than Simon Baker’s charms and adorable good looks (and that moment after the credits when he says, ‘Stay tuned for scenes from our next episode,’ in his Aussie accent), what are we coming back for week after week?

5 Comments leave one →
  1. Mathilda permalink
    November 15, 2009 7:27 am

    Jane being a borderline sociopath occurred to me too- I knew an actual scoio once so I’m clued up to the signs. He scores very close to ‘low level socio’ on the Hare scale, if you look it up. Funny, I posted a fic on this subject at FF net on Nov 13.

    Most Mentalist fans don’t spot the ‘borderline socio’ behaviour, I’ve asked around and most see him as a tragic nice guy. Fools!

    The series writers are actually aware that he’s close to a sociopath, they do try to suggest similarities between him and Red John at times- look out for the teacup in Red John’s footsteps as an example. A lot of the sub text in the series is about people abusing positions of power (how many times now has the bad guy turned out to be a cop?). The only real difference betwen Jane and John is that John enjoys using violence to control people and get a power trip.

    BTW, my money is on the Attorney General as Red John for various reasons.

    I think Jane didn’t tell Cho how he escaped because he’s planning to just walk out of prison after he’s killed Red John. Doesn’t want the cops to know how he did it.


  2. Wanda permalink
    November 15, 2009 12:10 pm

    Jane feels remorse for having lied to people when he was a fake psychic, so I don’t think he qualifies as a psychopath, but admittedly I’m not an expert. One of the reasons I watch the show is that I enjoy figuring out his personality. I think he’s only superficially superficial, and that there is a lot of true emotion, self-defense copying mechanism underneath.

  3. Walt permalink
    January 7, 2010 10:12 pm

    Great article, Megan. I agree with everything you wrote. However, I’m getting bored with the the show due to Jane’s relationship with the “stooges”. The same thing every week. There’s a murder, the stooges can’t figure it out, Jane figures it out but won’t share the info, Jane solves the case in some quirky manner in the last 2 minutes that leaves the stooges standing there wondering what’s going on. Another note, he’s an a$$ and a sociopath and I would never allow anyone like him to be around me or my family.

  4. March 5, 2010 5:16 am

    Excellent review. I find myself beginning to dislike the cold sociopath beneath the charm.

    Another criticism of the writers that I have is their frequent grammatical lapses. I feel that FBI agents and other characters whose education has presumably proceeded beyond the eighth grade ought to be able to use pronouns correctly.

    Examples from last night’s episode about the cooking contest:

    Both her and your husband were specifically targeted. –Lisbon
    He was lying, him and his rich bitch girlfriendi, –the sous-chef

  5. W Robertson permalink
    March 5, 2010 10:22 am

    I personally am fascinated by Patrick Jane because he is so multi-layered. The innermost part of him is, I think, a loving, caring, human being.

    He’s super logical in his approach to catching murderers, which makes him appear cold. I think training from his father made it necessary for him to be logical in order to be able to cope with his dislike of conning people, and that he applies this ‘coldness’ to his work at the CBI.

    I think it’s been shown in a number of episodes that he has high moral standards…. he does toy with people psychologically, but also takes concrete actions to help them when he can. I personally would trust him as a friend.

    I think the ending of last night’s episode was very interesting re future episodes. Jane and Lisbon obviously understand each other’s areas of psychological pain very well. I’m betting they will make each other stronger as the show progresses.

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