Are Red John’s days of tormenting Patrick Jane truly coming to an end?
On one hand, it sure seems that way since last night - SPOILER ALERT - we finally found out the identity of Red John, even though he yet again managed to escape Jane’s grasp.
Or, speaking for the skeptics out there, are we just being led down a path that is going to have a twist to keep the storyline going longer than we could imagine or even want?
Who better to ask than the man who wrote The Mentalist Season 6 Episode 7, Co-Producer Jordan Harper?
Besides finding out just how final things are going to be in the coming episodes, I also made sure to inquire about how the now-disbanded CBI team will function, are we already seeing the seeds of why Rigsby and Van Pelt are departing and, because I had to ask, is Cho ever going to have a successful romance?!?
TV Fanatic: Approaching this season, knowing the writers were going to take these big steps forward with the story, did you approach it any differently or is it more like having fun finally getting to do a lot of this stuff that maybe you’ve been talking about doing for a while?
Jordan Harper: The answer is both. First of all, I think when it comes to writing my own individual episode, I approached it very differently than a normal episode…it was a tremendous amount of fun to write and put together with the rest of the writing staff. Obviously, these stories were put together with the help of the entire writing staff.
But I had a lot of fun getting to really dig into the mythology more than we did the drama. I'm a mythology nerd with the shows that I love. I hope we got to answer some big questions for the fans in this episode. I had a lot of fun coming up with the answers.
TVF: Now, I know you can't totally answer this, but are we seeing what we're moving toward as truly an end to the Red John story or is this just a new chapter? Is it truly going to wrap up?
JH: Sometimes when I read things on the Internet, it seems like a lot of the fans suspect that we're just lying our socks off to them every time we talk to you guys. No. This is Red John's final chapter.
TVF: We lost several characters in the explosion last week. How much talk did the writers have with that?
JH: When you sit down to plan out a final thing like that, there is a version where one-by-one, the suspects are eliminated and, over the course of six episodes, you eliminate six suspects until there's only one person standing. We decided early on in the process of breaking these stories that that wasn't going to be very satisfying, and it might be more fun to wipe the slate a little bit with a big moment.
TVF: How long did you know Red John would be Bertram, kind of the last man standing? Was this known a long time ago or was it kind of more recent that you decided that he's the one?
JH: Well, Bruno Heller [series creator] is a mysterious man even to us sometimes. Who's going to say that? But it's the difference between what Bruno knows and what I know and then what the crew outside the writers’ room knows, and a lot of times very different things. I mean, the level of information that we have. But Bruno Heller thinks big.
TVF: So we know at the end of the episode, Bertram does get away again. What can you tease about the next step? Also, because the group is disbanded at the end of the episode is that going to make Jane’s job easier, because he can go underground a little bit more?
JH: I'll tell you this. I said this in a different form earlier today, but I really saw this episode as the middle part of the trilogy or a three-part episode. So when I set out to write it, I thought it was the best middle part of the trilogy [and] you can always say The Empire Strikes Back. That's the episode I chose as my model for this episode, because I wanted to write the Empire Strikes Back of The Mentalist. So that means that we really come out of this episode at about as low a point as we're going to get in a lot of ways.
Is Jane freed by having the CBI shut down? Well, maybe a little bit, but he also uses that law enforcement backing that he's depended on for so long. I want to be clear. We're not messing around. We're not pulling a lot of tricks on the audience. We moved Janes' couch out of that building. Hopefully with the crew and the cast filming that scene, it was a big scene and I hope it resonates with the audience. This is not entirely going to Janes' plan at this point.
TVF: With the couch and then he breaks his favorite cup. It's like, ‘Oh my God. What's happening?’
JH: I want to give Simon [Baker] credit, because the cup breaking was his idea. Our names go on these scripts like we wrote them, but nobody writes a TV script by themselves. You can always count on Simon to add things like that. That was a great touch.
TVF: What will we see as far as the unit? Is everybody going to kind of be going rogue?
JH: Yes. Well, I'll put it this way, we are not done bumping heads with Rockmond Dunbar, [who plays] Dennis Abbott.
TVF: How long is Smith going to be safe, because he's kind of spilled the beans?
JH: I guess that depends on how long the reach of the Blake Association is. If we can get him into a federal prison on the East Coast, maybe it doesn't reach that far and maybe it does. But at this point, he's desperate enough. He knows he's not going to live in Sacramento for very much longer.
TVF: Now, a little bit outside the Red John story because I’ve had a lot of fans tweet me about Cho and his love life. Is the poor guy even going to get a good date in the near future? He could use a little happy!
JH: He certainly could. I think we can all agree that Cho as a character would benefit from a little good loving. I'm not sure how good his taste in women is. We'll have to find out.
TVF: We also know that Rigsby and Van Pelt are leaving by the end of the season or, I should say, the actors are planning to be leaving. When will we start seeing the seeds of that departure or are we already seeing them and maybe don't recognize them?
JH: I would say that the seeds are being planted right now. Everything that unfolds is going to not come out of left field. It just mixed like two metaphors there. You know what I mean.
TVF: I knew what you meant. When the writers think about taking regular characters and knowing that they're leaving soon, are you far enough ahead to think about not really replacing them but I’d guess you'll want to bring some new cast members in. Is that something you guys are even thinking about yet or is that too soon for that? [Ironically, the news just broke after this conversation that Emily Swallow would be a series regular once she starts appearing on December 1.]
JH: Yeah. We're going to need new people. Obviously, we cannot replace Owain Yeoman and Amanda Righetti. They're both fantastic and I've had a lot of fun with them. I wrote the Rigsby's dad episodes so I particularly have a real fondness for Rigsby's character. Amanda's great, too, and you can't replace them but there will be new people coming around. There are some of whom you've already met.
TVF: From a writer's perspective, are you and the writers able to do things now that you haven't been able to do yet with this story? Even the way to wrap it up? Like just some different things you have never done with the show before?
JH: Absolutely. It's really been freeing in a lot of ways. Again, as a TV fan myself, I'm always a big fan of when shows make decisions, they can't really take them back and will change it forever. Yeah. I won't speak about it at all, other than the episode I'm working on now is not like any other episode that I've ever done and it's a lot of fun.
TVF: When this final chapter of Red John ends, is Jane going to be in like a good place? Or is what's coming going to just change him even more?
JH: Well, that's something that's definitely going to be explored and in that sense coming up. That's all I can think to say about that.
The Mentalist Season 6 airs Sundays at 10/9c on CBS.
Jim Halterman is the West Coast Editor of TV Fanatic and the owner of JimHalterman.com. Follow him on Twitter.