December 31, 2013
There's just enough here to keep us watching. Just enough. Simon Baker as sleuth Patrick Jane exudes enough wit and humility to keep the rusty old plots together long enough to be entertaining. If it's easy to guess the killer and be right most of the time, it's a sign that the writers are being lazy. Where's the suspense? What's the fun if we know who murdered the victim within ten minutes? It seems as though the writers are getting plots from a software program and fleshing them out with a strong leading cast.
Mind you, this is halfway through Season One. I decided to order Season Two on the basis of a good story on Disc Four. Maybe the series will get better. Maybe the producers got the green light on another season and decided to put more effort into the writing. We can always hope. It's a good gimmick, the reformed phony psychic turned cop, or "consultant", in a Special Crimes Unit. Described that way, it reeks of Network TV, but, again, there's the work of Simon Baker. It would be easy to sneer at a dude who looks like Simon Baker. But his character, Patrick Jane, has been broken. His wife and child were murdered by a serial madman named Red John. This is the crisis that changed Patrick Jane from a show-biz psychic to an investigator who uses his skills at reading people to ferret out the criminal. Baker as Patrick Jane carries himself with a large degree of appealing self mockery.
Red John hasn't been caught. The show's producers seemed to be keeping him in a storage closet in case they got renewed. Now they've gotten the budget for a Season Two (and, looky! They're still in production for Season Six). Now they can bring out Red John and start building a story arc that may generate some real suspense. Meanwhile, we will keep watching. So far, The Mentalist is a C/grade series with promise. If it builds itself up, it might become worth three muskrats.*
*Muskrats are my grading curve. The highest accolade for media production would be a grade of five muskrats.