Ask Matt: Finale Fallout (Mentalist, House, Glee) and More!
Teresa Lisbon and Patrick Jane
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Question: I don't agree that Patrick Jane killed the real Red John in The Mentalist finale. Bringing in a never-before-seen actor and calling him Red John is too easy and takes away from the drama of the show. Using an unknown "disposable" like this guy is indeed Red John's MO. "Who can Patrick Jane trust?" is the real central theme of the show.
As of this episode, he trusts the CBI team, finally telling them what he knows. He still doesn't trust LaRoche (what was in the plastic box?), which is probably a wise move. It could never have been Director Bertram — he was too worried about media and not about what went on. LaRoche certainly has some baggage, including killing the bomber and responding as he did when Jane was running off to spring the trap. ("Busy boy.") My guess is that LaRoche is Red John or another one of his minions. Jane's plan did not account for the possibility that two of the five people on the list (including LaRoche) might be Red John or his puppets. Jane will get off for the shooting because Bradley Whitford did have a gun with him so his CBI friends can claim self-defense for him. Until he realizes that it wasn't Red John, Jane won't care to defend himself. The new layer of pain for Jane will be realizing that (a) he didn't really kill Red John and (b) he killed a relatively "innocent" man. This should make for some interesting story lines in the future. — Dave
Matt Roush: You could well be right with some of this theorizing, and even if you're not, it tells me The Mentalist finale achieved its goals better than most, in getting the fans' minds working overtime regarding what exactly that deadly encounter with Bradley Whitford was all about and what the consequences will be for Jane and the CBI team. (And I agree we haven't got to the bottom of what LaRoche is all about.) But here's my rule for enjoying TV: I try not to get in front of the story the show is telling, so for now, Patrick Jane thinks he's killed Red John, and that's OK with me. What comes next should be very interesting, as you say. The surprise casting of Bradley Whitford was a wonderful twist and didn't feel the least bit anticlimactic to me — or "too easy," which for me is often a way-too-easy knee-jerk response. It added to the shock value and the mystery of this much-anticipated meeting. Job well done as far as I'm concerned.
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Question: After reading your Week in Review column, I have to ask: Did I miss something or did the season finale of House turn you against the show? I religiously read your columns and I can't recall you being that hostile towards House in the past. If anything, I think you've been overly generous (pointing out the show's tendency for self-defeating shakeups, while still praising positive elements). Don't get me wrong, I thought the car fiasco was beyond silly and was not happy with the finale overall. I just don't see it as being all that different from the other ridiculousness that's come down the pike. For the last several years, House has been a show that you watch despite the eye-rolling developments because they occasionally produce an episode that's really great. So I was surprised to see you take such a hard line because it doesn't seem like anything's really changed. — Tom
Matt Roush: As you probably know, if you've read me for any length of time, I don't play the jump-the-shark game, and I won't do it here, either. But when House drove the car into Cuddy's house, it did feel like the last straw, coming at the end of a disappointing season that failed to do justice to the long-brewing House-Cuddy relationship (which some never bought, but which I was willing to go along with for the sake of long-overdue character development). I've been on record for a while saying I don't think House ever fully recovered from its premature decision to break up the original team and bring in a new set of less interesting regulars. Even now, the amount of air time given to a dreary character like Taub (and this ridiculous dual-pregnancy subplot was another last straw) just helps fuel my displeasure. But I'll probably come back next season to check things out — to see how they explain Cuddy's absence, for one. And if they actually have the guts to declare this to be House's final season, I'll sign on out of curiosity, and because I've already invested this much time with the show.
The House finale generated the most (and longest) mail over the last week, much of it divided between the pro and con Cuddy camps. Shaka wrote in to wonder: "Is it wrong that I did the dance for joy when I heard the news of Lisa Edelstein's departure? I liked the Cuddy character in the beginning but once the show started focusing on her more and that asinine Huddy arc I found myself fast-forwarding about 80% of the show. It no longer became an intelligent medical drama but a really bad rip-off of Grey's Anatomy." She asks: "Do you think Cuddy's departure will help the ratings go up in season 8 or do you think the damage has already been done?"
Matt Roush: I'm of the view that Lisa Edelstein's departure is a body blow to House, and as aggravated as some viewers were by the "Huddy" hook-up, she and Hugh Laurie have a real chemistry that I will miss, and I liked what her character stood for as a female authority figure (even when she was mocked). House's ratings are about on par for an aging show that has alienated various aspects of its fan base along the way (with the Cameron snub among others), and I doubt Cuddy's departure will be a win, either creatively or bottom-line. House's ratings in the fall may have a lot to do with the fate of the new Terra Nova, its heavily promoted and high-profile lead-in.
Now here's this, from a long-time House defender and Lisa Edelstein fan who began her lengthy (and much-edited-down) diatribe by declaring she may be giving up on the show at last.
Question: The news of Lisa Edelstein's departure hit me hard, and I knew I would probably have trouble moving forward with the show, but I stayed true to my word and watched the season finale last Monday, still with a tiny bit of hope, not for a happy ending, but just for an ending that was true to the show and characters I had loved for so long. Instead, the final 10 minutes turned the show's leading character, the hero, or in this case "anti-hero," who the show's whole universe revolves around, into a heartless, soulless, remorseless shell of a human being. No matter how hurt House was at the end of this season, or how much he needed catharsis after the breakup with Cuddy, I cannot believe there is any way he would drive a car into a house full of innocent human beings, including the woman he loves/loved, her family, and her little girl (who we were shown in the episode immediately prior to the finale how much of a bond House had formed with the child). To me, the only possible way to redeem this mess was if it wasn't "real." (Remember how Vicodin used to make House hallucinate? What happened to that? Those were good times.)
In terms of the House/Cuddy relationship, if the writers wanted to completely obliterate a pairing that they spent seven seasons building, and that apparently had been simmering for over two decades of the characters' lives, then that is certainly a valid creative decision, but there was no need to destroy House's character to make it happen. People love to root for underdogs and antiheroes, and the blunt and curmudgeonly House is certainly both of those, but no one likes to cheer for irredeemable homicidal maniacs. If there is no longer any reason to like House, the character, then there is no longer any reason to like House, the show. I enjoy the actors involved here, and I still believe Hugh Laurie is brilliant, but I have reached the point where I cannot find a reason to care about this show anymore. While I admit I'm a tiny bit curious to see how, or if, the show will explain Cuddy's complete disappearance, I don't think I can bring myself to watch again. The writers seem to believe strong (or any) female characters on this show are disposable, a really sad trend that I have only completely realized now that I look at the show as a "former fan." I think Lisa Edelstein's decision to walk away from the House negotiating table may have just saved me from myself. — Megan
Matt Roush: The question for much of the life of House has been when and whether House himself has gone too far. He's the sort of outrageous character that audiences tend to love to hate (or hate to love), and Hugh Laurie has inhabited him with so much wit and feeling it's a shame he never scored an Emmy when the show was at its best. (The recent episode where he operated on himself in the bathtub was a remarkable performance, even this late in the game.) It will be interesting to see how the show brings him back from this latest brink, but I do think it will be a lesser show without Cuddy around as a sounding board/adversary/partner in flirtation. Yet another example of a show (and a network and studio) unwilling to let a show exit with dignity.
Question: I for one am getting a little tired of people saying that police procedurals aren't quality television. While it seems like every successful procedural, such as Law & Order, NCIS and CSI, gets turned into a "franchise" and viewers get bombarded with inferior spin-offs, there are plenty of procedurals that have been very good if not outstanding. Detroit 1-8-7 in particular was really good, not because it was groundbreaking, but because it was well done. Ditto for The Chicago Code. There are a lot of viewers who love these types of shows. The problem is not really procedurals, but the fact that the networks want to milk a successful show of every dime by giving the viewers a crappy copy of the show two or three nights a week. Do you think the glut of procedural spin-offs has hurt viewership of the newer cop shows? — Carl
Matt Roush: I'm sure the glut hasn't helped the chances for some of the more deserving crime dramas, which didn't have the benefit of being part of a pre-sold franchise. I agree that Detroit and Chicago were solid players with great potential, and I loved the on-location authenticity of both shows (especially Detroit, a city that hasn't been overexposed). But because these shows weren't quite as formula, and they aired on networks (ABC and Fox) without as much investment in the crime-drama format as CBS, they somehow never caught on to the extent the respective network hoped or needed. The fact that Body of Proof is succeeding in the same time period where Detroit didn't may be a sign that the majority of procedural fans like either a big-name star (like Dana Delany, who's overdue a hit) or a more comfortable, less serialized format than either Detroit or Chicago provided. But you're right that tarring all procedurals isn't fair or accurate. Like any other form of TV, there are excellent and horrible shows within the genre, and a number (including most of the spin-offs) that are just mediocre.
Question: Amongst all of the usual moans about shows having cliffhangers to keep us nail-biting over the summer, can I use your column to pass on a thank-you to the makers of CSI: NY? This was a show that was "on the bubble," and clearly the writers/producers felt they were in danger of cancellation, so they gave us an end-of-season show that could have happily provided closure as an end-of-series episode as well, with Mac Taylor "walking off into the sunset" in a low-key fashion. Granted the hurried "I did it months ago" aside (not really big enough to be a subplot) with Danny Messer felt like a sudden afterthought, but it was still a nice nod to the character and/or actor. Fickle TV Fates being what they are, the network did actually go ahead and renew the show and nothing that was shown here will be a problem in the continuation, but if that had been the end, it would've been a nicely resolved point to stop. And it was so nice this week to have a neatly packaged episode amongst the usual end-of-season to-be-continued madness from so many other shows. And thanks to you, Matt, for always being the voice of sanity at this time of year. — Elle
Matt Roush: Voice of sanity? I'll take it! And yes, let's give credit where it's due. CSI: NY sweated out this year's renewal (and will probably do it again next spring), so leaving the season on a sense of resolution instead of cliffhanger uncertainty was a very professional way to go. On the other hand ...
Question: I just watched the season finale of Criminal Minds: Suspect Behavior. It seemed to me that it ended as a cliffhanger. I know that this show has been canceled, but when the episode was filmed it probably hadn't been at that time. Are they going to leave it as it is, wondering what happened, or will they film one more episode to explain what happened? — Vicki
Matt Roush: There won't be another episode of Suspect Behavior. Once canceled, no one's going to pony up the money to bring everyone together for one last story. In this case, it's OK to blame the producers for putting such a tease on a show with an uncertain future. (Although to be fair, I'm sure they never dreamed while in production that the show would be anything but a success, given CBS' past history with undistinguished but popular spin-offs.)
Another frustrated viewer, Don, wrote in to add this thought: "Any possibility of some sort of tie-up even as a mention on the parent show? Of all my favorites that didn't make it, I was least bothered by this cancellation, but to leave the viewers hanging like that is cruelty beyond the practice of the most heinous programming director." Not a bad idea, so let's put the ball in Criminal Minds' court. Couldn't hurt to insert a meta moment in next season's premiere letting fans know what happened to the other team. You'll have to tell me how that goes, because I won't be watching. There are limits.
Question: I watched the first hour of the So You Think You Can Dance auditions and was so put off by the camera breaking my concentration and enjoyment of the tryouts to pan to the judges' faces during their dances that I couldn't watch the second hour. There was plenty of judges' face time during their critiques for each contestant: Cutting to them during the dance was totally unnecessary. I love this show to watch the dancers, not three cuts to the judges' faces during the 30 or so seconds that the dancers are auditioning. I realize the auditions have been taped a long time ago, but when the show goes live, can you put in a word not to break the dancing up like that?
By the way, I had the same problem with American Idol. I wanted to see the singers, but had to look through all those waving hands, cuts to the crowd during the song and judges faces, etc. Whatever happened to the cameras staying on the performer's act for most of the time? I call it "drunken camera." I want to watch what the show is about, not the reactions. Thanks for letting me get this off my chest. I feel rather helpless, but hope sounding off to you might have an effect. — Natalie
Matt Roush: I guess I've watched so much of this type of TV that I've become immune to this problem, but you have a point — although it's also a fact that the way these shows are structured and sold nowadays, the judges are seen to be as big a part of the draw as the contestants. Happens on The Voice as well, and it doesn't seem to be hurting that show. If memory serves, once Dance gets down to business, they rarely if ever cut away from the routines during the live shows to show the judges' reaction. (I could be wrong; like I said, I may just be immune to this.) But I'd expect the cutaways to continue during auditions. It's not as if the judges on these panels are shy about camera exposure, if you catch my drift.
Question: To say I was disappointed by the Glee season finale is an understatement. I was insulted. I'm usually willing to look past the show's ridiculous "plot" developments, because it is at least fresh and fun, and the songs are good. But in the finale, I think I laughed only once, and even the music was lame. From the pointless cameo of Patti LuPone to the blatant product placement for Wicked, the episode was a sad and (cardinal sin) boring mess. This is one former fan who has thrown in the towel. Is it just me, or do you think the emperor has lost his clothes? — Duncan
Matt Roush: The garments are a bit tattered, but I'm not giving up on Glee yet — though it's hardly gotten a free critical ride during this second season. So many of the big episodes, including this oddly anticlimactic New York outing, got pretty well beat up, and for good reason. The show's inconsistencies are chronic, and the less said about Sue this season the better — surely someone from Modern Family will be seen as more worthy of an Emmy this season (no slight on Jane Lynch, who I adore; it's the character, not her) — but for all of its faults, there's still something special about Glee, and I would like to think with a chance to pause between seasons, the powers that be will take stock of what worked (the music mostly, though going back to original songs for Nationals backfired) and what didn't and try to return the show to its sweet, goofy, exuberant core. Of course, this kind of optimism could be akin to Charlie Brown trusting Lucy with that football. We'll have to see. Until then, I have my downloads on the iPod to get me through the summer. (Final note: I was in a bar over Memorial Day weekend that played the Kurt-Rachel "Defying Gravity" duet on the big screen, and I've decided I'm OK with that particular product placement. Wicked almost feels part of Glee's DNA. Sometimes you've just got to cut this show a little slack.)
Question: So, aside from all the cancellation complaints, what did you think of the de facto series finale of The Chicago Code? I was really satisfied with it, as it brought all the season's main stories to an effective conclusion. In particular, Theresa arresting Gibbons at the meeting to deprive her of her job was a wonderful touch, and even though it's fairly convenient that Wysocki's brother's dirty work, which he happened to be investigating at the exact same time as their case against Gibbons went cold, happened to coincidentally provide them with new ammunition against him right at the exact moment it was needed, the execution was so great I didn't care at all. Like FX's Lights Out last month, I'm really glad the writers ended this one rather than imposing a cliffhanger in an attempt to blackmail the network into ordering additional episodes. It makes it work as a great 13-episode miniseries, which I hope will have a long life on DVD. Though I think Fox will regret the cancellation if one of its newbies suffers Lone Star's fate, it was a terrific show while it lasted and I'm very glad I got to see it. And now the actors are onto other things which may be equally as good. I still miss Pushing Daisies, but if Kristin Chenoweth was still on that, she wouldn't have been able to visit Glee or do Good Christian Belles. Which I suppose is a long way of saying: Let's just hope the team behind The Chicago Code finds new work soon so they can keep entertaining us. — Jake
Matt Roush: I found The Chicago Code finale very satisfying, agreeing with our Jeer (against Fox) last week that retroactively cheered the series for bringing the main story to an exciting head. I wish we'd been able to witness the next stage of the battle between the commissioner and the alderman, but there was a sense of triumph at the end of the episode. And while we were left wanting more, we weren't left wanting for drama. I know it was a discouraging year for Shawn Ryan, whose Terriers for FX also only got a single season's run, but they were both terrific series and I can't wait to see what he comes up with next.
Question: I agree with your comments that the season finale of Castle was very well done for the most part. The problem with it, in my wife's and my opinion, was that it was too hard to remember the storyline with Beckett's mother's murder. Since there were only a couple of episodes during the season about it, we couldn't recall who was who and what the story was. It would have been nice to have had a better recap in the "previously on Castle" at the start, or have had the episodes closer together. — Dennis
Matt Roush: Good point. (I can't comment on the "previously on," having previewed the episode on a rough-cut screener.) This is the danger for a procedural like Castle that is self-contained most weeks but has the thread of a running mythology/mystery to provide big sweeps moments, though at the risk of confounding those who haven't been paying close attention (in part because they may prefer the stand-alone stories). I'm glad Castle isn't consumed by the long-running mystery, which might be a turn-off to more casual fans, but given the nature of the show, what would it hurt for Castle (who after all is a storyteller) to open an episode like this with some fun exposition, connecting the dots for those not inclined to do it for themselves. I do hope when the show returns in the fall they give us a decent recap, because a lot certainly happened in that final hour.
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