It's the beginning of the end for the Red John story line on CBS' The Mentalist. Creator Bruno Heller has promised that the case which has plagued Patrick Jane (Simon Baker) since Season 1 will be solved this year. And based on the Season 6 premiere, Heller and Co. aren't wasting any time in getting to the conclusion.
The kickoff episode (Sunday, 10/9c, CBS) picks up immediately after the conclusion of Season 5, with Jane and Lisbon (Robin Tunney) in possession of seven names — one of whom will be exposed as Red John midway through the season. By the end of the premiere, one suspect will be out of the running, one will (arguably) have emerged as the frontrunner, and Lisbon and Jane find themselves closer to Red John than they've ever been before. And in this case, that might not be a good thing.
"We've never really started a season with this kind of situation in which our guys are very, very close to the bad guy, but the bad guy knows exactly as much as they do," Heller tells TVGuide.com. "It's an interesting chess position that they're both in as we start. ... In this first episode, Lisbon is dealing with the fact that Jane for the first time doesn't seem to know what to do next. And that scares the hell out of her."
We asked Heller to make a case for each of the seven suspects. "All of those guys have reasons to hide aspects of their personality," he says. "It's just a question of whether they're hiding for ordinary prosaic reasons or for sinister, evil reasons."
Read Heller's assessment of each and then tell us which one you think is Red John:
Brett Stiles (Malcolm McDowell): "He's certainly a frontrunner, partly because it's Malcolm McDowell," Heller quips of the recurring guest star, who plays the leader of the Visualize cult. (Not to mention his history of insanity.) "He has the money, he has the resources, and he certainly has the kind of single-minded temperament and lust for power that you would expect to have from someone like Red John," Heller notes.
Gale Bertram (Michael Gaston): As the CBI director, Bertram is certainly in an ideal position to carry out the Red John killings. "[Being] well-placed inside a law enforcement organization, gives him a lot of power," Heller says. "He has admitted that he is a duplicitous and a manipulative person already. We know he can play two sides of the same issue very well. He's certainly got the intellect for it. Whether he has the depth of evil required of this guy, that remains to be seen." Will Jane and Lisbon be able to keep their suspicions about their boss secret this season?
Bob Kirkland (Kevin Corrigan): The Homeland Security agent is "a dark horse," according to Heller. "If you were a betting man, he'd be an outside shot I think, but a good dark horse. He is probably the most mysterious of the candidates, and that makes him suspicious. His behavior sometimes, even what we've seen of his behavior, is inexplicable and even murderous. So, if he ain't Red John, he's certainly one weird cat."
Ray Haffner (Reed Diamond): Heller characterizes former CBI supervisor and cult member Ray Haffner as "the sort of Richard Gere-as-villain type. Smiling, charming. Maybe seems a little too shallow to be a serial killer, or too light. ... With Haffner, he always seems smiling and cheery but there always seems to be a dark cloud behind that smile. That, more than anything, would be what made me suspicious of him."
Reede Smith (Drew Powell): Reed certainly has a temper, but does that make him a killer? "He doesn't even try to hide his anger. He's clearly a man with issues," Heller admits. "The question is, Red John is obviously a very, very intelligent person. What would be a better place to hide your real sort of psychopathic anger than behind a mask of anger? Probably most people are expecting Red John to be a calm, cool, collected type of person. If you were Red John and you wanted to disguise yourself, then you would certainly disguise yourself as the kind of red-faced, angry kind of guy that he can be."
Thomas McAllister (Xander Berkeley): "Again, he's well-placed as a law enforcement official," Heller says of Sheriff McAllister. "He, like Kirkland, has a lot of mystery in his past that makes it difficult to judge. He's a dark horse candidate. He's not a Top 3. He hasn't displayed any signs of madness or anger or homicidal tendencies. So, there's no handle on which Jane can put his suspicions — which in itself is suspicious."
Brett Partridge (Jack Plotnick): "You've always got to be suspicious of the nerds," Heller cautions. "He's both a slightly embittered soul and a very intelligent person. Someone who feels they've been underestimated, underrated and mistreated by the world. Demographically, he's right there where a profiler would say, 'Yeah.'" As far as his career choice as a forensic investigator, "That's exactly the kind of job that a serial killer would want to take up. That's exactly the interests that a serial killer would have. [But] he always appears slightly weedy. Is he concealing strength or is he really that flaccid a person? It's hard to tell."
Who is Red John? Vote in our poll below!
The Mentalist kicks off Season 6 Sunday at 10/9c on CBS.
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