[Warning: This article contains major spoilers about Sunday's episode of The Mentalist. Read at your own risk!]
On Sunday's episode, Jane concludes that Red John is none other than his CBI boss, Gale Bertram (Michael Gaston). What happened to the other suspects? Bret Stiles (Malcolm McDowell), Ray Haffner (Reed Diamond) and Thomas McAllister (Xander Berkeley) were — allegedly — killed in the explosion that rocked Jane's house at the end of last week's episode. Reede Smith (Drew Powell) survives and surrenders himself, admitting to being one of Red John's acolytes, but he is not Red John himself.
So, after his attempt to kill Jane in the hospital is foiled by an unsuspecting Lisbon (Robin Tunney), Bertram escapes and goes on the lam. He's last seen in the back of a getaway car driven by Oscar (Joe Nieves), a member of the (frighteningly far-reaching) "Tiger Tiger" conspiracy, which we learn goes by the name the Blake Association.
Other key developments from "The Great Red Dragon":
- Cho (Tim Kang) goes to the morgue to see if Brett Partridge (Jack Plotnick) also had the three-dot tattoo on his left arm, and discovers that a chunk of Partridge's skin has been cut out where the tattoo's supposed to be. (Assuming that's actually Partridge's body, there goes the theory that he's not actually dead.) Jane also concludes that Partridge said "Tiger Tiger" to Lisbon as he was dying as a cry for help, on the chance that she was a part of the conspiracy.
- We learn that Bertram has a storage unit under the name "Mr. Thomas," where he keeps a go bag with money and other supplies needed to quickly get out of town. Cho, Rigsby (Owain Yeoman) and Van Pelt (Amanda Righetti) find a flash drive in the storage unit that contains a coded message.
- New cast member Rockmond Dunbar makes his debut as FBI agent Dennis Abbott, who barrels into CBI and announces that he's shuttering the organization to investigate the Blake Association conspiracy, and is also taking over the Red John case.
We turned to Jordan Harper, who penned "The Great Red Dragon," for answers to our burning questions — and hints of what's to come when Jane has his final showdown with Red John next week.
Should we trust that Haffner, Stiles and McAllister are dead? We haven't seen any bodies ...
Jordan Harper: I think it's always safe to say there's more to come, but I want to be very clear: That was a foot that you saw. It was not, in the world of The Mentalist, a rubber foot. There are dead people in that house, absolutely.
By the same token, is Bertram definitely Red John, or is there going to be another twist in next week's episode?
Harper: You'll have to watch and see, but with The Mentalist, there's always another twist.
Will next week's episode explain what exactly happened in the explosion and the shot heard in Jane's house?
Harper: It will be addressed, yeah.
Smith says that there are hundreds and possibly thousands of members of Tiger Tiger. Is this a story line that will be revisited in future episodes or seasons?
Harper: Yes, absolutely. I really wanted to lay out with that scene exactly how a dirty cop who is not a Red John acolyte could come to help a serial killer. And so I wanted to do my best to paint a portrait of a conflicted man who's in over his head, which I think would be a lot of these guys in the Tiger Tiger organization. Even if they're not good people — and they are, to a man, not good people — that doesn't mean that they are serial killers. But once you're in deep, you're in deep. It's as close to a mutual trust society as a mutual distrust society in a lot of ways.
The way Smith describes it, it seems to be almost like a cult, with Red John targeting these vulnerable people.
Harper: It's a different kind of vulnerability, and Red John as a master manipulator knows how to pull more than one kind of string. I always thought of the Manson family when it comes to Red John acolytes. But again, Smith is not part of the Manson family. He's part of the Rampart division. He's a bad cop. Once you've done a favor for a serial killer, what are you going to do? Come clean? You can't do that, so you've just got to keep swimming ahead.
What's Smith's motivation for confessing? Is it just that he finally realizes the game is up?
Harper: I think after narrowly escaping death twice, he knows that his only chance of surviving is to give up. And not only that, I think it's also a deep relief to stop carrying secrets like that. This guy isn't just carrying one secret or two secrets. He's got a whole backpack full of really heavy secrets that he's able to dump out on the table in front of them. And I think even if he spends the rest of his life in prison, he'll feel maybe better about himself because he was able to come clean.
Back at CBI, Rigsby and Van Pelt are just learning about the Tiger Tiger conspiracy and are at the point where they don't even know which of their work colleagues they can trust.
Harper: That was one of my favorite things about this episode. The viewer has known about the Blake Association for a while now, but when you think about how quickly things change in that scene — from [Rigsby] not trusting Oscar, to walking back in an alley and seeing a cop about to execute a man, and then being able to respond to that and being involved in a life and death shootout with two law enforcement officials, to finding out that one of those law enforcement officials has the dreaded tattoo — all in the space of a couple of minutes, it really messes with their minds quite a bit.
We finally meet Rockmond Dunbar's character, and he and Jane are already not off to a good start. How will Jane react to the FBI taking over the Red John case?
Harper: First of all, Rockmand Dunbar's fantastic. I was really glad that I got to introduce him to the show and to be able to create that character of Dennis Abbott. Clearly, he's a no-nonsense type of guy, but I hope it comes off right away that he is not stupid. And one thing that somebody who is not stupid does is not try and butt heads with Jane. Jane is a master bullfighter, and just trying to butt heads with him will get you turned around. I think while Abbott is very serious about what he's saying and his intent to catch Red John, Jane might not be taking him seriously yet. But this will unfold.
What should viewers take away from the final scene, where Jane leaves Lisbon at CBI and goes to the chapel?
Harper: [Lisbon] tells him that she doesn't believe that he's giving up, and he makes very clear that there's a difference between giving up and letting go. And I leave that to the viewers and to the next episode to get into exactly what that means. ... It's difficult to comment on Jane's mental state in the best of times. As a Mentalist writer, there's always the challenge of trying to write somebody who is smarter than you. Therefore, you can only give a vague approximation of what is going on in his head. To answer what is actually going through his mind is pretty difficult, but it's safe to say that his brain is firing on all cylinders at this point.
For viewers who are happy to put the Red John story line to bed, what can they look forward to in the new post-Red John world?
Harper: The one thing I want to make very clear is that there's no going back from this point. It's not just a Red John-less world. It is a new world. We're still finding it ourselves ... and I'm really looking forward to the audience seeing it.
Does Abbott's announcement that he's shutting down CBI have to do with the new direction?
Harper: The world that we have spent six years building is crumbling, and we're going to see the remains pretty soon. In my head, this is a three-part episode and this is the middle part. The audience is going to come out of this episode with a lot of questions, but they just are going to have to wait a week and then see Red John, and I promise their minds will be blown — their socks blown off.
Perhaps literally, if the end of last week's episode was any indication.
What do you think? Is Bertram really Red John? Are Stiles, Haffner and McAllister really dead? And where will Jane go from here? Sound off in the comments!
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