As The Mentalist prepares to kick off its seventh and final season Sunday, members of the cast and crew say they feel like they have a new show on their hands. First, there's no will-they-or-won't-they tension between Patrick Jane (Simon Baker) and Teresa Lisbon (Robin Tunney) to grapple with, after that steamy kiss in the Season 6 finale. And, for the first time in the show's history, the Red John storyline will not be lurking in the background.
"Essentially this season is about what happens when life turns out the way you'd hoped it would, when you do have a happy ending," creator Bruno Heller told reporters on a conference call last week. "What happens after that? Jane and Lisbon have been engaged in this epic journey for six years. ... How do you create a different kind of life? And how do you create a different relationship out of a relationship that was borne in the kind of trauma that theirs was? ... It's the last hurrah for the show."
So, what is in store for Lisbon and Jane? As they navigate the waters of their new relationship, it won't always be smooth sailing for the couple, executive producer Tom Szentgyorgyi tells TVGuide.com.
"They play both the highs and the lows — and there are some lows — in a way that's absolutely believable," he says. "It is not a conventional TV rom-com relationship. They play it like two people who are really in love."
But don't expect a lot of between-the-sheets action or bodice-ripping passion.
"Season 7 is not 50 Shades of Grey done by The Mentalist," Tunney promises. "It's sort of interesting because they're two people who don't know how to be in a relationship. They've both been alone for such a long time. It's exploring how two people who are adults, who've only been responsible for themselves and haven't really shared their life with anybody in a long time, feel [as they] explore that intimacy. That it's uncomfortable."
Adds Heller: "These two are never going to be Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? Both Jane and Lisbon are private, self-contained, protective people. ... It's that kind of filial affection that has turned into something more, which in turn makes the romance that much harder for both characters to negotiate. ... You can see they're made for each other not in a fiery, kind of crazy way, but just in a human, gentle, correct way."
Here are eight more teases to expect from the final 13 episodes:
1. Bumps in the road for Jane and Lisbon: Things get awkward around the office as Lisbon and Jane initially try to keep their relationship hidden from their colleagues. But that's only the start of their troubles, according to Baker and Tunney. "We're not exploring the sort of obvious other side of having a relationship in the workplace, but more the pitfalls and speed bumps that you'll come up against when you know someone so well and then you decide to have a relationship with them," Baker notes. Adds Tunney: "Up until [Jane] caught Red John, that's why he was there. He wasn't fighting crime because it was something he was born to do or wanted to do. He didn't want to work in law enforcement. It was settling this personal score. And now he's there, and I think he's wondering why he is there."
2. Pike's not out of the picture: One colleague who knows all too well what's going on between Lisbon and Jane is Lisbon's ex, Pike (Pedro Pascal). And he has an exchange with Jane in the season premiere that may present some challenges for the new couple. "The danger of loving something is that you have something to lose, and that becomes very realistic to Jane,"Szentgyorgyi notes. "In a weird way, the fact that he had nothing was a kind of defense. ... Now he has something he cares about, and that means there is something that you can lose. And that's something he hasn't worried about since he was a husband and father." But Pike isn't the only blast from the past that may rock the boat ...
3. Which familiar faces will be back? Also returning is guest star Morena Baccarin as murderous matchmaker Erica Flynn, who will be back in an episode that finds Lisbon and Jane in Beirut. "She is stunning as always and complicates life for Lisbon and Jane — and, as usual, has about six plans up her sleeve," Szentgyorgyi teases.
4. What about Rigsby and Van Pelt? As for Rigsby (Owain Yeoman) and Van Pelt (Amanda Righetti), it's unclear whether they will be back, though Yeoman told TVGuide.com last season that he hoped they would be. "They were a huge part of the show," Szentgyorgyi acknowledges, but adds: "I have no teasers to offer on that front."
5. Is Red John buried for good? The short answer: yes. "There is no callback to the Red John mythology. Red John's gone,"Szentgyorgyi says. "The thing that lives is ... when you lose your wife and child, however you lose them, that doesn't go away. That stays with you. Jane's still that man, and that does come into play in his relationship with Lisbon and the challenges he faces starting a new relationship. But no, there are no more smiley faces."
6. What we learn about Abbott: FBI Agent Dennis Abbott's (Rockmond Dunbar) past will come back to haunt him in a major way over a three-episode arc that also features guest stars Dylan Baker as a DEA agent "who knows a bit too much about Abbott's past" and Christine Adams as Abbott's wife. "We're going to meet Abbott's wife, and we're going to learn about some dark things in his past," Szentgyorgyi says. "His wife gets an opportunity in Washington, D.C. She lives in Austin but she's been given a chance to take on a big job in Washington, D.C., and that creates various complications."
7. A new rookie on the scene: Josie Loren joins the Mentalist cast this season as rookie FBI agent Michelle Vega, who experiences quite a learning curve in her dealings with Jane. "Vega is new to the FBI," Szentgyorgyi says. "She doesn't know about Jane, she has no preconceptions, no idea how he works or who he is. ... In moving to the FBI, we sort of created a world where Jane wasn't quite as frictional. He was brought in to do what he does. Which has been great. It's sort of allowed us to play stories that were harder to play when we were in the CBI. But it's also meant that everyone is kind of accustomed to him. We wanted to bring in a character who didn't know his ways, who might even cast an askance glance at them. And that's exactly who Vega is." Also, teases Heller, "she adds a different touch of romance to the show. There's a bit of a love triangle going on there."
8. No more Fischer: Not returning to the show, however, is Emily Swallow, who was introduced last season to play FBI agent Kim Fischer. As explained in a throwaway line in the premiere, Fischer has relocated to Seattle. "We won't see any more with her," Szentgyorgyi says.
The Mentalist kicks off Season 7 on Sunday at 9:30/8:30c on CBS. Are you looking forward to the show's return? And are you excited that Lisbon and Jane finally got together?
(Full disclosure: TVGuide.com is owned by CBS.)