[Warning: The following story contains major spoilers from Sunday's episode of The Mentalist. Read at your own risk.]
Be careful what you wish for. The Mentalist's Patrick Jane finally got his revenge on the man who slaughtered his wife and daughter — the sardonic, William Blake spouting serial killer Red John. But now what? TV Guide Magazine had a chat with Simon Baker, who plays the crime-busting Jane, about where the show and his character will go from here. Will Red John's death really help Jane deal with his grief? Can he move on with his life and maybe even find love again?
TV Guide Magazine: This feels like the end of an era! Was the audience ready for closure on the Red John saga?
Baker: The end of Red John is a moment the fans wanted to see, but for many different reasons. Some just want it to be over. They're, like, "Enough, already!" Some really want to see Patrick heal and get on with things. And some just like it a lot more when The Mentalist does crime-of-the-week. What's great is that we're able to make this choice for the right reasons — not out of desperation or some last-ditch effort to avoid cancellation. A lot of times you get that call from the network saying, "We're pulling the pin," and then it's a scramble to wrap things up. Here we can give the audience that has been with us for so long some real gratification and then move the show in a cool new direction. We're not letting go of that part of the franchise where Jane solves crimes. We'll just be doing it differently.
TV Guide Magazine: So no qualms about this? After all, the hunt for Red John has been the main focus of the series. It's what put the fire in Patrick's belly.
Baker: You feel an incredible intensity when, in one fell swoop, you're killing the arch nemesis of your series and, in a way, the series itself. In order to reboot this show, we have to kill off its most important element — Patrick Jane's very reason for being — and that's risky. The adrenalin was strange. After we shot Red John's death, we all took a collective moment, had a glass of champagne and marked it, because the event was so huge.
TV Guide Magazine: His death came in such a low-key way — no spectacle, no sirens, no hovering helicopters, no CBI team. Just Jane and Red John. Talk about that choice.
Baker: It just had to be the two of them. It was almost like a love scene, as perverse as that sounds. The end of Red John was originally planned to take place at night on the street with people watching, but I pushed to do it in a quiet, beautiful place where they could be alone. There is no human act more intimate — not even sex — than killing another human being with your bare hands and watching him die. It is really subversive for a network series. The risk is huge.
TV Guide Magazine: Before the script came in, did you think Jane had the stomach for this?
Baker: I don't think even he thought he had the stomach for it but there was just so much momentum built up that he had to go through with it and choke the guy to death. It was a hard thing for Jane to do but there was also some weird sort of release in it. I didn't know how that scene was going to go until I actually shot it. It was really full on.
TV Guide Magazine: Did Red John have a death wish? Did he realize he just couldn't beat Jane? |
Baker: No, I don't think so. It was more like delusions of grandeur. It was not enough for Red John to kill Jane's family. He desperately wanted a relationship with Jane — to the point where he exposed himself and put himself in jeopardy.
TV Guide Magazine: What does this gruesome triumph do for Jane? Often when we get what we want, we find out it's not what we wanted at all.
Baker: "Protect me from what I want!" My wife has that saying on a little plaque in our kitchen. That's the catchphrase I took to [series creator] Bruno Heller and said, "This is what we have to do as the show moves forward. We have to deal with the comedown, the disappointment, the loss of focus." It's that meandering feeling you get after you've achieved the very thing that's driven you for years. Okay, you got what you wanted. What now?
TV Guide Magazine: You directed the next episode, where the show leaps ahead two years. What can you tell us about it?
Baker: It's almost like a pilot for a new show. When we come back after Red John's death, Jane is somewhere in paradise. A large portion of the episode is in Spanish. Cho is now with the FBI. Rigsby and Van Pelt have their own little detective business. And Lisbon is in Washington state working as a chief of police in a podunk kind of town. The episode opens with her talking to grade-school kids about what the police do. I had so much fun with the episode. It was such a reprieve from all the tension this season.
TV Guide Magazine: Any chance of a Jane-Lisbon romance? A lot of fans are dying to see that happen!
Baker: You will see that he really misses Lisbon and is a sad, floundering shadow of a man. He's afraid and just going around and around in circles. He's completely lost his mojo and he's asking himself, "Is this what you want to be? Is this the way you see the rest of your life?" He's offered a chance to go back to work for the F.B.I. and declines because he's trying to move on from that life. The episode has an interesting kind of noir-ish feel to it. Jane had been filled with this deep desire for revenge, which is generated out of self-loathing, right? Take that revenge out of the equation and he's just this guy who is empty. But the episode is also really romantic in a way, because you see how much Jane longs for companionship. You want to know something I've never talked about?
TV Guide Magazine: Hell, yeah!
Baker: All those times we heard the voice of Red John? That was me.
TV Guide Magazine: Seriously?
Baker: Yes! In the Season 2 finale, when Jane was captured and Red John did that "Tyger, Tyger" thing with the mask on? That was me. I played both characters in that scene.
TV Guide Magazine: Wow. That's especially trippy considering there was a major theory going around that Jane was Red John. So in a way that turned out to be true!
Baker: That was the reason I did that. There was a point where Bruno was saying, "We don't know who we're going to cast to play [the masked Red John]." I said, "Don't cast anyone! I'll do it." Bruno was, like, "I love it! I love it!" So I put on a mask and did that funny, wispy little voice. And for seasons after, whenever Red John spoke, I had to go record the voice.
TV Guide Magazine: Love it! So you're feeling good about the future?
Baker: I am! We're going to have some fun putting Jane into an entirely different work environment. He'll not only find his spark again — he'll have a whole lot of new people to rub the wrong way! I think we have a lot more miles to go. But you know what? We've had great times. I've invested so much of myself in this show and developed relationships with people I've genuinely come to love. It's been really, really fantastic — so much so that, if the thing finished tomorrow, I would walk away happy. I would walk away proud.