Complete Second Season
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Reviewed by Will Harris
hen it premiered, “The Mentalist” looked like it was taking the idea behind “Psych” – a guy pretends to have psychic abilities but is really just in possession of finely-honed skills of observation – but painting it with darker tones. Now that the show is in its second season, the tones aren’t quite as dark, but it’s still just as entertaining.
Unsurprisingly, Simon Baker remains the star of the show as Patrick Jane, the former TV psychic who, in the wake of the murder of his wife and daughter, became a consultant with the California Bureau of Investigation. The show takes a slightly different tactic in its second season, however, than it did in its first, which spent a considerable amount of time focusing on how Jane, despite his flippant attitude and seeming lack of concern for people’s feelings, was still haunted by the murder of his family. It’s still a matter which comes up on occasion, of course, but there are several multi-episode stretches where it either is just mentioned in passing by a suspect (“Hey, you’re the guy who…”) or isn’t mentioned at all. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, given that it provides an opportunity to focus on the other members of Jane’s CBI team, but given how fascinating the so-called “Red John” storyline is, it’s a little disappointing to find it shunted off to the side so often.
Granted, there’s a good reason for that at first: the “Red John” case is passed over to a team led by Sam Bosco (Terry Kinney), a Senior Special Agent with the CBI who’s less personally connected and therefore is presumed to be more likely to crack the case. What a shock: he and Jane don’t get along. If you haven’t watched Season Two yet, we won’t spoil it for you, but let’s just say that the case ends up back in Jane’s hands before you hit the end of the set.
The rest of the cast of “The Mentalist” remains approximately the same for Season Two, with Jane working under the watchful eye of Teresa Lisbon (Robin Tunney) and her team, Kimball Cho (Tim Kang), Wayne Rigsby (Owain Yeoman) and Grace Van Pelt (Amanda Righetti). There’s a bit of a change in dynamic when Rigsby and Van Pelt develop a romantic relationship and have to keep it under wraps – have you ever tried to keep a secret from a psychic? – and there’s a certain amount of uncertainty about what’ll happen if they get caught by Lisbon or, worse, someone farther up the food chain. Speaking of which, Minelli (Gregory Itzin) only serves as Lisbon’s supervisor for about half the season; he’s soon replaced by Madeleine Hightower (Aunjanue Ellis), whose inscrutability makes her a fun character to watch.
Of the many non-“Red John” episodes, “Throwing Fire” is particularly strong, veering in and out of flashback, giving us a look into Jane’s childhood and how his father encouraged his observational abilities in order to bilk naïve folk out of their money until his own sense of ethics won the day. “Blood In, Blood Out” is also a highlight, as it gives us a rare look into Cho’s background and personal life. Season Two wraps up, however, with the return of Kristina Frye (Leslie Hope) as well as a repeat performance by Red John himself.
The second season of “The Mentalist” is just as enjoyable a ride as Season One, but as noted, it’s somewhat disappointing that there didn’t seem to be much in the way of forward motion. Granted, you’d be a fool to think that a story as key to Patrick Jane’s psyche as the “Red John” case would be wrapped up so soon into the series, but it’d be nice if it didn’t disappear into the background quite so often.
Special Features: Deleted scenes have been included for five of the episodes, which will no doubt please fans, but the most enjoyable bonus is “Mentalism: A Subliminal Art,” in which real-life mentalist Luke Jermay works with the cast and creators of the series to show how he’s able to perform many of the tricks that we’ve seen Patrick Jane do. Jermay is also a major part of the other featurette, “The Art of the Mentalist with Chris Long,” where Long – one of the show’s executive producers – and Jermay examine several scenes from the Season Two premiere and clarify why Patrick Jane does the things he does and what he learns from these actions.