After the previous episode saw villain Tommy Volker (Henry Ian Cusick) taken down, it only seemed right that The Mentalist’s true antagonist came to the front in ‘The Red Barn’. But was it up to Season 5’s high standard?
I’d already seen the previews for this episode, so my immediate thoughts upon seeing Jane (Simon Baker) acting shiftily as he hides something in his ATTIC OF DEMONS was that he may be making a gift for Lisbon’s (Robin Tunney) 10th anniversary of her time at the CBI…that didn’t come to pass, but Rigsby (Owain Yeoman) did surprise her with a surprise party, complete with fake-murder victim stripper and CBI Ron (John Troy Donovan) cameo. Oh, Rigsby. Of course, Lisbon being Lisbon, she stumbled through the party awkwardly and vowed never to forgive her colleague. But she was only kidding…she was kidding right?
Meanwhile, upon being called to an old farm where three dead bodies dating back over twenty years are found, Jane stumbles upon the unmistakable trademark of the man that killed his family. The Red John smiley is plastered on the side of the barn, which confuses the CBI (and me), as Red John didn’t become active until 98, which was TEN YEARS after these murders, which took place in 1988.
It turns out that in 1988 the farm in question (Elliston farm) was owned by Visualize, the cult lead by Brett Stiles (Malcolm McDowell) that we have encountered on three other occasions on the show. Many fans, me included, have long suspected a connection between Red John and Visualize. Given the parallels and Stiles’ own penchant for knowing all things Red John, it wasn’t a shock. But this wasn’t about shock tactics; it’s about concrete information on the serial killer Patrick Jane (and the audience) has been chasing for years now. Getting that confirmation is brilliant. That marks the second vital piece of information we’ve received this season (the first being that RJ is someone Jane has met and shook hands with) and it gives the show a sense of real momentum. It really feels as though we are building towards something. Something big.
After a cool trick involving Jane crafting a Red John smiley with lemon juice (which I got a kick out of as it reminds me so much of my own tendency to draw the symbol anywhere, everywhere and using anything at hand) we learn that the woman running a ‘doggy day care’ had been responsible for one of the murders, as she shot the man in response to him attacking her mother.
Dear lord, how creepy was that scene as the two women hide the body, stumble across the two existing victims and feel as though ‘someone was watching’ them. The breathing, the footsteps and the general sense of dread created was quite astonishing. Was Red John there watching? That’s certainly what we’re supposed to think.
One thing I don’t quite understand: the priest (Kyle Secor) told Jane that Talbot told him ‘some kid’ drew the face. However, Talbot was dead in the barn, he’s one of the victims, so how on Earth did he see the face and tell someone about it? The only way the priest’s story makes sense is if A) the face was drawn before the two men were killed, B) it was drawn after the other man was killed, but before Talbot was or C) the priest is lying. Also, Talbot’s reaction (or at least how he reacted according to the priest) seems very suspicious. All of this suggests that the face was there before he was killed – but why?
There may be more to this story than we currently know, and this definitely felt like a set up for some longer, clearer explanation later on.
Or could it be as simple as Red John trying his hand at murder as early as 1988, during his time at Visualize? If so, was he a member? That we don’t know, but simply having that connection and knowing his whereabouts at the time is a huge step forward, as Jane points out to Lisbon in the final scene.
As it turns out, Jane’s secret was his room of crazy, consisting of a Red John investigation board and a chair for Jane to sit and be crazy in his room of crazy. Jane remembered the names of all 2,164 people he met and shook hands with since his family was murdered. That’s two thousand plus names over a ten-year period. Did I mention that Jane is crazy?
Anyway, thanks to Jane’s delicious obsession, he’s narrowed down that list to just over 400 names. Now that we have the Elliston farm factoid, that number will decrease even more. As Jane says, with that (yes) CRAZY look in his eyes – “I’m getting close, Lisbon. I’m getting very close.” We really are, and how exciting it is.
This review wouldn’t be complete without a mention of Ray Haffner (Reed Diamond) and his shifty ways. Finding out he’s a member of Visualize was a genuine surprise, but could he be more than just that? His response to Lisbon’s question of whether he was at Elliston farm in 88 (at which point he was 21, which could be considered the age for ‘some kid’) certainly suggested that Haffner is either involved with Red John’s dubious ways, or at least that he may be aware of them.
Technically this makes Haffner a good suspect for Red John himself, but I highly doubt that.
After learning of Haffner’s Visualize membership and possible Red John involvement, I suddenly find myself questioning his job offer to Lisbon. Could this have been a plan of some sort? Or am I just paranoid? Why can’t it be both?
OF COURSE the episode ends just as Jane is set to reveal the names at ‘the top of the list’. A cruel, cruel cliffhanger made even worse by the fact that I’m fairly certain we won’t be finding out those names in the next episode either. It’s a good thing I’m patient.
OTHER POINTS –
- I adore the shot of Jane bathing in the sun and the slow pan around to reveal the face. Fantastically done.
- Stiles, once again, flees the country just as we want to see him more than ever. Come back soon, Malcolm.
- This episode really brought home the creepy when it comes to Visualize and its brainwashed army.
- 2,164. Oh my. The memory palace has been working over time these past few weeks.
- The show continued its trend of bringing back its brilliant roster of guest characters, with the return of Visualize inner-circle member Jason Cooper (Robert Picardo).
- What on Earth were Visualize up to at that farm? Satanic rituals? Eek.
- I now have this burning desire to see a Cho/Rigsby Bohemian Rhapsody music video. Make it happen, CBS. Heck, make SOMETHING happen CBS.
- Red John killing two men a decade before he became active as a serial killer is something I didn’t see coming. Then there’s the whole issue with the smiley face. There’s something very off about the whole thing, and I can’t wait to learn more.
- Great (and rather worrying) continuity in Grace’s defence of Visualize and Stiles’ philosophy.
Overall, this was an important, intriguing and well-executed episode that satisfied and moved things forward in a big way. It’s probably the best episode since 5.08, and warrants more than a few re-watches.
The next episode, 5.14 ‘Red in Tooth and Claw’, airs next Sunday. My review will be up soon after.
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