As my friend so eloquently put it when trying to describe the show, The Mentalist is a ‘crime solving drama-ish thing’. To put it a better, more accurate way, it’s a show about a former ‘psychic’ (Patrick Jane, played by Simon Baker) who left his well-paying lifestyle to help out the California Bureau of Investigation. He does this as a consultant who uses his skills at cold reading and knowledge of human tells to solve cases.
The main concept is essentially ‘what if Sherlock Holmes was a psychic?’. The show also gives the public a window into how techniques used by psychics work, such as the aforementioned cold read. Since the audience needs to be able to follow Jane’s line of thinking, he states his readings as they come to him and when he makes mistakes, he tries to gloss over them and play up the hits.
From there, it’s a basic police procedural show with some interesting case ideas mixed in. Although most of the episodes are more than a pleasant way to pass the time in any case, one or two of the season were stand out favourites of mine. One in particular (“Red All Over”) shocked me quite a fair bit when a particular moment came (since I did not have the slightest inkling that it was coming) and had me saying “holy hell, that was awesome”.
Jane is well played and believable as a person, although some of his character traits are predictable (you might say I read him) and I had most of his character down before I started watching. One thing I like is that Jane isn’t a consultant in name only, and his tampering with the evidence and planting of same is frequently called out and becomes a cause for tension. Although after the first few times, you think they’d just give him gloves.
The other team members (Jane works with a team in the fictional CBI with four other people) are funny and relatable. One thing that made me laugh is that one of them (Cho, for the curious) is always the one who gets hurt to give the suspect time to run. Like the redshirt or Worf.
The team dynamic works well, with funny banter (“Please don’t tell me about Van Pelt”) in places and it never sounds too stilted. They also have rewards for solving cases, which seems based in reality and it’s like the kind of thing I would insist on if I were a detective (which, along with my complete inability to do the Sherlock Scan, is probably why I’ve not been snapped up for the Police Service).
For anyone like myself who hasn’t watched it before this season, The Mentalist is easy to get into. You can go into it not having a clue what happened in the first season or the origin story and you will have picked up the plot from the dialogue in the first episode of this five-disc set.
Anybody interested in the techniques used in the show will enjoy the special features, which are a series of demonstrations of the techniques by real life mentalist (a word that I thought the show had made up) Luke Jermay. Some of the tricks you will be able to spot before he explains how they were done, but some will slip right by and trick you. Frustratingly, while the presentations are mostly good, some of the tricks aren’t actually explained at all (see the pendulum trick). There is also a brief feature with the same guy and the executive producer of the show studying part of the season opener, as well as deleted scenes from some of the episodes.
If you are fans of police procedurals and Sherlock Holmes, then this is the show for you. You’d be mental (see what I did there?) to avoid owning this on DVD.