Quirky police procedural The Mentalist hits its stride in season three, and delivers consistently amusing plotlines, strong characters and oddball mysteries, even a few with twist endings that are quite difficult to guess in advance.
The show's hero, California Bureau of Investigation consultant Patrick Jane (Simon Baker), who could almost be described as an anti-hero, so single mindedly does he pursue his nemesis, serial killer Red John, is up to his normal dubiously legal antics. If anything, he has graduated from a cavalier disregard for procedure and law to the dismissal of any barriers or obstacles, whatever they may be, in his lust for vengeance against the man who killed his family. (He even goes so far as to hire a criminal to break into someone's house looking for information, blackmail one of his CBI superiors, and help a wanted fugitive to escape custody.) Despite this, he is still as likeable and funny as in the previous two seasons, but the pain and sadness that dwell within him are closer to the surface now. There are several meditations on the efficacy and methods of revenge, and it is clear that Jane is committed to killing Red John when he finds him, not arresting him.
Jane's CBI compatriots are mostly the same. Agent Teresa Lisbon (Robin Tunney) still heads the team, and agents Rigsby (Owain Yeoman), Van Pelt (Amanda Righetti) and Cho (Tim Kang) help out with the investigative duties, with Lisbon's boss Madeline Hightower (Aunjanue Ellis) around from time to time, even once jumping in to investigate herself. The close knit, almost family like nature of this team is a big reason for the show's success. We like and sympathize with these people, all sharply distinct and well drawn characters, and we want them to succeed and be happy. The season is full of subtle (and not so subtle) character beats, and each one of the team is given the chance to shine, whether its Van Pelt's botched security detail, Rigsby's dealings with his ex-con father, or Cho mentoring (against his will) a wayward youth. A couple of new additions are CBI internal affairs agent LaRoche (Pruitt Taylor Vince) and CBI Director Bertram (Michael Gaston), both of whom could be considered contagonists, not necessarily villains, but often at cross purposes to Jane and his cohorts. Season three also brings back a lot of characters from the first two seasons for guest appearances, including cult leader Brett Stiles and supercilious coroner Dr. Steiner.
The episodes are all fairly strong, and the series seems to have grown comfortable enough with itself and its formula, without becoming repetitive or formulaic. These are standard murder mysteries, often with a twist, and always with a sly sense of humor and irony. Quite a few of them are able to conceal the true murderer until the final few minutes, a tribute to any show of this type. The sensibility of The Mentalist has gotten a bit darker in the third season, however, mostly through Jane and his obsession with Red John. He still has his cockeyed view of life, but is definitely "broken", as one character calls him. He is willing to do whatever he has to in order to catch Red John, and calmly explains to others that they have to be willing to lie and break the law if they want to exact revenge. This presents a challenge to the show's writers. The battle of wits between Jane and Red John is escalating, and cannot continue to do so forever. Either they have to meet and grapple face to face, or the steam will start to leak out of the drama. At the end of season three, there is such a confrontation, and a startling conclusion, but it remains to be seen what exactly comes of it.
Below is a list of episodes, as described in the included informational pamphlet:
Red Sky at Night
With a kidnapping and murder to solve, the CBI needs Patrick. But troubled by his encounter with Red John, Patrick opts out.
Tipped off to a homicide, cops arrive to find a man standing next to the body, holding the murder gun. The man's name: Patrick Jane.
The Blood on His Hands
The CBI again tangles with the Visualize cult on a case that involves arranged marriages, kidnapping, murder and Red John.
Red Carpet Treatment
Freed on DNA evidence, a convicted rapist-murderer gets a surprise homecoming present: 8 to 10 rounds to the head.
Pink Chanel Suit
"Abby Fitzwilliam is dead. She's hidden in your grandmother's casket." Patrick interrupts a funeral and, to the mourners' distress, opens the coffin.
You've got toupee attention: Patrick focuses his keen observational skills on the hairpieces of a murdered mogul and finds a clue to the crime.
Ball of Fire
Why can't the CBI rely on its top consultant to solve a kidnapping case before it becomes a murder case? Because Patrick's the kidnap victim.
When an EMT is devastated by his fiancée's brutal murder, Patrick empathizes - perhaps too much - with the man's desire for revenge.
Jolly Red Elf
A professional Santa is pumped full of high-proof cheer, then tossed out a window. Suspects include the victim's fellow Santas and his AA group.
At a professional cage brawl, the real bloodletting occurs behind the scenes when a writer covering the sport is murdered.
Patrick faces two adversaries: a killer and a decision-science profiler who pits her crime-solving skills against his.
Wrong place at the wrong time. Patrick is among the hostages taken by a distraught man suspected of two homicides.
Blood for Blood
When a witness under Van Pelt's protection is murdered, LaRoche offers to save the agent's career - if she'll play ball with Internal Affairs.
A new California gold rush lures a prospector to his death. Patrick investigates... with Hightower as high-powered backup.
"Make your move. Watch him die." Hightower puts a gun to the back of Patrick's skull. Is she Red John's mole in the CBI?
Hightower's out, LaRoche is in - and Patrick is still the go-to guy when a prestigious doctor is five-ironed to death at a driving range.
The Red Mile
When a corpse is hijacked, Patrick must work with Dr. Steiner, his old nemesis from the coroner's office. But circumstances turn a foe into a friend.
Every Rose Has its Thorn
The investigation into the murder of a matchmaking-service mogul has Rigsby meeting an eager spinster and Patrick making a revealing dating video.
Patrick has two days to bust a criminal out of CBI custody, the thief he hired to burgle LaRoche's house.
Like a Redheaded Stepchild
When an off-duty prison guard is stabbed to death, Rigsby looks for suspects among violent ex-inmates - including his abusive father.
Rhapsody in Red
While Cho deals with a street kid who steals his keys and jacks his ride, Patrick orchestrates the investigation into the murder of a concertmaster.
Strawberries and Cream (Double Episode)
A suicide bombings leads Patrick to the identity of Red John's CBI mole... and to a stunning confrontation with Red John himself.
The third season of The Mentalist continues the strong showing of season two, and finds its groove, balancing plots (including the overarching pursuit of Red John) with strong character moments and sly humor. It's full of murder and mayhem, but it is often quite life affirming, and definitely a joy to watch. Highly recommended.
The image is presented in 1.78:1 widescreen, and looks quite nice. The colors are deep and rich and the contrast is good, though a bit of grain is visible from time to time. Of course if you are used to watching the show on a high definition television, this won't look quite as good, but is very nice for a DVD presentation.
The audio is Dolby digital 5.1 channel, and sounds quite good, with crisp dialogue, and entirely free of any issues. English and Portuguese audio tracks are included, along with English, Chinese, French, Portuguese, Spanish and Thai subtitles.
Deleted or extended scenes are included for a few episodes, as well as two longer featurettes. They are:
The Mentalist: Portrait of a Serial Killer - Red John
At just under thirty minutes, this feature has four experts, in the fields of law enforcement, psychology, DNA, etc, to discuss Red John as if he were a real serial killer they had been asked to profile. This is quite interesting, and reveals a lot of information about how Red John compares to actual serial killers, his motives, evolution, and so forth.
"Red Moon" Directed by Simon Baker
This feature comes in at around ten minutes, and it is hard to see why it is included. It has behind the scenes clips and interviews, showing the season three episode that Simon Baker directed. I'm sure everyone gets along, and they all love Baker, buy why spend this time merely talking about how wonderful he is?
As with seasons one and two, no commentaries are included, which is a disappointment.
Season three of The Mentalist maintains the high quality of season two, and adds a keener insight into its characters, particularly the tragic protagonist Patrick Jane. Jane and his CBI team are now like old friends, comfortable and fun to be around, but by no means perfect people. The cat and mouse game with Red John continues, and seemingly comes to a climax. It will be interesting to see how the show's writers continue on in season four. As it is now, The Mentalist remains a very good show.