The fourth season of offbeat police procedural The Mentalist continues the tradition of top quality television with a fresh take on the standard detective series. This season is somewhat darker, however, and delves deeper into the troubled psyche of California Bureau of Investigation consultant Patrick Jane (Simon Baker), and explores what he is prepared to do to capture notorious serial killer Red John.
At the end of Season Three, Jane had succeeded in killing the man he thought was Red John, shooting him dead in the food court of a mall. But now, Jane isn't so sure that the man was in fact his age old nemesis, and others doubt as well. The rest of his CBI team is back. Lead agent Teresa Lisbon (Robin Tunney), Wayne Rigsby (Owain Yeoman), Grace Van Pelt (Amanda Righetti) and Kimball Cho (Tim Kang). They have a new boss, Agent Wainwright (Michael Rady), and are joined by intrepid FBI Agent Darcy (Catherine Dent).
There are a number of guest stars, both those returning like Malcolm McDowell as cult leader Bret Stiles and Alicia Witt as Rosalind Harker, the blind former girlfriend of Red John, and new folks like David Paymer, Ray Wise and David Naughton. The episodes continue to be strong, with most being compelling and funny, even though a couple descend into sentimentality and schmaltz. Season four is somewhat darker than previous seasons, however. It's not so much Red John or the other killers and kidnappers that the CBI is pursuing. We expect them to be wicked and debased. It's our erstwhile heroes that disturb us. Jane's obsession with Red John only grows, and he begins to do things that are truly shady, such as lie under oath, plant evidence to implicate a dead man in one of Red John's killings, and amp up his general confrontational cruelty beyond its usefulness in his investigations. Van Pelt and Cho also have story arcs that show them struggling with their inner demons. It's all good drama, but the show is more meditative on the idea of evil, and the wickedness and stupidity that otherwise good people commit.
Watching a show like The Mentalist straight through instead of over the course of the season has advantages and disadvantages. The story sticks together much more coherently, and call backs are easier to spot, but it's also easier to pick out the basic formula that the show operates under. Here, that formula is rather flexible, and still allows the creators to have a lot of fun and not bore the audience, but it's still noticeable. And they are not above a few mild gaffes, such as the Cisco IP phones having blank screens, indicating that they are not plugged in to anything. But this is a trifling complaint, overall the production values are high, and the regular cast has been doing this long enough to be comfortable in their roles. This comfort shows through, with effortless performances, and plenty of intensity and pathos when needed.
Below is a list of episodes, as described in the included informational pamphlet:
After shooting the man he believed to be Red John, Patrick Jane is imprisoned and must then prove that the man he shot, Timothy Carter, really was Red John.
Little Red Book
Freed from prison and reinstated as a CBI consultant, Patrick works on a new team with a no-nonsense supervising agent to learn who killed a popular personal trainer.
Pretty Red Balloon
When a client from Patrick's past requests his "psychic expertise" in locating her missing son, Patrick butts heads with her new "spiritual advisor."
Ring Around the Rosie
The CBI gets a new boss on the same day Patrick is convinced that a suspicious-looking man carrying a gun at a political rally is a psychopath on the brink of murder.
Blood and Sand
The CBI team investigates a body washed up on an island off the California coast. Rigsby and public defender Sarah Harrigan are dating.
Where in the World is Carmine O'Brien?
Lisbon crosses paths with her bounty hunter brother Tommy while tracking down the murderer of a police chief in a resort town.
Blinking Red Light
The victim of a ritualized murder leads the team to a blogger who has devoted his life to finding the San Joaquin killer.
A murdered club girl turns out to be an undercover narcotics cop. Now the CBI team must retrace her investigation to bring her killer to justice.
A retired star quarterback is believed dead following a car explosion - and Patrick wants him to play dead to help find his killer.
Fugue in Red
After a near-death experience, Patrick temporarily loses his memory and reverts to his former con-man ways.
Always Bet on Red
The CBI investigates the death of a high-end divorce attorney; the FBI questions Patrick about the reappearance of Red John.
My Bloody Valentine
While taking a prostitute in for questioning on a mob hit, Van Pelt is attacked - and haunted by memories of her late fiancé.
Red is the New Black
Patrick and the CBI investigate the murder of a disgraced clothing designer, while FBI Agent Susan Darcy continues her investigation into Red John.
At First Blush
While a jury deliberates the verdict of an adulteress on trial for murder, Patrick tries to prove she has been wrongfully accused before time runs out.
War of the Roses
Patrick has convicted killer Erica Flynn released from jail when she claims to have information the CBI needs on a murder they're investigating.
His Thoughts Were Red Thoughts
When the head of an anti-cult activist organization is murdered, Patrick is reunited with his former nemesis Bret Stiles, charismatic cult leader of "Visualize."
Patrick agrees to assist Darcy with a murder investigation despite Lisbon's warning that Darcy's ulterior motive is to probe him about Red John.
Why kill a dead man? The CBI team looks into the murder of a wealthy salesman with terminal cancer. Meanwhile, Cho faces his demons.
Pink Champagne on Ice
While investigating a casino employee's murder, Patrick runs into a stage magician he used to tour with as a mentalist.
Something's Rotten in Redmund
The team investigates the murder of a popular English teacher, Cho and Summer hide their relationship from Lisbon and Rigsby gets a special delivery.
Time wounds all heels! Patrick and the CBI try to find the killer of a young man found burned to death outside a cabaret featuring female impersonators.
So Long, and Thanks for All the Red Snapper
When a surfer is found murdered, the investigation leads to missing treasure, Lisbon's former fiancé, and problems between Cho and Summer.
Red Rover, Red Rover
Red John celebrates the ninth anniversary of his heinous crime by sending a message to Patrick, who commemorates the day in his own fashion.
The Crimson Hat
Patrick's beautiful new lover, Lorelei, convinces him to deliver a member of the CBI team to Red John in exchange for contact and a new life in this mind-blowing season finale.
The fourth season of The Mentalist is still going strong, albeit with a somewhat more morbid edge. This is probably necessary to keep the show fresh and entertaining, and it is certainly that. The same sly humor, likeable characters, interesting mysteries, great guest stars and solid performances make this a show to watch. Highly recommended.
The image is presented in 1.78:1 widescreen, and looks very good. The colors are rich and bright. Of course if you are used to watching the show on a high definition television, this won't look quite as crisp and clean, but is very good 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.
As with all of the previous season, extras are rather light. For season four, there is only one, a featurette entitled CBI: Behind the Badge, clocking in at 22:59. It talks to a number of actual CBI and FBI agents, and police officers, and discusses how The Mentalist hews to and differs from the reality of police work. The main cast of the show is also interviewed, and some time is spent on discussing their characters' personalities and approach to realism. This is fairly interesting, but it's certain that fans of the show would like a lot more, especially commentaries. Alas, it is not so.
In season four, The Mentalist maintains the high quality of previous seasons, delivering thrills and inventive murders to gratify the audience. It also continues its keen eyed observation of its main characters, and perhaps peers into their darker selves a bit more than in the past. Regardless, it's an intelligent yet thoroughly enjoyable cop drama with loads of quirky humor. In short, it's a treat. Check it out.