Red John’s Demise: Why is The Mentalist Afraid to Use the M Word?

By on Nov 26, 2013 in Gender in the Media | 5 comments

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Warning: Spoilers Below

Patrick Jane finally caught and killed Red John on Sunday. Spoiler alert, turns out it was the sheriff all long!

Honestly, I had mixed feeling watching the episode. I love the premise of The Mentalist but lately I found the plot developments too predictable and even excruciatingly cheesy. This last one was aggravating in various ways. In some ways the big reveal was too quick and all the stumbling blocks Jane had to surmount just to finally do the deed too contrived. Of course, some woman in black is going to walk into the chapel right before Patrick is ready to deliver the final gun shot. And of course, that woman is going to be Red John’s accomplice, even though Patrick, for all his alleged brilliance, won’t realize it until she’s trying stab him with a knife. Give me a break!

But what really pissed me off about the episode is that Patrick never called Red John out for what he truly was. He called him egotistical and sexually perverted with delusions of grandeur – all true. But there’s one big adjective he left off.

Above everything else, Red John was a misogynist. After all, he killed how many women? Well into the double digits, while the men he liquidated were typically just collateral damage. But does Patrick Jane call Red John out on his deep-rooted hatred for women? Nope, he calls him a sexual pervert instead, which really doesn’t aptly describe the guy’s evil. So why don’t TV shows bust out the M word when describing the motivations and personality traits of their serial killer main characters – even when it’s so blatantly obvious? Moreover, why don’t news reporters and criminal experts do the same when reporting and commenting on these types of cases? What, is feminism and gender violence too deep or hard core of a concept to explain on TV? (But actually showing women getting raped and murdered is, of course, perfectly fine.) These real-life and fictionalized serial killers aren’t just sexual deviants, they are pure woman-haters. They are misogynists! Hello people, wise up to the pattern and use the term already.

Look who's Red John! This guy is not a fan of women. Image from

Look who’s Red John! This guy is not a fan of women. Image from

Another point of contention for me: I’m kind of pissed only Jane gets to kill Red John and get closure from it. I get that he’s the main character and that he’s had this 10-year vendetta against the guy for murdering his wife and daughter. But Red John did kill 30 other people. Instead of just asking Red John if he was sorry for killing his wife and daughter, Jane could have had the decency to mention the man’s other victims too, at least in number (and yeah, yeah, I get that Jane is self-centered).

Also, I know Lorelei Martins was Red John’s “mistress” and was killed off before this latest episode, but I wanted to see her get some sort of justice/revenge too. I mean, Red John did rape and murder her sister! And when Martins learned the truth, she went after him instead. Silly me, such a feminist! Perhaps it’s just too much to expect that when it comes time to kill a misogynist who’s been primarily targeting women, a female should really get that pleasure. Yes, I know she’s supposed to be a villain and Red John’s former accomplice, but she turned “good.” And her motivations for killing Red John were not any more self-centered than Jane’s. I mean, did Jane really care about the guy’s other victims? As the above shows, clearly not.

Guess who's about to die. Image from

Guess who’s about to die. Image from

More gender concepts for you to ponder…love it how as Red John is running bloody through the cemetery and then through that family’s house, he keeps stumbling upon and freaking out various women. I’m sure those scenes were meant to channel how Red John snuck up on his female victims. But this time Patrick Jane is there to run after him and save the day. Because that’s justice. A man gets to kill the serial murderer who’s been terrorizing and slaughtering so many women all these years.

And, of course, Teresa Lisbon is just sitting under arrest in an FBI car, totally helpless and unable to do a thing. Seriously, what’s the point of her character anyway? Lisbon is dull and uninspiring. Is Patrick Jane really going to end up falling in love with her now? She has no personality – she just has to look serious all the time. Also, she’s not even necessary (nor is the rest of the CBI team)! Everyone knows Patrick Jane solves all the cases anyway.

That is the main TV trope these days: the male savior. Team up a steely and by-the-book female cop with an unconventional male character who will end up being the brains in every episode anyway. It’s not just The Mentalist that pulls that crap – take a look at Castle, Sleepy Hollow and even The X-Files. She may be one tough cookie and a “role model” but the guy is always the real hero.

That’s my rant. But eh, who gives a crap if the show sucks, right? Simon Baker is the hottest guy on TV right now. I’ll keep watching till the end to get my eye candy.

Hello, Simon! Image from

Hello, Simon!
Image from

Oh, and speaking of sexual perversion, I found this interview with Baker about Red John’s demise (emphasis in bold is mine):

TV Guide Magazine: His death came in such a low-key way — no spectacle, no sirens, no hovering helicopters, no CBI team. Just Jane and Red John. Talk about that choice.

Baker: It just had to be the two of them. It was almost like a love scene, as perverse as that sounds. The end of Red John was originally planned to take place at night on the street with people watching, but I pushed to do it in a quiet, beautiful place where they could be alone. There is no human act more intimate — not even sex — than killing another human being with your bare hands and watching him die. It is really subversive for a network series. The risk is huge.

Well, Baker certainly got what he wanted! A nice tight shot on his face as he’s choking Red John. Now I know what Patrick Jane’s ‘O’ face looks like. I guess it was a not-so-subtle and fitting end to all the alleged suppressed homoerotic tension simmering between them (go read some fan-fiction to see what I’m talking about).

Readers, what did you think of the episode?


  1. Mohammad Hassam

    November 26, 2013

    Post a Reply

    I agree with the stuff you mentioned in this page but finally we got to know that shariff is a RedJohn. The curiously of knowing Red john is ended. If I forget above questions for a while, I think, overall it was a good episode and the season is not ended yet so, you shall get the answers in next episode.

    I like the way Jane describes Redjohn personality and about the explosion.

    Overall, I loved the episode.

  2. Carol

    July 9, 2014

    Post a Reply

    Found the analysis here refreshing, original, and more thoughtful than usual. Appreciate a different perspective, so thank you, Christina. Below is my comment, obviously slanted to my own perspective re The Mentalist.

    It’s understandable why many viewers were more interested in the love angle between Patrick and Lisbon, as they make a cute couple. However, I ultimately saw Patrick Jane as crazy in hate and a snob to boot. After all, here is a character who kills two people (one for which one he should have been imprisoned) and gets a pass. He needed the extraordinary evil of Red John to distract viewers from that, or at least some viewers. My hope had always been that Patrick was “crazy” in love with his wife and that he was truly psychic and ergo super messed up. But no, it turned out this character is acceptable to many viewers so long as either 1) he and Lisbon are a love interest, or 2) he continues to denigrate anybody who has a positive view towards psychics or even spirituality, and 3) is the biggest brain in the room. As for me, I stopped watching the show (although I’d still check in from time to time) after Patrick Jane was shown choking to death another human being. At that point I felt that Humpty Dumpty had fallen off the wall and that all the King’s writers and all the King’s men could never put him back together again…

  3. Tom

    August 25, 2015

    Post a Reply

    Really interesting analysis Ms. Paschyn. Personally I think the reason Jane got to kill Red John is because they are one another’s most personal nemeses which is because they’re each-other’s only intellectual equals. Obviously The Mentalist, like Sherlock Holmes and Batman is a story about a man who uses his intelligence and powers of deduction to defeat villains the same way Spider-Man and Harry Potter use supernatural abilities to defeat them. Intelligence is a kind of superpower so it would detract from Jane’s brilliance if anyone but his arch-nemesis were as clever as he is although they definitely could have made his female sidekick significantly more competent. Jane only asks Red John if he feels remorse for murdering own family because obviously they’re the first people on his mind. Anyone else probably would have done the same under the circumstances.

    If you’re interested in stories with empowered female protagonists then I’d recommend Silence of the Lambs, Scandal and pretty much anything by Quentin Tarantino or Joss Whedon.

    You have given me a good idea for my book though. 🙂

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