We definitely preferred this episode to the Season 6 opener. While that suffered from a long-build, an uninteresting case and a closing scene that neither shocked nor caused (much) suspense, “Black-Winged Redbird” went a long way toward rectifying those issues, with a significant ramping up of mystery and plot development.
Where last week’s Red John arc served almost as an afterthought, he was basically front and centre in this episode. While there was a case of the week – another drone episode, making it seem as though Hollywood is jumping on the drone warfare debate bandwagon – it was largely secondary to the quest to find Red John. The case’s surprise twist was neither surprising nor much of a twist. We had it solved from the mid-way point. For once, though, we didn’t really care that it was a totally predictable conclusion, because the case was never supposed to be the focus.
That Red John arc became really interesting this week, with a definite and solid uptick in clues and drama. Lisbon survived, but the gruesome murder of Sophie Miller (Season 1 guest star, Elisabeth Röhm, Angel, The Client List) was more than enough to make up for our disappointment (sorry, but Lisbon irritates sometimes, and we would have liked to see what Jane would become after losing the woman he clearly loves*). This arc threw up a number of clues – Red John’s a great whistler – and intriguing developments. The most curious of these was the meeting between Bertram, Reede Smith and Sheriff McAllister (three of the six remaining Red John suspects). The meeting in itself wouldn’t have elicited much excitement (it could have been explained away by that line about the joint task force), but the exchange that followed Jane’s attempts to mentalist them certainly did (see Quoteworthy). That raised a lot of questions, but we’re not sure it means anything.
Because that’s a major theme of this episode and, we suspect, of the rest of the season – red herrings. These early episodes are already full of mystery and misdirection. One of the most head-trippy potential red herrings of the episode was delivered by Ray Haffner. In telling Lisbon that Visualize were interested in the Red John case, was that a hint of Bret Stiles’ guilt or a misdirect to shift suspicion from himself? And even beyond that, we’re still not convinced Red John is one of the people on Jane’s list (with Bob Kirkland the only one of whom to not get a look in so far), and that list may just be the biggest red herring of them all. We don’t doubt that they’re all somehow involved with Red John. They’re all immensely suspicious, and could easily be some of his acolytes. We like to imagine that Red John is better than all that, and is someone we’ve never suspected until now. Someone like Grace Van Pelt. We don’t know what it was, exactly, but something about her this week made us look at her in a different way… We know we’re wrong there, but we do kind of hope that it won’t be as simple as narrowing down a list. (Though, if we have to, our money’s always been on either Bertram or Haffner. And we don’t think it’s Bertram anymore – why would he have a “job” to do if he was Red John?)
The possibility was floated that Red John is getting sloppy and starting to make mistakes , but we’re not sure how much we believe that. We know that conventional wisdom would suggest that everyone slips up eventually, and this is definitely an example of something that RJ could, feasibly, not have been aware of (why would he know that Dr Miller dictated her notes), but he’s never not been vast steps ahead of Jane. If Jane is catching up now, is it because Red John made a mistake or because he’s setting a trap/laying a false trail?
We loved this episode. Not because it was particularly better than any of the others, or because all of The Mentalist‘s issues were dealt with, but because, for the first time in a long time, we’re actually excited about this show. – K
“What the hell was that all about?”
“Exactly how much does Jane know?”
“Well that is the question, isn’t it?”
“Yes it is. And it’s your job to know the answer.” – McAllister, Reede, Bertram, Reede
PS anyone else wondering about the significance of the Carmen Lee mistake? That was given too much importance in the scene for it not to be more than it looked.
* Making us wonder if Lisbon and Jane will finally have their shot at love with Red John out of the way. Is fear of losing her the only thing that’s holding Jane back?