Warner Bros. // 2009 // 985 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge Clark Douglas // October 20th, 2010
Every crime has a solution. It's his job to find it.
"I'll have the real killer for you in 12 hours."
Patrick Jane (Simon Baker, Something New) used to make a living as a professional psychic. No, he doesn't possess any actual psychic powers, but he is particularly good at reading body language. For years, he used this gift to convince his clients that he could read their minds. All of that changed when a serial killer named Red John murdered Jane's wife and child. Vowing revenge, Jane switched professions and joined the California Bureau of Investigation, using his unique gifts to solve crimes, help others and seek out the true identity of the person who slaughtered his family. Jane's good at his job, but his unconventional methods frequently place him in conflict with his by-the-book co-worker Teresa Lisbon (Robin Tunney, Hollywoodland). Though they spend a good deal of time bickering, they're an effective team.
All 23 second-season episodes are spread across five discs, the titles of which were probably stolen from the old radio series I Was a Communist for the FBI:
* The Scarlet Letter
* Red Badge
* Red Menace
* Red Scare
* Black Gold and Red Blood
* Red Bulls
* His Red Right Hand
* A Price Above Rubies
* Throwing Fire
* Rose-Colored Glasses
* Bleeding Heart
* Blood In, Blood Out
* Red Herring
* Code Red
* The Red Box
* Aingavite Baa
* Blood Money
* Red All Over
* Red Letter
* Red Sky in the Morning
Before digging into The Mentalist: The Complete Second Season, I had a lot of preconceptions about the show based on overheard comments and 30-second TV promos. After actually sitting down and spending some time with the program, I have to report that...um, well, it's exactly what I thought it would be. The Mentalist is modestly engaging sock-folding television, very occasionally sprinkling in bits and pieces of long-arc storytelling but most focusing on mystery-of-the-week crime stories that are tidily wrapped up by the 40-minute mark. I hadn't seen a single episode from the first season before plowing through this set, but the general format of the show is established in the opening minutes of the first episode of this season. Permit me to paraphrase the dialogue a bit for the sake of time.
Jane: Hey, somebody was killed in the department store. Let's solve this
Lisbon: Yes. Let's solve it in a by-the-book way.
Cop: Hey, are you that psychic guy?
Cop: I don't believe in that ESP crap. It's all fake.
Jane: Oh yeah? Watch me find the murderer in a matter of minutes.
Lisbon: *rolls eyes*
Jane (points at one of the store employees): You're the murderer.
Employee: What? Me? How did you know?
Jane: Psychic powers.
Cop: OMG, you really have psychic powers.
Jane: Psych! No, I don't. I just read body language really well, and that guy's body language screamed "guilty!" But it sure seems psychic, doesn't it?
Lisbon: *rolls eyes again*
That scene is essentially an abbreviated version of the sort of plot most episodes of The Mentalist deliver, albeit with slightly more complicated storytelling in most cases. Lisbon wants to follow the rules, Jane breaks the rules and solves the case, Lisbon begrudgingly gives him credit and they move along to the next episode. The series has been repeatedly compared to Lie to Me, a FOX drama that premiered around the same time. Both series are centered on intelligent men who play by their own rules and solve crimes by examining the body language of others. Both are fairly routine procedurals that offer few surprises in the plot department, but Lie to Me stands out as the superior option for a couple of reasons.
First of all, Simon Baker just isn't terribly interesting as the protagonist of The Mentalist. He's a blandly handsome, sorta charming guy who does some mildly irritating things but is fundamentally a nice dude. He's probably a little easier to live with, but he isn't half as compelling as the monstrously egotistical, near-Shakespearean figure Tim Roth essays in Lie to Me. Secondly, Lie to Me makes its gimmick work by constantly exploring the real-life science that enables Dr. Lightman to figure out the things he does. That same science is largely at the core of Jane's methods, but the show rarely bothers to explain how it actually works (unless you take the time to dig into the bonus features this set has to offer). I suppose that's an attempt at making the character seem like a real psychic, but it also feels a bit like cheating (we know there are supposedly legitimate reasons that Jane knows what he does, but he sometimes figures things out a little too easily).
I don't want to sound like I'm beating up on the show, because it really isn't bad. I found it thoroughly watchable, but there are so many shows like this in existence at the moment. The Mentalist is perfectly competent, but it just doesn't do anything to set itself apart (and as I indicated, its one "unique" gimmick is basically being employed to better effect by another show). The plotting is familiar, the characters are familiar, the music is familiar (seriously, does every crime show need that same unobtrusively cool, Thomas Newman-ish "we're solving a mystery" bump-a-dum-dum stuff?)...you get the idea.
The DVD transfer is handsome enough, offering bright colors and solid detail. Depth is pretty good, though flesh tones get a bit reddish at times. The audio is fine, with a predictably slick mix and fairly active sound design. Supplements include a featurette called "Art of a Mentalist" (an interview with producer/director Chris Long) and 11 brief video pods: "The Art of Mind Reading with Simon Baker," "The Art of Suggestive Imagery with Robin Tunney," "Secrets of Cognitive Persuasion with Luke Jermay," "The Art of Knowing Secrets with Owain Yeoman," "The Art of Hidden Objects with Amanda Righetti," "Secrets of the Pendulum with Luke Jermay," "The Art of Suggestive Imagery with Tim Kang," "The Art of Intuitive Deduction with Bruno Heller," "Secrets of Interactive Mind Control with Luke Jermay," "The Art of Muscle Reading with Amanda Righetti" and "Secrets of Ideomotor Manipulation with Luke Jermay." Finally, there are a handful of deleted scenes.
Eh, if this sort of thing is your cup of tea, go for it. It's not special, but it's fine.
Not guilty, but certainly not too inspired.
Review content copyright © 2010 Clark Douglas; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2013 HipClick Designs LLC
Scales of Justice
Studio: Warner Bros.
* 1.78:1 Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)
Running Time: 985 Minutes
Release Year: 2009
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
* Deleted Scenes
* Video Pods
* Official site