Wednesday, October 06, 2010

Mental case

Source : The Star Online.
Date : October 6, 2010
By MICHAEL CHEANG

The Mentalist is one kooky, likable character who grows on viewers.

THE Mentalist is one of those shows you will keep watching. It is also a show that will remind you a lot of other shows – it borrows successful elements of other episodic crime procedural series, many of which you will find very familiar indeed.

Like the long-running, never-ending CSI franchise, The Mentalist is a crime procedural show that does not require you to catch every episode to follow the storyline.

Like Monk, which sadly ended its run after a long and fulfilling eight seasons, it involves a kooky, likable character who solves crimes in a unique manner.

Like Psych, the lead character Patrick Jane in The Mentalist is an independent contractor who uses his acute sense of observation (among other skills) to solve heinous crimes and murders.

Nevertheless, while these similarities were much more pronounced in the show’s first season, the second season sees the series growing into its own shoes and becoming much more than just a copycat of other shows.

Much of it has to do with Simon Baker, who puts in a much more assured performance in the lead role of Jane, a mentalist (someone who uses his skills of observation and his ability to manipulate other people to get what he wants) who puts his skills to good use by assisting the fictional California Bureau of Investigation in solving crimes.

He came across as smug and coy throughout the first season, but the second season sees him toning down the smugness, and is a lot more likable.

The supporting characters – CBI agent Teresa Lisbon (Robin Tunney) and her team of investigators Kimball Cho (Tim Kang), Wayne Rigsby (Owain Yeoman) and Grace Van Pelt (Amanda Righetti) – also get a lot more time to shine, with several episodes actually dwelling on their lives and backgrounds, instead of just focusing on Jane alone.

My main complaint is despite Jane’s biggest goal being to catch the elusive Red John (a serial killer who murdered Jane’s wife and daughter after Jane mocked him on national TV), there is little progress in that particular case.

Instead, what we get are more CSI-like stand-alone episodes that involve Jane using his skills – which range from conning people, hypnotism, sleight of hand, and even some petty pickpocketing – to solve random crimes-of-the-day. It’s like CSI, but with a naughty rogue instead of fancy science gadgets.

It’s a real shame that they didn’t involve Red John more, as he is more than a worthy adversary for Jane, being the only person to outsmart and taunt the otherwise supremely confident mentalist.

We actually see more of a darker side to Jane whenever Red John is involved, and in the second season, we see just how far he is willing to go to catch his nemesis.

What is covered in the second season is also a lot darker and significant than the Red John herrings scattered throughout the first season.

The harrowing finale, in particular, is definitely a game changer for Jane, and actually makes you anticipate the start of the third season (which premiered in the United States two weeks ago).

All the same, if the progress made in the second season is any indication, this is one show that can only get better with each subsequent season.

It may still be a little predictable and too episodic for my liking, but here’s hoping that it will eventually blossom into a much more fulfilling series.

The Mentalist airs on Ntv7 on Mondays at 8.30pm.

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