The Mentalist


I just watched the last episode of season 7 of The Mentalist, episode 151, the series finale. I felt the same way that I felt when my friend N. moved across the sea, back to Berlin, Germany. The goodbyes of people you love are always sad.

            The Mentalist was a show that was, in many ways, sub par. It had a cookie cutterish feel like Murder She Wrote. When caught, killers spilled the beans and blathered away, the writing just on the cusp of being bad. Over the course of seven seasons one hundred and fifty-one killers seemed eager to bypass the legal system and the right to remain silent.

            And Simon Baker’s Patrick Jane was unrealistic, though fascinating, in the mold of Sherlock Holmes, Hercules Poirot, Gregory House and such.

            And it wasn’t just him. He was surrounded by a cast of characters who had their own personalities, their stories, their lives. They became like the co-workers, or family members, that you see every day, whom you come to love or loathe, but who make up the texture and context of your life. Agent Cho with the ultra serious demeanor which masked a big heart and a team camaraderie that was fierce. Agent Rigby, with his troubled past and doubting present, searching for equilibrium and love. Agent

            And the bad guys, especially the sixth season long search for the evil serial killer and criminal mastermind Red John, responsible for the deaths of Patrick Jane’s wife and daughter. Or the misdirections leading us to believe that a good guy was really a bad guy, or vice versa. It was an anticipatory delight, and a reminder that not everything is at it seems, and that you can’t judge a book by its cover. People will always surprise you.

            There have been other shows that have caught my attention and snagged my emotions. West Wing, with more characters and actors than I have space to name. Hugh Laurie in House. Counterpart, with the wonderfully talented J.K. Simmons. The expertly updated and hugely improved Battlestar Galactica. Ah, and there’s James Spader and The Black List. And others.

            I feel like Don Corleone in The Godfather, towards the end when Michael is being groomed to take over the Family, and Don Corleone is intentionally sidelining himself. Over a conversation with his son in the garden where the Don is raising tomatoes, he gets a distant look in his eyes and to Michael. “I like to drink wine more than I used to.”

            Michael says “It’s good for ya, pop.”

            And the Don waves the thought away, saying “Anyway, I’m drinking more.”

            I think I watch too much television.

            Is it good for me?

            Not sure. But anyway, I’m watching more.

            What I love about these cable series is the same thing I like about good books. I like the world they create, the world in which the characters move and live, and which you only get glimpses of now and them, but mostly it’s hinted at.

            The Argentine novelist, essayist, painter and physicist Ernest Sabato, in his novel El Túnel touched on this. The main character says that in reference to paintings, what fascinates him most about such works is not always what is depicted in the foreground, but what is hinted at the edges. Buildings, distant mountains, clouds, a moon or a spill of stars. He is fascinated by what is not shown, but suggested by the work.

            And I feel the same way about my television shows.

            The Mentalist is over. But the characters live on in my heart and memory. They live in a world that was created, for me, and they remain out there, still living their lives, still getting into scrapes, still either triumphing over roadblocks, or changing course when they can’t.

            And there it is.

            Good cinema can be like a good book. Worlds created, lives exposed and delved into, a world savored and enjoyed.

            I could say more, but I need to go. I have to meet a friend for a late lunch of this wonderful French bread he discovered at a small bakery on Topanga, along with sweet crisp green grapes, a wedge of sharp cheddar and a few tins of sardines in olive oil and a bottle of Malbec. We’ll eat slowly and play our guitars at my small office on Woodley.

            The doors will be closed so as to not disturb any errant tenants who are unlucky enough to be working on a Saturday, and the air conditioner will be on. But outside, somewhere, Gregory House and Patrick Jane will be pondering their next moves.

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