When “The Mentalist” returns on Sunday night, we pick up with Patrick Jane (Simon Baker) attempting to figure out what the next step is now that he has a list of seven Red John suspects — Bret Stiles, Gale Bertram, Ray Haffner, Reede Smith, Robert Kirkland, Sheriff Thomas McCallister and Brett Partridge — one of who is definitely the much-despised serial killer.
The catch is that Red John knows that Jane has the list, so as Jane and Teresa Lisbon (Robin Tunney) continue the dangerous winnowing out process, the jeopardy increases — and an action on the part of Lisbon paints a target on her back.
“If you are following the hunt for Red John, then you have to watch every episode in the first run,” says executive producer/showrunner Bruno Heller. “Not that you can’t miss one and still understand it, but every episode is stepping forward. Clues are revealed. Revelations are made. Big ones!”
These episodes will show just how far Jane is willing to go to capture — and possibly kill — Red John, while Lisbon is trying to get him to do things by the book.
xfinityTV was invited to the set of “The Mentalist” for an intimate discussion about the sixth season. Here are answers to burning questions provided by Baker, Heller and Tunney:
Word is that we are going to learn Red John’s identity in November, what happens then?
“This is a man on a search for many, many years,” says Heller. “Once you get what your heart has desired for all that time, how does it change you? How do you find a new life? All of these years, Jane has probably been thinking in the back of his head, ‘When this is done, I am going to do X.’ But life throws you curve balls, and what you think you want to do when life changes is not necessarily what you find yourself wanting to do when that happens.”
If and when Red John is captured and/or killed, what will Jane and Lisbon’s relationship be like afterward?
“Their relationship was one born in crisis,” Heller says. “That means it is hard for either of them to imagine what their relationship could and would be after the event — in the calm after the storm. I think both of them are going to start thinking of the other one in ways that they never have before. What do they mean to each other personally, as opposed to they have always had this mission and now the mission is gone? So after that, they have the luxury of thinking of each other as people, as a man and a woman. I don’t want to use the word love, because that implies romance, but there is a lot of love between them. Now they have to find out what kind of love that is.”
So, we’ve seen a wedding photo for Wayne Rigsby (Owain Yeoman) and Grace Van Pelt (Amanda Righetti). Will the wedding actually take place?
“It goes off without a hitch,” Heller says. “That part of the episode is simply a joyous culmination of a romance that needed to be consummated. It is not a whole wedding episode. There is a murder involved. As far as that story goes, it’s a nice romantic end — not to the story — it is for the fans of those two who want to see them get married.”
Is that why it is rumored they are leaving the series?
“What I can say about that is this season there are major changes happening in the CBI [California Bureau of Investigation], and in the personal lives of the whole team, because the hunt for Red John is reaching its climax,” Heller says. “The stakes change, life circumstances change. Analogous to the relationship between Lisbon and Jane, the CBI is thrown into turmoil and it throws all those individuals into turmoil, so Rigsby, Van Pelt and Cho [Tim Kang] are forced to find new ways to be in the world.”
What can you reveal about the new characters: Emily Swallow as Kim Fischer and Rockmond Dunbar as FBI Supervisory Agent Dennis Abbott?
“I will say that Dunbar and Swallow come in and — what are all those metaphors — put the cat among the pigeons, make them an offer they can’t refuse, put their backs against the wall,” Heller tells xfinityTV. “They are going to be a very important catalyst for the change that is coming.”
While Tunney adds, “I think in a way it is super brave for a show like this because often the people who watch it, watch because the characters never change. They know what their TV dinner is going to taste like, they know they are going to get a crime and it is going to be solved in 44 minutes. Our show has been on for a while and, I think, most people are comfortable with that. We want to mix it up and make a different kind of show. We have all been here for six years, and it is this thing of pushing it forward and it not being the same thing.”
Once the Red John story is over, will there be a new big arc?
“Yes, there will be,” says Heller. “The new arc will be personal. Red John is personal but he is a personality that can’t be touched because you are looking for him. Jane has been cramped in the way that he is obsessed with someone that he can’t engage with. So when we move forward, the personal struggles in the show will be tense and more immediate, because it is not going to be about a mysterious serial killer that you can’t get a hold of.”
Will there be a new tone to the show?
“Outside of the characters, what we will be doing with the show is amping up the intensity, the scope and the scale, and giving the audience the same pleasures and fun and mystery that the show is built on, but adding new flavors and new looks essentially,” Heller says.
Baker adds, “The entertaining edge to the show that is playful, I don’t think we will lose that tone. I think the tone of the show will be the same. What we have done quite successfully is developed tics and beats and relationship stuff. That is just through time and the audience has been committed to that. We feel confident that what we will do is bring those tics and beats back, get rid of some, and develop some new stuff with the existing characters. We are not throwing the show out, we are opening a new area for it to go in.”
What was your reaction when you found out who Red John is?
“It is hard for me to answer that because I have been thinking about that for at least a year,” Baker tells xfinityTV. “When someone sets a goal, and that goal becomes their purpose, and it is the spine of their life that drives them, and suddenly they obtain that goal, I am obsessed with the idea of then what happens to that person if that is what drives you. I haven’t been focused on who it is necessarily. I do think about who is Red John, and, for me, Red John is the beast inside Patrick Jane’s psyche.”
Where does Jane actually live? He has the house he doesn’t go to, he sleeps a lot on the couch, but where does he shower?
“I was in a hotel room once,” Baker says. “Actually, that was written as a house and I went, ‘No.’ He is transient. That is the whole thing from when his wife and child were killed, The life that he had was finished and his life became a totally different thing.”
The sixth season of “The Mentalist” premieres on Sunday, Sept. 29 at 10/9c on CBS.