The Good Wife and The Mentalist - One show hitting its stride, the other changing its stride

the mentalist promo

good wife 100 Last year, amid the disastrous Kalinda/Nick storyline, I dinged The Good Wife for sucking. Not long after, due to my wonderfully, erudite post, they jettisoned that storyline and went back to what they do best, camouflaging a soap opera as a case of the week procedural. Since the second half of season four and into the first half of season five, which last night ended its 2013 run with it's 100th episode, The Good Wife has been on fire, creatively, dramatically, emotionally, hilariously and consistently. (Five adverbs in a row. YES!)

Even at its worst, which I will always contend the Kalinda/Nick storyline was, The Good Wife is the best hour-long drama on network television. If The Good Wife were on AMC, HBO, FX or some other cable network, I think it would be considered the best by most critics. Say what you will about the long form storytelling brilliance of The Wire, Breaking Bad, The Sopranos and Mad Men, The Good Wife is better because not only do Robert and Michelle King know how to tell a long form story, they also brilliantly incorporate a case of the week into EACH episode. They have mastered the procedural and the novelization of their world at the same time. It is an epic feat to create the best drama on television within the commercial and FCC constraints the Kings work under.

At the end of season four, the Kings basically blew up their show. They carved Alicia and Carey out of Lockhart/Gardner, and left Kalinda, Will and Diane to nurse hurt feelings and pride. This season, the fallout has been fun to watch, with both L/G and F/A getting the best of each other. They are pretty evenly matched adversaries, much to Will and Diane's surprise. Alicia is ruthless, cunning and determined to win. My money is on Alicia, not only because it is The Good Wife, but also because she has experience in how to pick herself up from emotional devastation and triumph. Will may seem like he's in control, but he's floundering and if he's not careful, his ambition and drive will destroy Lockhart/Gardner.

Two quibbles, though: There still is not enough Kalinda. I do not understand her loyalty to Will and, as a huge fan of the Alicia/Kalinda friendship, I wish Kalinda had gone with F/A. I didn't realize until early this season she didn't even know Alicia was leaving with Cary. I wonder if she'd known that if she would have left anyway, despite lower pay. The second quibble: I don't want the entire season to be about L/G and F/A fighting each other. I'm already a little weary of the constant gamesmanship. It's a great dramatic well of tension that will be quickly dried up if they keep tapping it.

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After five seasons and change, The Mentalist blew up its formula, but good last week. I was excited and anxious to see what the new version of The Mentalist had to offer. I have to say, My Blue Heaven lived up to my expectations. The dichotomy of Jane being a tortured vigilante for a handful of episodes each season while being glib the other episodes was always jarring. Now, Jane is out from under the cloud and we can see the lighter side of him all the time, as well as no longer dour Lisbon. This was a transition episode in the best sense of the word. I don't think Jane read anyone once. I wonder if his mentalist capabilities are rusty? That would be interesting to see. The most refreshing part of the episode was that Jane was bested, twice. Once by a woman, Kim Fisher, who manipulated him into returning to the states. The other time by Abbot, the stern FBI agent who refused to cower to Jane's demands. Seeing the shock on Jane's face, which he quickly masked, was absolutely brilliant. I can't wait to see this version of Jane play out, hopefully for many seasons to come.

Red John is dead. Long live The Mentalist.

the mentalist tunneyWell, thank God that's over. When I learned the first six episodes of season six would deal exclusively with resolving the Red John storyline, I assumed I would be posting weekly episode recaps. Then, the episodes aired and I found I had nothing to say. Kirkland was on his own vigilante quest? Shrug. Red John has a tattoo of three dots on his left shoulder? A pretty stupid tattoo for a serial killer who is supposed to be extremely intelligent. The Blake Association? Sounds like a homeowner's association. Bertram is Red John? I'm supposed to believe Michael Gaston has the charisma to inspire such rapturous, love-like devotion of Lorelei, Rebecca and all the other acolytes who have done Red John's bidding for so many years?

Turns out, no, I'm not. The Mentalist couldn't resolve the storyline without one last feint, without trying desperately to illustrate Red John's superior planning and intelligence. Sheriff Macalister is Red John. A character who resonated with absolutely no one, ever.

You know what? I'm not going to pick apart this resolution. Other people are doing it for me. I'm just thrilled The Mentalist is no longer saddled with overarching storyline. The original idea was good, great even. But, the execution was sloppy because it dragged on for too many years and probably because Heller didn't have a clear idea who Red John was until a couple of years ago. Maybe if the Big Bad had been fully formed, the overarching story would have been, too.

But, it wasn't and now it's over. Good riddance. The Mentalist becomes what it should have been after the end of season three - a straight up crime procedural. CBS does these shows very well so there is no reason why The Mentalist shouldn't keep chugging along for a few more seasons. As a long-time, dedicated fan, one who has flirted with abandoning the show but has stuck around despite major issues, I hope Heller and Company take this reboot - which is exactly what this is though no one has said the word - and make the show better. To do that, they need to do one thing, and one thing only:

Make the law enforcement professionals competent.

It has always been my biggest complaint that Lisbon, Cho and company couldn't investigate their way out of a paper bag. They went through the motions and did the legwork, but it was always Jane who "solved" the crime. I get it; the show is called the mentalist. But, sometimes I wondered why the others were there at all. It seemed Lisbon's sole purpose was to apologize for Jane's actions, threaten him with consequences, but still let him do whatever he wanted. This was perfectly illustrated in "Red John" when she half-heartedly tried to talk Jane out of meeting Red John, gave Jane her gun(!), then gave Jane her car. Jane fulfilled his vow to kill Red John. Lisbon rolled over and failed to keep her promise of stopping Jane. The worst part was she didn't even try. It is very nearly a complete betrayal of the character. I wonder how they will redeem her, or if they will brush Lisbon's failure under the rug and instead focus on Jane's new life. For Lisbon, her failure to stop Jane should have very nearly the same effect on her psyche as Jane's causing his family's death did on his. But, I'm guessing it won't. Why? Two reasons. One, this show struggles when it doesn't focus on Jane. Two, it is easier to explain it away with feelings. The romantic in me would dig a good love story. The part of me that wants Lisbon to be a strong, independent female character would be pretty pissed.

I hope the new iteration of The Mentalist has a better balance of competence. I hope they give Lisbon the backbone they imply she has. I hope it takes longer than one episode for them to pull the team back together. I hope Jane feels the consequences of killing MacAlister for longer than one episode. I hope the new people they bring in aren't just Ribsby and Van Pelt clones. I hope they expand the world beyond CBI and give the characters a life, friends and family outside of work. I hope Heller has talked with Robert and Michelle King, the creators and showrunners of The Good Wife, on how to write a procedural with rich characters and a rich world that is just as interesting outside of the case of the week as it is inside.

The Mentalist Season Six Spoilers

It seems the internets is buzzing with news on The Mentalist. Well, at least as much as the internets buzzes about The Mentalist. It isn't a show entertainment sites spend a lot of time talking about. But, a couple of pieces of interesting news has dropped and I thought I'd fill you in. Red John's identity will be revealed this calendar year.

Thank God. This is by far the best piece of news. Reading the subtext of what Heller says, the show might stay around after Red John is captured, contradicting Heller's repeated claim the show would end with the capture of Red John. I imagine the decision on whether or not The Mentalist gets a seventh season will be decided by how good the ratings are after Red John is caught and The Mentalist becomes a straight on procedural, along the lines of CSI, Criminal Minds and NCIS. Hopefully, ratings with be good enough for it to stick around. I like the characters and dynamic enough to watch it as a procedural. Of course, it would also be cool if they had a new overarching mystery each year, one not personally attached to anyone, sprinkled into the stand alone episodes. I guess we'll have to see how ratings go, and how well viewers like these other developments.

Owain Yeoman and Amanda Rigetti will leave the show sometime this season and their departure might be tied to Red John. I like Van Pelt and Grigsby but they are definitely the two it would make the most sense to ditch. They can go off into the sunset together (hopefully, Grace isn't a victim of Red John, though I could see that happening, too).

With the departure of two characters, two new characters are being introduced. From TV Line:

Matt, is there anything you can give us on the new FBI agents coming to The Mentalist? –Shena The two series regular roles being cast are Kim Fischer, an intelligent and (surprise!) attractive thirtysomething ex-homicide detective from Dallas who is not afraid to stand up for herself, and Nick Abbott, an African-American West Point grad/Iraq war vet who while calm in a crisis is not a fella to make angry.

Of course, rumor is this female agent will make the third part of the obligatory love triangle. Now that Red John will be out of the picture, they have to throw some other roadblock into Jane and Lisbon's way. I don't have a problem with that, per se, though I hope they resolve the relationship if this is the last season.

These nuggets of news have managed to get me excited about season six, which means I will probably be blogging about it. Sunday nights are going to be busy once again.