I've been a fiercely loyal fan of The Mentalist since the pilot. I've always enjoyed Patrick Jane and co.'s suspenseful crime-fighting mixed with lighthearted whodunit trickery, but I'll admit Wednesday night's series finale felt like not so much a wrap-up to the series as a whole, but more a second finale — a punctuation only on the show's final season and a half.
The first "series finale" came midway through Season 6, when Jane (Simon Baker) finally defeated his longtime nemesis, Red John. It was so satisfying. At that point, the show rebooted with a new location, new set, and new characters. Everything that's happened since then has been kind of immaterial to me. It's been Mentalist-lite. It just doesn't taste as good.
Jane's hunt for the murderous Red John was the backbone the show needed to ground it. The serial killer's menace was a looming presence for most of the series, a faceless specter that balanced out Jane's lighthearted mystery-solving antics and gave them context. Jane was motivated by pain and revenge, so every time he had some fun in an episode, you savored it with him because you knew it was hard-won. The Mentalist was undeniably a heavier show back then, but the gravity of Jane's tortured mission of vengeance kept me tied to it.
With the death of Red John came the death of Jane's motivating purpose. He was left aimless and adrift, despite finding love with FBI agent Teresa Lisbon (Robin Tunney). He seemed unsure of his next step in life, unsure of his vocation, and unsure of his budding relationship. I enjoyed Jane for his unwavering confidence and charisma (and, yeah, his vintage 1972 Citroën DS, too) — this rudderless guy driving an Airstream trailer simply wasn't as exciting.
The evil that had changed Jane's life forever quickly faded into a memory, too; Jane never even uttered the name "Red John" again on the show. The primary cat-and-mouse relationship of the series proved to have no lasting impact for any of the characters. In the end, the legacy of Red John's evil — once such an embedded part of the show's DNA — was dispensed with too easily.
All in all, the series was a fun ride for this fan. It concluded exactly as creator Bruno Heller promised, with happiness, old friends, a wedding, and even a pregnancy. But I can't say it was an emotional farewell. Ultimately, the finale didn't hit home because the show should've ended when Red John did.