It's finally happening. After five full seasons of tantalizing clues and near misses, we'll finally discover — before the end of the calendar year — who Red John is. Yahoo TV sat down with show creator Bruno Heller and stars Simon Baker and Robin Tunney to get their takes on the upcoming season.
WHEN will we find out who Red John is?
Heller won't say when, exactly, it will happen, but he does say, "You have to watch every episode from the start. If you're following the hunt for Red John, then every episode in the first run — I'm not saying where that run ends — is going to be critical. Every episode is stepping forward. Clues are revealed, revelations are made — big ones."
Go behind-the-scenes of "The Mentalist" Season 6:
WHO will survive?
Red John has left a lot of bodies in his wake, so naturally fans are worried some of their favorites may be next. Heller won't confirm rumors that actors Amanda Righetti and Owain Yeoman are leaving the series, but speculation remains, fueled by the addition of new cast members Emily Swallow ("Southland") and Rockmond Dunbar ("Prison Break") and a photo from their characters' Rigsby and Van Pelt's wedding (which could neatly tie up their story and allow for a graceful exit).
"As far as that story goes," assures Heller, "It's a nice romantic and sort of, generously human end. Not an end to that story, but it's for the fans of those two that wanted to see them. Their mums needed to see them get married."
Of course, they're not the only ones in jeopardy. Heller likens the season's heightened sense of danger to a citywide search that was narrowed to a street, then a house, "And they're in the same house as Red John and he's behind one of those doors. So whatever door they open has immediate and scary consequences."
Five years is a long time to keep us waiting — why is this the right time for the big reveal? Tunney noticed a shift in the way audiences felt about the mystery. "You can tell in the tone of people you meet in the grocery store. In Seasons 1, 2, 3, they're like, 'Who's Red John?' 'Who's Red John?' 'Love that blond guy.' 'Who's Red John?' Then it seemed, around last year, people were angry. 'Who is he?!' It wasn't curiosity anymore, they were angry." But she also says, "It's sort of our attempt to go, 'We kind of want to mix it up and make a different kind of show.' We've all been here for six years, and it's this thing of pushing it forward and not it being the same thing."
Watch a scene from the Season 6 premiere:
WHAT happens when they catch Red John?
For one thing, a conflict has been brewing between Lisbon and Jane. "These episodes are very much about how far is Jane willing to go and how far is Lisbon willing to let him go?" said Heller. "A lot of the talk about what Jane is going to do if and when he catches Red John has been theoretical, but now it's very much practical, moment-by-moment decisions that have to be made."
[Photos: Check Out Our Robin Tunney Slideshow]
Baker has been consumed by that problem for a while now: "When someone sets a goal and that goal becomes the purpose of their life, that drives them, that's the spine of who they are and we know them as that person who's trying to beat cancer or seek revenge or something and suddenly they attain that goal. I'm obsessed by the idea of then what happens to that person. If that's what drives you, if that's what you live for." That idea has made the actual identity of the killer irrelevant to Baker. "For me, psychologically, Red John is kind of the beast inside Patrick Jane's psyche."
WHERE do they go after they've finished with Red John?
The first question is obviously what does it mean for the relationship between Jane and Lisbon? For Heller, "It's one of those relationships born in crisis. That means that its very hard for either 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 in ways that they never have before."
Hellar continued, "They've 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 friends, as individuals, as a man and a woman. And all of that is going to be explored in depth."
[Related: 'The Mentalist' Premiere Recap: Wrong Number]
Tunney sees it as a classic workplace relationship between "People who are very good at their jobs and really bad at life." So, for her, they will be exploring whether Jane and Lisbon "have anything in common without Red John and this common super-objective."
Baker likens it to a circus act — appropriate given his character's carny background. "There's always the question of what's there when they climb down off the trapeze, off the high-wire and they're on solid terra firma and there is no dust to settle, no obstacle or hurdle. Do they look at each other and go, 'Jesus you're annoying.' Or do they look at each other and go 'Let's lay down and make love'?"
Check out another scene from "The Desert Rose":
"If we do indeed catch and get rid of Red John, which I'm not saying we will," said Heller with a well-practiced coyness, "But if we do, it's a huge weight and burden off the shoulders of Jane and Lisbon and everybody else. So it's a good life change. It gives them freedom and a sense of being able to breathe again. So, while there will be gripping arcs of the kind the audience is used to, we are going to take the opportunity to..."
"Open it up!" jumped in Baker. "The thing about the kind of odd success of the show is that tonally it's played in this light, entertainment-y area and then dances with this dark, earnest underbelly."
Heller agrees and that's part of the reason why he's not worried about losing the central plot point of the last five years. "When you have someone as good as these two are at — I don't know what you call it — but it's a kind of grace and a lightness of being, that's what the show becomes and that's been the secret to the show's success is precisely was was brought, not on the page, but by the people who came to it."
"The Mentalist" airs Sundays at 10 p.m. on CBS.