Book of reference: Blake’s poetry (mentioned in ‘Red Queen’ and ‘Strawberry and Cream’): as a result of his traumatic encounter in the previous season finale (see above). Quote from Bertram; explanation of the reference by RJ in the finale ‘Strawberry and Cream’.
One of the more decisive idea brought in season 3 is Jane coming to the realization that he’s addicted (the chasing RJ to avoid accepting the definitive loss of his family’s death, to being the smartest in the room to compensate and mask his deep-down lack of confidence, as Reviewbrain analyzed in the review for ‘Jolly Red Elf’, an episode where Jane is confronted to the victim’s dependence on alcohol and hiding behind the Santa’s persona).
This admission is directly related to the events in season 2. Indeed, the start of season 3 with the traumatic questions about what happened to Kristina and the fear that every person close to him might be in danger set a particular mind frame in Jane’s actions, as he tried to pull away, only to be brought closer again by his kidnapping before suffering a second shock at the end of ‘Red Moon’. That dramatic emotional roller-coaster is what brought him to search a bit of comfort and sincerity among a group of repentant addicts. Yet, this realization has been building up during the arc involving Bosco: the second season opened with the old-school cop’s arrival at the CBI and a murder committed by a gambler who stole money from her job and paid another woman to assume the responsibility (and killed her when she wanted to admit the truth). And, in the next episode, ‘The Scarlet Letter’, Bosco outright accused Jane of being an addict who needs help.
Besides, there are many, many examples of addiction in the course of the series (many thanks to Anomaly for his very useful contribution in composing this list):
-involving drugs: they caused the death of the judge’s daughter in ‘Pink Channel Suit’; it was the killer’s motive in ‘Bloodstream’. Later in season 4, plus Summer was doing drugs and was an adrenaline addict, along with Cho and his short-termed addiction to pain-killers; there was also drug use in the Ellis farm and Jane has been drinking belladonna in ‘Devil’s Cherry’.
- involving alcohol: Anomaly pointed out that the same situation is repeated seven times
- in S1 ‘Red Tide’: the victim’s mother died in a car accident caused by a drunk driver…
-… which was explicitly compared to Lisbon’s childhood and in S2 ‘Red Badge’, this dramatic past of hers was mentioned;
-in S3 ‘Red Moon’: Keeley’s parents were too killed in a car crash by an alcoholic driver (and her grandfather’s drunkenness gave her murderous boyfriend an alibi);
-in ‘Jolly Red Elf’: nurse Leilah Bloom’s parents were alcoholic and her mother died in a car crash too;
- in ‘Bloodhounds’, Valerie Bestin (the victim) hit a homeless man while driving drunk, which lead her to change her life in order to redeem herself to some extent;
-in S5 ‘Red Dawn, the son of a judge killed a woman (who happened to be a wife and a mother), while driving drunk, which lead the cop who covered for him to kill him when he start again driving while drunk;
-in S5 ‘RJ’s Rules’: Leelee Barlow’s parents died in a car crash (but no alcohol was mentioned).
The closeness between Keeley Farlow and Leeley Barlow both in name and in situation show how the situation has been inversed between the two episodes where they’re killed: in ‘Red Moon’, Jane gained his first true viable lead to catch RJ, while in the S5 finale, he comes the closest to unmasking him, but RJ starts hunting him down seriously.
Moreover, there are various other mentions of alcohol: the tequila in Lisbon’s drawer hinting at the ghost of alcoholism looming over her shoulder after Bosco’s death; Jane making her play the part of his drunk wife when undercover in an earlier episode; Jane faking his drunken breakdown to lure RJ out, both in ‘Red Rover, Red Rover’ in ‘The Crimson Hat’…
- involving other kinds of addiction: the gold fever in S3 ‘Red Gold’ for instance. There are also mentions of gambling at the beginning of S3, as noted, and in S1 ‘Red Handed’: the killer was addicted to playing poker which motivated him to commit crimes such as prostituting his wife to cover his debts and killing her father when he discovered it and step in to protect her; therefore, his obsession with playing cards lead him to destroy his family and to hurt his wife in two different ways –cf. the “bad husband” theme explained in Season 1.
That’s probably the first meaning to give to this addiction theme: like Jane’s quest, it’s an obsession causing destruction (and auto-destruction given Jane’s propensity to endanger himself to find RJ in ‘Red John’s Footsteps’). Also, like the victim’s in ‘Jolly Red Elf’, who identified with Santa in an unhealthy manner, his true motivation behind his addiction is to cling on something from his past –an happy memory for the man and revenge for his family’s murder for Jane), in order to give some meaning to the half life they’re currently living. But addiction don’t stop having negative results: 1) it produces isolation (Santa’s inability to return fully May’s love in ‘Jolly Red Elf’; Jane living in an hallucination because of the belladonna or cutting himself from his friends and from Lisbon while faking his alcoholism at the end of S4) and 2) it hurts the people coming close to you (hence the idea of the car crash).
The second possible interpretation thus involves the victim of those tragic and hurtful consequences: to some extent, the repetition of the car crash situation gives a precious insight on the victim’s point of view on addiction. That’s probably the message behind those occurrences reminding of Lisbon’s traumatic childhood, because her strong yet deeply vulnerable self, full of “damaged intensity” is the result of those consequences – that or the other hypothesis is that the writers suffer from a cruel lack of imagination…
Therefore, reminding of this fact and alluding to the potential temptation for her to drown her sorrows in a bottle like her father, is a way to suggest that’s she may become a victim of Jane’s obsession-addiction too. Indeed, in many of the episodes where this repetitive scenario is discernible, she is endangered in one way or another: in ‘Red Badge’, she was framed for a murder ; ‘Red Moon’ opens the arc about Todd’s murder and the team being investigated; in ‘Blood for Blood’ her father was again mentioned when Jane convinced her to bend the rules, even though there was no alcoholism involved; in ‘Red John’s Rules’, her feelings were out in the open and that hinted at her being in danger. There is a definite possibility that she would have to suffer from her closeness with the addicted Jane, even more during the first three seasons when there were the most allusions to the “drunk/car crash” scenario and when Jane was all-bent on revenge.
Yet, another recurring side of this theme is the willingness to get rid of these addictions. Two episodes so far have been centered on that notion: ‘Jolly Red Elf’ and ‘Days of Wine and Roses’. Cho too decided to stop depending on his painkillers, as Summer has seemingly stopped searching for adrenaline fuel when she wed a simple man who has a calming influence on her. Jane has gotten to teaching/hypnotizing people into letting go of their smoking habits (in ‘Blood for Blood’ and in ‘Something Rotten in Redmund’). There were also various examples of efforts to control one’s violent impulses: in ‘Red Ponies’, the anger management classes inflicted upon Lisbon in ‘Redacted’; the counter-example being the violent father who relished those instincts in ‘Blood for Blood’ and to some extent Wayne’s father. Still, the jockey in ‘Red Ponies’ is interesting because “everything in his life is screwed up, he wanted to fix it”, which announces how after shooting Carter Jane dealt with part of his thirst for violence, with his issues/anger, and he somewhat find a small measure of peace. Indeed, the belladonna enlightened one of the functions of addiction in his life: to get rid of the suffering by making him focus on a new goal. These examples of people who are (mostly) successful in getting free of their addiction bring some measure of hope for Jane.
On a side note, the remark made in ‘Days of Wine and Roses’ that getting rid of an addiction often results in becoming prey of another one (like compensating with sex for the victim), also hints at a whole tacit reflexion that keeps going on the topic, opening new possibilities for Jane.
2) The game metaphor
It may very well be a far shot and I might be reaching too far, but I wonder if there wasn’t an odd chess metaphor running trough season 3 as Jane has been shown to be a master at this game too in S5. Indeed, the game Jane and John are playing often involves taking people from their adversary’s side (the minions for Jane, Kristina for RJ). In season 2 Hightower was introduced; the “tower” is the former name of the Rook (which design is based on a tower). Coincidentally, the rook moves in a straight line, which may or may not remind of Madeline’s way of handling Jane’s trouble-making by simply threatening Lisbon’s career.
In the episodes of season 3, we have: Bret Stiles helps Jane in a convoluted way as he tells him where Kristina is, but doesn’t admit how he knows that information and flies out of the country to avoid getting interrogated (‘The Blood on His Hands’). He may pose as the Bishop, which moves along a diagonal.
For the Knight, there is an episode featuring horses: ‘The Red Ponies’.
The Queen is the only piece referred to in a more direct manner in ‘The Red Queen’ (which may also be constructed as an allusion to “Alice in Wonderland’ and to cards): like in a chess table, Hightower’s new status as a fugitive opened for Jane many possibilities.
The Pawns may be the minions, Todd Johnson (captured to follow up the chess metaphor) and Craig O’Laughlin. Interestingly, the ending of the season plays indeed as a chess game, each opponent making moves and retreating, elaborating strategies… Of course, if it works, the King is RJ, whose capture will signify the end of game. It’s also pretty intriguing that none of those supposed attribution is clearly labelled as black or white: it enlightens how ambiguous each character comes across during most of the season: viewers doubted Madeline in ‘Red Queen’ until the big reveal at the end of the episode and most characters were suspicious until the end of ‘Strawberry and Cream’.
Either way, this possible reference has the same meaning that the numerous allusions to sport in the course of the series: Craig was a former football player under Grace’s father’s supervision; Lisbon is wearing a football jersey (making her another player) in ‘Red Badge’. There are many references to baseball (like Jane reading stats in front of Haffner, or the whole settling of ‘Throwing Fire’), to football (The Redshirt), and so one. Of course, those hints to the game RJ and Jane are playing, to win over the other … Hence RJ telling Jane that he has “changed the rules” at the end of ‘Red John’s Rules’).
3) Of vanishing victims and false accusations
The structure of the season indicates the state of Jane’s investigation on RJ. Indeed, there are some occurrences hinting at Jane’s searching for the disappeared Kristina:
- E1- ‘Red Sky at Night, they’re searching for the kidnapped Dublin after Bertram has been introduced;
-E6- ‘Pink Channel Suit’ : the body of the judge’s daughter is missing;
- later in E8 ‘Ball of Fire’, Jane himself is kidnapped.
Those instances show the importance of the traumatic shock Jane has suffered at knowing Kristina was at the hands of the serial killer, and hints at how his investigation has more or less come to a halt for lack of conclusive clues. The consequences of this shock, namely distancing himself, end when he’s taken himself by a gun-wielding psycho.
After ‘Red Moon’ and Todd’s death, Jane is given a new promising lead. Then, three false accusations pave the way to ‘Red Queen’ when Hightower is framed for his murder.
- in E12- ‘Bloodhounds’ Dr Montague thinks the Caveman killer is the culprit, which gives Jane the idea to forge evidence.
- in E13- ‘Red Alert’ the husband, who is held responsible for his wife’s murder (and for the victim’s of the case) decides to take hostages in order to prove his innocence. – in E14- Blood for Blood’ : Van Pelt is accused of having failed in protecting the victim, while later Jane convinces Lisbon to frame the bad cop for the murder in order to protect a young girl who killed her father who was threatening her.
4) Of religion and guns
Since the pilot, religion seems to play a significant part in the show: Jane and Grace talk about faith, the afterlife and Jane tells her he hopes he doesn’t have a soul. Later in the series, the theme which started as a hint at Jane’s guilt and thirst for redemption is progressively linked to Red John too.
Season 2 brought its fair share of Christian elements with the nickname Saint Teresa, Angela’s name, and, in ‘Red Badge’ the cross on the wall is the detail that betrayed Carmen, because he couldn’t refrain from mentioning it for his symbolical meaning (God forgave McTeer but Lisbon did not). Of course, as a counterpoint we were introduced to the sect Visualize in ‘Red All Over’.
But in season three those allusions are organized in an arc leading to the finale: the Saint Sebastian medallion that Byron offered to Jane while stating that the Saint helps people in pain, and that it gave him a lot of strength; the medallion the Cash In Motion employee look at in the beginning of ‘Strawberry and Cream’, then Lisbon praying and holding her cross when she was strapped to a bomb too. Meanwhile, Gupta was telling Jane he was a deeply religious man in a way Jane wouldn’t understand, a moment which will be implicitly reminded by Jane’s first talk with Lorelei and the conversation both he and Lisbon will hand in ‘Red John’s Rules’ with Sean Barlow.
Those religious ornaments might almost work as amulets against another object given to Jane in the beginning of the season: the gun he got as a gift from another vengeful husband ‘Red Carpet Treatment’. This gun was in dire contradiction with the reconciliation proclaimed by said husband and with the religious allusions (Karen Cross; a candle was used to flush him out, which reminds of Kristina’s last appearance). Meanwhile, other moments in this episode paved the way for this meaningful gift like Jane meeting him up at the shooting range, him handling Rigsby’s gun to suspects.
Beside, the gun is alluded to in a very subtle way: as the episode title refers to a “carpet”, there are two other occurrences where a carpet is linked to the idea of hiding something: in ‘Pink Channel Suit’, Jane tries to sneak away the judge’s carpet rolled over his shoulder to simulate a dead body; in ‘Redacted’, the fortune deposited in the victim’s hands has been invested in an ancient carpet laying on the floor. This latter takes place while Jane is trying to avoid letting LaRoche know that he sent Culpepper to steal his list of suspects, an event leading to the finale where Jane is to shoot Carter with the gun… Therefore, this firearm truly appears as a counterpart of the religious elements in the season, following the same notion of duality that seems to accompany many points of the show.
Later, religion keeps being an important part of the show background : in S4 (‘Pretty Red Balloon’), Jane and Lisbon have a playful discussion about going to hell after Jane made amends with his past as a fake psychic, broaching once again the concept of moral dilemma. But the second meaning of this theme has been developed little by little in the course of the series and concerns a cult-like organisation with a hidden agenda centred on a charismatic leader. First it was Visualize and Bret Stiles, then it has become more and more apparent that RJ has created a similar cult with brainwashed followers eager to kill and sometimes die for him. Thus, on one hand we have Jane and his hope of redemption and of building a new life (cf. the imaginary Charlotte, having grown up, comes back to tell him he’s forgiven and to tell him to get over his obsession). Indeed, as the years have been drafting by, he no longer seeks revenge only, but also peace of mind; it’s apparent in his progress towards faith: at first he only denies everything religious; then he shows more tolerance to Lisbon’s beliefs (admitting he would pray too if he knew to who he could address his prayers in ‘Strawberry and Cream), even though he’s still mocking her ( yelling “this is God!” after sneaking in the church in ‘The Crimson Hat’) after he sent a flower on the sea as a message to his dead wife and daughter (his first sign of actual grieving in ‘Blood and Sand’); at last, he imagines his daughter in an hallucination reminding of the after-life. That progress doesn’t necessarily mean he’s on his way to believing, only that that hurt and defensive rawness he showed towards religion, the after-life and every other form of belief he preyed upon for years as a conman who feigned talking to dead people is very slowly starting to heal. He who once gently reproached to Lisbon to need « magic in her life », needs some too, if we are to believe his childlike and hopeful dreams/hallucinations.
On the other hand, all this path towards accepting his fate is opposed to the talk in the limo in ‘The Crimson Hat’ about right and wrong is about morals and religion. It’s also connected to the debate Jane and Lisbon have been having for years about justice vs. law (‘Blood for Blood’). In RJ’s perspective exposed in the limo, he wants to free his minions of their conscience (like that guilt that is weighting Jane down) and to convince them that every action, good or bad, is equal since there is no afterlife to pay for them. To some extent, that philosophy comes rather close to Jane’s point of view in the pilot, yet here he disagreed with the serial killer, telling him to go to hell. Then, the discussion is again started over by Sean Barlow, who stated that Jane is a conman without any kind of faith like his grand-father before him (and unlike himself who claims to be the real deal), making Lisbon agree that it was a sad thing… and paving the way to the pseudo-revelation that RJ himself is a psychic too.
Book of reference ‘HAMLET’ (mentioned in ‘Something’s Rotten in Redmund’)
Movie of reference ‘THE WIZZARD OF OZ’ (mentioned in ‘Ruby Slippers’): see below
1) The butterfly
The first episode featuring a butterfly is ‘Blood and Sand’ at the beginning of the fourth season. It is only a brief moment, but its meaning is powerful: the insect brings levity to the protagonist, a moment of calm. It expresses the temptation for Jane to let the tiger lie down after being released for Carter’s murder, and is characteristic of the “bubble” Reviewbrain put forward to explain this period of light-heartedness. While the episode started with this butterfly, it ended with the flower Jane sends floating on the water to symbolically reach his wife and daughter, thought he remarked sometime ago in ‘Cackled-Bladder Blood’ that he never even went to the cemetery (it was Danny who was bringing flowers). Even the ritual revealed in ‘Red Rover, Red Rover’ (S4), that he reserves a table for the anniversary of their death to drink some Bloody Mary as if he was with them imitates their presence, whereas the scene on the beach shows acceptance of their loss. Plus, the butterfly contrasts with the worn RJ accused him of being in his letter: it shows that Jane has grown, that he’s starting to find the strength to grieve at last.
In season 5, that theme is developed in ‘Devil’s Cherry’ as there’s a wonderful butterfly on an orchid captivating Jane, which probably constitutes his first hallucination under the influence of the belladonna. After regaining his senses, he and Lisbon set a fake mad tea party to catch the killer and there’s another butterfly painted on her cup… It hints that, in spite of his return to sanity, the craving to end his misery and to gain back of certain levity persists. It’s also interesting that both living butterflies are associated to a flower. It enlightens the meaning that’s to be given to the orchid (more on this later).
Same with the sort of butterfly that was the motive of the murder in ‘Red in Tooth and Claw’. Even though it was linked to an horrible crime, the butterfly (or rather butterflies given that the insect Jane stole was among many others) echoes Jane’s cheerful mood in this episode: he spontaneously buys gift for the whole team, is eager to spend time with Lisbon and even teach Bertram to better hide his tells at poker in the hopes that their boss would allow Grace to go to her training program.
2) The ocean
Like it happened with the religion theme, there were hints at the ocean holding a specific symbolism too since the first season. Two perspectives are discernible.
First, the ocean seems to evoke the notion of danger: some bright blue fishes in a fish tank were the first thing we saw of the dinner between Grace and the team in the pilot. Plus, blue was a pretty noticeable color during that scene (blue napkins, blue lights), which was explainable by the fact that they were eating lobster (it was probably a seafood restaurant), but which also contrasted with the pretty meaningful red and yellow elements surrounding the characters.
Besides, in S1 ‘Miss Red’, the victim was hung to the anchor of his boat; in S1 ‘Ladies in Red’ a rhythmic pass code was concealed in a painting representing a boat and opened the secret door hiding the body, while later the mistress was hiding in a yacht; in S3 ‘Every Rose has Its Thorns’, Erica shot her husband at the marina and kicked him into the water and, later, in S4 ‘Always Bet On Red’ a divorce attorney was killed in the explosion of his speed boat in front of Cho, Lisbon and Jane, and his remains were partially eaten by a shark (bringing on again the idea of some predator and linking it with water). And in S2 ‘The Scarlet Letter’ the victim kept tiny bottles with sand from different beaches as souvenirs, and of course Jane just had to find the one labelled ‘Malibu’, where he lived with his family and where Angela and Charlotte were killed.
But the sea also allowed Jane to feel a kind of serenity more than once: in S1E3 ‘Red Tide’, he enjoyed building a sand castle, and his inner child made itself know in his interaction with the little girl at the beach; in ‘Redline’ (S2), during a walk on the beach with billionaire Mashburn, he picked up a shell and told the other man he would keep it. He did the same thing in S4 ‘Blood and Sand’ with a shinny stone which he gave to Lisbon, while telling her she needed a hobby. In S3 ‘Jolly Red Elf’, he gleefully chased after a seagull after leaving Minelli and May together, while he was enjoying the sun at the marina in ‘Every Rose Has Its Thorns’. The ocean brings out his more carefree self, but it’s also remarkable that three of those occurrences involve the start of something new and promising to some extent: a possible hobby for Lisbon (which would make her off time nicer), introducing a friend who is obviously unhappy to a woman who just lost a man she loved (gracing the both of them with a second chance), then considering the possibility to start finding love again himself (even if it was just for one of his schemes and if he ended up talking about his wife in his video… it was a start, a meaningful moment after what happened with Kristina).
Indeed, season four brought a new intensity to this theme: ‘Blood and Sand’ was especially outstanding for the very first step in the grieving process Jane took at the end of the episode. By trying to send them a reminder of him and therefore accepting that his wife and daughter were no longer alive, Jane also admitted that he could allow himself to get a new life. The slightly bittersweet ‘So Long and Thanks For All The Red Snapper’ achieved a transition concerning the ocean: the surfer killing his friend to keep his treasure, the unfaithful wife both brought out the notion of betrayal, as well with the news about Lisbon breaking Greg’s heart years before. At the end, still, the lack of true regrets from her part, except for an understandable questioning of her life, and the fact that her ex-fiancé would try to mend his relationship with his wife, improved its conclusion. But the fact remains that the title refers to the end of the world in ‘The Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy’ (the song ‘So Long And Thanks For All The Fish’) and the separation it implies (“so long”) introduce those aspects in ‘Red Rover, Red Rover’: Lisbon’s daily world is about to end and Jane will leave her and his position at the CBI. Six months later, the theme is again expanded in ‘The Crimson Hat’. Undeniably, that “new life” idea alluded to at the beginning of the season and Jane’s departure were meant to make Lorelei appear as a promising potential new girlfriend for Jane. Yet, again, as those aspects were linked to the ocean theme, Lorelei’s name already hinted at her true nature: a mermaid who seduces men before bringing them to their end.
Amusingly, those two aspects associated with the sea were again represented in ‘Red Lacquer Nail Polish’, just before Lorelei’s violent return in ‘There Will Be Blood’- and some time after she got out of the water naked, as a true mermaid in ‘Red Sails in The Sunset’: when they’re in front of the supposed victim’s boat at the marina, Jane tried to convince Lisbon to get on the boat twice. It was revealed later that he suspected that the woman they thought was dead was aboard, but the attitude of the two partners is no less interesting: while Jane is eager and enthusiastic, Lisbon is really defiant and hints pretty heavily at her fear of the ocean…
Last, this theme is very closely related to the “fish and fisherman” one, which will be analysed for season 5: many sea-themed episodes contain elements of both –like Lorelei’s character-, but it seemed to me that those two sides of basically the same coin had a slightly different meaning. While the ocean gives mostly a glimpse in Jane’s state of mind, the fisherman references tend to be more directed towards RJ.
3) The blinking red light
The ‘Blinking Red Light’ guides us viewers through the arc featuring a shifting in Jane’s tactic: it was actually the first change in rules he introduced. He started again a game which had seemed to come to a halt after Carter’s death.
The first time it came into view was to emphasize Jane’s crucial decision at a highly symbolic moment. At the TV studio where Karen Cross was interviewing him and Panzer, Jane realized he wouldn’t manage to trick the clever serial killer, and paused at seeing the light meaning that the camera was filming. At that precise instant, he decided to kill two birds with one stone, and lured Panzer into angering RJ as he was once again “slandered in the media”. There’s no doubt Jane’s hesitation at seeing the little red light was him weighing his decision at being reminded of his own decisive interview years before and of Kristina’s more recent tragic experience.
Of course, the consequences were worse than he had imagined: RJ interpreted Jane’s choice as an overture and then Panzer’s murder as a favour he was doing to his adversary. Hence the blinking red light, which also evokes the idea of alert (at least to viewers who aren’t used to being filmed…). It provokes a series of lies from Jane; among those, there was a fake suicide letter which Jane used to try and frame the father of the first victim –who had just taken his own life- for RJ’s murder. In that letter, Jane exposed his very own feelings, feeding the reflexion on revenge, this time as a pursuit of peace of mind, as a kind of redemption, and no longer as an act of pure anger and hatred. It explains the way Jane acted with Carter, a far cry from torturing cutting the man up like he promised Lisbon he would (teary eyes, « wait », hesitation)… Jane has achieved to make a step forward in the grieving process.
The second time that red light has been blinking away, it was behind the stores in Luther’s office when he was having a discussion with Darcy. There was no explanation as to why a camera would be filming them (except of course because they’re actually filming a TV show, that is…), but it enlightens the consequences of Jane’s lies into covering up for the serial killer he claimed to have executed. Both his boss and the FBI agent began having their doubts about him, and are suspecting that he’s working for RJ or even that he’s RJ himself, because of the personal involvement Jane showed in getting Panzer.
The third and last time was in front of Jane while he was sitting in the limo in ‘The Crimson Hat’: that scene constituted the conclusion of the Panzer arc and its last and most dangerous consequence. RJ has been reaching out for him, after Jane seemed to have asked for his help. As Jane refuses his offer of friendship, RJ makes a speech stating that there’s no right or wrong, which must be part of his doctrine since Lorelei keeps nodding her agreement, but which may also refer to Jane’s ambiguous position concerning Panzer. He had indeed tried to explain to Lisbon that he had done everything to stop the man from killing again, that he was seeking justice, but the fact remains that he indirectly committed a murder, with the help of the man who killed his family. The limo scene ended with RJ understanding that he had been used and ordering Lorelei to teach him a lesson by cutting two of his fingers off.
4) Dorothy vs. Shakespeare
Dorothy from ‘The Wizzard of Oz’ was alluded to many times in the show : the season 2 premiere, Minelli called out Jane’s lack of realism by telling him when the Red John case was given to Bosco :« you’re not in Kansas anymore Dorothy». Then Jane explained that the victim (who was actually alive and under CBI protection) was “Wicked Witch of the West dead” in ‘The Redshirt’ in S4. in ‘Ruby Slippers’, the movie is used as a background for Archie Bloom’s storyline, giving the young man hope for starting a new life while faking his death. His fate allows an implicit comparison with Jane’s, giving us viewers a bit of hope that his path on his own yellow brick road towards revenge would also lead him towards a new life under Lisbon’s tutelary protection, like Glinda (see the review for ‘Ruby Slippers’ for more detail).
That ray of glittering optimism is nonetheless counterbalanced by Shakespeare’s tragedies. Jane told Lisbon he could recite the Bard’s play in their chronological order as part of his memory palace (‘Fugue in Red’) but most importantly two major characters from his tragedies are mentioned.
First, Hamlet is directly referenced in ‘Something’s Rotten in Redmund’. Indeed four major scenes from the play may or not be alluded to in the show, in a different order.
a) The scene featuring the king’s ghost urging his son Hamlet to seek revenge upon his murder was represented on screen with Jane as the vengeful ghost. The knowledgeable consultant can recite the play from memory which is highly symbolic given that the main themes of the tragedy are revenge and its consequence, madness. Jane’s sanity is at risk during this season: ‘Red Rover, Red Rover’ ended with the lingering doubts about Jane’s breakdown, consecutive from the visit of his personal ghosts (his lonely celebration of the anniversary of his family’s murder). And, like the prince had faked madness to get an opportunity to get to his father’s murderer, Jane has been faking his breakdown to get a lead to reach his enemy: “Though this be madness, yes there is method in ’t” indeed… (Act II, scene 2).
b) Polonius’ death might be alluded to by Luther’s who was killed by accident after being hidden by RJ’s accomplices in the back of the limo, like Polonius was slain behind the arras. Like Darcy thought she was shooting at RJ, Hamlet wondered if it was the king, his enemy, whom he stabbed. Both Polonius and Wainwright had wanted to untangle something that was well beyond their understanding: the old lord had been wanting to get insight into Hamlet’s real thoughts, because he was faithful to the king’s authority and wanted to protect his daughter whom the prince claimed he loved, while the young supervisor wanted to know Jane’s true intentions and was interested in protecting the CBI reputation (he wanted to help Jane when he learnt he was arrested, but one of his reasons were the plummeting crime solving rates) : “Thou wretched, rash, intruding fool, farewell!” (Act III, scene 4)…
Both deaths were then collateral damage in a scheme, which had some sad consequences: Ophelia took hard the death of her father in her lover’s hands and become crazy, which is comparable to some extent to Darcy’s breakdown after shooting Luther, although there were no feelings involved.
Beside, it may be reaching too far, by the tragic character that is Ophelia may also remind of Lisbon’s deep sadness at losing contact with Jane after his breakdown: she took it hard too, became sleepless and was seen walking next to a river (Ophelia drowned). Either way, may it be intended as a reference or not, both women suffered as collateral damage too, for attaching themselves to a vengeful dangerous man -as Hamlet put it at Ophelia’s burial “Yet have I something in me dangerous, Which let thy wiseness fear” (Act V, scene 1).
c) At the churchyard (Act V, scene 1), Hamlet holding Yorick’s skull contemplated the vacuity and fragility of human life; Jane, after meeting a little girl who was bringing him a message of his nemesis (are you giving up?) at the cemetery, mulled over the uselessness of his nine years long quest. After talking to the graveyard director (like Hamlet chatting with the men digging Ophelia’s grave), another visit to the cemetery to bury a perp alive completed the settling for his questioning and led to his fake breakdown.
d) This leads us to the final scene of the play and its counterpart on the show, aka the expected confrontation between RJ and Jane… which didn’t actually happen in “The Crimson Hat’ since it was Luther at the back of the limo with a phone. Indeed, like the murderous king, RJ has chosen treachery –as he was never here in the first place-and got other people to fight the protagonist, letting Lorelei and the goon accompanying her take the brunt of the situation. Both he and Jane were trying to do bodily arm to the other, like in the play, yet none of them died.
On a side note, I may very well be overreaching again, but Laertes’ speech in front of the dying Hamlet rang a bell:
“No medicine in the world can do thee good;
In thee there is not half an hour of life;
The treacherous instrument is in thy hand,
Unbated and envenom’d: the foul practise
Hath turn’d itself on me lo, here I lie,
Never to rise again” (Act V, scene 2).
Is that me, or that description matches relatively well Rebecca’s last moments? Even the green color of the substance RJ put on her hand reminds of the “juice of cursed hebenon in a vial” (Act I, scene 5). Of course, what Hamlet was holding was the cup, while she was in direct contact with the poison, but since she was the first minion RJ took care of silencing, the similarity may prove interesting…
Either way, the summary Shakespeare put in Hamlet’s mouth upon dying also sums up Jane’s story:
“so shall you hear
Of carnal, bloody, and unnatural acts,
Of accidental judgments, casual slaughters,
Of deaths put on by cunning and forced cause,
And, in this upshot, purposes mistook
Fall’n on the inventors’ reads: all this can I
Truly deliver.” (Act V, scene 2)
The second tragedy mentioned in the show, Macbeth, is centred on yet another crime. The character which seems to hold the writers’ interest in Lady Macbeth: in ‘Red Hot’, it was the name Grace gave to the fake widow conspiring with her husband to kill Mashburn. In ‘Cheap Burgundy”, Jane voluntarily misquoted a line from the play to trick the Shakespeare lover killer into confessing his knowledge.
Beside, the allusions to the lady enlighten the chiasm which structures the two parts of the second season: after Bosco’s team had been murdered by order of RJ, in ‘His Red Right Hand’, Lisbon washed away the blood on her shirt, whereas Jane’s guilt towards his wife showed during his date with Kristina when she went to the washroom to wash his hands, before RJ’s second interference.
The reference to lady Macbeth is probably a way to emphasize Jane’s guilt indeed: the lady instigated the murder committed by her husband. She pushed him to act on his vilest instincts; as a result, she was eaten up by guilt and became insane, believing her victim’s blood was literally on her hands and then continually washing them. Jane on the other hand believes deep down that he’s responsible for his family’s death since he planted into the actual killer the idea to hurt him. Like it was the case with Hamlet, the notion of madness (caused by guilt this time, not revenge) also prevails, hinting both at Jane’s inner thoughts and at the breakdown at the end of the season. Of course, both references accredited the idea that Jane really had fallen apart, which was wrong, thus thoroughly tricking the viewer…
The other notion brought up by the mention of Lady Macbeth is the focus on bloody hands (‘His Red Right Hand’, ‘Red Handed’, ‘The Blood on His Hands’) which is later alluded to in season 5 with the revelation that Jane has shaken RJ’s hand, symbolically bloodied by the murder of his family. That’s the major lead which allows him to come up with his list on suspects.
Book of reference ‘ALICE IN WONDERLAND’ (mentioned in ‘Devil’s Cherry’): a retreat in an imaginary world where everything is possible as a way to escape reality (see the review for ‘Devil’s Cherry’ for more detail).
Movie of reference ‘NORTH BY NORTHWEST’ (mentioned in ‘Red Sails in The Sunset’): characterizes Jane’s escapade with Lorelei; adds a shad of ambiguity (the positive part) to RJ’s girlfriend.
Second book of reference ‘A TALE OF TWO CITIES’ (read by Jane in ‘Red Velvet Cupcakes’ and probably in Cho’s hands in ‘Red John’s Rules’): troubled times filled with suspicion, revenge and family (see the review for ‘Red Velvet Cupcakes’ for more detail).
Most of the themes used in the recent season are more developed versions of some already present in older episodes. Often, a nuance or a new direction is added. Also, many themes are woven together, hence the several paintings/ pictures/… hanging on the walls in the background and alluding to some element or another: it’s the fastest and most discreet fashion to point out something without interfering with the episode plot: for instance, there are a painting representing roses behind Bertram in ‘Red in Tooth and Claw’ (E14), some marines and landscapes paintings in ‘Red Lacquer Nail Polish’ (E15), a fossil behind Lennon in ‘There Will Be Blood’ (E16), the poster for the musical in ‘Behind The Red Curtain’ (E18), a fish in ‘Red Letter Day’ (E19), some red posters along with bricks walls in ‘Red Velvet Cupcakes’ (E20), the painting of an orchid-looking flower and a lute on the RJ crime scene (E22)…
Although they’re certainly less detailed than other themes, we can still find some allusions to birds during this season, particularly in ‘Red Lacquer Nail Polish’: Elise Vogelsong has gone through tragedy in her younger years and it has hardened her soul, making it a viable option for her to embrace a criminal career to get herself a better life, just like Lorelei did, essentially… Beside, Elise’s name was German in origin, just like hers, which comes from a Rhine mermaid –alluded to by the boat Elise was hiding into. The name of that boat, ‘Songbird’ is a kind of transposition of Vogelsong, “Vogel” meaning “bird” in German: Jane told RJ’s girl at the end of the previous season that he’d make her sing like a bird.
But there might be another meaning to birds: could they be possibly linked to a kind of bad omen concerning her and RJ at the beginning of the season, before Jane’s plans for his criminal lover started to unfold? When Jane was depressed because of Lorelei’s disappearance in ‘Devil’s Cherry’, one of the biggest clue to solving the case he got from his hallucination is the eagle claw the cleaning lady gave him as a protection against a warning: “If black ants enter your house, then someone in your family might die.” This refers to Charlotte of course, which Jane imagined by his side in this episode, but also to the fear that he may be endangering his CBI family, as he confessed to Lisbon at the very beginning of S3. And there’s also the –admittedly remote-possibility that the title ‘The Crimson Hat’ might allude from afar to the symbolical warning Ahab received before the catastrophic ending of ‘Moby Dick’: narrator Ishmael interpreted as a bad omen that a sea-hawk removed Ahab’s hat and flew away with it; if there was really an allusion to this hat in the title, it was foreshadowing of the ending of the season (the plan failed and Luther died like Ahab’s crew) and to the bird singing Jane promised to his lover at the very end… This classic association of birds and omen here might be overreaching, still, after all, symbolical warnings have appeared in the sky in the show storyline: the smiley drawn in the blue sky in the finale of the first season, the victim last seen riding to the moon which impressed the witness in ‘Red Moon’…
Last but definitely not least, Brett Partridge’s name evokes two dead birds in a painting by Blake (‘A Brace of Partridge’), which might connect the creepy tech/ suspect with RJ from the pilot, may it be a teasing or as a serious hint that he is involved with something sinister.
2) Fish and fisherman
Continuing the theme of the ocean developed since the very first episodes of the series, a lot of attention has been given to fishes and fishermen. The sea theme which has been announcing Lorelei’s entrance in the storyline in the previous season takes then an even deeper meaning in season 5. Nonetheless, fishermen are not new to the storyline: the fish tank in the pilot and Moby Dick in S1; in S2 ‘Redemption’, Jane was comparing a stake-out to fishing (both require patience and a bait), going as far as bringing foldable chairs for him and the guys, then in ‘Redline’, he was fishing while waiting for Mashburn to return in his speed boat. In the third season, he has been asking for Minelli’s help with LaRoche’s list: his retired boss was fishing and drinking and Jane chastised him by calling him a « fish killer ».
In those occurrences, fishing is a variant of hunting, only fishing doesn’t require a pursuit, but patience, a quality Jane has been showing in his quest…
Still, in this season, fishing and ocean seem to be more allusions to Lorelei, like in ‘Red Lacquer Nail Polish’ such as marines hanging on the halls of the mansion (and contrasting with the expressionist landscapes painted by the nephew), and the ‘Songbird’ boat. Indeed, her namesake is a water creature, hence RJ’s girl coming naked from the sea in the early morning in ‘Red Sails in The Sunset’. The title of the episode refers to her obviously, making her the lover of a fisher that she awaits onshore patiently, while a storm is coming. Indeed, as Lisbon remarked in ‘The Crimson Hat’, Jane was using himself as a bait back then, feigning to give his nemesis what he wanted in order to catch him; yet, Lisbon wondered who was the fish and who the fisherman, which very probably triggered further the fisherman metaphor.
Therefore, Lorelei’s ambiguity is further enlightened in ‘There Will Be Blood’: she doesn’t truly belong either to the fish world not to among the fishers. Indeed, she kills them, like she did Lennon (who loved fishing and killed women using fishing lines): meaning that she refuses eventually to play either in RJ’s or in Jane’s game.
Like the hunting comparison again, who is baiting who is proving more and more complex between the two men. That’s certainly why there were more allusions to fishes at the end of the season. One was visible on the saloon wall in ‘Red Letter Day’ and Jane used a fish tank to trick the minion in ‘Red John’s Rules’. That shifting towards implicitly starting to ambiguously identify Jane with the fish instead of the fisherman foreshadows the change of rules stated by the serial killer in the finale: Jane has been actively chasing him for years, while the man has been playing with him and teasingly eluding his schemes, but now he’s trying to hurt him too, until one of them manages to “catch” the other.
More intriguing are the references to cherries that are present in the title of three episodes: ‘Devil’s Cherry’, ‘Cherry Picked’ and ‘Black Cherry’. Like the citrus, this fruit seems to have a rather negative meaning, hence the ominous color red it’s associated with.
Indeed, in the first of those three episodes, it refers to belladonna. The drug allows him to see Charlotte, who urges him to let go of his revenge, but he tells her he can’t, pretty much like he declared to Lisbon in ‘Red Dawn’ years before. So, even though his hallucination confirms that he’s eager to get a new life when he’s at his lowest after Lorelei had been taken away, his denial also indicates that he’s still not ready for a change of plans. Metaphorically speaking, the possibility of avenging his family is probably the cherry/the bait his personal ‘Devil’ is dangling in front of him: to kill RJ, by finding Lorelei -then maybe start anew (the cherry on top), who knows… It’s another side of his addiction (thus the drug), the temptation to follow through, in opposition of what’s represented by the orchid and offered to him in the same episode.
Then, he symbolically picked the cherry in the episode bearing this name: he gets a serious start on his investigation on Lorelei’s disappearance by interrogating the guards who might have helped. He’s chosen the temptation he wanted to chase. And it inevitably leads to ‘Black Cherry’, just after he got Lorelei out of jail and managed to gain part of her trust and plant the seeds of doubt in her mind… He also got the most serious lead he ever had with the words he had let slip about him having already met and shaken hands with his nemesis: he’s irrevocably in march towards his goal and the finale. His plan with Lorelei had started to come to fruition.
4) Orchids and other flowers
Still, the cherry theme can’t be fully understood without his counterpart, the allusions to flowers. In the end of the season 3 already, flowers had a particular meaning: Carter characterized Angela’s smell partly with lavender and Jane reminded recently (‘Red, White and Blue’) that smells are memory triggers. So the lavender, among other things, was proof that the man was RJ (or was informed of the details of the murder as it turned), because those smells characterized his family.
Another meaningful flower is the hydrangea featured in ‘Rhapsody in Red’: a bunch of them were given to the victim to congratulate her for her talent and success, yet they were taken by her killer out of jealousy. A petal at the crime scene was all it took to lead Jane to the perp who used the flowers to get him to confess. And he gave one to Lisbon too in passing. Therefore, the flowers meant:
- A success taken away by someone malignant. That’s what happened to the victim and that would be what happened to Jane in the next episode ‘Strawberry and Cream’: he got to accomplish his revenge, yet it wasn’t RJ that he actually killed and the thing played like a trap to get him out of the way (Carter’s gun was taken to make Jane pass as an obsessive cold-blooded killer).
- Gratitude, as Jane was still appreciative of Lisbon’s help in ‘Redacted’. One of the actual meanings of the flower is indeed: “thankfulness to a person for their understanding nature”.
- A hint at Grace and Craig planning to get married at the end of the season, since hydrangeas are often used in ceremonies.
Still, the most important flower running through the season 5 is the orchid. There was an interesting occurrence last season when Grace hung the necklace symbolising her shattered romance with Craig on the white orchid on her desk: it represented the grief she allowed herself to feel for him and her reconciliation with her choices regarding her dead fiancé. It’s plausible that the ones in season five were inspired by this peace-giving flower, since it looks like orchids have a close enough meaning concerning Jane. They indicate a new start, a change of perspective, or at least a willingness to get a new life at long last. It’s just simmering under the surface even when Jane is still influenced by Lorelei’s shadow. It appears in ‘Devil’s Cherry’ both with the ‘Blue Orchid’ and the white one he saw with the butterfly.
Later, the theme is again hinted at in ‘Red Lacquer Nail Polish’ with the reference to Nero Wolfe, an orchid lover detective. There may have been vague references to the novels by Rex Stout previously (like ‘The Red Box’ which is the title of a book; the setting of ‘Red Herring’ reminds somewhat of ‘Too Many Cooks’ and ‘Flame Red’ might have been inspired from afar by ‘The League Of Frightened Men’); still, the direct reference in S5 is more significant. Indeed, there’s an allusion to a novel where Wolfe affronts his own nemesis… and wins, which gives some hope for Jane. Furthermore, the hint is reinforced by the supposed victims’ name in ‘Not One Red Cent’: Goodwin is the name of Nero Wolfe’s assistant and the narrator of his stories.
In ‘There Will Be Blood’, Jane meets Lorelei at Orchid Lane and is later joined by Lisbon: it’s in this house that he is presented the most clearly with the choice he has to make. Either he follows Lorelei and gets the best chance he ever had to come close to RJ, or he choice to open up to Lisbon, to gain her trust and to accept her partnership. While he isn’t capable to completely let go of Lorelei and his revenge, he’s made after his argument with Lisbon a meaningful effort to tell her the truth.
Also, the “new beginning” meaning is stressed on by the flower Wayne gave to Grace when she returned to the bullpen. It represents his budding hopes to start a new relationship with her, which later bloom in ‘Red Velvet Cupcakes’.
The orchids are again present in ‘Red John’s Rules’ with a most tragic nuance. There is a flower resembling an orchid on a painting in Eileen’s motel room and another yellow orchid-looking one when Jane talks to his carnie friends (which will ultimately lead him to Barlow): Jane’s hopes for something new are already compromised by RJ and it’s too late to let go of his chase.
2 – Yellow flowers
As Anomaly pointed out “ there is another flower, not quite as prominent as orchids, nonetheless found everywhere in Visualize HQ and that is Strelitzia (bird of paradise), in the lecture hall where Stiles gives his lectures in this episode and in 2×20,’Red All Over’, best seen in a long shot of the meeting Jane and Lisbon had with Jason Cooper in 5×13, ‘The Red Barn’”. Those are rather hard to interpret because they may very well just be part of the setting they chose as the Visualize headquarter without it having a specific meaning. Yet, they fit with the very sophisticated yet a bit odd and worrying atmosphere we found around Bret Stiles. And an interesting detail is their yellow and orange color, which remind of many flowers connected with RJ. Either way, they are a good choice to characterize the secret-laden cult leader.
Indeed, as it has been remarked in the part concerning citrus, there are several yellow flowers foretelling RJ’s presence around Jane: the bunch posed between the first victim’s naked legs in ‘His Red Right Hand’ and echoed by the other Jane found on a chair in front of the entry of the building where Icks’ corpse had been displayed are the most telling examples, along with the yellow orchids in ‘Red John’s Rules’. Also, as with Bret Stiles, there was a yellow flower on the table when Haffner offered a job to Lisbon in ‘The Red Barn’, which hints that he’s a suspicious character who has connections with Visualize and maybe also with RJ, like it is revealed at the end of the episode. Also, there were some more in Julia’s house in ‘There Will Be Blood’, foreshadowing her link with the serial killer, since she helped Lennon murder women. (Thanks again Anomaly for providing those two occurrences!)
Many episodes involve roses, but, contrary to the orchids, those romantic flowers are featured more often only in the episodes titles.
The first occurrence is in ‘A Dozen Red Roses’ in season 1: they are an allusion to a scene of the movie the characters are filming. Felicia Scott, the movie star, is standing in front of a florist shop (“La Maison des Fleurs”, meaning “The House of Flowers”, this show just loves French…) and holding a bunch of beautifully full-blossomed red roses and two mauve flowers. She’s talking to her daughter, who is played by her stepdaughter in the case, when the young girl’s boyfriend comes to her and suddenly kisses her. Jane and the stepdaughter and watching the scene unfold and that’s probably the moment when he starts suspecting the truth about her, since he uses the same scene to trick her at the end of the episode. Actually, she really has a relationship with her stepdaughter’s boyfriend in real life and she used the young man to murder her rich husband. The ambiguous similarity between the movie and the actual situation of that woman is furthermore emphasised by the way Jane convinces her to tell the truth: he urges her to play the confession scene right, to make him believe her, tabling on her pride as an actress… Therefore, the title refers to the two keys scenes of the episode and the roses to the illicit romances between her and her younger lover.
Later, the same situation is used again with Erica Flynn, the deadly rose of ‘Every Rose Has Its Thorns’ in season 3: like her, she’s a woman who isn’t well accepted by her husband’s relatives (the stepdaughter didn’t get along really well with Felicia, while the husband tended to vent his unhappiness with his ex-wife who hated her). Her rich husband threatened to frustrate her of her professional ambitions (the matchmaking business/ the come-back movie) so she used her glamorous aura to seduce a younger man and kill her husband with his help.
Beside, Erica’s identification with thorny roses enlightens from the start that her beauty is dangerous: the thorns metaphorically pierced her husband like the bullets she used to murder him. She incarnates the quintessence of seduction, those who are attracted to her and come too close risk to be betrayed by her as well.
In S5 ‘Days of Wine and Roses’, the meaning is different still: the title is a reference to a 1962 film depicting alcoholism. A man addicts the woman he loves to drinking and both progressively sank to their lowest until he decides to get sober again; unfortunately, it also becomes clear that he won’t be have to cure his wife as well and he loses her to alcohol at the end. Indeed, the episode deals with addiction in various forms (drugs, kleptomania) and the struggles to get free of it… Obviously, it alludes to Jane’s own obsession with revenge and his recently emerging desire to get rid of it, but in her review for this episode, Reviewbrain also pointed out two interesting things: ““Newly sober people tend to act out…sexually.” We finally have it in canon, people. Jane needs to get rid of his RJ obsession to get back into dating game” and the comparison with Lisbon’s involvement in the Volker case: “I’ve been saying it since season three. Jane wants Lisbon to come around to his views the better to be able to relate/get along with him. But how far is he willing to have her go? My one glimmer of hope is his concern about Lisbon in this episode when he told her: I’m just a little worried that he’s inside your head and believe me that’s not a good road to go down. Bad neighborhood. Could Jane, who all this time seemed to be wanting Lisbon to be more like him, actually save her from that very fate?” Therefore, it seems that the “roses” in the title referred to the love both protagonists shared along with their passion for alcohol, as well as, maybe, Jane’s affection for Lisbon, pushing him to save Lisbon from a kind of revengeful obsession he only knows too well…
4- White flowers
Contrasting with the rather anguishing roses, many white flowers are scattered though the episodes of the five seasons.
The first meaning that is discernible is innocence, like in S1 ‘Blood Brothers’ where Jane makes a crown of daisies and gives it to a teenager who has been forced by superstition to have intercourse with her school director. In her case, the flowers indicate Jane’s acknowledgment of her stained innocence. On the other hand, in ‘Miss Red’, the white fabric flowers on the conwoman’s corsage and the greenery studded with white flowers during her first appearance corroborate the fake innocence she put forward in her persona, as she feigned being a “warm” person, as Jane put it.
Also, as Anomaly noticed, there was an instance in ‘His Thoughts Were Red Thoughts’ when Lisbon and Jane arrested Stiles and some white flowers were visible on the table: it alludes to the enlightenment, spirituality and purity of intention that Visualize pretends to hold.
Still, the most interesting character linked to those white flowers is certainly Lisbon. In ‘Red Hot’, there are white tulips on the table while she is talking to the supposed “widow” who has been once engaged to Walter. The woman is cold-blooded: she hads broken Walter’s heart and still accuses him, knowing all the while that she is actually her husband’s accomplice in faking his death… Lisbon is unsettled and leaves suddenly to go ask Walter if he killed the man, which shows her own honesty… The contrast between both women’s attitude is also enlightened by their respective clothes as the widow wears proudly a stylish black dress with big white stripes, whereas Lisbon’s clothes are far less sophisticated: she then appears simpler, sincerer and more straightforward. The agent even remarked “you’re upset”, to which the other retorted “so are you, miss Lisbon, why is that?” alluding to Lisbon’s attraction to Walter, which was getting in the way of the investigation. At the end of the episode, Lisbon’s winning nature is again expressed by the white roses and tulips on the table near the champagne and the two glasses when Jane visited Mash at his hotel: those elements hints that she’s hiding in his room. The morning after, there are two vases full of them next to the bed where the billionaire is lying, and again a bunch of them when Teresa leaves his room.
To some extent, this opposition reminds of the two women in ‘A Dozen Red Roses’: the evil stepmother was associated with red roses because they allowed Jane to unmask her adulterous relationship with her stepdaughter’s boyfriend, contrasting with the girl’s inexperience and relative innocence… and the girl’s name was Daisy, another white flower.
Later, that association of Lisbon to white roses is again used to stress on the contrast between her and Erica: in ‘Every Rose Has Its Thorns’ and even more explicitly in ‘War of The Roses’, she impersonates everything honest against the murderous ways of the seductress. In ‘Every Rose Has Its Thorns’, this opposition is expressed by the directing of certain scenes, like the one where Jane accompanies Erica to the elevator: when she leaves, Lisbon takes her place onscreen and Jane pours his doubts about the widow to her. In ‘War of The Roses’, Jane is happy when Lisbon is jealous because he’s chosen Erica as a partner and he admits he needs her; the agent also wonders why the other woman attracts male attention so much, thus implicitly comparing the both of them. It’s particularly noticeable in the car when Erica tries to leave with Jane alone, only to have Lisbon push her way by Jane’s side. This “war” they are fighting regarding both respect for the law and Jane’s attention is a reference to the historical War of The Roses, the struggle for domineering between the House of Lancaster and the House of York. Since Erica has already been characterized by the red flower, that leaves indeed the white rose of York to Lisbon. Both women then represent two temptations Jane has to choose between: the by-the-book law enforcement agent or the exciting danger provided by the criminal seductress; the saint vs. the femme fatale…
Again, it may be a bit far stretched, but the idea might have been used in season 5 as there’s also a painting representing a pink rose behind Bertram when he’s sitting next to Lisbon during the poker night in ‘Red in Tooth And Claw’. One can wonder if it is not meant to insist on the difference between those two players. Lisbon is devoted to her job and loyal to her team, while Bertram is calculating, intent on winning and is not above refusing to send one of his agents to a well-deserved training program because he’s in a bad mood, only to accept when Jane plies him by helping him improve his skills… Of course, the contrast is even more tangible when he’s plotting with Kirkland against one of his best agents. This time, Teresa might be opposed to an even more dangerous character than Erica…
Last white flower having a deeper meaning: the fragrant gardenia that Jane stated was his favorite flower which luminous color might represent the attraction the man seems to feel towards ideal women such as Angela and (Saint) Teresa. Since its meaning is “secret love” it also insists on Jane’s feelings for Lisbon after the debacle with Lorelei.
5) Family theme (expended)
The notion that family can be hurtful was already an important theme in season 1, with all those bad spouses and bad parents. Also, in ‘Redline’ (S2), Jane scoffed when a car salesman told him that his colleague was like family… Still, that rather negative image is further explored in season 5, as two aspects are displayed.
LaRoche for instance committed a crime to avenge his mother: he punished the man who tortured and raped his mother by cutting off his tongue (‘Red and Itchy’). This devotion offers an interesting contrast with the very cold Kirkland who has been avoiding giving details about his parents in ‘Red Letter Day’.
One of those two aspects is the idea that the family one’s create during their life is more loving and understanding than biological family. The best example of this case is offered by the team: Lisbon, Jane and Rigsby come from dysfunctional backgrounds and their need for comfort is met only by their friends. That’s probably why Jane helped Wayne avenge his father in ‘Blood Feud’ and why the team is so eager to help him and Lisbon in each of their schemes: they’re family.
We can find a similar situation in ‘Cherry Picked’ when Goodwin was a bit recalcitrant to help the police find his brother and sister-in-law, while the couple didn’t hesitate to pay to save their friend and was the one comforting him when he was saved.
The second side of that notion is that even a makeshift family can be unkind too. It is the philosophy of Visualize at Ellis Farm: “he had to break off all contact with his biological family. His group said it was the only way his true identity could emerge”: given how badly things turned, the least we could say is that this new family didn’t meet very high expectations… We can find a similar situation in ‘Red in Tooth and Claw’, as Kidd asserts that “the success of one of us helps all of us. We’re a family”, while Jane retorts: “People murder family members everyday, it’s natural”. Indeed, there were jealousies and rivalries in that scientist “family” as well. It’s probably the same kind of bonds that unite the minions to RJ; they are devoted to him because he saves them from the failures of their past, from a bad family (Rebecca, Lorelei), yet he also doesn’t hesitate to kill them if he sees fit: it’s indeed natural in RJ’s entourage to “murder family members everyday” as Craig proved with Todd Johnson, for instance…
Still, that opposition between biological and makeshift family is nuanced by the recurrence of people meeting again long lost family members, a situation that systematically ends up in tragedy: Lorelei found her estranged sister, but the girl was murdered; in ‘Behind The Red Curtain’, a mother and the daughter she left met again; in ‘Red Letter Day’ a brother fell for his unknown sister. The show seems to allude to the first chapters of Dickens’ ‘A Tale of Two Cities’, but the situations are rather quickly ending in disaster…
Somehow, this certainly foreshadows Jane visiting his past in the finale. We were bombarded without details about his childhood, friends and family background, only to have all those threatened by RJ tainting his happy memories with blood.
Moreover, again, Eileen had been leaving an abusive grandfather in favor of a more accepting surrogate family, just like Jane and Angela did when he left the carnie world
Beside, incest is a great incentive for murder in the show: it may be a love affair between siblings who didn’t know they were related (‘Red John’s Friends’, ‘Red Letter Day’), or a more complicated plot like in ‘Red All Over’ in season 2, where a father killed his son because he though the younger man fathered the baby his wife just had (and made a mistake, since it was actually his other son). It’s still difficult to analyze what meaning this similarity might have, but at least it reinforce the idea that family is often corrupted as well as contrasting this corruption with the innocence of one of the person involved: the son in ‘Red All Over’, then the poor victim who slept with the morally ambiguous Renfrew only to be murdered in cold-blood and to have her death be used by her own mother to have money. Last, the charming young waitress at the saloon who was genuinely in love: as the Ghost put it in ‘Hamlet, “that incestuous, that adulterate beast […] won to his shameful lust the will of my most seeming-virtuous queen” (Act 1, Scene 5)…
Of course, this insistence on a family rotten at heart by a horrible secret alludes to Jane’s list of suspects: most of them are working for law enforcement, which mean the serial killer may have been hiding within the police family all along.
Last, the family theme wouldn’t be complete without the questions Lisbon has been implicitly wondering since season 4: her reaction to Wayne’s baby and the reminders of her past that she faced when meeting again Greg last season may have caused a questioning when Jane left the CBI in ‘The Crimson Hat’. And that questioning is probably still in her mind, given Lorelei’s mother scathing remark that she was “a woman without children” and her tenderness in front of the baby in the finale.
Her choices concerning him have been questioned both by Bertram on a personal aspect (insinuating that Jane and Lorelei were lovers when they run away) and on a professional level by Haffner (her career won’t go anywhere with him hindering her). Those insinuations remind of Stiles’ perfidious remark some time ago that her consultant was taking over every aspect of her life. It also alludes to the string of explanations she’s been giving to explain Jane’s presence: “he closes cases”. This explains the redefinition of their relationship that has been in the making from the start of this season: getting from I’m not your girlfriend! » to « I’m your partner », from “the team needs your help” (‘Red Dawn’) to « I need your help », then « I need you », and ending with Barlow talking about her love for her consultant.
His side of the equation has also been explored in little touches: the grateful hug he gave her to thank her for her selfless help in ‘Red Dawn’; Lorelei asking if he worked with her because he’s « a little bit in love with her » while (in season 2, he told Lisbon he wanted to stay in the team because he had nothing else to do). He also tried to get closer by asking her to call him by his first name in ‘Devil’s Cherry’, which she meaningfully ignored –while she accepted when it didn’t have the same deep implications when he first came to the CBI-, his “platonic love” remark in ‘Red Velvet Cupcakes’…. The writers are definitely recalibrating their work relationship and their personal bond.
Shows are a natural part of the series since Jane is a showman, but it was remarkable that some seasons stress more that aspect of his personality.
In Season 4, for instance, we can find three episodes in a row, which foreshadow that Jane’s breakdown is staged: ‘Pink Champagne on Ice’ (the casino setting hints at Vegas in the finale), ‘Something Rotten in Redmund (the tragedy prepares the viewers for the dramatic turn of events in ‘Red Rover, Red Rover’), ‘Ruby Slippers’ introduces some hope, which also indicates that things aren’t as terrible as they seem in the finale.
Then, in season 5, a similar pattern is displayed: ‘Red in Tooth and Claw’, along with ‘Red, White and Blue’ insist on Jane’s memory skills. That posed Jane as an expert on this field, which both accredits the list of seven names he came with based on the people he met in ten years, and is played with when RJ started threatening his happy memories… Along with the psychic angle, the serial killer thus attacks him on his two area of expertise: he sends a personal threatening and a challenge.
In ‘Behind The Red Curtain’, the musical ‘Torch’ remind of the fire linked with RJ and is alluded to by the ‘Torchlite’ motel were Eileen Barlow was found in the finale. Also, in the review for ‘Red Letter Day’, I stated that for those latter occurrences “the show is a metaphor for a bigger secret hidden behind inoffensive appearances: in the previous episode the killer chose to play a role in real-life in order to hide that the musical had no investor, while here the tourist town faces serious difficulties and the owner hided the secret daughter he had with a former lover. Both secretive men pulled strings around them and that enlightens how the characters are surrounded by false appearances (Kirkland’s secret true goal; RJ hiding behind the mask of an acquaintance), but those appearances are about to crumble down, like both shows were, due to Jane’s progress towards the truth…”
Again, in ‘Red Velvet Cupcakes’, show, appearances and secrets are intricately associated. It leads to Sean Barlow’s own little show in front of the investigating duo which paves the way for RJ’s reveal at the very end of the finale. Indeed, RJ has been given a show to his adversary and a very well rehearsed one at that: every step that Jane took to find the DVD has been carefully prepared (the phone number on the wall leading to the accomplice who revealed Eileen’s name; which in turn led to Barlow, who suggests the psychic angle… and RJ only had to wait until Jane’s skills made him unmask the murderer. The magic show at play is even enlightened by the magician assistant used by RJ, a beautiful woman who distracts the viewer’s attention. In this case, it happens that the attractive girl is dead: the distraction is that it just seems impossible that he knew at that time, before killing her, when Jane had not yet reduced his list, and before Kirkland had spied on him.
In the same vein, Lorelei’s body was also displayed in a meaningful fashion in ‘There Will Be Blood’: she was naked under a white sheet, under a red smiley face. She reminded probably of Angela in her bedroom, if Eileen’s body in her motel room was any indication. It also alluded to the night she spent in Jane’s bed, under RJ’s influence (hence the smiley face above her naked form). But the warehouse also contained carnie material which hinted at a connection with Jane’s past and was later revealed to be part of RJ’s plan, already in motion (apparently, she had read the message on the DVD before dying).
Music is also closely related to the show business and might indicate that the recurring musical allusions may be connected with the serial killer one way or another.
Indeed, one of the similarities between Jane and his nemesis are their taste for music, especially classical music: that may explain why a music instrument that looks like a lute was hanging on the wall near the orchid-looking painting in Eileen’s motel room. Jane’s love for music was showed in the flashback featuring only memory seen onscreen of his family as Angela and Charlotte were playing ‘Für Elise’ by Beethoven playing the piano. Also, in ‘Ladies in Red’ Jane used ‘Peter and the Wolfe’ to trick a mother who was using her daughter to get an alibi in S1 ‘Ladies in Red’: music must have played a great part in his family life and in his child’s upbringing. That makes me wonder if Elise Vogelsong’s first name isn’t a discreet reminder of that flashback: a tragic heiress whose life ended up in darkness, a fate threatening Jane. It also is very probably unintentional, but it also was Elise’s aggression which motivated Cho to react violently in ‘Blood In, Blood Out’: it was literally “for Elise” as well.
As a parallel, music is one of the only personal information we got about RJ from Rosalind, along with his taste for tea. Rosalind was then playing Bach twice (first while talking to Jane in ‘Red John’s Footsteps’; then after Roy visited her and asked her to call Jane, they found her in a what seemed to be trance-like state playing the piano and they discovered the morgue attendant body’s in a closet). Besides RJ’s favorite air played when Jane took the orange after he killed Hardy and destroyed his lead in ‘Red John’s Footsteps’. Jane’s love for everything classic, from clothes, to cars, literature and songs is also probably ironically echoed by Bret Stiles’ remark about classics being the best in ‘Red Sails In The Sunset’ when he’s watching ‘North By Northwest’ which foreshadows Jane’s adventures in the episode.
Moreover, Jane affirmed in ‘Redwood’ that music was a good mean to trigger memories (hearing Beethoven actually caused the flashback) like he said about smell recently. Many mentions of music have played a part in or before the finales: Bach in S1; Jane’s enthusiasm for the orchestra was pretty obvious in ‘Rhapsody in Red’, before ‘Strawberry and Cream’; in season 4 we got Fifi’s hopeful song contrasting with “Pink Champagne On Ice” from the song Hotel California, which lyrics fit the situation with RJ, since Jane is trapped… it hints at him giving up in ‘The Crimson Hat’.
In season 5 too, we got a musical episode: in ‘Behind the Red Curtain’, special attention is paid to what happens behind the scenes. Jane called LaRoche for help, which leads to ‘Red and Itchy’, the episode preceding the finale. The main actress was a woman who lost and daughter after being granted a second chance with her and who was seriously ill –like Jane was implicitly after ‘Devil’s Cherry’ as he lost the ghost of Charlotte and was still endangered by his obsession. Her sad situation contrasts with Fifi’s Nix’s hopeful song in the previous season: the end of this season is less laced with a mixing of bright hope and tragedy than underlined by a kind of poignant resignation, even more tangible in the finale, when Jane’s clever plan brings more danger on them than he was expecting. Last, but certainly not least, in this episode, Kirkland secretly killed Lennon, behind the closed doors of his hospital room.
What’s interesting then is that every time, those music-related moments seem to pave the way for the confrontation Jane is actively seeking: in each of those finales, Jane meets RJ somehow (Carter, the voice over the phone, a message via Lorelei). Music played also a part in another almost-confrontation between Jane and his nemesis since Rosalind was playing the piano too after Roy had visited her. Therefore the lute on the wall in the motel room where Eileen was killed in ‘Red John’s Rules’ enters in the same category as well: it foreshadowed that the crime was directed at Jane from the very start, even before he knew who exactly was lying on the bed.
Plus, the idea of music played with during the Lorelei arc, probably for the same reason:
1/ when Jane starts investigating her whereabouts in ‘Cherry Picked, he enjoys listening to opera so much that Lisbon has to make him stop the music. The opera is « La donna è mobile » from « Rigoletto » by Verdi, an air stating how much women are untrustworthy, deceptive and are “flighty like a feather in the wind” (“La donna è mobile/ Qual piuma al vento”). That veiled allusion to RJ’s girl constrasts with him calling Lisbon “bella donna” in the previous “Cherry” episode.
2/ songs open then close this arc when Jane is working on his list: in ‘Red Sails In The Sunset’, he’s been given the precious information about him shaking hands with RJ. The title refers to a classic song and the lyrics allude to Lorelei waiting for her fisherman lover. Same with the finale, when Lisbon is giving back the baby to her family in a moment reminiscent of the end of ‘Red John’s Footsteps’, ‘Something’s Gotten Hold Of My Heart’ is playing: it resumes Jane’s thoughts and state of mind after watching the DVD (which he shows in the next scene to Lisbon)… Thus, both songs indicated RJ’s presence in the characters’ mind.
Continuing the idea of games and sports, but with emphasis on the winner instead of just the playing part, there are a lot of allusions to poker in the series. It’s also closely related to the idea of lying, as since Lisbon is not a good liar, she’s not as good a poker player as Jane, which leads him to coach her in ‘Red in Tooth and Claw”.
Indeed, in S1 ‘Red Handed’ Jane revealed himself as a poker shark and a cheater who swindled the killer/gambler (cf. the addiction theme). Then, the casino settling was used again in S4 ‘Pink Champagne on Ice’, leading us to Jane’s escapade to Vegas, in ‘The Crimson Hat’, where he bluffed his way through Lorelei’s machinations. Also, Jane’s cards tricks are a well-known occurrence (in ‘The Red Ponies’ or in ‘Red Dawn’ with makeshift tarot cards). But the real poker theme starts with Lisbon instead of Jane, when she’s invited to a private game between high-ups in ‘Not One Red Cent’. It keeps focusing on her during the Volker arc, since she’s not above using her contacts with another player (a judge), to try and counter Volker’s doings. Later, as Jane is perceived as an expert, he helps Bertram getting better at hidings his tells, then invites Lisbon to a game with dino gummies to even things up and improve her poker skills. He’s helping her, because he’s his partner.
But there’s more to this amicable game than meets the eye, as RJ’s presence is hinted at by many details of Lisbon’s poker nights. As Anomaly pointed out, “the first time we saw Lisbon going to play in 5×3,’Not One Red Cent’, we see a shot of the place from outside, a ‘Café Luciano’, strange is that this is the same place O’Laughlin took Van Pelt for dinner in 3×14,’ Blood for Blood’! She even mentions figuratively her “poker face” there in reference to being calm in front of LaRoche!”. Plus, Lisbon was introduced by Mancini, who was at the time more or less suspected of being RJ’s minion at the FBI. There was a red tablecloth instead of the usual green one, and judge Manchester’s name evokes the color red too (‘The Red Devils’ soccer team). Also, Bertram’s attitude while playing is pretty intriguing: his eagerness to win is associated with predators in ‘Red in Tooth and Claw”, and his quoting the book for children ‘Goodnight Moon’ after his triumph over Manchester reminds of his previous quote of Blake: « When thy little heart doth wake,/ Then the dreadful night shall break”. All those elements prepare us viewers for RJ’s statement “you’ve changed the rules” in the finale: the deadly game he’s been playing with Jane involves bluff, tactics and, as Bertram pointed out, a battle of intelligences for domination (cf. you think you’re clever, I’ll show you clever”).
Of course, that theme is also meant to give us more insight into Bertram’s psyche, since he’s one of the seven suspects. It also gave him a golden occasion to get closer to Lisbon (he even hugged her), as Haffner tried to do too by offering her a new and more lucrative job.
9) Unrepentant killers
Season five seems filled to the brim with murderers who revel in their crimes, even after having been caught. In ‘Devil’s Cherry’, the woman was amused by the terrible death she inflicted on her neighbor (telling him his gem was in his stomach, leading him to gut himself with his diamond cutting tool); in ‘The Crimson Ticket’, the cop who was supposed to help the young girl who had just been attacked killed her instead to get his hands on her fortune, in a sudden burst of greed. In ‘Not One Red Cent’, the fiancée was calculating and chillingly domineering; in ‘Cherry Picked’, the cold-blooded wife of the kidnapped man faked her own captivity in order to take money from their friend and kill her husband. In ‘Black Cherry’ too, the associated killers show no remorse for massacring their coworker all together in a disturbing scene; ‘Red in Tooth and Claw’ presented us with a crime motivated by envy and greed and a horrifying way to hide the body (in a container with flesh-eating bugs). The famous elderly heiress in ‘Red Lacquer Nail Polish’ killed a friend to use her body to fake her own death, because she was planning to steal the family fortune and frame her hated nephew at the same time, while using a lonely girl’s affection to cover up for her crimes; she was frighteningly cold. Same with the killer in ‘Red, White and Blue’, who showed no regret for his crime, instead explaining that it was the victim’s fault because she was threatening his comfortable life. In ‘Red Letter Day’, the son who killed his father ended his confession with a somewhat regretful but determined “it felt good”. And of course, there were also creepy sadistic Volker who looked more and more sinister with every episode featuring him (‘If It Bleeds, It Leads’, ‘Days Of Wine And Roses’, ‘Little Red Corvette’), along with blood-thirsty Lorelei and the psychopathic minion in ‘There Will Be Blood’, and the calm cold-blooded murder committed by Kirkland on said minion in ‘Behind The Red Curtain’.
Unlike those heartless perpetrators, Jane and Lisbon both showed dismay in front of decaying corpses: Jane nauseated in front of what was probably his first murdered corpse (while Hannigan kept describing some bodies covered in worms), while Lisbon has fainted in front of one of said cadavers half eaten by bugs. Besides, the string of unrepentant killers also contrast with the murderers in ‘Red Dawn’ (who cried when Jane talked about his parents being good people and urging him into confessing), with the teenager who was defending her mother in ‘The Red Barn’ and with the self-punishing LaRoche, who kept the tongue he cut from his mother’s rapist lass as a trophy than as a reminder that he had acted as a monster too.
Of course, the cruelty and the dismissal of other people’s life echo RJ’s own ruthless and announce his attitude in the finale: he killed Lorelei because she betrayed him and went after him, yet he sets aside the fact that he was the first to hurt her deeply. Same with his willingness at making Jane responsible of this turn of events: “you’ve changed the rules”, meaning that this murder was implicitly his fault, along with Eileen’s and every other he would commit in the future. That’s exactly the way the other horrendous killers had been thinking to justify their actions and choices.
Varia (aka “I really don’t know where I can put these themes…”)
1) Lonely souls and dark secrets
There’s an intriguing similarity between Rebecca’s and LaRoche’s lifestyles. Both led a solitary life, between their pet and their collection: Rebecca admitted to having a cat and collecting porcelain frogs (‘His Red Right Hand’), while LaRoche has a fluffy white dog and Hummel figurines (seen in ‘Red Queen’ and broken in ‘Red and Itchy’). Their common loneliness hides a dark secret and both had committed acts of violence.
Rebecca’s outcome hinted at LaRoche hiding something sinister even before knowing about the existence of that terrible Tupperware, of course, but somehow, their fate also echoes Jane’s, whose only real hobby is to collect and obsess over clues to get RJ, and whose life is the epitome of seclusion. Beside, it reminds also a bit of his description of the serial killer in that fateful flashback in the finale as Jane called him a lonely man. Not to mention that every character in the team seems to have a crappy social life: Lisbon had only three known dates since the beginning of the show (Mashburn -if jumping into bed right after gulping down a glass of champagne can be rightly called dating…-; that coworker whose nails disgusted her; and a coffee Kirkland… yeah, crappy dating life, I’d say…). Cho was teased by Rigsby about his lack of love life in the first season, while Wayne himself has been spending his evenings looking in the internet details about his T-Rex until not so long ago… There’s no much details about Grace this season, but it’s rather hard not to notice her exiting escapades seemed to have ended with Craig until ‘Red Velvet Cupcakes’…
2) Meaningful names and namesakes
The writers playing with their characters’ names is almost a trademark of the show. Jane/ John comes to mind of course, then Lorelei, not to mention characters asking the team members about the origin of their name: Wayne in ‘Like A Redheaded Stepchild’ if I’m not mistaken; Jane asking Cho if he was named after Kipling’s novel ‘Kim’ in ‘Red Dawn’; Jane telling or being told he has a girl name, then being asked about his spelling in ‘Days of Wine and Roses’ (like Jane Austen).
RJ also used several aliases alluding to his name as a serial killer: there’s a wink to her master in the alias used by Rebecca (“agent Rojo”) to steal an incriminating body in ‘His Red Right Hand’, then there’s ‘Dr Joe, N.H. an anagram for Red John in ‘Red John’s Friends’ (and possibly a reference to “U.N. Owen”/ “unkown”, the assassin in ‘And Then There Were None’ by Christie); Roy Tagliaffero, head of Cut Iron Inc. as a reference to Blake. Many names also refer one way or another to the color red (Ellis Mars, Mars being the red planet; Judge Manchester, alluding to the ‘Red Devils’; and so on…) or to Blake’s poetry (Partridge).
Then, there’s a pretty interesting repetition of a bit unusual characters’ names:
- Roy Taglieffero (S1 finale)/ Dr Roy Carmen (S2 Red Badge);
- Bret Stiles/ Brett Partridge;
-Tamzin Dove (S1 ‘Red Rum’)/ Tamsin Wade (S5);
-the young Ella shot a man at Elliston farm (S5 ‘The Red Barn’)/ Ellis Mars (S3 ‘Red Moon’)/ Ellis Barnes (S3 ‘The Red Ponies);
-Carter Peak (a victim of RJ mentioned in S2 ‘His Red Right Hand’: his murder was shown in a hypothetical flashback)/ Timothy Carter (S4 ‘Strawberry and Cream’); and so on…
-Same with Dr Morning, the first victim in ‘His Red Right Hand’ announced the end of the second part of the season, since Kristina was taken in ‘Red Sky in The Morning’.
Also, some names are quite meaningful and give an insight into the character: Grace firmly believes in God; Todd Johnson is one of RJ’s followers (“John-son” figuratively). And (this one is especially for Rose UK) Rosalind Harker combine both a Shakespeare reference -Rosalind from ‘As You Like It’ is a romantic character, in love, utterly devoted, to the point of hiding in a forest under a man’s disguise… alluding to the woman devoted to her Roy and who refuses to see any evil in him) and an allusion to ‘Dracula’: Minna Harker is the woman who the monster fell in love with, like RJ had a relationship with our Harker woman.
3) Fake deaths
Faking one’s death is starting to become a recurring thing in the show:
- As a clever but rather classic trick to frighten the perp to confess, he faked being shot by Danny in ‘Cackle-Bladder Blood’; oppositely, he used the identity of dead man or a ghost to achieve the same thing (S2 ‘Red Flame’ ; S1 ‘Blood Brothers’, S4 ‘The Redshirt’). He also used a corpse some time (S2 ‘The Scarlet Letter’).
- RJ used Carter to let people assume he was dead, while later Jane too feigned to kill both Lisbon and Rigsby to get RJ to trust him.
Many other characters played the same stunt first in S3 Red Hot, then extensively in season 4: in ‘The Redshirt’, faking his death with the help of Jane and Lisbon led the victim to understand the wrong of his ways by witnessing the reactions of the people he kept around… that made him realize who really loved him. It foreshadowed the next episode, ‘Fugue in Red’, when a near-death experience brings back a version of the old Paddy by contrast, the viewer and the team get to realize how much he has progressed and how much he longs to forget the tragedy and start a new life. Then, in ‘Ruby Slippers’, the same happens to Archie, as he gets a fresh start by forgetting about his past and becomes who he wants to be deep down. That’s the meaning behind the theme in S4: shredding one’s own identity/bad living habits to be ready to start something new, like the Phoenix/ Fifi Nix. It paves the way for ‘The Crimson Hat’, both as Jane gets a lonely life outside of the CBI, and as he hopes to get to be free of RJ with a well-prepared long con.
Still, the notion evolves again in S5 with ‘Red Lacquer Polish’: faking one’s death is a mean to cover up a repugnant crime and the murderer hasn’t hesitated to use a young woman’s trust to set her plan in motion… there seems to be some pretty terrible and hurtful consequences laced with that once hopeful theme, caused by Elise’s arrogance and disregard for others, which may remind of Jane’s scheme with Lorelei and its disastrous consequences.
The idea might also be associated with the peculiar notion running through season 3, hinting that there is a substitution between two things to hide one of them: two twin horses running under the same name in ‘Red Ponies’ (Castor’s Folly and « his evil twin » Pollux’s Dream); the erroneous idea that there were two bodies in the same coffin in ‘Pink Channel Suit’; two killers who tried to murder the same man in ‘Red Carpet Treatment’, which saved both from any consequences as it was impossible to determine who delivered the fatal blow. It’s a form of duality too.
Somehow, it may also remind from afar of Jane’s insistence to make people escape to Mexico, as many of those fake deaths implied running away from something bad. The choice of Mexico is logical, since it’s pretty close to California, but it’s remarkable that it appeared four times in the show: the first was Renfrew who was killed in his motel room in Tijuana in season 1; then Jane intended to get Danny over there to escape a murder investigation, before doing the same for Culpepper who refused vehemently. Lisbon was also stranded there in a container with him. Similarly, Jane decided to go to Vegas and the desert when he faked his breakdown, which contrasts with the glamorous destinations which some hardened criminal women chose recently near the ocean (Erica on her tropical beach, Elise planning to go to Monte-Carlo)…. Is that a way to hint that Jane is just secretly longing for getting away for his dark life? Or is he planning ahead a route of escape for himself in case he had to run away from the law?
As a conclusion, it looks like the writers have achieved certain regularity in regard to the rhythm of each season. Indeed, since the very first season, which introduced the main characters, their backgrounds and their quirks, they have more or less instituted a pattern which is loosely followed in the course of the series and is often played with:
a) each season contains usually one special episode in addition to the finale, which focuses less on a case than in the fact that Jane himself is being investigated and or in danger, like in S1 ‘Bloodshot’.
b) another gives insight on his background (the model is ‘Red Brick and Ivy’ in season 1.
c) a third kind features a violent and terrible intervention of RJ, often foreshadowing his action in the finale, like in ‘Red John’s Friends’.
In S2, this pattern is followed: the background episode is ‘Throwing Fire’ (Jane’s teenage years with his father); the RJ special is featured in ‘His Red Right Hand’ with the murders committed by Rebecca; there was an investigation on Jane in ‘Black Gold and Red Blood’ and on Lisbon in ‘Red Badge’.
In season3, the background episode featured Jane’s brother-in-law Danny; his whereabouts were investigated in ‘Ball of Fire’ after he was kidnapped and in danger of being burned alive; RJ’s hand was discernible in the whole Todd Johnson arc, putting emphasis on the turning point that had been the news that there was a mole (‘Red Moon’). The man was also put on fire too, like Jane’s kidnapper planned to do.
S4: there was emphasis on Lisbon’s background (her brother and niece in ‘Where in the World Is Carmine O’Brien?’ then at the end of the season, Jane got to meet her ex-fiancé in ‘So Long and Thanks for all the Red Snapper’.
Regarding Jane, the season is divided in two parts: 1) background information in ‘Pretty Red Balloon’/ investigation on him in ‘Scarlet Ribbons’, which deals with the aftermath of Carter’s death, like basically this first half of the season/ RJ’s violence in ‘Blinking Red Light’, which marks a rupture.
2) During the arc involving the repercussions of Panzer’s death, the background episode is ‘Fugue in Red’ : Paddy wanting to leave leading/ preparing the viewer to see him go away at the end of the season… the whole finale is supported by this shock, this disruptive departure, which has been indeed carefully prepared beforehand by hints in the previous episodes. Hence the interest showed in Lisbon’s past, which gives more weigh to her reaction and shock when he left her. Same with the investigation on Jane: Darcy kept an eye on him for the whole arc, with special highlighting in ‘Cheap Burgundy’. And of course, RJ’s interventions open the arc (Panzer’s murder) and more importantly close it as his teasing in ‘Red Rover, Red Rover’ is what set Jane’s plan in motion. Thus, those two parts point out the shifting in their interaction.
The pattern is simpler in season 5: Jane’s background is shown at in ‘Red Dawn’; he was at the center of an investigation when he was supposedly kidnapped by Lorelei in ‘Red Sails in The Sunset’ (and to a lesser extent in ‘There Will Be Blood’); RJ’s brutality was featured in ‘The Red Barn’. Still, those three aspects were also present in ‘Devil’s Cherry’: he was in danger because of the belladonna and Lisbon had to keep him in check; he was revisiting his past with his daughter; she was murdered by RJ and urged him to let it go. That fact prepares Jane’s questioning of his life that has been simmering under the surface for the whole season.
Last minute addition: SEASON 6: (schematic recap, up to E6 ‘Fire and Brimstone’)
Book of reference the ‘BIBLE’, especially the Book of Revelation (alluded to by various elements and directly referenced by the title ‘Fire and Brimstone’): the final confrontation between Jane and RJ takes from the symbolism of the war between God and the Devil. Hence the comparison with the wrath of God. (see the reviews for more details).
Many themes from the previous seasons are used again, such as hunting (McAllister’s hobby) and the game (the sheriff’s words “game is game, right?”). Still, a handful of new themes appear, shifting the atmosphere of the show to match the more dramatic circumstance of this stressful season.
Moreover, let’s keep in mind that the writers have admitted to have added some false leads to the real themes: everything should then a taken with a grain of salt…
1) Twins: some new elements explain the reference to ‘A Tale of Two Cities’ in the previous season. For instance, in the premiere, Jane’s head is placed very close to a painting of a man who really resembled him, at least in the picture, and who committed a murder in a fit of rage and wounded pride. Jane also asked the tech who was staring at him if he had two heads. Those cryptic allusions prepared viewers for the revelation of Kirkland’s motive for hunting down information on RJ: the serial killer indoctrinated and probably murdered his twin brother Michael (who shared his name with God’s Archangel who fought the demon during the Apocalypse).
Again, this example steams from the much bigger duality theme: good and evil are entwined. This opens of course the path for the final battle in which Jane will certainly confront his dark alter-ego.
2) The lamb is again a reference to duality through Blake’s poetry. It is the opposite of the tiger, in the same way as Jane (called “lamb” by Hightower’s aunt) is in opposition with the Blake-loving serial killer -as KM pointed out, many goats have paved the way towards this identification through the series….
The lamb is more precisely an image of the Savior: the beast’s demise in the Bible is his victory, like RJ’s death will be Jane’s attempt at getting justice.
Moreover, the tiger makes another remarkable appearance: “Tyger, Tyger” is actually the password used in the criminal organization infiltrated in law enforcement which RJ is probably part of. It is also doubled with another creature linked to Satan: the dragon (behind Jane and Hightower in the Chinese restaurant). Cf. the review for ‘Red Listed’ for more details…
3) Ducks and pigeons: have appeared in the very first episodes of this season, referencing the childhood memory Lisbon told Jane about in the finale (she remembered feeding pigeons with her mother as her own happy memory). In ‘Wedding in Red’, the ducks have replaced them. They also remind of the bird theme developed earlier in relation with Lorelei.
As it has been told, pigeons are linked to hunting and are the prey of bigger and more aggressive birds such as hawk (mentioned in ‘Devil’s Cherry in S5). The metaphorical ‘Black-Winged Redbird’ is part of the latter category as it is in fact a military drone.
Doves are also associated to God and the Holy Spirit and are well-known messengers.
Still, those birds might be a red-herring since they grabbed most of the viewers’ attention in the ending of ‘The Desert Rose’ in which creator Bruno Heller admitted he had hidden a clue. Was their presence a way to distract from the real thing?
Same with the phobia RJ might or not have: was McAllister supposed fear of pigeons a red-herring?
4) Half-eaten food: same goes for this fairly minor theme. Were the muffin Lisbon left untouched in the premiere, the one Jane fed to ducks in ‘Wedding in Red’, the one the PI couldn’t eat in ‘The Red Tattoo’ really meaningful of just a way to trick the viewers?
Either way, the apple Jane bit into before sending it crashing against a wall in the aforementioned episode might (or not) be a reference to the apple from the fruit of knowledge, often depicted as an apple, symbolizing how he’s about to get full knowledge in the identity of his nemesis- see the review for ‘Fire and Brimstone’. And, like in the Bible, this act may have terrible consequences, like putting his life at risk or getting chased away from the garden he sought refuge in (the CBI, Lisbon, and so on). Again, this may be linked to the citrus theme we found in the first season: it might be a reply to the bitter fruit symbolizing his original sin.
5) The fire theme expands again from the reference to Blake’s ‘The Tyger’. And, like Anomaly remarked based on an idea from a fellow fan (namely “Poet”), there are many precise allusions to this poem which is characteristic of RJ’s philosophy and of the secret organization of criminal cops:
- “In what furnace was thy brain”/ Sophie Miller’s head in the oven;
- what dread grasp/Dare its deadly terrors clasp?” alluded to by the handshake Jane shared with RJ;
- “And what shoulder, & what art/Could twist the sinews of thy heart?”/the tattoo on RJ’s shoulder;
- the many mentions to an “hammer” and so on…
Also connected to RJ is the sunset scene I ‘Fire and Brimstone’: Jane expressing his affection to Lisbon only to get her stranded on the roadside reminds of his escapade with Lorelei in ‘Red Sails in The Sunset’. The fire from the sun characterized RJ before in ‘Red Sky in The Morning’, ‘Red Sky at Night’ for instance and the sunset started when Lorelei opened up to Jane: now the day of Jane’s quest is finally ending, meaning that the night of the revenge when the “tiger” will be “burning bright” is coming.
Indeed, the fire here is also associated with God’s wrath in the Book of Revelation (hence ‘Fire and Brimstone’): using the same element to convey both RJ’s philosophy and Jane’s revenge is a way to link the crime to the punishment, as a way to remind that the former provoked the latter.
This is only a very sketchy presentation: feel free to complete and add new themes I didn’t mention! Thanks a lot for reading this awfully loooooong study!