Ho ho ho! It’s Hiatus gift time on the blog! Enjoy and have the merriest end of years!
Note: this is especially dedicated to Reviewbrain, my lovely trusting trusted blog partner for one year. Happy anniversary!
As it has been stated before, he films noirs seem to be a source of inspiration for a number of details in the show: the vintage car Jane used to drive; the fedora he wore once; the fact that he’s allegedly a good guy, but he’s prone to expeditious methods and has plenty of moral ambiguity… Yet, through the film noir code, some aspects of the storyline seem to reference more precisely Hitchcock’s thrillers.
- Indeed, the femmes fatales in his films used to be cold-blooded blonds, a detail which transposes in TM as recurrent red-haired victims, witnesses and murderers.
- The attention to details is characteristic of the master’s movies: in the show, the resolution of the case often focuses on a symbolic object.
- Colors have a specific meaning: in the show the general range of colors includes many shades of grey, like in Hitchcock’s color movies. Plus, in some movies, the characters have a phobia involving a particular color: in ‘Spellbound’ the supposed Dr. Edwards is afraid of white (and in particular of parallel lines on a white surface); in ‘Marnie’, the protagonist is afraid of red. The phobia idea is developed pretty late in the series as a clue to RJ’s identity and the way to defeat him, but the interesting point here is that the show tends to focus on nearly every shade of red to allude to the serial killer.
- The directing sometimes imitates the one in the movies too: the filming from above hints that the team is continuously being watched. Also the detail of focusing on the camera to insist on the decision Jane is taking in ‘Blinking Red Light’, or the filming from under the shoe the murderer was shooting at in ‘Red Velvet Cupcakes’ remind from afar of the ending of ‘Spellbound’, which put great emphasis on the revolver – even if TM doesn’t elaborate so much on visual effects.
Furthermore, there are many winks dispersed through the entire series: the diamonds hidden in a chandelier in ‘Ladies in Red’ were a shout out to ‘Family Plot’ (a phony psychic found diamonds hidden in pretty much the same way). The crow watching the team from above the dead body in ‘Red Rum’ reminded a bit of the threatening atmosphere of ‘The Birds’, as well as the pigeon which attacked McAllister in ‘Red John’.
A few characters were also probably named after the characters of some of Hitchcock’s movies: for instance Rebecca, RJ’s minion who killed Bosco’s team. Under a deceptively sweet and lovable appearance, she was a cruel cold-blooded woman… just like the dead woman in ‘Rebecca’, whose influence kept floating around her mansion and polluting her husband’s life. It’s a symbolic choice for the writers, as it may be a way to represent that Jane’s clinging to his tainted past.
Some other characters get their background from a movie storyline: ‘Marnie’ inspired the elusive conwoman in ‘Miss Red’, who kept changing her identity to get money. She was probably fleeing something terrible from her past –as hinted by Jane-, even thought she used seduction unlike the frigid Marnie. Same with Sophie Miller: a caring and competent psychiatric working in a mental institution who is attracted to a mysterious patient and trying to help him? It just screams ‘Spellbound’…
Finally, sore precisely, some major themes swimming through the master’s filmography also made their way to the storyline of the show.
Jane and RJ: an ambiguous relation
Jane’s relation with is nemesis is particularly ambiguous, both because they’re explicitly and implicitly compared through the course of he series and because the emotions involved are complex, notably since RJ had a veiled personal interest in Jane. Those two interesting aspects, the duality and the “kind of love” discreetly displayed by McAllister, are also found in at least two of Hitchcock’s masterpieces.
In ‘Shadow of a Doubt’, Charlie, a young girl living in a small town, is very attached to her charming and sophisticated uncle, also named Charlie, who unbeknown to her is a wanted serial killer specialized on strangling rich older women. There’s a systematic parallel between the two main characters, who are shown in similar positions in the beginning and who have a very close relationship: they obviously love each other and things keep very proper, yet the feelings almost take a more romantic hue at some moments –he offers her a ring, for example, when he takes her out for a drink… until of course the niece discovers the truth. The same aspects are featured on the show: Jane and Red John have matching names too and are systematically compared. Rebecca and Lorelei stress out how similar they are and they share the same taste on classic music and tea, on showmanship and manipulation. They represent to some extent good versus evil, in the same way the two Charlies do. Not to mention that Jane’s daughter was called Charlotte, which was probably the niece’s real name in the movie. On the emotional aspect, Jane underlined how sexually depraved McAllister was; he even sent him his mistress to bed him… like in the movie, then, there’s an undercurrent of sexual ambiguity simmering under the surface.
Still, this notion is maybe more detailed in ‘Strangers on a Train’. The storyline is taken from one of: two men, Bruno and Guy, meet in a train and strike a conversation. It appears that both have someone in their life getting in the way and Bruno suggests the Machiavellian idea of each of them killing the other’s victim, to get the cops off their scent… His companion doesn’t think he’s serious, but when Bruno strangles Guy’s wife to death (she wouldn’t accept a divorce) then starts stalking him in the hopes he’ll keep his part of the deal by killing his father, he realize he’s really in trouble… This enlightens the question of Jane’s feigned friendship with the serial killer at the end of S4: after pursuing Jane of his attentions by killing Panzer for him, RJ gets “his heart’s desire” when Jane comes to accept Lorelei’s offer. In return, he’s asked to kill for RJ too –Lisbon’s head-, even if there is no bargain there. Bruno is also pretty ambivalent, like RJ: he tries to get close to his “friend” socially, he follows him around, he keeps watching him and in his logic he’s protected him from a woman who wanted to harm him. All things RJ has done: he’s kept a close eye on him; under his true identity, he played with him and asked him to call him by his first name; he saved him at least twice (on the church roof as McAllister and before that as RJ at the end of season 2).
Therefore, the idea of the evil double following him around for nefarious and ambiguous reasons that gave much depth to Jane’s quest has probably been inspired by those movies. The difference is that Jane’s character is much more troubled and morally grey than young Charlie or Guy –in the movie version at least, for the latter, for he’s more ambivalent in Patricia Highsmith’s novel: his parallel with the serial killer not only represents the struggle between good and evil and the temptation crime can offer, but it also enlightens actually how close to the abyss Jane is or has actually been. It nuances his character. Also, both Charlie and Guy ended up killing in self-defence and struggling for their lives, while Jane coldly murdered his own nemesis.
Indeed, the fundamental notion at the core of Jane’s quest isn’t to save his life, but it is obsession: he wants to make peace with a past he lost. And, like in ‘Vertigo”, this is what keeps him for living fully: in the movie PI Scottie Fergusson is hired to follow Madeleine, a troubled married woman who he gets to know and falls in love with; convinced that she’s experiencing memories of a past life, she jumps to her death from a tower which leads a helpless Scottie to depression. When he meets Judy, a young woman who resembles Madeleine, he tries to recreate his lost love by changing her. Only to discover that there’s more than meets the eye…
There’s a similar motivation behind Jane’s actions: he lost the woman he loved in a traumatic fashion and he’s ashamed by his past. Like Scottie carried the weight of not having saved a young cop because of his fear of heights, Jane feels guilty for his past as a conman and for causing his family’s death. Yet, he doesn’t bury himself in delusion, because he found people to help him out of it, first Sophie Miller, then Teresa. That doesn’t deter him for balancing precariously between a lost ideal and a wish for redemption –in form of finding the truth for Scottie and avenging his family for Jane.
Also, it’s interesting that the second boss Jane had at the CBI was Madeleine Hightower. In ‘Vertigo’, Madeleine, whose name means “tower”, fell from a tower. She represents to some extent Jane’s obsession more than Minnelli did, because the older man tried to rein him in, unlike Hightower who let him do mostly as he pleased… It was also under her watch that Jane first came close to getting RJ: she was framed for setting Todd Johnson on fire, and Jane’s mad glee at threatening her with a shotgun when he thought she was a minion was one of the first real glimpse we got on his psyche.
Still, the most obvious allusion to the film can be found in ‘Wedding in Red’: the whole episode plays with the possibility that Sheriff McAllister might suffer from vertigo, which might be a clue to identify RJ. At the end of the investigation, Jane is dragged to the top of the church tower by the murderer in a setting reminiscent to the scene when Judy is forced by Scottie to climb at the top of the tower at the Mission where Madeleine died. The murderer also fell to his death when McAllister shot him –a nurse frightened Judy who lost her footing. The setting was fairly reminiscent of a typical atmosphere from the master, as III Frogs pointed out in the comments for that episode: “McAllister standing on the roofline looming over Jane about to lose his grip and fall off. The night sky full of stars that filled the frame behind McAllister was overpowering. What a great shot! It was Hitchcockian.” The moment obviously emphasises the fact that the sheriff offers his hand to Jane, which reminds that Jane is supposed to have shook hands with RJ before. And, as Zee remarked, the allusion to ‘The Birds’ is visible in that scene with the pigeons flying in Thomas’ face and giving Jane a hint of how to defeat the man. In hindsight, then, this scene is crucial in Jane’s quest and the visual allusions to the master’s creation only highlight this fact.
Also, the film elaborates on the notion of faking one’s death, which is a most prominent theme of the series, particularly in the RJ storyline.
Those two aspects, the ambivalent relation Jane had with his nemesis and the obsession born from it, lead to one of the major topic of the show, the questioning of morality, an extensive theme in those movies as well. As I said, Jane is much more in a grey area than most Hitchcockian protagonists, who usually feel the temptation of evil but do not really succumb to it: Jane is already a tainted conman to begin with and his goal for the greater part of the story has been murder. Nevertheless, that doesn’t mean that he isn’t a –nuanced- personification of goodness fighting the devil and, as such, he’s prone to endure the same kind of hardships as the characters from the master’s films. For instance, he’s been wrongly accused just like many male leads in those (‘The Wrong Man’, ‘Young and Innocent’, ‘To Catch a Thief’, ‘North By Northwest’, ‘Spellbound’, ‘I Confess’, ‘Stage Fright’…). Indeed, before his grand plan for getting closer to his prey in Vegas fully unfolded, Darcy started investigating him because she was sure Jane was RJ himself, or at least worked with him. The tragic streak is that it was this suspicion -that Jane kept ailing by forging proofs and not telling the truth, despite Lisbon’s warnings- which caused his scheme to fail so soundly: had it not been for Darcy searching for proof of a deception, RJ would maybe have been in the limo or, at the very least, back up wouldn’t have been delayed and Wainwright wouldn’t have died. Yet, again, this wrong accusation doesn’t really put emphasis on the struggles of an innocent man against a crushing fate: if anything, it only enlightens further Jane’s grey morality, for he is the one who made the very first step to entice RJ into friendship by setting Panzer up. Murder and death were involved in every step of the process and Jane had a hand in it: he knew what he was doing, unlike Hitchcockian’s heroes who are only fleeing from a threat.
On the other hand, the questioning of moral involvement is also deepened by LaRoche’s secret in ‘Red and Itchy’: the episode ended with a scene quite reminiscent of the film ‘Psycho’. Lisbon confronts the young man who rapped LaRoche’s mother (leading her to depression and suicide), only to discover that he was attacked nine years before. His tongue was cut off and viewers understand at the same time she does that it is probably what LaRoche kept in his Tupperware; a terrible and blackmail-worthy secret indeed. The setting with the old wooden house with some creaking stairs remind very much of Norman Bate’s old house near his motel –the stairs play a major dramatic role both in the setting of the suspense and the storyline. Both cases feature a deranged young man with criminal sexual tendencies (a rapist vs. a peeping tom murderer) and a thing with motherly older women… Both their mothers wear shawls if I’m not mistaken and Lisbon takes the role of the victim’s sister in the movie: she wants to find the truth and unveils an unsavory secret. Also, both Bates and LaRoche each kept a horrible reminder of their painful loss of their mother, which takes the form of a desiccated human body or body part –the show also plays with it with a good doses of macabre humor, alluding to the thing in the container being animal or vegetable and with Grace’s line about nothing staying fresh after nine years…
This parallel insists on the notion of becoming a monster: LaRoche kept the tongue not to forget to what terrible extent he was able to go to get revenge. The proof of his crime serves as a railing keeping him from falling into the abyss again –remember Nietzsche’s famous line “he who fights monsters should see to it that in the process he does not become a monster. And if you gaze long enough into an abyss, the abyss will gaze back into you.” LaRoche is fully aware that he did something monstrous then and that it changed part of him: contrary to the movie, he calls himself a monster in front of Jane, because of what he did to a criminal; whereas in ‘Psycho, the monster and the criminal were the same person. LaRoche’s fate served as a warning against the darkness looming over the edges of Jane’s character and threatening to engulf him: chasing a monster changes you and it hinted Jane should be afraid not to lose himself in the process of getting rid of RJ.
The theme is again indirectly used under the appearance of Catholic faith in the showdown between McAllister and Jane, which takes place in a church to enhance the fight between good and evil. Again, Hitchcock’s films are alluded to in order to add subtext to the confrontation. Indeed, there are fairly few churches in the show: the first time Jane entered one onscreen was to meet Lisbon during his Vegas stunt; It foreshadowed the discussion he was to have later with RJ in the limo over good and evil and Jane concluded the talk with a surprising -given his lack of faith- “go to hell”. In ‘Wedding in Red’, he confronted his nemesis again under the mask of McAllister: they went in a church and Lisbon guessed the sheriff was prone to vertigo because he avoided getting on a ladder left by painters. In Hitchcock’s ‘I Confess’, the protagonist is a priest who received a murder confession –in the Catholic meaning- and is therefore bound by his oath of secrecy (of course, he ends up accused of the crime himself). There is a scene when the young priest has climbed up a ladder and is painting a wall: the police has started investigating and the murderer approaches him to insist that he cannot reveal what he confessed. It’s a particular moment in the storyline because the man was full of remorse before, when he confessed his sin in the church; here, fear has lead him to forget guilt and to turn into a colder criminal… The fact that McAllister refused to climb up this ladder might have hinted in hindsight that he’s definitely not in the innocent hero’s shoes: he’s the unrepentant murderer, even if the fear of heights was not what prevented him from climbing up…
Same in the last church scene of the show: when Jane confronted him as RJ, both argued by confessing the other’s faults. Jane reminded him that he was a cold-blooded perverted serial killer, while RJ reminded that it was Jane’s pride that caused his family’s death. This moment before the shooting started resonates with the confession scene in the film, which also takes place in an ornate catholic church.
Also, there is again probably a reference to ‘The Birds’ in the church too : in the film, a church is visible in the background for once fleeting moment when the birds start being really threatening and McAllister’s fear is emphasized by the choice of the setting.
Still, the most notable and explicit reference to one of Hitchcock’s films can be found in ‘Red Sails in The Sunset’: Bret Stiles has a secret appointment with Jane in a movie theater; he’s watching ‘North by Northwest’ and even comments on how much he enjoys the classics. The movie features a normal man, Thornhill, who is mistaken for the mysterious Kaplan and accused of a murder he didn’t commit; unknowingly, he just stepped in a spy ring and he has to flee in order to save his life. This foreshadows the theme of the episode, as Jane is planning to break Lorelei out of jail with Bret’s help and run away with her. As such, many scenes reference more or less directly certain key moments of the film.
1) The episode opens with Jane running in slow-motion. Like Thornhill will be running away through the movie.
2) When the trunk that took Lorelei out of jail leaves her on the road side in the middle of the desert, she starts walking of the road and turns around upon hearing a car coming her way. It reminds of the very famous scene when Thornhill waits by a countryside road and hears an airplane coming his way: it is set on killing him and Thornhill has to hide in a cornfield, before running to the road where he’s almost killed by a tank trunk (the airplane ends up crashing into it). In the show, a normal trunk is what left Lorelei where she is and it’s Jane whom she hears coming up by car: he’s a threat for her too and she tries to avoid talking to him by leaving the road to climb up a hill, like Thornhill tried to hide in the cornfield to get away for the murderous airplane. Therefore, there is a role reversal between Jane and Lorelei on one hand and Thornhill and the killer on the other: normally, Jane should have been the innocent man, while Lorelei is on he side of a serial killer. The fact that Jane assumes the role of the threatening driver enlightens the ambivalence of his intentions: he plans to gain her trust in order to use her later. Hence Lorelei’s confusion at discovering Jane in the driver seat to pick her up echoing Thornhill’s surprise at realizing he’s being targeted.
3) Later, Kirkland comes to Lisbon’s office to talk about Jane’s supposed kidnapping; it reminds of the spy aspect of the movie as Homeland Security Kirkland repeats a bit Vandamm’s role in the movie. Vandamm has an ulterior motive; he wants to kill Thornhill under the guise of chasing him. This hints that Kirkland too has a hidden agenda.
At the same time there’s another role reversal here as Thornhill is truly an innocent man caught despite his best intentions in a mess and shady business, whereas Jane only poses as a victim, for he’s in fact the puppetmaster behind Lorelei’s escape. It’s another example of his moral ambiguity.
4) On the beach, Lorelei snuggles against Jane near their bonfire. On the morning, Jane wakes up on the vision of the brunette skinny dipping in the ocean; a guard arrives on them and Lorelei, who is a runaway felon, hides behind a rock while Jane tries to smooth things over with the man. In the movie, Thornhill met Eve, an attractive woman, on the train. She helps him hide from the cops who are trying to find him by concealing him in a closed couchette in her compartment while she talks innocently to the police, just like Jane does. Morevover, through Eve’s window, we can see a sunset over the water. The two of them end up sleeping together – Jane and Lorelei don’t, but they have been lovers before. Again, Lorelei assumes the role of Thornhill, enhancing Jane’s ambivalent behaviour, since Eve is in fact a spy working for Vandamm.
5) Soon, Jane enters a shop in order to buy a few necessities. He tries on a hat and sunglasses, which remind of Thornhill’s disguises (he wears sunglasses and, when getting off the train, he wears an employee’s uniform). It’s also interesting that only children find his attitude off: in the shop, a kid stares at him insistently; in Hitchcock’s movies, children are often wiser than adults and feel the truth behind weird people –in ‘Shadow of a Doubt’, for instance, Charlie’s little sister is the first who felt that there was something odd with her uncle.
Then, at this moment Lisbon and Kirkland discover the truth behind Lorelei’s past: her mother sold her little sister when she was a child. It changes the perspective on her character, which is further enlightened by the fact that Lorelei doesn’t take the keys of the car and doesn’t leave Jane behind. It’s a pivotal moment which echoes the dramatic revelation about Eve’s true identity –she’s working for the government and tries to fool Vandamm.
6) Later, in their motel room, Lorelei talks to Jane from the bathroom where she’s busy dyeing her hair blond. He’s telling her that, in spite of RJ’s numbing influence after her sister’s murder, things can still hurt her. It reminds of when Thornhill was hiding in the washroom in the train and snooping through her things, while she was sending a note to Vandamm – like Jane, she was playing a double game in trying to gain the other’s trust. The motel scene also more precisely references the moment in Eve’s hotel room: Eve was sneaking out while he was supposedly under the shower. In fact, he was listening on her and followed her out. He then discovered that she was meeting with his enemies, the same way Lorelei found out that Jane has been lying to her all along. He got out of the room to call Lisbon –on an old fashioned phone like the one Thornhill used at another moment. The ice bucket Jane was holding while coming back and when a furious Lorelei attacked him might even have been a wink to the big silver basin behind Eve, Vandamm and his henchman when Thornhill joined them.
7) After Lorelei decided to somehow trust him, she goes with him to a cabin in the woods. Firstly, Jane takes a look inside by the window of the door –like Thornhill looks inside Vandamm’s house through the window before entering his enemy’s dent. Jane comments “nice place”: indeed the furniture in the cosy cabin is white or made of wood. It reminds a little bit of the decoration inside the bigger lavish house in the film, full of light colors, armchairs, lamps and carpets. In both houses the two men seem to be in danger: Thornhill manages to confront Vandamm and almost dies, while Jane manages to get Lorelei to trust him enough to accept to check on his theory that RJ was her sister’s murderer and to get her to escape from the police he stages an accident. Moreover, the staged accident also alludes to a prior scene of the movie, when Eve shot her lover to stage his death in order to protect her undercover job. Like for Eve, Lorelei’s kiss symbolized that she started genuinely trusting him and caring for him.
Still, the epilogue takes place with Jane and Lisbon, first in the car where Jane was injured, then later in the attic where she admitted that she suspected he was behind Lorelei’s escape and he told her about the clue Lorelei dropped. The duo he forms with Lisbon has then replaced his collaboration with Lorelei, whereas Thornhill and Eve are happily married and in their honeymoon at the end. It foretells the question of whether he will choose Lorelei and her information on RJ or lawful Lisbon as his partner in ‘There Will Be Blood’.
The thorough reference to the master in this pivotal episode aims to shed a new light on Lorelei’s character and, as a consequence, on her participation on Jane’s quest and the help she provided. Despite being often compared to the innocent Thornhill to enlighten Jane’s ambivalent choices, she is closer to Eve’s character. She was sent by his adversary to seduce him in ‘The Crimson Hat’, like the attractive spy was sent to watch Thornhill. Plus, after she dyed her hair, she came pretty close to Eve’s kind of beauty, in a definitely less sophisticated way: she became a blond with shortish medium length hair; her bright yellow summer dress remind from afar of Eve’s stylish dresses, particularly the orange-reddish suit she’s wearing towards the end – again, in a decidedly less elegant style… Anyway, it underlines that she’s a pawn, manipulated by others, just like Eve: Lorelei is RJ’s accomplice, but also a victim. And the detail that both their first names allude to temptresses hints at the ambiguity of their characters: they’re both a threat towards the protagonist and an ally. Of course, this new facet of Lorelei’s character is not without consequences for Jane: she represents a violent and ultimately self-destructive path he might have taken were it not for Lisbon’s influence.
Lastly, the idea of entrapment in opposition with the need to escape is also backed up by discreet references: in the premiere of the new season, when Jane was feeling the weight of RJ’s threats, he told Lisbon that he liked trains as a way to discuss the matter with her –trains are essentials in Hitchcockian movies as they often symbolize that the characters are trapped in a situation, from ‘A Lady Vanishes’, to the aforementioned ‘Strangers on a Train’, ‘Shadow of a Doubt’ and ‘North By Northwest’ for instance. The notion of entrapment as a corollary of Jane’s efforts to move on and gain his freedom is further developed in the so-called The Mentalist 2.O, in which we might find a very indirect allusion to a movie from the master too. Indeed, the book Kim was reading on the island and that she gave Jane was ‘The Daughter of Time’ by Josephine Tey: the storyline features an immobilized detective who is enticed into investigating a historical murder case. In the first real case Jane works with the FBI in ‘Green Thumb’, we can identify an allusion to a movie with a similar situation: the victim’s couple issues lead him to kill a man and cut his body into pieces before burying them into the soil of the plants he keeps on the roof; in ‘Rear Window’, a man with a broken leg takes the habit of observing his neightbors and comes to the conclusion that one of them has killed his wife and hidden the chopped pieces of her body under the roses of the garden. The fact that in two episodes in a row, Jane is faced with investigators who cannot move freely hints that he’s been feeling trapped in the situation he’s in and indicates a form of passivity.
Sorry if it felt rushed or sketchy: I had to hurry up if I wanted to get it posted on time. Also you’re welcome to correct, discuss and complete the thing in the comments!