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Mentalist Byzantium Review


Synopsis

After a young couple is murdered by a mysterious killer, an even more puzzling psychic claims to have information on the case. Meanwhile, Jane is still dealing with his demons and has to make a choice regarding his life with Lisbon in the FBI.

Concise Verdict

Jordan Harper and Marisa Wegrzyn have managed to mix an interesting measure of continuity in the new challenge presented to Jane: it looks like the beginning of the conclusion of the show, with Jane starting to heal in a deeper level, not because of external actions, revenge or Lisbon’s love, but through introspection, while staying faithful to the logic behind a character prone to flying and to being selfish. At the same time, his progress as an individual gets more attention, especially in relation to his past as a phony psychic. All in all, it’s an intriguing episode, full of meaningful symbolism that paves the way for the finale.

Detailed AKA Humungous Review (Spoiler Galore)

VIS#1: The opening

A young couple is on a date: they’re sitting alone in a car, talking about the possibility of one of them leaving to study abroad in Greece (“okay, so where should I go? –You, you should stay. Study abroad is overrated…”). It obviously echoes the last conversation between Jane and Lisbon since, in both cases, leaving is a danger to the relationship. The parallel is even more visible when, as a repeat of Jane’s fears regarding Lisbon’s safety, the couple is suddenly attacked by a mysterious killer. They try to escape but they’re finally both murdered as a tragic example in the series of failed relationships developed in the most recent episodes… Interestingly, this double murder is probably inspired by the first killings attributed to the Zodiac killer in the 60’s: two high school students were parked in a well known lovers’ lane (Lake Herman Road) when the killer exited a second car and attacked them. Both students ended up dead in spite of an attempt to escape, just like the college students of the episode tried to drive away from danger. It already hints that the unknown murderer is a serial killer… Later, after the FBI has been called by the rangers to investigate, they’re told the killer moved one of the victims, maybe because he “tried to take the body up the hill and got to that steep part and realized it wasn’t gonna happen”. This chilling possibility is also a clue that the murderer might be a body collector in some way, which is confirmed by the fingernail that the killer took with him.

The lack of traces and the horrendous nature of the murders make Cho comment that they could “use Jane’s read on this” but Lisbon hasn’t heard from him “since the funeral”… Viewers also learn that Abbott is still leaving soon and as a consequence the team is shorthanded: “now’s not the time for one of his disappearing acts”. Apparently, Cho is not really worried about Jane, because the consultant has disappeared on them many times already, shortly during cases, or for longer periods of time when he spent six months in Vegas and two years in his island. Lisbon’s lack of comment in Jane’s reasons both for leaving and for not contacting her are more intriguing: she probably doesn’t want to display her romantic connection to the man of course, but she’s also worried and angry like she was in ‘The Crimson Hat’. Jane’s actions are interwoven with past cases through the setting of the double murder: the lovers’ lane location reminds of the murders in ‘Rose Colored Glasses’ and the comment that “sometimes national parks are used by drug cultivators. Now maybe these kids were at the wrong place at the wrong time” is a nod to the investigation in ‘Aingavite Baa’, both episodes taking place in S2 after the traumatic death of Bosco’s team, just like this one deals with the aftermath of Vega’s death.

Indeed, Jane’s silence is a way to put distance between him and his lover, like Lisbon attempted to silence her pain back then. Plus, his isolation in the Grand Canyon, drinking tea from a mug at the entrance of the Airstream hints that he’s trying to find solace but he’s stuck in unfamiliar territory –hence the mug-, like he was in Vegas when trying to drink himself to oblivion in a shabby motel room. Yet, unlike in Vegas when Lisbon wanted him to contact her first, here she decides at Abbott’s insistence to force him to come back. Her bossy side and her underlying anger shows in the way she handles it: she just issues a fake warrant for his arrest in Texas, the charge being “failure to appear”. Jane finds the ironic barb funny when he’s actually arrested and sent back to her but when his identity is confirmed his regret at being Patrick Jane “all day, every day, unfortunately” already indicates that he’s not ready to man up and assume his role by her side.

Vega’s death is still too fresh in everyone’s memory and it keeps affecting their actions: like Jane is fleeing in fear and Lisbon refuses to deal with her feelings, Cho turns to violence to vent his pain. When the stoic new team leader accompany the ranger in the forest to arrest two suspicious brothers who dab in poaching, he becomes a bit brutal when arresting one of the suspects, to the point that the ranger calls him on it. This violence has traces of the post-traumatic stress disorder that plagued Grace after the debacle with her fiancé and it also reminds of his brutality in ‘Blood In, Blood Out’, after one of his former friends was killed -also after Bosco’s demise. The incident also ties the episode with two important themes. The brothers are a family, which is an important notion introduced both in criminals (the Bittakers in ‘The White of His Eyes’) and from the protagonists’ perspective (Lisbon’s brothers; Jane’s carny friends; the team acting as Michelle’s family at the funeral). Also, the hunting metaphor used in the RJ era is alluded to by the poacher cutting one of his preys open: it’s a nod to Jane’s conversation with McAllister about gutting and skinning in ‘Wedding in Red’ and it too hints again at the current murderer being a serial killer.

VIS#2: The Psychic

While the team is busy dealing with their repressed emotions, an unexpected witness steps in the bullpen in front of a baffled Wylie: Gabriel, a supposed psychic, is introduced by his sister as having “seen” the crime. He’s “shy” so his sister had to “drag him over here” because “doesn’t like talking”: his subdued appearance contrasts with the boasting presence of the other psychics of the show, Jane in his younger days, Kristina Frye, Ellis Mars in ‘Red Moon’ and the spiritual advisor in ‘Pretty Red Balloon’. Yet, he’s as eager as them to prove his gift by telling a skeptical Wylie “the crying is loud. I hear you crying inside”… When brought to Abbott and Lisbon, he tells the boss that he’s leaving: “you’re moving on. You’re going to a new place” but “you have doubts inside you haven’t told anybody” to which Lisbon retorts “everybody has doubts when they’re going through a change in their life”. Interestingly, Gabriel doesn’t try to cold-read Lisbon, either because he realized she wouldn’t believe him anyway or because she’s learnt to be much more guarded and less translucent after learning from Jane how to play the same trick… Yet, it’s obvious that the young man knows something about the murderer, since he’s able to tell them that the man wanted to take his victims with him. Because he couldn’t, he “took a piece of them instead: fingertips”. His explanation is that six months ago, he spoke to a man: “he had so much wrongness in him, I could hardly look at him. It was like staring at the sun. I’ve been waiting ever since for something like this to happen.” Gabriel is unable to give a description (“he was a man, he was white. Sorry, I’m not good with faces, I only see what’s inside”) but what he says reminds of Jane’s psychic act in the pilot: ‘true demonic evil burns like fire. It burns with a terrible cold, dark flame. I force myself to look into that flame and I see an image of the evildoer, in this case Red John… He’s an ugly, tormented little man, a lonely soul. Sad, very sad”.

Anyway, Lisbon is not fooled by his act and she and Abbott try to rationalize it (“maybe he’s friends with the crime tech, or maybe he’s the killer”): they realize Gabriel is probably using this case as a career-making opportunity, like Mars tried to. Lisbon is particularly reticent to see him as “an actual honest-to-god psychic”, because of “years of experience” dealing with Jane –who is precisely exiting the elevator in front of her- have taught her better.

The talk between the two lovers consists mainly at first in avoiding the issue: they talk about the Grand Canyon and how Jane’s tea is until Lisbon ironically adds “I would have mailed you your cup, but I didn’t know where you were”. It’s a nod to him drinking from a mug in his Airstream and to the fact that the teacup is a symbol of their glued back together relationship. As such, Lisbon wouldn’t have kept it this time had he left for good: when he protests “well, you knew I’d be back”, she retorts “no, I didn’t: I can’t read minds”. It’s a barb at his psychic days reawaken by meeting Gabriel as well as a reproach at his lack of communication, both when he left her at the cemetery and during his one week vanishing. Soon, she makes her anger and her worries known: “the first time I called you, I though “he missed my call”. The second time, I though “he’s busy. Okay, he’ll call me back”. The third time, I thought “he’s dead, he is dead in a ditch on the side of the road”. This dreadful possibility reflects the fate of the two victims as well as it reminds of their talk in the church after he left for Vegas: she was worried sick back then and she told him “I tried calling you hundreds of times, begging you to talk to me, begging you to get help. Not a reply, not a word, not a text”. Like in that occasion, his “sorry” seems a rather lame reply, just like his “I didn’t mean to scare you”, because he couldn’t ignore that she would be scared after the dramatic funeral. Like in ‘The Crimson Hat’, his silence is a form of “betrayal”, because he inflicted on her the same fear he was reproaching her to force on him by wanting to be a cop: she’s in danger in her line of job, but by leaving and not contacting her, he’s made her live again the sleepless period of worried emptiness she experienced when she thought he was going through the darkest of depressions. He’s also made her face her fear of him leaving her again: in her speech, she’s using against him his very reason for leaving.

Jane’s only justification is “I’m working through something and I just need space to think”, adding a bit bitterly “I can’t soldier on like you, Lisbon”. He resents Lisbon for not following him blindly in his vague quest for peace of mind and for clinking to her work… She answers “we’re all upset. I can’t just run away from my work here. This job is too important to me”. She’s willing to help him “figure things out” but he tells her he just needs “time”. She agrees “okay, time’s good, I can give you time” but demands “one thing” from him: “don’t ignore my phone calls” to which he agrees is only “fair”. All in all, they’ve not solved anything but she accepted his need for solitude and he acknowledged her worry. They’ve proved to the other that their relationship still mattered.

Like commenter Rose remarked some time ago, Jane is prone to give into his flying reflex every time the daily life he’s crafted is threatened. He’s spent so much time fleeing from emotionally difficult situations that he needs to learn how to properly deal with them, because every new one brings back this grief and loneliness he’s been avoiding for more than a decade. As a result, moving on from his demons means that he has to finish his mourning process first: following the five stage of grief, he’s gone through denial and isolation when he was under the care of Sophie Miller; anger was his motivation for entering the CBI and finding RJ and he started a form of bargaining when he started facing his past as a psychic or when he imagined Charlotte forgiving him and urging him to build a new life. He’s still going through it when he made his deal with the FBI and when he started dating Lisbon: if he doesn’t make the same mistakes, Lisbon will be safe and everything will be fine… Now, he’s going through a bout of depression because everything is bound to come to an end at some time and he knows he can’t avoid it: he’s slowly learning to accept the mortality of his world, and acceptance means he’s ready to deal with it and to seek happiness even if that means he’ll lose it one day. In the meanwhile, he’s still running away from his own emotions, telling Abbott that he’s “not back, just stopping by”… Yet, Dennis knows him well enough to catch his interest: he knows that meeting Gabriel, who’s basically a younger version of his previous self will be an intellectual challenge worthy of distracting him from his impasse.

When meeting Gabriel, Jane sees him as mentally stimulating: right away, the psychic is able to say he’s not a FBI agent, because he’s “not stupid” and he’s able to tell because of the way Jane dresses, his posture, the way he cuts his hair, “any number of things”. Jane, as “a student of the form” just wants to shake his hand, which draws an interesting parallel with McAllister: he’s studying the psychic as a possible criminal like RJ used to do with him. Soon, it becomes a subdued battle of wills, with Jane telling him “I don’t think you’re a fraud. You are a fraud” and asking him to make a “prediction” and Gabriel retorting “there’s a thing inside you, it’s eating you. A thing that’s lingered in your mind for many years.” Jane ironically answers “that’s called the human condition.” Gabriel retorts that his “cure will come with the number three”, echoing the number of unanswered phone calls it took to Lisbon to start really worrying for his safety. Jane is not really fazed and he tells Abbott that the young man is “obviously not a real psychic, but he knows what he’s doing. He’s very smart very controlled… Either that or he’s an insane killer. I’d keep an eye on him”. His reaction is therefore interesting, because in the past, he’s always been angered by fake psychics who reminded him of his past self and his greedy manipulations. Plus, like Kristina Frye, Gabriel’s act is pretty convincing, much more than Ellis Mars had been. Now, Jane is much calmer and more intrigued than really irritated: he didn’t even utter his old mantra “there’s no such thing as real psychics”.
Meanwhile, the remaining members of the team also look for a way to deal with the sense of loss: Abbott talks to Cho about the fact that he came a little strong on one of their suspects and advices him to talk to someone, because it helps him. Cho refuses therapy, but is thankful for the talk and Abbott’s understanding nature. On the other hand, Wylie asks Cho if he can come with him to investigate: he knows they’re shorthanded and he wants to be useful. After he accepts, Wylie looks around but there’s nobody to be happy for him: Vega is still missed…

VIS#3: Jane at the bar

At night, Jane is still busy avoiding reality in a bar: he’s playing pinball, like he was playing Foosball in ‘The White of His Eyes’ with Lisbon. When the bartender tells him she’s kicking him out, he protests that he has a free game here which she nicely accepts to let him play. He tries to guess her name “Angela? Amy?”, because “a person with the initials A.P.J. has all the high scores on that machine over there.” It’s not a coincidence that the first name on his mind is his late wife’s, since mourning is at the heart of his predicament: he wouldn’t be as terrified of losing Lisbon if he accepted what had happened to Angela in the first place… Without really coming onto him, the woman’s attitude is nice and warm enough to pass for a tiny bit flirty and it distracts him from Lisbon’s call: in that aspect –and even if nothing will come out of this short meeting- the moment reminds a bit of the introduction of Lorelei’s character in ‘The Crimson Hat’. Plus, Jane wins “three free games” which makes him think of Gabriel: “he thinks he’s gonna impress me with a three”, explaining “well, three’s meaningful to you” “because three is meaningful to everyone. I say three and you’re impressed because you have three kids”. Interestingly, three must be meaningful for him too, because it was the number of members in his family: he, Angela and their daughter… The woman is in awe and, noticing that he’s drunk quite a bit, offers him to “sleep it off on the couch in the back. Keys will be there in the morning, coffee and aspirin too.” Jane refuses that “very generous offer” and tells her he needs to clear his head. He also denies being a psychic: “that is the one thing I am very sure I am not”. He ends up looking at the moon outside, in the nature, in contrast with the city lights in the next shot which only makes his self-imposed loneliness clear.

The next day, he awakens in what looks like a field of dry hay because a dog comes to him. It’s a Dalmatian dog, whose black and white skin enlightens the duality theme running through the series. Plus, spending the night in nature was something Jane did with Lorelei too: they slept on a deserted beach when he broke her out of jail in ‘Red Sails in The Sunset’.

Later again, his wanderings with his new friend bring him in the middle of nowhere: he’s standing in front of a pond. There’s an abandoned wooden cabin on the other side and a sign tells that the land is for sale. Some wild birds fish in the pond when Jane is called by Abbott. This peaceful and a bit surreal moment tie together two important themes –maybe for the last time: those birds and the water echo Jane’s long standing obsession and his willingness to overcome it.

Plus, commenter Rose noticed that this scene reminded of how Jesus was tested in the wilderness in the Bible (Matthew 4:1-11). He had been led by the Spirit into wilderness to be tempted and tested by the devil. After fasting forty days, the devil told him to turn some stones to bread, since he was the Son of God. Jesus refused for “It is written: ‘Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God”. Then the devil tempted him to hump from a pinnacle in the holy city: if he was the Son of God, he was to thrown himself down and to order the angels to break his fall by lifting him with their hands. Jesus declined again because “It is also written: ‘Do not put the Lord your God to the test”. The third temptation came when the devil took him to a high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their splendor, promising to give them to him if he bowed down and worshipped him. Jesus answered: “Away from me, Satan! For it is written: ‘Worship the Lord your God, and serve him only’”, which ended the test of his free will.

In a way, Jane’s steps follow the three questions imposed to Jesus: the test of hunger was alluded to by the free games he won at pinball. It was an opportunity to stay longer out of the reality, but he finally refused them. Then he could have relied on a woman, whom he called “Angela” as an echo to God’s angels, to feel better: there was no mention of turning to her arms to find solace like he did to Lorelei, but accepting her help would have only prolonged his separation to Lisbon, who’s the woman he usually trusts to protect him: in a way, by sleeping on another woman’s couch, it was his loyalty to Lisbon that was tested… Then, the third step is taken when he sees the land for sell, like the kingdoms of the world: he could buy it as the promised land of his Exodus and make his loneliness permanent… Yet he answers Abbott call, tells him he’s ready to come back, even though he has no idea where he is. In that line of reasoning, Gabriel is right and three was the lucky number that brought him his cure under the form of a religious-like test in the wilderness… though on the other hand, that cabin might very well have reminded him of his plans for the failed weekend with Lisbon, since he wanted to go to a rustic cabin with her. His reason for wanting to come back then would have been that seeing himself reach a place like this alone made him realize how much he really missed her, when he had no real necessity to be apart.

Interestingly, this moment in the story of Jesus is also mentioned in William Blake’s poetry. In ‘The Everlasting Gospel’, he asks for instance
[…] Was Jesus gentle, or did He
Give any marks of gentility?
When twelve years old He ran away,
And left His parents in dismay.
When after three days’ sorrow found,
Loud as Sinai’s trumpet-sound:
‘No earthly parents I confess—
My Heavenly Father’s business!
Ye understand not what I say,
And, angry, force Me to obey.
Obedience is a duty then,
And favour gains with God and men.’
John from the wilderness loud cried;
Satan gloried in his pride. […]

The number three is repeated at every step taken by Jesus as the number of days he ran from his parents. This glorified Jesus is a prideful one who doesn’t embodies what Blake believes in: “I am sure this Jesus will not do,/ Either for Englishman or Jew”. This “False Christ” finds an echo here in Gabriel’s character, who admits he’s “not stupid” and even though he pretends to be shy, seeks attention.

VIS#4: Gabriel and Michelle

Indeed, while Jane is finding his way in the wilderness, Cho and Wylie keep watch over Gabriel’s house. Wylie is surprised by the lack of action in the field and grabs Cho’s book, asking if it’s “any good”. Cho answers “it’s Dostoevsky”. It’s probably no coincidence that this classic writer studied human reactions when facing crime (‘Crime and Punishment’): the figure of Christ and religion and the question of free will are dominant in his work (like in ‘The Brothers Karamazov’), just like this episode is suffused with them. As a matter of fact, as commenter Kilgore Trout remarked about the previous episode on the poem ‘Nothing Gold Can Stay’ and the concept of Felix Culpa: “while humankind knew perfection in Eden, it was through the Fall that it realized far more in terms of life experience and meaning. Without the knowledge of good and evil man essentially had no choice, no free will”. The mention of Dostoevsky stresses this out for Jane: having known full happiness and having lost it to RJ, he’s come to a better understanding of his “human nature” like he said to Gabriel. Coming to term with his grief will bring him a better acceptance of the limitations of his condition and how to live to the fullest while he still can.

Religion is also at the heart of Gabriel’s character: he’s presented as a Fake Christ who is called like an angel. Gabriel’s the archangel in charge of delivering the word of God: he was the one who foretold the births of John the Baptist and of Jesus to Mary, whereas Michelle alluded to the archangel who fought evil. In a way, the season thus opened with a lost Mary who awakened Jane’s fears for Lisbon’s safety in ‘The Graybar Hotel’, while his Christ-like healing was prophesized by Gabriel.

The young man’s own Christ-like presence is stressed by his actions: he’s been introduced by his devoted sister who followed him like Jesus’ companions and his mother Mary; when talking to his neighbor, he’s simply sitting on the porch of the house in a humble attitude. The woman comes to him for love advice because she trusts his judgment; in a way, she’s his Mary Magdalene: “it’s crazy, I know. But I used to date this guy and Gabriel told me he was married and he had never met him. He just knew. I don’t believe in psychics but I believe in Gabriel.”

Having sensed that Wylie misses Michelle and is coming in the field because he’s tired of being back in the office when he could be useful, Gabriel talks to him alone: while seemingly having a seizure, he delivers words that are supposed to come from Wylie’s dead loved one in a true psychic way: “she says she’s okay, she says she’s okay”, “the pain is all gone, okay?” “you shouldn’t be sad anymore”. The touching of his abdomen in the place where Michelle was shot sells the trick to Wylie who asks “are you talking about Michelle?” Gabriel then adds that he sees “red clay. It’s white bones and they’re wrapped in red clay”. The red clay echoes again ‘The Everlasting Gospel’ by Blake, where the clay is associated with the Devil:

Then was perfected His galling pride.
In three nights He devour’d His prey,
And still He devours the body of clay;
For dust and clay is the Serpent’s meat,
Which never was made for Man to eat.

At Jason’s insistence, Lisbon accepts to search an era “known for its red-clay deposits” even though she insists that “Gabriel’s not a real psychic”. When she asks him what Gabriel said to make him believe his vision, she comments “Vega’s death was on the news. It’s no secret”, “he’s not a real psychic”, but Wylie is unconvinced “you can’t know that. I mean you can’t know that for sure”. He just wants to believe that Michelle is okay “wherever she is”. Lisbon going on a “wild goose chase” therefore matches Jane’s own quest in nature inhabited by wild birds: she’s giving her friend “a shot in the dark” and, as Abbott comments upon calling Jane, they’re “running a ghost ship right now”, whereas the consultant has no idea where he is, even though he is “trying to be more findable these days” at his lover’s request. The parallel between the two ends of the situation is enlightened by the presence of dogs: there’s a Dalmatian with Jane, representing the friendly side of the animal, while there’s a German Shepherd searching for human remains with Lisbon. Dogs are also sometimes seen as the guardian of the underworld: Cerberus guarded the gate of the Greek underworld, while the Egyptian god Anubis was the dog-like jackal-headed guide who helped the souls of the departed, for instance. As watchdogs of the underworld, the two canine companions of the characters are thus linked to finding a way to deal with the death of a loved one: it works for Wylie and for Jane and the Shepherd also uncovers the buried bodies of five more victims with removed fingernails; the murderer who is now classified as a “serial killer” and there are now seven victims, which is a nod to the last season of the show.
Jane arrives upon that frightening discovery and tells her that he’s back: “it means that I’m figuring stuff out”. He adds “it’s good to see you” which she repeats: it’s an allusion to the talk in the church in ‘The Crimson Hat’, since he greeted her with a simple “good to see you” after scaring her with a practical joke. Now, his first words are an apology: “I know I missed your call, I didn’t mean to”. In a way, he’s came back to her near open graves, like he told her goodbye in a cemetery: things are coming full circle.

VIS#5: talking on TV

Realizing that Gabriel’s lead was not pure intuition and that he knows something, they bring him into headquarters for being interrogated. He remarks immediately that Jane has changed: “there’s something different about you from the last time we talked. You look lighter, less conflicted. Number three: you saw it and found an answer, huh?”

Jane’s change of attitude towards psychics is even more palpable here: he doesn’t get sarcastic or biting like he used to. He doesn’t either try to manipulate the young man; instead, he lets him know that he understands how he works: “the number three is incredibly common, Gabriel. We see it everywhere. Red clay, a little rarer…” When the young man retorts “I didn’t want to be right”, trying to pass his skills as a cursed gift, Jane tells him “of course you did” and adds mockingly “yeah, visions are a real drag, I know how you feel.” He finally reveals “you know, I used to be you, Gabriel” in a calm, dispassionate voice that doesn’t betray anymore any struggle with his conscience. He then proceeds to cold-read the other man, who’s so surprised he reacts like his marks (“who told you all that? My sister?”). When he feels cornered by Jane who can understand his “little tricks”, he blurts out his trump card: “I had another vision you should know about: I saw that the killer is going to kill again, tonight. And if you won’t listen to me, I’ll tell everyone, okay, I have to warn people”. Jane’s reply is that he can’t leave, because he’s still studying him out: “I came in here to figure out if you are just a fraud or if you are a monster”… When Jane gets out of the room though, his words to Abbott are a little more ambiguous: “he’s not a fraud”, but he’s not really psychic either”… So Abbott asks him “what is he?”, Jane admits “I don’t know. We have to keep him here”.

There are two possibilities. Firstly, Gabriel might be so wrapped up in his psychic act that he’s convinced he’s the real thing, which will place him in that ambiguous category reserved for Kristina Frye, whose tricks Jane wasn’t able to explain and who was so confident that RJ could convince her that she was dead and could only be reached through a psychic session. Or he’s an accomplice or acquaintance of the killer, one way or another and he’s using his inside knowledge to stop the other while earning fame for himself.
Problem is, they have nothing to keep him here. They’re forced to release him and the young man is true to his word. He offers to the awaiting cameras a little speech: “I had a vision that helped them find five bodies today. They don’t have any suspects. FBI thinks it was me; they want to frame me, they want to hide the truth. There’s a serial killer out there: he’s a man with an evil heart and an appetite to kill. He’s not done killing. He won’t stop and he can’t stop, he’s gonna kill again.” Gabriel is doing the same thing that Jane did in the pilot: he’s tipping his hand to the killer and taunting him under the guise of warning people. Like Kristina before, he doesn’t seem to realize that what he does is dangerous because he’s stepped in the spotlight. The killer may now come after him and his loved ones: Jane was right, Gabriel was so eager to impress his audience that he acted just like Jane did when he was younger and less experienced.

Somehow, this scene was foretold by Jane talking to the reporter during the hostage situation in the previous episode. Only then, the name of the journalist “Elisabeth” was reminiscent of the Old Testament, while now it’s the New Testament that is referenced because Jane has progressed beyond his yearning for running away in his Exodus-like quest for emotional and physical security.

VIS#6: the ending

As a consequence after his little outburst in front of the reporters, Cho and Wylie are again on stake-out duty in front of Gabriel’s house. Suddenly, a movement in the shadows attracts Cho’s attention; it’s the neighbor who was running because she was scared. She explains: “Gabriel was on the news and said there was a serial killer on the loose and then I saw you lurking”. This remark is doubly intriguing: the woman was afraid, because she implicitly assumed that Gabriel was in danger after his interview, something the so-called psychic apparently failed to predict… Plus, her presence served as a distraction to separate the two agents since Cho running after her made Wylie more vulnerable again, this time to an attack. Thus, the neighbor, on purpose or not, gave an opportunity to act to the serial killer… Could she be the inside source that Gabriel used for his predictions? Did he get the clue about bones and clay from his talk with her? Could the serial killer be one of the men she was or had been dating and had Gabriel understood what was really going on with him?

Either way, the killer takes that opportunity and hits Wylie: in the house, they later find the sister killed (like Jane’s family) and Gabriel is missing (like Kristina Frye), which makes them suspect that the attacker might be him. Again, he’s either a fraud who’s fallen victim of his own tricks, or a monster…

The attack made Wylie doubt his abilities in the field: he’s still comparing himself to Vega and his assault probably reminded him of the dangers inherent to the job that cost his coworker her life. He tells Cho “I don’t think I’m cut out for the field”. Cho dismisses his worries: “you’re gonna get banged up every one in a while”, asking “you want to go back to the office and answer phones?” The idea of staying behind in a deserted bullpen makes Wylie think again: “I want to stay”. Obviously, he prefers danger to loneliness –just like Jane chooses in the end. When Cho tells him to go inside the house to meet up with Jane, the consultant hypnotizes him into remembering who attacked him. The lack of details contrasts with Jane’s very detailed description of his attacker in ‘Little Yellow House’: the roles are reversed now that Wylie takes a more active part in the investigation. The hypnosis scene is pure classic Jane trick and he’s able to make the young agent focus on an impression: “a faint scent”. Like he mentioned once before, scents are great vectors of memory and the clue reminds of how Jane was able to identify the killer in ‘Redwood’. Indeed, the scent reminded Wylie of his “Uncle’s fishing shed”, even though there was no actual fish involved: it’s not a coincidence that the fishing detail matches one of the biggest themes of the series too… Jason is finally able to pinpoint the exact scent: “beer, it smells like old, spilled beer” which leads them to an abandoned brewery “only a mile from where the bodies were found”.

There, in a silent scene, they find the body of a butchered Gabriel hanging by his wrists from the ceiling. The word “fake” is carved on his forearm; it is reminiscent of the smiley written in letters of blood and of the letter on the door addressing the “dirty money-grubbing fraud” that RJ left behind in Jane’s bedroom. The “fake” comment is both a comment on Gabriel’s visions and an implicit jab given that, even though he was right, he wasn’t able to foretell that he’d be the actual victim this time. It therefore further echoes RJ’s words: “if you were a real psychic instead of a dishonest little worm, you wouldn’t need to open the door to see what I’ve done to your lovely wife and child”. The atmosphere of the gory crime scene also matches the one surrounding the abandoned corpses left in warehouses by RJ (Panzer’s body in ‘Blinking Red Light’, even more given that the man committed the same error than Gabriel and taunted a serial killer on TV and Lorelei in ‘There Will Be Blood’), as well as the theatrical display of the morgue attendant’s corpse in Rosalind’s house in ‘Always Bet on Red’. Interestingly, Gabriel’s cadaver has again a Christ-like vibe to it, especially with the cuts on his body and the bloodied naked foot: it might mean that the mysterious killer took his toenail to add to his collection, but it also reminds of the colonel’s wife, whose bloodied beige shoe was the focal point of the violent murder in ‘The Silver Briefcase’… It might mean that things have come full circle in that perspective too: Jane has somehow gotten over his fear and he’s able to concentrate on investigating again.

Conclusion

After living again relieving his most traumatic experience and most feared scenario through the eyes of a younger version of him, Jane’s finally able to gain some distance… He realized that he’s more experienced, he’s not prey of not the same prideful attitude or the same mistakes that plagued his past: he’s changed… This is showed in the choice of the title of this episode: “Byzantium” is a dark purple that doesn’t appear in the show; instead, it’s an allusion to Yeat’s poem ‘Sailing to Byzantium’.
That is no country for old men. The young
In one another’s arms, birds in the trees
– Those dying generations – at their song,
The salmon-falls, the mackerel-crowded seas,
Fish, flesh, or fowl, commend all summer long
Whatever is begotten, born, and dies.
Caught in that sensual music all neglect
Monuments of unaging intellect.
.

An aged man is but a paltry thing,
A tattered coat upon a stick, unless
Soul clap its hands and sing, and louder sing
For every tatter in its mortal dress,
Nor is there singing school but studying
Monuments of its own magnificence;
And therefore I have sailed the seas and come
To the holy city of Byzantium.
.

O sages standing in God’s holy fire
As in the gold mosaic of a wall,
Come from the holy fire, perne in a gyre,
And be the singing-masters of my soul.
Consume my heart away; sick with desire
And fastened to a dying animal
It knows not what it is; and gather me
Into the artifice of eternity.
.

Once out of nature I shall never take
My bodily form from any natural thing,
But such a form as Grecian goldsmiths make
Of hammered gold and gold enamelling
To keep a drowsy Emperor awake;
Or set upon a golden bough to sing
To lords and ladies of Byzantium
Of what is past, or passing, or to come.

This poem echoes Jane’s life experience: he left behind the dying generations who were focused on love (Angela and Charlotte and more recently Vega who started dating Wylie) and the birds and fishes scattered through his quest (found in the cabin with the fishing wild birds on the pond). They represent the past he’s overcame, the brilliant glory he was yearning for in his younger years, in the “summer” of his life attuned to the “sensual music” of his earthly desires. Now, he’s one of the “old men” at the fall of his life: he knows he’s powerless to protect the people he loves (“An aged man is but a paltry thing,/ A tattered coat upon a stick”), but he’s also wiser. He’s learnt to observe the world and is a “student of the form” (“Nor is there singing school but studying/ Monuments of its own magnificence”): he observes and think, until he’s able to achieve a new, deeper level of gold, not the dawn whose gold couldn’t stay in the previous episode, but one which brings him a greater degree emotional fulfillment. Like the poet, Jane has therefore arrived at the conclusion of his spiritual journey –symbolized by his shoes before which now are alluded to by the missing shoe on Gabriel’s foot- that ties to the sea theme since he’s “sailing” towards an ideal happiness. In a second poem, simply called ‘Byzantium’ and written by Yeats a few years after ‘Sailing to Byzantium’, the results may be visible, even though the writing is more obscure: Jane along with the poet has managed a mystical union, the former with a new form of happiness at Lisbon’s side, the latter through appreciation of historical and eternal works of art. They’ve become a golden bird that has become immune to the deadly violence of the perishing world, in contrast with the peaceful marveling at spiritual beauty:
The unpurged images of day recede;
The Emperor’s drunken soldiery are abed;
Night resonance recedes, night walkers’ song
After great cathedral gong;
A starlit or a moonlit dome disdains
All that man is,
All mere complexities,
The fury and the mire of human veins.

Before me floats an image, man or shade,
Shade more than man, more image than a shade;
For Hades’ bobbin bound in mummy-cloth
May unwind the winding path;
A mouth that has no moisture and no breath
Breathless mouths may summon;
I hail the superhuman;
I call it death-in-life and life-in-death.

Miracle, bird or golden handiwork,
More miracle than bird or handiwork,
Planted on the star-lit golden bough,
Can like the cocks of Hades crow,
Or, by the moon embittered, scorn aloud
In glory of changeless metal
Common bird or petal
And all complexities of mire or blood.

At midnight on the Emperor’s pavement flit
Flames that no faggot feeds, nor steel has lit,
Nor storm disturbs, flames begotten of flame,
Where blood-begotten spirits come
And all complexities of fury leave,
Dying into a dance,
An agony of trance,
An agony of flame that cannot singe a sleeve.

Astraddle on the dolphin’s mire and blood,
Spirit after Spirit! The smithies break the flood.
The golden smithies of the Emperor!
Marbles of the dancing floor
Break bitter furies of complexity,
Those images that yet
Fresh images beget,
That dolphin-torn, that gong-tormented sea.

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Cultural References in The Mentalist – a work in progress by Violet


Image by Chizuruchibi. Copyright Reviewbrain Dec. 2012. Not to be used without permission.

Image by Chizuruchibi. Copyright Reviewbrain Dec. 2012. Not to be used without permission.

This post is brought to you by the infinitely literate Violet, who was kind enough to share this monumental work of the cultural references in our favorite show, The Mentalist. Please enjoy her gift to us and have a wonderful holiday everyone!

-Reviewbrain

I Conception of the main character: (S1-2)

1)      Sherlock Holmes.The prototypical detective is the most obvious source of inspiration for Jane’s character: every following quote is taken from the very first pages of A Study in Scarlett, where Holmes was first introduced.

 Personality:

  •  Alternating activity/laziness: “I’m the most incurable lazy devil that ever stood in shoe leather – that is, when the fit is on me, for I can be spry enough at times.”
  •  Enthusiasm: “At the sound of our steps, he glanced around and sprang to his feet with a cry of pleasure. “I’ve found it! I’ve found it”, he shouted to my companion […] Had he discovered a gold mine, greater delight could not have shone upon his features.”  Cf. Jane’s “aha!”.
  •  He likes to impress: ““Wonderful!” I ejaculated. -“Commonplace” said Holmes, though I thought from his expression that he was pleased at my evident surprise and admiration”…
  •  … to the point to pass for vain: “This fellow may be very clever”, I said to myself, “but he is certainly very conceited”(Watson, upon first reading Holmes’s views).
  •  He seeks fame: “I know well that I have it in me to make my name famous.” Cf. psychic Jane on a TV show…

Socially difficult:

  • Towards his fellow detectives (Lestrade and Gregson): cutting analytical judgement, fun at their expense, since he enjoys their rivalry. “They are both quick and energetic, but conventional –shockingly so. They have their knives into one another too. They are as jealous as a pair of professional beauties. There will be some fun over this case if they are both put upon the scent”. Same sense of acute and funny comparison as Jane. Irony and mockery: “I may have a laugh at them, if I have nothing else.” He also relies on his confidant’s connivance to catch the joke.
  •  He doesn’t seek women’ company, although it’s more because he’s simply not interested, while Jane’s a widower.
  •  He’s cold and people are a little afraid of him as they are not sure what he’s able to do: “Holmes is a little too scientific for my tastes – it approaches to cold-bloodedness. I could imagine his giving a friend a little pinch of the latest vegetable alkaloid, but simply out of a spirit of inquiry in order to have an accurate idea of the effects.” That assumption is far-stretched for Holmes: he wouldn’t risk any friend’s life on a whim, but it’s revealing of how people who superficially know him may be wary of him. Now, replace the “scientific” by “manipulative” and the bit about alkaloids by a cunning plan, and the quote works for Jane too…

Similarities in their methods:

  • At the crime scene: “As he spoke, his nimble fingers were flying here, there, and everywhere, feeling, unbuttoning, examining, while his eyes wore the same faraway expression which I have already remarked upon. So swiftly was the examination made, that one would hardly have guessed the minuteness with which it was conducted. Finally, he sniffed the dead man’s lips, and then glanced at the soles of his patent leather boots.” Jane doesn’t really touch the body, since it would be a glaring mistake nowadays with the progress in forensic, but he does everything else: attention to detail, sniffing, glancing at the soles, you name it, you have it.
  • No respect for the dead: beating the corpses in dissecting-rooms.
  • Odd mix between knowledge and ignorance: “Neither did he appear to have pursued any course of reading which might fit him for a degree in science or any other recognized portal which would give him an entrance into the learned world. Yet his zeal for certain studies was remarkable, and within eccentric limits his knowledge was so extraordinarily ample and minute that his observations have fairly astounded me.” Actually, the similarity is played with: Jane’s ignorance touches science and forensic, the very subjects that Holmes is well learnt upon…
  • The memory palace: “”I consider that a man’s brain originally is like a little empty attic, and you have to stock it with such furniture as you choose. A fool takes in all the lumber of every sort that he comes across, so that the knowledge which might be useful to him gets crowded out, or at best is jumbled up with a lot of other things, so that he has a difficulty in laying his hands upon it. Now the skilful workman is very careful indeed as to what he takes into his brain-attic. He will have nothing but the tools which may help him in doing his work, but of these he has a large assortment, and all in the most perfect order. It is a mistake to think that that little room has elastic walls and can distend at any extent. Depend upon it there comes a time when for any addition of knowledge you forget something that you knew before. It is of the highest importance, therefore, not to have useless facts elbowing out the useful ones.”” Various things are partially used for this quote: the notion to compile and order memories, the selection of uninteresting knowledge (that Bertram is Hightower’s boss, for example). This well-known speech is played with: Jane’s “attic” is his thinking room, with “nothing but the tools which may help him in doing his work” of hunting Red John.
  •  Although he is quite action-oriented, he still lets Watson carry the gun: “”Have you any arms?” […] When I returned with the pistol, the table had been cleared, and Holmes was engaged in his favourite occupation of scraping upon his violin.”
  • The archenemy: Moriarty is a respected secret criminal mastermind, who stays hidden behind his web of minions. There is a variation with RJ, since Jane becomes a detective/consultant because of his nemesis, while Holmes’ usual activities helped him guess Moriarty’s double life.

2) Detective stories and popular classical culture

There are various hints that Jane is well-read in old-school detective stories. In passing mentions develop aspects of the persona Jane has elaborated to hide his true self:

  • The classy characteristic car reminds of Ellery Queen and his Duesenberg.
  • His elegant (if slightly rumpled) suits remind of classical aristocratic detectives (Holmes, Ellery Queen, Van Dine’s Philo Vance, Christie’s Hercule Poirot and so on).

In other words, he’s playing the role of the detective and he’s aware of it. Those allusions also hint at Jane’s love of fun and his tendency to consider his day-to-day job as a big game solely for his amusement, hence the different clichés he revels in:

  • He explains how to open a hermetically closed room in S1 ‘Red John’s Friends’ (the trick has been explained in numerous stories for example in a Philo Vance novel, The Bishop Murder Case).
  • “The butler did it!”
  • The detective in an armchair: in novels featuring Nero Wolfe, there is a duality between a clever subordinate who does the leg work and the master who does the ultimate brain work. There are hints of this with Jane on his couch: he sometimes let the team collect information when it doesn’t seem fun enough and analyses it and comes up with a theory while lying on his brown couch.
  • To some extent, the treasure hunt in a mansion in S2 ‘Red Scare’ might be a classical element too (cf. Holmes’ “The Adventure of the Mustgrave Ritual”  and Poirot’s short story “The Case of the Missing Will” for example)

More broadly, Jane’s childish vision is completed by reference to a past era connected with mystery and gangsters adventures (more or less the Prohibition era):

  • The hard-boiled detective stories (the fedora)
  • “Stop the press!”

II Conception of his nemesis: Red John and William Blake (S2-3-4)

Red John’s depth comes from the fact that is more than just Jane’s Moriarty: he’s been given a personal universe of his own, characterized by references to Blake’s poems.

Two quotes are used directly in the show. First, ‘Tiger, tiger” said by RJ and repeated by Todd Johnson in ‘Red Moon’, which lead to think the quote is used as some sort of a code among RJ’s disciples and that the philosophy he teaches  to them to convert them may be based to some extent on Blake’s poetry.

Tiger, tiger, burning bright    

In the forests of the night,                   

What immortal hand or eye                 

Could frame thy fearful symmetry?   

 

In what distant deeps or skies

Burnt the fire of thine eyes?

On what wings dare he aspire?

What the hand dare seize the fire?

 

And what shoulder and what art

Could twist the sinews of thy heart?

And, when thy heart began to beat,

What dread hand and what dread feet?

 

What the hammer? What the chain?

In what furnace was thy brain?

What the anvil? What dread grasp

Dare its deadly terrors clasp?

 

When the stars threw down their spears,

And water’d heaven with their tears,

Did He smile His work to see?

Did He who made the lamb make thee?              

 

Tiger, tiger, burning bright

In the forests of the night,

What immortal hand or eye

Dare frame thy fearful symmetry?

 

In this poem, we have: the color of the fire (“burning, “burnt, “fire”, “furnace”), that is red, laced this the “night” in a “fearful symmetry”. As Cho analyzed in ‘Strawberries and Cream’, the poem enlightens that both the tiger (evil) and the lamb (innocence) have been created by God as part of the world equilibrium. Said equilibrium is also used and twisted by RJ in his speech in the limo in ‘The Crimson Hat’: both sides are equivalent and, therefore, there is no good or bad, meaning evil actions or good ones are similarly justifiable. What’s more, as RJ is part of this symmetry as the evil killer as well as the one who defines it by creating an enemy in Jane, he might be at the same time the “tiger” and a sort of “god” his followers may believe in, if we were to link this with Gupta’s “deeply religious” beliefs (‘Strawberries and Cream’).

The “night” is also mentioned by Bertram: “When thy little heart doth wake,/ Then the dreadful night shall break ” (from A Cradle Song).  We don’t know yet if Bertram is connected with RJ, but it’s plausible that the quote is relevant anyway in a “meta-meaning” concerning RJ’s beliefs.

Indeed, the night seems to have a particular meaning both in Blake’s universe and in RJ’s: the night associated with the fire symbolize the tiger and the symmetry it represents. It also seems to be RJ’s favorite moment to strike (Panzer’s and Jane’s family’s murders).

Moreover, since the show seems to revel in classical mystery stories, another poem by Blake

has been quoted by Agatha Christie (in Endless Night) and apparently fits to some extent with

what we know of RJ’s philosophical view:

Under every grief and pine,

Runs a joy with silken twine […]

 

Every night and every morn

Some to misery are born,

Every morn and every night

Some are born to sweet delight.

 

Some are born to sweet delight,

Some are born to endless night.

 

We are led to believe a lie

When we see not thro’ the eye,

Which was born in a night to perish in a night,

When the soul slept in beams of light.

 

God appears, and God is light,

To those poor souls who dwell in night;

But does a human form display

To those who dwell in realms of day.”

(from the end of Auguries of Innocence).

Those words seem to fit with RJ’s supposed spiritual goals: to make people better by making them suffer (“Under every grief and pine/ Runs a joy with silken twine”), through a revelation of the inner balance of the world. He detaches them from a false sense of morality, opening a path towards that illumination. He dispenses a superior knowledge as well as a new take on life, through purification by sufferance; hence, RJ presents himself as a mean to divine knowledge, or better yet as a prophet: there is no good or bad, hence no punishment or reward in a so-called after-life (cf. the speech in ‘The Crimson Hat’). His followers are freed from any consequences of their actions.

Last, if we were to believe Rebecca’s statement that RJ wanted to redeem Jane by punishing him, then we can also connect his behavior with this quote from the “Annotations to Lavater”: “forgiveness of enemies can only come upon their repentance.”

III The narration: Jane’s fate

A number of cultural –mostly literary- references have made their way in the show. In the first seasons, said references have been used to develop some particular aspect of Jane’s personality (in the same fashion as Holmes has shaped some parts of it), and/or to give some depth to a situation.

Season 1: Jane’s obsession with revenge and killing his nemesis: Moby Dick (‘Flame Red’) Parallel with the case at hand hinting that revenge only ends up in blind cruelty, deceit, and is hurtful for innocent people.

Season 2:

  • ‘The Scarlet Letter’ references the book by Nathaniel Hawthorne: the case deals with adultery and, like in the novel, the secret identity of the mysterious lover’s plays a great part. Both also deal with guilt: like Hawthorne’s protagonist, Jane’s behavior has caused him to lose his old life and, like her lover, he lives in self punishment. (Amusingly, the novel has inspired Ellery Queen’s The Scarlett Letters…)
  • Director Bertram’s name might also be a reference to Christie’s At the Bertram’s Hotel, which might then refer to a façade used to hide a criminal network, like RJ’s started to reveal itself after Bosco’s murder.

Season 3:

  • ‘The Red Mile’/ The Green Mile. Dr Steiner is in his own personal death row and chooses to die, whereas Jane is implicitly left wondering about his own fate.
  • Minor reference: ‘Rhapsody in Red’/ Gershwin’s Rhapsody in Blue, mixing jazz and classic, Jane’s usual tastes in music.

Season 4: While the first seasons only used references to enlighten Jane’s character and motivations, season 4 uses them to give some perspective over his fate. Two recurrent references provide two major angles, as two sides of the same coin.

  • First madness and despair is developed under Shakespeare’s influence. A recurring theme in the season (‘Fugue in Red’, ‘Cheap Burgundy’, ‘Something Rotten in Redmund’): essentially ‘Hamlet’ and ‘Macbeth’. There is a similarity of tone with the show and Jane himself (seriousness mixed with lightness, tragedy with foolish things). Like Lady Macbeth, Jane is also obsessed with guilt and his sanity might be at risk; like Hamlet, he hides behind the mask of a fool and seek ruthlessly revenge over a dead relative’s assassination, hurting in he process the people around them (and both cause quite a lot of collateral damage). More, both plays end in loneliness, madness and death and that’s what Jane himself risks.
  • Then a path towards hope is shown: The Wizard of Oz, first referenced in Season 2, but blossoming in ‘Ruby Slippers’. The differences between those two allusions show that Jane has progressed personally (See ‘Ruby Slippers’ review for more details).
  • Some songs show Jane’s set of mind and situation (Hotel California show that he’s trapped in his revenge and RJ’s games; Dust in the Wind alludes to the futility of his six months scheme and to the dust surrounding him and Lisbon when they’re holding hands and he can fully realize its pointlessness).

Season 5 (so far):

  • Alice in Wonderland: ‘Devil’s Cherry’ uses the two themes introduced by Shakespeare and The Wizard of Oz: madness and a journey in an extraordinary land.
  • « La donna è mobile » From ‘Cherry Picked’ is from Verdi’s Rigoletto is an allusion to Lorelei.
  • Agent Nemo in ‘If It Bleeds It Leads’ references Ulysses and Jules Verne’s Captain Nemo. Both characters are connected with travels over the sea…

– ‘Red Sails in the Sunset’, whose title is inspired by a song where a fisher girl waits for her lover to return. Various interpretations are possible: one of them it that the fisher girl may be the siren Lorelei Martins who thought her master RJ was helping her get out of jail. Anyway, the original song ends with these words:

Above no bright stars are glowing/ It means the storm’s coming soon.”

– Also in ‘Red Sails in the Sunset’ : Jane’s flight with Lorelei is compared with Hitchcock’s movie North By Northwest. Various interpretations in here too: they are hunted down by the police (Lisbon and Kirkland), based on a misunderstanding; the show plays with the notion, since innocent Thornhill was mistaken for someone else, while the CBI is convinced that Jane has been kidnapped and thus hasn’t orchestrated everything. Moreover, Lorelei’s attitude towards him is ambivalent (somewhat like Eve Kandall in the movie): meaning that Lorelei may become an ally too. Besides, in the scene Jane and Styles are watching at the very beginning the movie plot reaches a pivotal moment (Thornhill and Eve fake his death, before he decides to enter the bad guy’s dent); that hints that Jane may be about to turn the table on RJ.

 

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