Blinking Red Light, the seventh episode of this season’s The Mentalist, does something that it is known to do well i.e. delve into the mind of a serial killer. And it also marks a powerful albeit predictable return of the Red John mythology to the show, however brief it may be.
The story of the episode involves a hunt for a serial killer known by the name ‘San Joaquin Killer’. CBI investigates a case that turns out to be the fourth victim of this killer. This killer slits the throats of young women and dumps them in random spots away from the original crime scene. Among the eight suspects that the CBI knows about, a man by the name Richard Haibach, played by William Mapother (known for his stint on LOST), is given most of the focus as Lisbon believes that he is the best bet for the SJ Killer.
Patrick uses Panzer’s need for attention against him and sets up a trap for him by not-so-subtly letting the media (Karen Cross, played by Missi Pyle, makes an appearance with a new show different from the one we saw her in last time around) know that the killer has been identified and will be apprehended by the next morning. But Jane underestimates Panzer’s cunning and the trap collapses on itself and they end up losing the case to the FBI.
This makes things difficult for Jane to catch Panzer in the act. So, he shifts strategy and decides to crash Panzer’s interview on ‘The Karen Cross Show’ where he spouts wild conjecture about SJ Killer to wind Panzer up and almost succeeds in doing so. But Jane underestimates Panzer again as he had for the entire episode and Panzer is able to catch on to Jane’s tricks. Jane finally uses what would have been his last resort and steers the conversation towards Red John, knowing full and well that one, Red John is not dead and two, Panzer, who seemed to project his narcissism through his SJ Killer alter ego, will talk smack about him.
The next thing you know, Jane gets a call and he reaches the crime scene and the last shot we see is that of Panzer's dead body and surprise, surprise, there is a giant, bloody Red John smiley keeping the body company.
The writing, by Ken Woodruff, is one of the better writing efforts I have seen this season, so far. The performances are all on par across the board. There aren’t many issues I have with the episode although I wonder how Red John, for the brilliant mind he is portrayed as being, gets offended so easily. Additionally, looking at Red John’s response time, it feels as though this guy sits in front of the TV waiting for someone to talk about him. The only other explanation is that Red John keeps tabs on Patrick Jane twenty-four-seven. But that is just nit picking when you look at the whole episode which was really good. Here’s hoping for more coherent and extensive Red John stories.