Post Mortems

Post Mortem: Mentalist Creator Talks Red John's Role in Original Series Finale — Plus: What's Next for Robin Tunney?

Mentalist Series Finale Spoilers

There are happy endings, and then there are idyllic codas.

CBS’ The Mentalist wrapped its seven-season run on Wednesday night with a double header in which the serial killer Lazarus was presumably blown to bits but in fact lived on to haunt Jane and Lisbon’s wedding day.

In the end, the baddie was bested and the show’s partners in crime-fighting became man and wife… and more, when in the very final scene, Jane gleaned that his glowing bride was pregnant.

As Robin Tunney noted in Part 1 of our Q&A, that final twist “gives them a real future as a new door opens into a new life for them — and I think that that’s exciting.” Especially since, she noted, “It’s very difficult to make a finale for a show that’s run this long that you feel like wraps everything up in a definitive way and gives the fans a clear idea of who these people are going to be and what their lives will be like.”

Yet now we know that Jane and Lisbon are riding off into the sunset as newlyweds and parents.

Here in Part 2 of TVLine’s Q&A with Tunney and series creator Bruno Heller, the topics include Red John’s onetime role in The Mentalist‘s final hour, and how the procedural should be remembered.

TVLINE | Bruno, did you ever entertain any other possible ending for the series? Like, at any time was the mindset, “Red John gets captured in our series finale”?
BRUNO HELLER | I have to give full credit to both the way that the story just evolved. But at a certain point, I can’t remember exactly when, Peter Roth at Warner Brothers [TV] said, “Listen, if you want this show to roll on, catch that bastard [Red John], get rid of him and tell us what happens afterwards.” Until he laid that out I had always in a very pompous way thought that the book ends when Moby Dick gets harpooned. But in fact, that decision and that choice gave the show a whole new lease of life [midway through Season 6], it gave a whole new energy and juice to all the characters — not just Jane and Lisbon but everybody. They were able to move to another location, there was a sense of the sunshine flowing in, and the audience responded to that. So, all credit goes to Peter — the reason he is where he is and has been for so long is he has impeccable instincts about that sort of thing.

TVLINE | Robin, this actually closes a second chapter for the two of us, after Prison Break. Having done two network dramas in a row, what would interest you next? A 13-episode cable series, a comedy, playing a perky carrot-dicing sitcom mom…?
ROBIN TUNNEY | That’s so funny because I think it’s really hard to know what it is you want to do until you read it and you meet the group of people who are involved. I have never been one of those actors who wakes up like, “I’d love to play a blind woman.” I think that TV is changing so much and there are so many different outlets for watching it and what it is, but there are network shows that are absolutely amazing. I don’t know what [my next move] going to be and I don’t really feel specific [leanings], but I do know when you read it you have to imagine that you’d want to be with these people and with the character that you’re accepting for six or seven years.

I definitely don’t see myself playing a police officer again, just because I feel like I was given a great female role that way and did that. But yeah, I don’t know what it’s going to be and I’m really excited by that. I think that there’s a certain amount of adrenaline with the unknown that actors intrinsically have, which is why they chose [that career]. But you know what, Matt? When I read it, I’m going to call you right away.

TVLINE | How would each of you like The Mentalist to be remembered? What do you think it brought to the table that was perhaps distinct? I for one always enjoyed how smart the crime-solving could be.
TUNNEY | Americans had seen the procedural in every way, but I think Bruno definitely created one that had a sense of humor and sort of highbrow references. And yes, I also thought it was very smart. It’s a genre that’s very well-known, but I think that there was more human behavior in it from the police officers — these people had senses of humor and they had attitudes towards their job that weren’t just about exposition and finding out the facts. I think hopefully they’ll be remembered for breathing new air into a genre that people were really familiar with.
HELLER | I’ll just be happy if it’s remembered. You know, so that when I’m a senile old guy at the cash register of the supermarket I can say, “Do you know who I used to be…?” and get a discount or something. I mean I know what I’ll remember it for and that’s everything we’ve been talking about [in Part 1 of the Q&A]. Beyond that, it’s up to the people who remember it. But I’ll remember it as the happiest professional time of my life. Now, you’re going to make me blub before Robin does, which I never want to do!