[WARNING: The following story contains spoilers from the Season 5 finale of The Mentalist. Read at your own risk.]
And then there were seven.
The Mentalist finale: Who is Red John?
As promised, The Mentalist's Season 5 finale found Patrick Jane (Simon Baker) narrowing down the list of people who could possibly be his serial killer nemesis Red John to just seven names. But in a final twist and display of power, Red John "changed the game" by predicting — in the form of a video message from the now-dead Lorelei Martins (Emmanuelle Chriqui) no less! — which seven names Jane was going to end with. He also shared this parting threat: "I'm going to start killing again, often. Until you catch me, or I catch you."
Creator Bruno Heller insists that one of these suspects is indeed Red John. "The cards are up on the table and they're the real cards," Heller says. "There is no sort of double twist. There's no more messing around. ... Only the truth gets revealed from now on in." So, without further ado, the suspects are:
1. Bret Stiles (Malcolm McDowell), the leader of the cult-like religion Visualize
2. Gale Bertram (Michael Gaston), the director of the CBI
3. Bob Kirkland (Kevin Corrigan), a shady homeland security agent who recently raided Jane's personal files on the Red John case
4. Ray Haffner (Reed Diamond), a CBI agent (and Visualize member) who was briefly Jane's boss at the beginning of Season 4
5. Reede Smith (Drew Powell), an FBI agent who worked on the Red John case after Lorelei's arrest
6. Thomas McAllister (Xander Berkeley), a Napa Valley sheriff who helped Jane solve a murder on the series' second episode
7. Brett Partridge (Jack Plotnick), a forensic analyst for the CBI who clashes with Jane and shows great interest in Red John's killings
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So, what's next for Jane and the CBI? TVGuide.com chatted with series star Robin Tunney to get her reaction to the big reveal and to find out how Lisbon and Jane will investigate the list of suspects. Plus: Are things heating up between the two partners in their personal lives?
When you learned where the finale was going, were you surprised that Jane and Lisbon would be this close to catching Red John?
Robin Tunney: I was really surprised. I was also really shocked at some of the names on the list! They weren't revealed to me until we shot the scene. I assumed Bret Stiles and Michael Gaston's character would be on the list. But Xander Berkeley, who was in our second episode and Jack Plotnick — I was pretty shocked. It'll make for a really exciting sixth season.
Why was now the time to narrow the field?
Tunney: I think the fans were waiting for something like this. They wanted more concrete boundaries. Red John sort of became larger than a person in the last few seasons. He became this looming, all-powerful myth. So, I think the idea that we're [saying] they're human beings that are specific will satiate the audience.
Then again, the episode suggests that Red John may have psychic or otherwise superhuman abilities.
Tunney: Well, to be totally honest, I feel like Patrick Jane is so astute and so bright that for [Red John] to sort of escape his grasp for so long, he would need to have some sort of omniscient qualities
So what's Lisbon's next step?
Tunney: Well, I gave him my word I wouldn't tell anybody. We can't have the full weight of the CBI behind us because our boss is one of the suspects. I think it'll be interesting to see how the information is shared with the team — and if it is. To be honest, I don't know if that's going to happen.
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With Lisbon chasing her own nemesis earlier in the season, do you think she has better understanding of Jane's drive to catch Red John?
Tunney: Yeah. But for me, the more important aspect of that story line is that Jane showed up for her. I feel like [Lisbon] has been bending over backwards for him, and there's a very low percentage of return. The way he stuck his neck out to find Volker and the lengths he went to and the way he sort of stuck up for her, it was kind of selfless on his part. It was really important for the relationship.
I suppose it's a good thing their partnership remains strong if Jane and Lisbon are going after Red John alone. Do you think that will continue?
Tunney: I think she's completely committed. But I still think [the idea] of her wanting to try Red John in a court of law and taking him alive [instead of] Jane's idea of revenge... is an important one. My character sort of represents somebody who believes in the law and believes in the system and the way it works. So, I think it's an intrinsic conflict that's sort of important to the structure of the show.
Do you think the hunt for Red John might ever change her views?
Tunney: I think it's how she's hard-wired. I think something really devastating that was really personal would have to happen to change those beliefs.
You've said you view Jane and Lisbon's personal relationship as a brother-sister pairing. But psychic Sean Barlow (Michael Hogan) accused Lisbon of being in love with Jane in the finale. Thoughts?
Tunney: It's funny, as an actor you have to sort of play things in a specific manner. I feel like she's certainly in love with him. But the idea of whether it's romantic love, I'm not even sure if she's sure. It'll be interesting to see how that unfolds next season. I think, like the Red John thing, how long can you keep that going?
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It does seem that the show is moving toward ending the Red John story. How long do you see the show running?
Robin Tunney: I'm on board for however long we can make a show that the fans still like. I think the show could go on after they find Red John. It could go on based on Jane solving crimes. His reason for staying [at the CBI] is different and doesn't have the same emotional pull, but I do think people like to watch him just solve things. I don't know that people just watch the show for the Red John story line.
Given that Jane was so hesitant to give Lisbon the list of names because of her bad poker face, do you think she will have trouble keeping it secret?
Tunney: I think she's going to need to. I really hope I don't screw that up. I think there's some comedy to be played in that. She's pretty certain she's a great liar, so it might go back and forth for a while. I think everybody thinks they're a good liar.
Do you know which of the seven men is Red John at this point?
Tunney: No. Maybe it's because they think I'm a bad liar. They don't trust me with that information. [Laughs]
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